Obesity: It’s Not Just for Westerners

Posted on 20. Aug, 2014 by in Culture, General reference article, History


Myself, fatified (courtesy of Fatify app)

Recently I read an article in U.S. News about the most obese countries in the world. To my surprise, Russia ranked fourth. In fact, it was not a shock that the U.S. was number one, followed by China and then India; however, Russia was a shock. I remember when I was growing up there were times when we considered it a privilege to eat meat. My parents and grandparents can remember waiting in long lines for hours just to get a loaf of bread. The more I discovered about this topic, the more it made sense.

A study conducted in 2012 by the Nutrition Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences stated that over 25 percent of Russians were overweight and that 55 percent of Russians carried excessive weight. The study also found that more women were overweight than men. This could make sense since the women bare the children. According to the State Statistical Office in Moscow, from 1950-1989 there was a strong shift in the dietary preferences of Russians. They changed from a diet higher in starchy foods like bread and potatoes to one that includes much more meat, dairy, and sugar. Economics is part of the reason for this, as is the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Anybody that has been to Russia during the last decade could not help but notice that more and more “western” fast-food chains are popping up. The first McDonald’s franchise was opened in Moscow in 1990 and in 2011 Subway surpassed them as Russia’s largest chain. While I would agree that there is both good and bad news associated with this influx of these new eating establishments, I would argue that the bad outweighs the good. The good aspect would be that Russians must have more disposable income some of which they spend on fast food. They wouldn’t build those restaurants if they were not profitable. Amazingly enough, these franchises are popping up in many cities, not just Moscow and St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, the heath issues that accompany these food choices are already being felt. According to the World Health Organization, in Russia, 80 percent of deaths are caused by chronic noncommunicable disease; these are diseases that are non-infectious and non-transmissible among other people. These usually develop as a result carrying excessive weight and being obese. They will greatly increase the chances of diabetes, stroke, cancer, and heart disease. Not only this, but as more Russians gain excessive weight, they will visit the doctor more often. Healthcare is another issue and I don’t have time to get into it now; however, as more and more people visit doctors and stay in hospitals, the more taxed the healthcare system will be. This could cause problems in the quality of care available and the costs could rise.

As I have stated in other posts, many Russians also like to smoke heavily – again they are ranked fourth in the world, and they like to drink. By combining all of the knowledge I have recently learned, it is not too surprising that Russians rank fourth now. Remembering a trip to Russia in 2006, you could buy so much American junk food – potato chips, candy bars, soda, etc… – even in small, remote villages like the one in which my grandmother lives. In looking at photos of the people and places I had visited, you can easily spot the excess weight many are carrying around. I remember when I first got to America over 11 years ago, I was astonished at how heavy people looked, now it looks like Russia is following suit.

Intro to Russian comedy scene

Posted on 18. Aug, 2014 by in Russian humor


Image by Jorge Gonzalez on flickr.com

Image by Jorge Gonzalez on flickr.com

We have touched upon Russian humor in general, so I’m sure you may be curious to get acquainted with the Russian comedy scene. As any aspect of culture, it is too vast to be covered in one post. I will try to present overview of a few household names known to many people in Russia and in Russian-speaking environments around the world, but I will necessarily omit someone, so feel free to add to this post in the comments.

The Russian comedy scene is fairly diverse. After all, Russian comedy in the 20th century has encompassed acts ranging from a film actor relating the idiosyncrasies of life to a philosopher critiquing the society around them to a hipster making obscene jokes in a stand-up gig.

Russian comedians may be described by related but distinct terms:

  • комик – comedian, usually said about the more amusing, sometimes more lowbrow, comedy; this word may also refer to actors
  • сатирик – this is usually applied to people who write their own routines that include present social commentary along with than mere lowbrow gags
  • юморист – this word can be applied fairly broadly; however, it has the connotation of benign, non-offensive humor

Аркадий Райкин

Arkadiy Raikin (Аркадий Райкин) was one of the most famous and influential Soviet comedians. His sketches, usually performed at respectable concert halls, made fun of the idiosyncrasies of the Soviet life and people. He was an inspirations for a whole generation of Soviet and Russian comedians.

Known for: parodies, master of disguise

Similar or related artists: Михаил Жванецкий (Mikhail Zhvanetsky), Роман Карцев (Roman Kartsev), Геннадий Хазанов (Gennady Khazanov)

Humor sampler:

(1:33 in the video) А ещё и ядиком змеиным — ооо!  Ядик примешь, и всё, и уже больше ничего не надо.

Overly talkative and obtrusive character giving advice to an old man complaining of headaches: “Have you tried snake venom? Oh! Once you take it, you’re good. There’s nothing else you’ll need.”

Ядик is the diminutive of яд (poison, venom). This unexpected diminutive makes the character all the more comical.

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Евгений Петросян

Several comedians are associated with the TV show Anshlag (Аншлаг). Yevgeny Petrosyan (Евгений Петросян) is one of them. His acts usually include several character sketches and are favorites with the older crowd in Russia. However, Petrosyan and other Anshlag artists are also accused of being hackneyed, not funny, and repetitive. Younger crowds tend to look up to other comedians.

Known for: parodies, innuendo

Similar or related artists: Klara Novikova (Клара Новикова), Efim Shifrin (Ефим Шифрин)

Humor sampler:

The routine below is built on the premise that the character, who is a plumber, is getting phone calls for sex services after his phone number appeared under the wrong ad.

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КВН, short for Клуб весёлых и находчивых (Club of the funny and inventive), is a TV contest among teams of comedians. Teams representing different universities and different regions compete against each other to get the highest scores from the judges. This show has launched the careers of countless comedians throughout its existence. The jokes usually make fun of current events or fads.

Known for: sketches, improv, songs

Similar or related artists: “Большая разница” (Big Difference), “ОСП-студия”

Humor sampler:

The video below is edited to look like opening credits of a soap opera, which are famous for its melodramatic language. Here, the team is trying to predict how the Russian soccer team will do at the World Cup

(0:59) Сборная России по футболу – плачем всей страной.

Russian national soccer team — crying with all of Russia.

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Городок (“small town”) was a TV show produced by and featuring two actors – Ilya Oleynikov (Илья Олейников) and Yury Stoyanov (Юрий Стоянов). Their jokes usually made fun of the inherent contradictions in language and society.

Known for: sketches, recurring characters and settings, puns, twist ending

Similar or related artists: Маски шоу, 6 кадров

Humor sampler:

The two characters below are talking about preventing burglaries to their dachas in their absence.

(0:49) - Тёщу в город вывожу. – А вот это неправильно.

“I take my mother-in-law to the city.” “This is where you are wrong.”

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Камеди клаб

Comedy shows in the Soviet days tended to be cautious about any adult humor. Overt obscenity was not allowed; the farthest an artist could venture was innuendo or minced oaths. However, recent shows have challenged that trend with sometimes overtly obscene, shocking, and non-politically-correct humor. Камеди клаб (Comedy club) is perhaps the best-knows of these shows. It features routines by several “resident” comedians. Their jokes make fun of celebrities, contemporary Russian society, and sometimes borderline offensive subjects like ethnic minorities.

Known for: Western-style standup, obscenity, mean jokes

Similar or related artists: Наша Russia (Our Russia), Павел Воля (Pavel Volya)

Humor sampler:

Just watch for yourself what happens when a door to door salesman tries to sell washing powder.

Если это сосед, то у меня нет соли, нет дрели, нет денег, нет лампочки. Я не воровал ваш вайфай.

If you’re my neighbor, I don’t have any salt, drill, money, or light bulb. I didn’t steal your wi-fi.

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How to “Google”, or Perform an Internet Search, in Russian Effectively

Posted on 13. Aug, 2014 by in General reference article, language


If you are trying to improve your Russian by searching for content in Russian online, you might be having a hard time finding what you are looking for. If you haven’t considered watching/reading Russian content online for improving your Russian, you definitely should. Immersion, immersion, and… immersion is one of the best ways to master any language!

The key challenges to in the matter are

1. Using the right Russian words and

2. Having at least some knowledge about Russian search engines and major content aggregators.

Today I will give you some tips and links to make the task of finding the right type of Russian content more fruitful and enjoyable.


Choosing the right search words  can be challenging even in your own language. You should keep your query (words that go into the search bar) as short and as specific as possible.

-Figure out what words you want to use in English.

-Translate the words into Russian using Google Translate (or another similar application).

-Copy and paste the Russian words into your search bar.

-Go over search results.

Tip 1! Do not try to use sentences if you do not know how to change the word endings properly. Using individual relevant words or several words might give you better results.

Tip 2! Do not use English letters to spell Russian words. You can always copy/paste translated Russian text into your search bar if you don’t have a Russian keyboard. You can also use an online keyboard, like this one, to type exactly what you want using Russian letters.


Google has certainly done a lot of work in Russia. It is becoming more and more popular with the Russian population. With that said, I believe you can rely on google.ru to perform an accurate search in Russian. I would not say the same about Bing, Yahoo or any other non-Russian search engine. If you are comfortable enough to perform a search through a native Russian engine, I would recommend using yandex.ru or rambler.ru.

Content aggregators, particularly the ones with a lot of videos, like rutube.ru, can be a great place to find all kinds of videos on a subject of your choosing. Russian “Facebook”, vkontakte.ru, is also a great place to improve your Russian if you join a few interest groups and try to participate in the discussions.