David Tyrpak
David Tyrpak

Frostbite and Pancakes


Written by David Tyrpak, a Clemson University Junior

Weather here has been no surprise: it's cold. In fact, from what our Russian hosts have told us, it has been colder than in recent memory. So for three Americans from the southeast, it's certainly a change from a typical southeastern winter, but again, it's no surprise that a Moscow winter is cold. With a fine coat and sufficient layers, you've really got nothing to worry about.

-	The Moscow River frozen solid.
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The Moscow River frozen solid.

The only exception that comes to mind are complaints from the skin on my face when it gets really cold. The first few days here were like that.

Since then it's not been terribly bad, but perhaps we're becoming accustomed to the weather. What's more interesting than the expected cold winter weather is the Russians' reaction to it. They seem to enjoy enduring the hardships of the season, and the colder the weather the better. Vera, one of our language tutors, has repeatedly mentioned the health benefits of "a real Russian winter," and has repeatedly complained of the milder winters of recent memory as unhealthy.

Katya preparing blini for Maslenitsa.
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Katya preparing blini for Maslenitsa.

When the temperatures creep over -2 °C, I'll often hear this sentiment echoed from other Russians. This isn't to say that Russians love winter so much as to be sad at its ending. In fact they welcome spring with absolute festivity, as well as pancakes. Maslenitsa is a weeklong festival celebrated in February, during which epic loads of blini (thin pancakes, think crepes) are eaten. As I understand it, the holiday has pagan roots and was a celebration of the end of winter and the coming spring. At some time later the Orthodox Church evolved the pagan holiday into a Christian one, taking place the week before Lent. Kind of like a last chance to live it up before the restrictions of Lent. For most present day Russians, I believe it's simply a fun time and an excuse to enjoy said epic loads of blini.

Lady Maslenitsa rendered in ice at the Maslenista celebration near Red Square.
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Lady Maslenitsa rendered in ice at the Maslenista celebration near Red Square.

The city of Moscow sets up stands of these thin delicacies for its residents, and a section of Red Square is turned into a festival block, with free entry. On the last day of Maslenitsa, the celebration reaches a festive surge, ending with the burning of a scarecrow effigy, symbolizing the end of winter.

Also in this Issue...

  • The Vodka Museum by Isaac Bredeson
    "Despite the problems caused by vodka it remains a vital part of Russian culture..."
  • Sports – A Universal Language by Joey Kingerski
    "Figure skaters are national heroes here and I have seen Yevgenij Plujschenko, considered one of the best male figure skaters in the world, featured in a wide variety of commercials, magazines, and other advertisements..."
  • Issue Photographer: Isaac Bredeson


Sports – A Universal Language

Written by Joey Kingerski, a Clemson University Sophomore

Joe Kingerski
Joe Kingerski

Before coming to Russia, American media had taught me that Russians would be good sportsman as evidenced by “Rocky IV” and the “Miracle on Ice” of the 1980 Olympic Games, but I could not have been prepared for their genuine passion for competition and sporting excellence.

Upon arriving in Russia, like every good American, the first thing I did was turn on the television and try to find the Russian equivalent of SportsCenter. My search did not take very long and the station РОССИЯ 2 was the answer to my prayers. I consider myself a pretty avid sportsman, but РОССИЯ 2 opened my eyes to the Russian fervor for sports like biathlon, figure skating, and hockey.

Biathlon, a sport I had previously never seen, has captivated me over my three weeks of being here. With the World Biathlon Championship and Winter Olympic Games going on in consecutive weeks РОССИЯ 2 has provided me with a constant stream of biathlon coverage. I originally found the sport very uninteresting, but after finding every other television station was in Russian I forced myself to watch something I could understand - competition.

Now I am captivated every time the athletes go to the shooting range, hang on the accuracy of their shots, and am blown away by the hard sprints to the finish.

Figure skating and ice hockey are present in American culture, but in Russia they are hundreds of times more popular. The НХЛ, the Russian equivalent of the NHL, was aired every night by РОССИЯ 2 prior to the Olympic games, and when games were not being aired, there was constant interviews with players, discussion of the games, and a healthy dose of highlights. This passion has carried over for the national teams, both men’s and women’s, into the Winter Games. Figure skaters are national heroes here and I have seen Yevgenij Plujschenko, considered one of the best male figure skaters in the world, featured in a wide variety of commercials, magazines, and other advertisements. It is amazing to see the popularity of figure skating and the excitement with which the announcers praise the successful jumps and twists but lament the tiniest of falls and slips.

Maksim M., Guillaume, and Maksim V. preparing to practice some amateur figure skating.
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Left to right: Maksim M., Guillaume, and Maksim V. preparing to practice some amateur figure skating.

In my brief time here in Russia I have managed to make it out of my room, but when I am not exploring Moscow I find it incredibly satisfying to know that passion for sports is universal and there will always be something on РОССИЯ 2 I can understand and enjoy.



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