Gorodetsky’s Masterpieces

I have become fascinated with architecture here lately.  My love for architecture grew particularly after I studied in St. Petersburg, Russia, and then revisited my beloved Kiev in Ukraine. On one of the beautiful nights that I spent in Kiev with my family I was introduced to an unusual building.

Called the “House of Chimeras” and completed in 1903, this building is unusual because it is adorned with all sorts of creatures: chimeras, mermaids, toads, animals’ heads, and a realistic-looking snake, slithering down a corner of this 9-story building. What’s even more off-putting is that this wonder stands right across from the Presidential office building.

After doing some research, I found out that it was built by Vladislav Gorodetsky, a man with a taste for intricate details. Some of his other creations are the St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Cathedral, the Karaite Kenesa, and the National Art Museum of Ukraine. Enjoy these intricate and out-of-the-ordinary creations!


House of Chimeras currently serves as a place for diplomacy meetings for the Ukrainian President. Photo credit to Jennifer Boyer.


More full-scale (photoshopped?) version of the building. Photo credit to Slava.


Close-up. Photo credit to Jennifer Boyer.


St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Cathedral. Fun fact: it used to serve as a KGB meeting place for some time after 1938. Photo credit to Jennifer Boyer.


A salamander, perched under the St. Nicholas R-C Church. Photo credit to user zalgalina.


St. Nicholas! Photo credit to user zalgalina.


Gorodetsky, the man responsible for the House of Chimeras and others. Photo credit to user zalgalina.


Old photograph of the Karaite Kenesa. About 800 Karaites (original peoples of Judaism) currently live in Ukraine. Photo credit to user zalgalina.


Modern interior view of the building. Photo credit user to zalgalina.


And finally, the National Art Museum of Ukraine. Photo credit to user zalgalina.




Russia’s Library Night Appears to be a Success

Amid the negative news which has surrounded Russia for the past few months, the people of Russia recently organized a notable event.


Library Night’s bright logo attracts attention to the event. Photo credit to Библионочь 2014.

From April 25-26, more than 80 Russian regions held their third national annual event called Library Night or Библионочь. During these two days, libraries, museums, galleries, and book stores remained opened throughout the entire night, well after regular closing hours. This event was sponsored by many different organizations and partners such as the coffee shop chain Coffee Bean and book store chain Moscow Book House, to name a couple.

Anybody interested in reading and the arts in general had a chance to meet famous writers, poets, and critics.

Watch this video recap of Library Night from a town called Mikhailovka. In this video, local libraries held events for both adults and children (the best part is when the little kids dance).

The event is held in hopes of educating people of all ages about local libraries, reading, and fine arts in general. This is a great way to help preserve Russian culture and foster discussions.

Not surprisingly, Crimea managed to steal the spotlight in library numbered 172. Visitors of 172 were able to experience a beautiful event. One of the makers of this project claimed:

“This evening, halls of this library will turn into little streets and beach fronts of one of the coziest Black Sea towns, so passionately described by the great Russian writers and poets. Visitors of the summer café under the Bakhchisarskiy fountain will be treated to a reading of classic writers such as Anna Akhmatova.”

Young children who participated in the events of the night were able to play many trivia games regarding literature. A little girl named Liza won a book by correctly answering questions. She said that she really liked this event, and that she will share this book with her classmates, so they can read it too.


Children participate in literature trivia in hopes of getting a prize.

Library Night shows that Russia continues to instill educational values in its people. Perhaps this is one aspect of Russia’s culture which the U.S. should actually try to imitate. I have never heard of such an event happening in the U.S., at least not nation-wide. It would be great to see American people, especially American youth, showing more interest in their own rich literary culture.

Visit Veliky Novgorod! The Birthplace of Russia


Last summer I had the chance to travel to Veliky Novgorod (Veliky= great). With its plethora of some of the oldest Russian churches, beautiful country side, and general feel of old-time Russia, this city made a lasting impression on me. If you do somehow end up in Russia, you absolutely need to visit Novgorod. Here are 5 things worth visiting, in my opinion:

1. A Novgorod sight-seeing experience is not complete without touring one of the oldest Russian stone structures- St. Sophia Cathedral. This cathedral, resembling St. Sophia in Kiev, was built in 1050. It represented the power of the Novgorod Republic. This is definitely one of the more touristy churches in Novgorod because it stood as the city’s central symbol.

St. Sophia, painted with 1 golden dome. The other domes may possibly be under construction. Photo credit to Irina Franz.

St. Sophia, painted with 1 golden dome, stands in the Kremlin, a historic stone fortress.

Do visit other churches too! They are all extremely beautiful and rich in history and significance. The St. George Monastery is an exquisite and secluded spot in the beautiful countryside. I highly recommend taking some time to just enjoy Novgorod’s nature and quiet after looking around the monastery’s grounds.

2. If you go see the St. George Monastery, you definitely have to stop by the Vitoslavlisty– an outdoor museum. It is a neat exhibition village made entirely out of wood! Inside the izbas (intricate wooden houses) there were rooms set up to show how Russians used to live. Complete with a wooden hanging crib and shoes braided out of birch trees, this place made me feel like it was straight out of a fairy-tale. Plus the staff members on site were dressed in colorful sarafans, and there are several opportunities to purchase unique wooden souvenirs in nearby shops.

This church was carefully built with only the use of wood.

This church was carefully built entirely out of wood between the 16th and 19th century.

3. Russian food is typically very tasty and sometimes reasonably priced. Our group was able to have a 5-course meal which satisfied everyone at the Derzhavny café-bar. We were treated to borsch, Russia’s traditional beet soup, which was followed by mashed potatoes, meat, a cold salad, freshly-baked bread, and chocolate dessert. Even though our trip leader was the one paying for the meal, he told us that it was pretty cheap for the amount of food that we received. I left Derzhavny with a full and happy belly! Novgorod has a plethora of other eateries ranging from bakeries to really fancy dine-in restaurants. Here is a link to check out their most notable spots: http://www.visitnovgorod.com/restaurant.html

Many restaurants in Novgorod are decorated in the medieval style to convey Novgorod's historic significance. Credit to http://www.visitnovgorod.com/restaurant.html

Many restaurants in Novgorod are decorated in the medieval style to convey the city’s historic significance. Credit to http://www.visitnovgorod.com/restaurant.html

4. The beach in Novgorod is much nicer than St. Petersburg’s beach (I can’t really say that SpB has a legitimate beach). Why not take a break from gazing at churches all day, and change into your swimsuit for some fun in the sun? I was surprised by how many people were sunbathing/swimming on the Veliky Novgorod beach, next to the Volkhov River. The water is actually safe to swim in unlike the Neva in SpB which is just straight up filthy. I personally didn’t get to test out the waters, but since this is a frequently visited beach, I have no doubt it would be really fun to hang out there and maybe even play volleyball with some Russians.

People relax at the Novgorod beach. We were very sad because we did not get to test the waters.

People relax at the Veliky Novgorod beach. We were very sad because we did not get to test the waters.

5. Last but not least, The Millennium Monument located close to St. Sophia, captures 129 historic Russian figures in 6 different scenes of great importance to Russia’s identity. Mother Russia stands at the top of the monument and is being blessed by God. In it leaders like Saint Vladimir, Dmitri Donskoii, and Peter the Great all stand triumphantly over a group of people whom they defeated during their ruling time. Figures depicted on the base of the monument are relevant historical and cultural figures such as Pushkin, Gogol, and Lomonosov. The Millenium is a beautiful monument. Take the time to explore every inch of it!


The Millennium Monument stands in the central old Kremlin area.

The Millennium Monument stands in the central  Kremlin area.

There are many other things you can check out in Novgorod, but I would rather not list all of them. Here are some links for your independent exploration:

Here are some other photos from our trip!


Russian free climbers: seeking thrills in unusual places

With more than 30 million hits on YouTube, two Russian climbers astonished the world with a video, which showed them free-climbing the unfinished Shanghai Tower in China, which is at a height of 650 meters.

Makhorov, perched on the 100th floor of the Shanghai Tower. Photo credit to Vadim Makhorov.

Makhorov, perched on the 100th floor of the Shanghai Tower. Photo credit to Vadim Makhorov.


Apparently this is not the first time that Vadim Makhorov and Vitaly Raskalov made headlines with their daring climbs—according to CNN, the duo climbed the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, and had to apologize afterwards for climbing the ‘ancient monument’.

Watch here this breathtaking yet terrifying video of the duo, filmed with head-mounted cameras, as they appear to scale the tower with ease.

What is not surprising is that these guys made national headlines in various parts of the globe. Major news websites such as the Huffington Post, Fox News, the Guardian, and many others made sure to report this story because of its terrifying but beautiful pictures and film footage. What started out as a simple love for photography, grew into something much more fascinating with this added element of danger, which sets their photos apart from others’.

I was quite interested with the men’s blogs, because from their blogs I was able to gain better insight to what they were thinking during the climb, and understand the motive for their journey to Shanghai, and other places. Makhorov’s blog (very well written in Russian, and just as fabulously translated into English) contains the video of his climb, with a promise to post about the details of the climb in his next blog. What’s even better is that his blog has all kinds of great photographs, from the places he and Raskalov visited for various reasons. My favorite picture on his blog is the one taken in Switzerland.


Photo taken in Switzerland, as part of Makhorov's trip to Europe. This is called the Valley of 72 Waterfalls.

Photo taken in Switzerland, as part of Makhorov’s trip to Europe. This is called the Valley of 72 Waterfalls. Photo credit to Vadim Makhorov.

Raskalov’s blog is very lively. With a tag line like “Throw away your brilliant career and start living!” you can tell this guy loves adventure. Raskalov says that it took them two hours to climb the tower, and they chose to climb it during the time of the Chinese New Year celebration, because they knew that what they knew the guards would not be around to stop them.

I somehow managed to find a interview between Nikita Lihachev, a writer on tjournal.ru, and Raskalov, who as it turns out actually has Ukrainian citizenship! On the next few lines I am including parts of the interview (translated by yours truly) which I found to be most interesting.

Raskalov: In reality, we are unknown in the Russian Internet. In comparison to how we are viewed by the rest of the world, here, it is all different (here, as in Russia). In Germany, every dog knows about us.

Tjournal: They don’t like to give you PR in Russia?

Raskalov: Right, and we don’t really cooperate with Russia, because here are bunch of *assholes* in the likes of NTV and LifeNews. We tell them: hey dudes, we have a video, and they: “We give you PR, and you still want money? You are the ones who should give us money. We just want to make you famous.” Meanwhile, CNN, Fox News, NBC, BBC and a ton of other channels are buying our videos.

Tjournal: Did you return to Ukraine after you were deported? (on December 7, Raskalov was deported from Russia for 5 years, after he was detained in the airport Sheremetyevo.)

Raskalov: To Kiev, yes. Cheered on Maidan there.

Tjournal: Don’t you have Russian citizenship?

Raskalov: If I would have had Russian citizenship, constitutionally they wouldn’t have the right to not let me into my own country. I have a Ukrainian passport, to which, I am actually glad. Nobody can stop me for all of my pranks in Russia, because I am a foreigner. The maximum punishment for me was deportation.  And in Ukraine the people take these things more lightly: well you trespassed, what is there to do about that. I was caught by the police only once, and this is all that was said: “What, where did you climb? You are an idiot.”

“Самая пиковая точка наслаждения — когда ты спускаешься со здания, тебя палят, ты прячешься, тебя ищут 2-3 часа, ты умудряешься убежать и выйти сухим из воды. К сожалению, так бывает нечасто.”     -The highest point of pleasure is when you are climbing down from a building, you’re being chased, you hide, they search for you 2-3 hours, and you somehow manage to run away and get away with it. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often. -Makhorov (credit to Tjournal)

Tjournal: And you didn’t have any difficulty (with security, while climbing the Shanghai Tower)? No access levels, locks, or security?

Raskalov: Dude, it’s construction. It was more difficult for us to climb on residential housing  in Shanghai, than on this tower. We had to sleep on the top for 18 hours. When we climbed up, there was a thick fog. At first it was *shitty*, but we waited for an hour, and the fog wasn’t dissipating. We went to sleep and during the sunset we climbed onto the crane for exactly an hour, while it was clear, and then everything was foggy again.

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Does Femen’s feminism really work?

Last Friday, February 28, I entered the Missouri Theater in anticipation of seeing “Ukraine is Not a Brothel,” a  True/False Film Fest documentary debuting for the first time in the U.S., right here in Columbia. Before seeing the film, I decided to do a little bit of research on the topic of this documentary—Femen.

Femen 'sextremists' use nudity to promote feminism. Photo credit to femen.org

Femen ‘sextremists’ use nudity to promote feminism. Photo credit to femen.org

To those of you who do not follow Femen, and believe me I didn’t until I heard about this film, Femen is a group of young Ukrainian women, who advocate for feminism in a really interesting way. To be more exact, these self-proclaimed “sextremists” staged topless protests all around Kiev and a few other European countries in order to bring attention to a problem, which has dominated Ukraine throughout its short history. In Ukraine, many women are viewed as sex objects, and they are encouraged from a young age to always look good, because that is the only way men say a woman can do well for herself. Even more appalling, Ukrainian women often wind up in brothels of other countries and are forced to perform sexual acts.

At first glance, Femen seems like a really great idea to attract a lot of attention to the cause of feminism. After watching the movie (which Kitty Green artistically directed), I have a different opinion of Femen.

Femen member, Irina Schevchenko (center), and director, Kitty Green, answer questions from audience members after screening of "Ukraine is Not a Brothel" at the True/False Film Fest. Photo credit to Ukraine is Not a Brothel Facebook page.

Femen member, Inna Schevchenko (center), and director, Kitty Green (right), answer questions after screening of  the film at the True/False Film Fest. Photo credit to Ukraine is Not a Brothel Facebook page.

There are a few unsettling things about Femen. The group is comprised of women who all share similar physical attributes: beautiful, skinny, nice long hair, etc. There was a part in the film which really bothered me. There was a girl in Femen who was overweight, and the other members of Femen asked her to protest with them. In this protest, the bigger girl wore a g-string and nothing else, while a slogan reading “Sex Bomb” was written across her chest. The woman said she felt mocked by other members of Femen.

At the Q&A session after the film, one of the Femen protesters was able to elaborate on this, and she said that Femen would accept girls of any body type or look. To me it seemed that they clearly had an image they wanted to uphold, but what is the point of that? Doesn’t feminism support women of all sizes and physical attributes? Having a bunch of model type girls running around topless does not really scream feminism.

Femen's famous logo, signed by a Femen member for fans.

Femen’s famous logo, signed by a Femen member. Photo credit to femen.org

Surprisingly, the drive behind Femen came from a man, at first. Viktor Svyatski was the man responsible for organizing protests for the girls, and the film clearly showed that he controlled the group in many ways. A few of the girls expressed concern in the film. They wondered aloud why their feminist organization was being run by a man, who clearly admitted he was a patriarch. These girls really did not strike me as independent women who had a clear goal in mind. Even their protests seemed sort of pointless to me, because the girls were not taken seriously by the general public.

Thankfully, at the end of the film they were able to separate from Viktor (spoiler alert). Now, many of the Ukrainian Femen members live in France, and this is where they are trying to organize a new, stronger Femen, which could serve as more of an international organization. These girls were prompted to leave Ukraine, after receiving threats of imprisonment.

“Even though we were on our path to feminism, we somehow were giving up at some points, but we were struggling with him [Viktor] a lot, and the result of that struggle is that he’s not there anymore. We are developing, and our movement became bigger, and became an international movement without any influence or opinion of men.”       -Inna Shevchenko, at Q&A after screening “Ukraine is Not a Brothel” at the Missouri Theater.

Many Ukrainians say they will definitely not miss the presence of Femen, and do not believe that Femen paints Ukrainian women in a good light. I, on the other hand, am quite interested to see which direction Femen will take itself next. Perhaps with clearer goals in mind, and maybe more thought-out ways of protesting, they will become a more credible feminist organization.

Meet the faces of Euromaidan

Euromaidan, the persistent group of protesters occupying the Independence Square (Майдан Незалежности) in Kiev, has been protesting for three months now, and are still going strong. Although there has been news coverage about the fight as a whole, it is interesting to note that the opposition group consists of people from all sorts of backgrounds and in my opinion this is why the opposition has been so strong. The name Euromaidan stands for two things: Europe, which is what the opposition wants Ukraine to be integrated into, and maidan, meaning open place or square, which exactly matches the name of the street being used for ongoing protests.

Men and women alike participate in opposition's protests. Photo credit to Ivan Bandura.

Men and women alike participate in opposition’s protests. Photo credit to Ivan Bandura.

Euromaidan is focused on bringing down a government deemed to be corrupt, so class, race, and gender differences have seemed to vanish because of a singularity of purpose existing for this group of protesters.

Woman carrying medicine to Euromaidan's wounded fighters. Drawing by Oleksandr Komyakhov.

Woman carrying medicine to Euromaidan’s wounded fighters. Drawing by Oleksandr Komyakhov.

The group of protesters is made up of men and women- young and old, average class folks and even oligarchs. Among the protesters, there are several notable stereotypes. GlobalVoices shows drawings from Oleksandr Komyakhov. Among these are drawings of a wealthy man bringing tires and a woman carrying bags with medicine to help those who are beaten by the Berkut police.

The most outrageous is a picture tweeted of an old Euromaidan protester lady, being pulled away by a Berkut policeman. It seems that Berkut is trying to hang onto power in every way possible, even if it means attacking an older woman who probably wouldn’t even cause much harm to the police in the first place.

Berkut policeman drags away elderly Euromaidan protester.

Berkut policeman drags away elderly Euromaidan protester.

Among the protesters is a group known as the women’s 100. Yulia, a university student, is part of this women’s 100 group. According to her, this women’s group takes in women of all ages, even 12 year old girls, with their parents’ permission. She says that the women’s 100 goal is to “Try and hold peaceful talks with the Berkut police and the young men who oppose Euromaidan.” They do not support violence from either side, so their main goal is to try and help Euromaidan succeed under peaceful circumstances.

“Чувства страха нет, — откровенничает Юля. — Даже когда нас разгоняли, его не было. Мы наравне с парнями несем вахту. Им ведь тоже нужно отдыхать.”                                                                       (“There is no feeling of fear, – shares Yulia. – Even when they were trying to make us leave- there was no feeling of fear. We carry our responsibilities equally to the guys. Because even they need a rest.”)

Those who do not support Euromaidan’s movement consider fighters of Euromaidan to be violent and extremely dangerous. A certain anonymous blogger was quick to label Euromaidan protesters as “fascists” who beat up innocent men and women of the “For a clean Kiev” group, which supposedly seeks to keep Kiev clean and rid of violence.


Both sides have a pretty negative opinion of one another, and it is clear that neither side is willing to give up, which poses a dangerous predicament. If eventually both sides do not come to some kind of agreement, the type of civil violence Ukraine is to encounter will be devastating.




Click on the link below to follow Euromaidan’s official Twitter page.