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During the last winter journey through Russia, I was haunted by this cute little bear while driving through the Kostroma and Vologda regions. He suddenly appeared at the most unexpected spots - on an abandoned and decaying bus stop in the middle of a deserted village, on old billboards, and in some small shops along the way. I didn't recognize the symbolism of the Olympic rings on the bear's belt, but later learned "Мишка" was the mascot of the 1980's Olympic Games in Moscow.

I
too am an 80's child. Being born in 1973, I experienced the 80's in full force, at the height of my teenage years. However, it's difficult to find a common thread when comparing American cultural symbols from the 80's and prior decades with the treasured symbols from the same Soviet periods. This is not surprising given that our nations were seen as political and strategic enemies at that point in history, and sadly even now to a certain extent. The bear played an integral role in the last place I visited during the journey, the "Museum of the Socialist Way of Life", located in Kazan. Let's take a look inside...Read more... )
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It was a Saturday morning tradition in my youth. My sister and I would awake early, run to the couch, and sit there for hours in our pajamas watching cartoons. What a relief for our parents! We were quiet, and they could sleep in. :) My favorite was "The Smurfs." These blue creatures were always on some spooky adventure, and I loved it. There was mystery, humor, intrigue, and even a female vixen who constantly distracted the male Smurfs. Feminists hate this imaginary blue seductress, and they created a popular theory called "The Smurfette Principle," which criticizes the way females are typically portrayed in cartoons. You can read about it here. To some extent I agree. I strongly dislike the classic Disney princess stories, where the helpless female is sitting around waiting for an imaginary prince to rescue her. Modern day Disney cartoons are much better, and the idea of a "princess" has evolved to include not only a beautiful woman, but a smart one also, with strong, charismatic personality traits.

Today, a reader sent me a Ukrainian folk cartoon, and I remember watching clips of Soviet cartoons on YouTube with [livejournal.com profile] macos during his first visit to the U.S. He introduced me to "Hedgehog in the Fog" and others. I fell in love with this adorable, fluffy character "Чебура́шка." :)

What's your favorite Soviet cartoon?


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If time travel ever becomes possible, I would transport myself back to Moscow or the province in the 1970's or 80's to better understand the realities of life in Soviet times. Looking at old photos in books or online, I can hardly envision such a system of life where everything is so structured and predestined. This is the eternal debate amongst my older Russian friends and readers - the pros and cons of life in the USSR vs. modern day Russia. Tonight I read an article written by a man who was only nine years old when the Soviet Union collapsed. However, he claims this was long enough to form a strong enough opinion about life in the USSR to know that he never wishes to return. His observations seem a bit shallow and naive on the surface. He takes a few of the most commonly expressed strengths of the Soviet system, and explains why they are misconceptions. Please remember these are not my personal views, but the opinions of a former resident in the Soviet Union. Let's begin with education...Read more... )
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At my school, there was no cafeteria. Each morning, my mom awoke early and packed lunch for my sister and me. It grew monotonous, eating the same sandwiches and fruit each day. Secretly, I dreamed of being like my friends who went to public schools, lining up each day to have some old woman with a net around her hair throw slop on my plate. In the U.S., there's constant debate over what school children are fed in the cafeteria. A lot of schools have removed snack and soda machines, and guidelines about nutritional values for school meals are always shifting. Over the weekend, I looked at the menu from my nephew's elementary school, listing the meal choices for each day in the month of May. Common choices include pizza, tacos, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken nuggets and pastas, all served with some type of vegetable and potatoes or rice. There's always one healthy option like grilled chicken or fish, and a wide-variety of fresh fruit is available for purchase. Yet only the most disciplined of children would pick such options when there are tastier and more indulgent choices placed in front of them each day. All of this creates a very sad picture on the white tray. I grew curious, and began to read about school lunches around the globe, and here's what I discovered!Read more... )
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The long road trip in Russia is now over. I just returned to Moscow this afternoon from Yaroslavl, where I finally met a Russian boyfriend, who spoke almost no English! :)) He came to our table, sat down, started petting my hair, blowing me kisses and trying to have a lot of conversation over coconut beer. Each trip, it's necessary to explore the local bars for one night, and one night only. It started at a basic pub, and then onward to a Soviet style kitchen, with a unique feature!Read more... )
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I'll never know or experience life during Soviet times, but during some of my visits to Russia I feel like I'm transported back to that era, or even another century. The road trip is coming to an end, with the final stop today in Yaroslavl. Along the way, I explored many small towns and spent an entire day and night in a village, talking to the locals in their homes, eating freshly prepared meals, and sleeping alone in an old house in the forest! But that will be the topic of another post. Yesterday in Soligalich, I entered a small meat shop and discovered this woman. I don't know for certain, but this blue uniform looks very Soviet, especially the hat. However, the most interesting thing in the provincial shops was...can you guess from the photo? :)Answer )

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