Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Royals rock on youtube

If you're bored already with the holidays, you should check out Queen Elizabeth's new video website on Youtube, appropriately titled "The Royal Channel." She was one of the first world leaders to take advantage of television in the l950s and has gone on to embrace the internet, email and podcasting as she enters her eighth decade. Now, she has her own official spot in the video universe, which you can access here. You can watch yesterday's annual Christmas broadcast, as well as footage from the early years of the century--the Queen Mother's l923 wedding, for example--and a day in the life of Prince Charles.

Inspecting the Queen's new offering will kill at least an hour or so, and you might learn something.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

NOVINKA(in the vernacular, a NEW THING)!!

There's a new blogger in town...he/she is a member of the Tri-Cities history mafia who's unhappy with the century in which he/she is living(the identity clumsily disguised here...i guess I'll never be a spy). When I meet individuals like this, I always quote Art Buchwald's address to my undergraduate graduation...he told everyone that if he wasn't happy with the present, "go out there and pretend today is yesterday, and have yourself a hell of a good time." In that spirit, please go and get acquainted with the new addition. Don't forget to leave a comment or two, a little cyberpat on the back.

Merry Christmas!

I can't let the day go by without wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas. I don't think the holiday is under siege or anything, I'm just sending best wishes on Christmas day. I offer as a special present a recent photo of the l7th-century church of St. Simeon Stolpnik on Novyi Arbat street in Moscow. The Khrushchev knuckledraggers, er, chuckleheads were going to tear it down, until a brave architect named Antropov occupied a city bulldozer and refused to be dislodged...his obstinacy saved the church, which incidentally was the site of Fedor Chaliapin's funeral in l9l2. It stubbornly refuses to be swallowed up by all the ugliness around it, keeping a truce with changing times.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Attention Russian History students!

If anyone is still conscious after finals and reading this, are you the author of a take-home exam paper that reads, "Big Ole Russian History Paper?" It's a good paper, but I can't determine whose it is because you forgot to put your name on it. If someone would like to claim authorship, please email me so that i can avoid giving you an "X" grade and the paperwork that comes along with changing it later.

That is all. Over and out.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Godspeed, Fr. Dmitrii

The remarkable life of Fr. Dmitrii Dmitrievich Grigoriev has come to an end. Fr. Dmitrii was my Russian literature prof at Georgetown in the late l970s, and everyone thought he was an exceptional teacher and an outstanding human being. He particularly loved Dostoevskii and would use his works to make relevant points about l9th century Russian history. Of course, he was also a priest, too, serving at St. Nicholas Orthodox cathedral in northwest Washington at the same time as he maintained a full load of classes...he was something. He was the quintessential absent-minded professor. We always knew, every fall and spring when the time change came, to correct for Fr. Dmitrii's failure to note the change. If the clocks went back, we showed up an hour later than usual. If the clocks went forward, an hour earlier. He never took any notice of prosaic things like Eastern Daylight Time...that's part of what made him special.

He never said much about his background, but you somehow knew that he had been around. Today, when I read his obit, I found out just how MUCH he had been around. His life story reads like the Russian exile's 20th century. I can't reproduce it as well as the Washington Post can, so here it is in its entirety:

WASHINGTON - Archpriest Dmitry Grigorieff, dean emeritus of St. Nicholas Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and a retired professor of Russian language and literature at Georgetown University, died Dec. 8 of cardiac arrest at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington. He lived in Bethesda, Md.

His father, Dmitry Dmitrievich Grigorieff, was the Russian governor of Sakhalin and served on the Central Board of the Russian Red Cross. In 1918, during the Russian Revolution, the elder Grigorieff fled Russia with his family, first to Riga, Latvia, and later to England. The elder Grigorieff's son Dmitry was born in London in 1919.

The Grigorieff family moved to Japan in the early 1920s, and the young Dmitry was baptized at St. Nicholas Church in Tokyo. After the Russian Civil War, the Grigorieff family returned to Riga, where Father Grigorieff studied in Russian schools and enrolled in the Orthodox Theological Institute.

As a British citizen, Father Grigorieff was evacuated to Australia during World War II. He served in 1943-44 in the British Merchant Marine in the Pacific. In 1945, he moved to New York, where he served in the Office of War Information.

He received a master's degree in linguistics and comparative literature from Yale University in 1948 and a doctorate in Slavic studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 1958. He also received a diploma in theology from St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York.

A Dostoevsky scholar, he taught Russian language and literature at Georgetown University from 1959 until 1989. He also taught Russian at the Army Language School in Monterey, Calif., and at Columbia University.

Father Grigorieff had always been active in the church, and in 1969, at age 50, he was ordained a priest at St. Nicholas Cathedral, where he was designated second priest. During the 1970s, he introduced regular English-language services to the cathedral, and he was made dean of the cathedral in 1986. He was given the title dean emeritus in 1998.

Over the decades, Father Grigorieff maintained ties with the church in his homeland, even when suppression was the official policy of the Soviet Union.

Father Constantine White, dean of St. Nicholas Cathedral, recalled assisting Father Grigorieff in conducting a service in the days before glasnost. Father Grigorieff offhandedly said, "Who knows, one day people from the embassy might be coming to church here."

His wife, Galina Grigorieff, died in 1998.

He notably was never bitter or angry about Russia, and in that next-to-last paragraph there, you see something of his fundamental optimism: when the Gorbachev changes were barely underway, he could see the day when Russian embassy staff would be attending services at his church.

A prince of a guy. Rest in peace.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Moscow doesn't believe in tears...

and it really doesn' expects you to bear up and triumph over all obstacles, whether it's the German army that laid siege to Moscow yesterday in l941, or the people on the street who are hell-bent on running right into you, or the policeman who closes the through street you were counting on because there are some Very Important People nearby. Moscow must be a friend says, the battle of Moscow didn't happen in l941. It happens every time you step out onto the street!
We've been busy visiting archives, talking to people and discovering new sources in connection with the church project. En route, there have been small pleasures, like the newly-restored l7th-century church whose bells suddenly rang out the notes to "O Lord Save Us From Jeopardy," the beginning of the l8l2 overture. It's the feast day of St. Nicholas today, and he is a protector of Russia, in fact an all-purpose protector of everyone, so it somehow was fitting. But then there is the over-the-top display of wealth for wealth's sake, the Bentley dealership right beside the Maserati and Lamborghini dealerships, the Burberry megastore with socks that cost $300, the wine boutiques where ordinary beaujolais costs about three times what it does at home. People love to throw around money here just to throw around money, and it shows. The general perception is that the wrong people have money here--these are not people who are inclined towards philanthropy or supporting culture, but rather want to spoil themselves and outdo the neighbors 24/7. Of course, we've seen this show before...
We've been keeping Russian hours--no one goes to bed here before 1 am or gets up before 10. It's going to be an awful shock to go back to type-A American hours, e.g. 5am-10 pm, but somehow I think I can handle it.
Three days left in this stint...time to gear up for the last sprint.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Moscow nights(and days)...

Day three in Moscow...for those of you following at home, here are the following:

a) The emergency forced diversion of flight 46, bound from Atlanta to Moscow to JFK on November 30 in connection with a problem with pressurization. We were met by NYPD, FDNY and other emergency was nice to know things were all under control. It was easier to transfer all of us to another plane en masse than to fix the problem, so they DID move all of us to another aircraft and we flew off. Finally arrived in Sheremetevo airport at 3 pm Saturday, rather than 11.

b) First visit to Red Square and the glimpse of an outsized billboard proclaiming, "MOSCOW IS VOTING FOR PUTIN" on election day, and then declaring WHICH LIST Moscow would be voting for(#10). An inspiring show of democratic spirit, especially since there wasn't any mention of other parties there. These folks know whom and what they want. They have ALREADY decided. Now just imagine seeing "SEATTLE IS VOTING FOR BUSH!!" in Pioneer Place, and you'll have a feel for the atmosphere here!

c) Close encounter with a Putin supporter near the election victory stand at St. Basil's cathedral yesterday. The victory stand and concert stage were in place well before the votes were counted, which I found rather interesting...anyway, I couldn't read the slogan alongside "OUR VICTORY," and I leaned over a barricade to squint at the left hand side. Bad mistake. One of the Putin youth took me for a wrecker or assassin or something and corrected me by waving a truncheon in my face. I took the hint and moved on, but there was something about those legions of bright-eyed youth in white sheets(?) with Putin's portrait on them. Verrry interesting...

d) The attempt to move through Red Square tonight after visiting one of the archives. All access to the Square was shut off, and police checkpoints established, because the Putin youth were enjoying yet another victory rock concert that surely shook Lenin in his mausoleum inside out. My friend and I ended up walking about two miles out of our way because of said police checkpoints...reminded me of the Paul McCartney concert in '04, when we appeared to be blocked out of our hotel for the night. What a country!

e) I forgot point E. Time to end this Russian day and night.

And so how's dead week going? Bet there are none of you dealing with police checkpoints on campus...and a cheery "do svidaniia" to all!