popular culture, Russia

Why Russia?

I’ve been fascinated by the Russian cultural heritage, or the myths and narratives surrounding it to be exact, since early childhood. The representations of Russia indicated (often from a very orientalist stand point) that it was to be considered as something mystical, exciting and a bit unknown, in the East. If Russia isn’t accepted as a part of Europe (but it is still something else than Asia), what is it then? A bizarre but intriguing mystery with an eventful history and debatable politics?

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Finland is one of the neighbouring countries, located in the West from the Russian perspective. Historically speaking, we’ve also been a part of the kingdom in the 19th century before becoming independent in 1917.

I personally grew up in the South Eastern corner of Finland, and we’ve always had a lot of connection with Russian people. My mother’s best friends from work were originally from Russia, and she used to tell funny stories of their times together. Even though the centre of my home town was small, Russian tourist buses often made stops in order for the passengers to shop there. Also some of my bilingual school friends had a parent or two that had moved here from Russia. Even I have some Russian blood from my father’s side. Amongst the relatives, it’s indeed rumoured that there would still be some relatives dwelling around the Lake Ladoga area near St. Petersburg.

What it comes to cultural products, I think that the 1997 animated film ‘Anastasia’ linked below has been a huge generational experience for people my age. I can still quite vividly remember gathering around the television as a child while the nurses at the kindergarten would set up the video cassette. I remember crawling next to my best friend since I was genuinely terrified of the evil Rasputin character trying to kill the beautiful young princess who had just discovered her true identity.

Later on the Russian telenovela series ‘Bednaya Nastya’ (which literally means ‘Poor Nastya’) shown on Finnish TV-channel 4 charmed many people into studying the language and culture more. I wasn’t the only one sold by the braided hairdos, extravagant costumes and ‘traditional’ settings since there were at least a couple of other girls in my class who were also motivated by this particular series. Even though I don’t even own a television, I wonder why there hasn’t been more telenovela series bought for Finnish broadcast? In my opinion, there would be a lot of people interested from all ages and walks of life. (MTV hire me, please!)

Anyway, here’s a link to the tune ‘Mne ne zhal’ (my translation would be ‘I don’t regret’) with some clips of the series as well. If you’re not familiar with the Russian Cyrillic letters, here’s a good chance to take a look how they are! Isn’t it exciting how different they are from the letters we use?

I have been listening to perhaps one of the most internationally and commercially successful Russian pop duo since I was a kid (‘All the Things She Said’ was a huge hit back at the time), more actively since high school though. I think that this kind of music somehow represents more accurately my experiences of the contemporary Russian culture. This crazy Russian disco mentality definitely has enhancing impacts in my study motivation (especially combined with three or more cups of coffee)! Try it out, learn the lyrics and see for yourself…

Till this day I’ve been studying Russian language (hence the resemblance to my robot necklace…) since the beginning of high school which means approximately eight years already! It was obvious for me to keep studying Russian at the University language centre which eventually led me to dig the culture a it deeper. I started to enrol myself into courses about Russian cultural history (feminism, for example) and to spend six months as an exchange student in the small town called Izhevsk in the Republic of Udmurtia. After that I’ve regularly had a valid visa for all kinds of trips to Russia, mainly in Vyborg and St. Petersburg that are easily reachable from Finland.

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I bet that this robot knows the Russian grammar by heart. I still don’t – but I am trying!

In the future I will definitely do more posts about my previous and future trips to Russia: how I’ve managed to be vegan in there, for example! I’m also going to get some more tattoos done by my favourite artist located in St. Petersburg so if you have any suggestions for May’s upcoming Russia post, please let me know in the comments section! Maybe I should set up an Instagram account for real time posting? Later on I can also share the story and meaning of my tattoos (after they are all done and healed) if you happen to be interested!

Tvoja (yours),

Miah

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