Discovering Russian culture in the U.S.: March 27 – April 10

On March 29, 142 years ago Leo Tolstoy started to work on this novel Anna Karenina. Source: Yasnaya Polyana Estate Museum

On March 29, 142 years ago Leo Tolstoy started to work on this novel Anna Karenina. Source: Yasnaya Polyana Estate Museum

From celebrating the birthday of Bolshoi Theater and Anna Karenina, to recalling the Alaska land deal between Russia and the United States and commemorating the Second World War in photographs, the next two weeks are full of cultural events for people of all tastes.

In the upcoming two weeks, the luckiest Russophiles in the U.S. without any doubt are New Yorkers. Because starting from March 27, New York State will host Russian American History Month for the fourth time.

The first in a series of more than 20 events is a benefit concert on the occasion of the 175th Anniversary of the birth of the composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Those who attend the event will not only listen to his music, but also can support young patients from Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in United States and Downside Up, a Russian non-profit organization that provides support and advice for families raising children with Down’s syndrome.

Other events include various musical concerts, a celebration of Yury Gagarin on April 12, and a theatrical presentation based on the life work of Russian-American writer Sergei Dovlatov. The 9th International Children’s Festival of Russian Culture (starts on April 18), and HD broadcast of the ballet Swan Lake from the Royal Opera House. 

Anthony Dowell’s production stars Natalia Osipova as Odette/Odile, and Matthew Golding as Prince Siegfried. Source: Youtube

Find more events at the Russian-American History Month website.

On March 28, 1776, Catherine II granted prosecutor Prince Pyotr Urusov, the "privilege" of "maintaining" theater performances of all kinds, including masquerades, balls and other forms of entertainment, for a period of 10 years. And it is from this date that Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater traces its history.

In the beginning the troupe included only 43 people: 13 actors, nine actresses, seven dancers, a choreographer and 13 musicians. Opera and drama groups weren't divided and were comprised from invited foreign stars and serfs.

Now the Bolshoi is undoubtedly one of the symbols of Russia. But don’t be sad if you can’t visit it soon, because in February the theater’s administration and the Google Cultural Institute unveiled a virtual 3D tour of the historic building, its new stage and three digital exhibitions from the collections of its museum.

Another way of enjoying Bolshoi ballets is to watch them at the movies. Broadcasts of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet will be screened from March 8 through May 11. Check out dates and locations here.

On March 29, 142 years ago Leo Tolstoy started to work on this novel Anna Karenina. Tolstoy’s wife later recalled that on that day he opened a book by Pushkin and suddenly became fascinated with one phrase: “Guest were arriving at the dacha” («Гости съезжались на дачу...»).

In the evening he brought a sheet of paper bearing the famous words “Everything had gone wrong in the Oblonsky household.”

On this day you can read the novel, watch one of numerous film adaptations, and check out our latest photogallery on Tolstoy.

And those with an advanced knowledge of Russian can watch an online “live” version of the novel, based on an online reading marathon in October 2014 that was watched in more than 106 countries. Unfortunately it has only Russian subtitles, but we think this will encourage you to learn the Russian language.

March 30 is notable for yet another historical event which RBTH can’t ignore – this day 148 years ago the Russian Empire sold Alaska to the United States. On March 30, 1867, in Washington, D.C., the parties signed the agreement to sell 1.5 million hectares of Russian property in America for $7.2 million, or about 2 cents per acre ($4.74/km2) — a purely symbolic sum.

The transfer ceremony took place in Sitka (Novoarkhangelsk) on October 18, 1867. Russian and American soldiers paraded in front of the governor's house; the Russian flag was lowered and the American flag raised amid peals of artillery. That’s why nowadays Alaska Day is celebrated on October 18.

If you are not able to make it to Alaska, you can always visit Russia's former settlement of Fort Ross (CA). This museum will be celebrating Alaska Native Day on May 16, so you have plenty of time to prepare.

In March 2014, a ridiculous petition for the "secession of Alaska from the U.S. and accession to Russia" appeared on the "We the People" section of the White House's website. It garnered more than 35,000 signatures in several days, but led to nothing.

This case demonstrates the current problems Russian-American relations are facing. That’s why we suggest you to visit Thomas Graham’s lecture, Rethinking U.S.-Russian Relations, on April 1 at the NYU Jordan Center. Thomas Graham is a managing director at Kissinger Associates, Inc., where he focuses on Russian and Eurasian affairs. Since 2011, he also been a senior fellow at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, Yale University, where he has taught courses on Russian affairs, U.S.-Russian relations, and cybersecurity.

Those who live in Minnesota have a real gem in Minneapolis – The Museum of Russian Art. It opened its doors in 2001 and houses a collection of Russian art from the 20th century, especially Soviet art. April 4 sees the opening of a new exhibition, titled “Romance in Soviet Art.”

The exhibition will feature approximately 40 paintings covering the themes of love and marriage reflected through the lens of art. Dating predominantly from the 1950s and 1960s, the paintings depict young couples, weddings, family scenes, and, more often than not, scenes of collective work as sites of courtship.

Find out about opening hours and the museum’s other exhibits at their website.

On April 9 residents of Houston (TX) are invited to a photo exhibition in the Houston Public Library devoted to the Second World War. Titled “Allies: 70 years of Victory,” the exhibition consists of photographs taken during WWII by various Soviet photojournalists, depicting political figures of the highest rank, such as President Roosevelt, Sir Winston Churchill, British Foreign Secretary Sir Anthony Eden and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov.

Molotov, Churchill and Roosevelt listening to the USA national anthem upon disembarking at the Yalta aerodrome, February 4, 1945. Photo by Smariy Gurariy. Source: Russian Cultural Center Our Texas

The other part of the exhibit is a collection of photos by a famous Soviet photographer, Samariy Gurariy. Gurariy documented major events and figures of the Soviet era and is noted as being Stalin’s favorite photographer at the time of the Yalta Conference in 1945.

Those who live in Virginia, meanwhile, have the opportunity to visit another exhibition devoted to WWII. The Blavatnik Archive traveling exhibit, "Lives of the Great Patriotic War: The Untold Story of Jewish Soviet Soldiers in the Red Army During World War II," is on display at the University of Virginia from March 23 through April 27, 2015.

“Lives of the Great Patriotic War” explores the unknown story of 500,000 Jewish soldiers who fought in the Soviet Armed forces against Nazi Germany during WWII (known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War). As soldiers in the Soviet Red Army, these men and women fought in the war’s largest and most ethnically diverse military force (30 million), for the country with the heaviest absolute losses (often claimed to be over 26 million).

Read more: Photography project hope to preserve “Signatures of War”

 

If you are organizing a Russia-themed event in the U.S. and would like it featured in this column, forward the press release to us@rbth.com and we will consider it for publication.

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