Valentin Gubarev

gubarevThis artist specializes in slice-of-life sketches of the sort I like. Same style as Vasily Shulzhenko (without the latter’s gloom), Lozhkin, or Kopeykin.

A few works that appealed to me at a glance:


Dirt demystified

First-time visitors to Russia often express surprise at the amount of mud, slush or dust, depending on the time of the year, on roads here. This article from, that I’m even tempted to translate into English although pictures make the story almost obvious, explains why it happens here but not in other countries with similar climate. Highly recommended whether you seek to satisfy curiosity or are on a search for the cultural code. That’s why I’m placing this recommendation for the mud story to the Background reading category.

Russian attitude to USA

54% of Russians consider USA “the greatest threat to world peace”. Compare that to 16% of Iranians! The trend is back to attitudes that worse than in the Cold War. Source:’m regularly asked what Russians think of USA so I’m sharing the figure. Attitudes to individual Americans however still remain largely positive.

Sad crap but far for being the worst

Click to enlarge. Data source: Gallup (Max Fisher/Washington Post)Here is a curious summary of this world’s setup >>

I’m naturally most interested in Russia, where I have the questionable fortune to live in. Should have listened to my old man who was insisting I see a shrink instead of coming here. Visitors to this resource are likely to be considering a trip here too, so I was mostly looking at how Russia fares compared to the rest of the world. All-in-all it appears “medium crappy” but by no means the worse.


Just finished translating an article on lice and its (I know it should be “their” but “its” sounds better) insecticide resistance. Approximately one third of the homeless in Russia’s major cities have lice. Thought the figure would be higher. In Marseille, France, it is 22%  Although Russian statistics are often questionable, in this case the source is beyond reproach. Now the prospect of street living looks even less threatening.

The Interpreter

The Interpreter, a project by the Institude of Modern Russia, is a frequently updated online journal offering articles from Russian press and blogs, well translated to make them easily readable, and often analyzed to help those not immesed in the local context to understand that’s happening. I’d rate it as mildly and thoughtfully russophobic.

LaRussophobe vs. DaRussophile

The illustration is from an old Korney Chukovsky book about the animal kingdom struck with horror of a giant cockroach. The illustration, probably from the 1950s edition, shows wolves swallowing each other whole in fear-induced insanity. After a series of dramatic events all ended well however. A sparrow came and ate the roach, and the normal order of things was restored.

Both are focussed on current politics. LaRussophobe (same as DyingRussia) by the author name unknown whose passion is hatred towards everything Russian smacks of pathology but is factually correct most of the time. Please forgive “free fall” instead of “decline” when describing economy and similar exaggerations or “madman” instead of “someone prone to disregard laws and common sense” when talking of Mr. Putin, exaggerations are part of the local style. DaRussophile, that positions itself as an answer to LaRussophobe, claims “to expose western myths about Russia” and seems to be as calm and reasonable as one can be given the subject, and written in very readable English. It is a private blog and does not use vague phrasing of big or official publications that aim at the international reader. DaRussophile may very well be the best major body of writing in defence of Russia and its actions or policies available in English. I highly recommend both as background reading for someone trying to make sense out of the current situation.

Painter Vasily Shul’zhenko, a connoisseur of Russian gloom

Alternative English spelling, with “soft sign” omitted: Shulzhenko. Original: Василий Шульженко.

See more on Vasily Shul’zhenko on Yuri Yakunin’s blog or 

Unlike his namesake Vasily Lozhkin (Василий Ложкин) from Solnechnogorsk, Shulzhenko’s is not into light irony exactly. Quite the opposite: his art is 100% dark and gloom, which of course gets the author the title of Russophobe and very little local exposure. He mostly sells in the States.

Above is your typical Lozhkin. Below is an equally typical Shul’zhenko. See the difference? One finds joy in just about any situation. The other one seeks out and emphasizes the anti-esthetics of local living, without anything thrown in for balance.

In preparation for your Russian trip you may want to peruse books and works of art I’ve been piling up under Categories > Uncle Pasha’s Corner > Background.

Vladimir Lubarov

The girl with the bicycle and the manFamilyAnother painter obsessed with the Russian theme – in particular rural dwellers, eastern Ukrainians (the artist himself is from Kharkyv), and Ashkenazi Jews.

Vladimir Lubarov’s site: www.lubarov.ruAlso read about him here and here.

Soviet Civilization: A Cultural History by Andrei Sinyavsky

This introduction to the Soviet world by one of the first “dissidents” may help in understanding its post-Soviet version and now, in 2014, the turnaround to I’m afraid to say what.

Very readable and available in excellent translation.

I think this book is based on Sinyavsky’s lectures in the Sorbonne, thus very little of the brain-paralizing academic style.

A summary of Andrey Sinyavsky’s life and work in The Independent >>

See my background reading section. Marerials that pile up there may appear vague and pointless to some. To others they will perhaps help identify principles and algorithms that explain a plethora of specifics.