Tag Archives: Russia

Georgian Food in Russia – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Georgian Food in Russia – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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[A plate of peppers with walnut paste and pomegranate seeds]

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[Welcome to Georgia: even little tchkatches display legendary Georgian hospitality]

When people think of food in Russia, they tend to think of simple and hearty fare, i.e. borscht with sour cream, rye bread, and caviar. However, if you have the opportunity to travel to Russia, locals and foreigners alike will most likely recommend Georgian food above “traditional” Russian fare. Georgia is a small nation nestled in the Caucasus Mountains that used to be part of the Soviet Union before achieving independence in 1991. Due to these close geographical and cultural ties, Georgian dishes spread throughout Russia and the former USSR and are still beloved throughout the region to this day. Russians view Georgian food as a jazzier alternative to their relatively simple fare; the appeal is somewhat comparable to the zest that some Americans have for “spicier” Mexican and Central American offerings. That reverence is highly justifiable, as Georgian food uses an eclectic array of ingredients to create many unbelievable delicious dishes.

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[Dolmas (meat or cheese wrapped in grape leaves) slathered in yogurt and chives]

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[A tomato and vegetable stew ]

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[Meat and veggie kebabs (and yes: that is a real flame in the center of the plate)]

First and foremost, no Georgian dinner table is complete without bountiful stacks of khachapuri, or delicious cheese-stuffed bread, and copious amounts of Georgian wine. Side dishes that often feature eggplants, peppers, walnuts and walnut pastes, pomegranate seeds, yogurt, and coriander round out the dining options. While Georgian food provides a number of vegetarian entrees, many Georgians revere spicy meat kebabs, or sashliki, as the highlight of the meal. Desserts such as baklava, dried fruits, or pelamushi (grape pudding) help diners end their meals on a sweet note. In addition to the actual food itself, Georgian culture stresses incredible generosity and hospitality towards its guests. When you go to a Georgian restaurant, the waiters make sure that neither your cup nor your plate are ever empty. Furthermore, they give you generous portions and encourage (if not borderline threaten) you to eat as much as possible! While these attitudes can make the dining experience physically painful, the emphasis on graciousness and conscientiousness makes the food and atmosphere even more appealing. With all of these factors in mind, I definitely recommend trying Georgian fare if the opportunity ever arises, as it proves for a truly outstanding culinary and cultural experience.

Marin Ekstrom serves as a senior editor for The North Star Reports.


Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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The “Moscow of the Far East”: An Introduction to Harbin, China – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The “Moscow of the Far East”: An Introduction to Harbin, China – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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[The Saint Sophia Cathedral, a former Russian Orthodox church-turned-city museum that serves as Harbin’s most recognizable landmark.]

Towering onion dome cathedrals and Stalinist spires…matryoshka nesting dolls and tins of caviar sitting in shop windows…broad streets, or prospekti, criss-crossing an urban landscape…

Based on these descriptions, one would assume that this place would be the most Russian of Russian cities. However, these are actually some of the key sights to see in Harbin, a city located in the northernmost throes of China! Harbin, the capital of China’s northeastern Heilongjiang Province, offers a fish-out-of-water experience and a standout highlight of any expedition into China.

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[A mountain of matryoshka Russian nesting dolls for sale.]

The city of Harbin as it is known today dates back to the end of the 19th century – a spring chicken as far as most Chinese cities are concerned! The Russian Empire was consolidating ownership of its Siberian reaches via the Trans-Siberian Railroad and wanted a shortcut route to Vladivostok, its key Pacific port. The Qing Empire ruling China at that time granted Russia permission to build the Chinese Eastern Railway in its territory. Construction lasted from 1897-1901 and during that time, hundreds of Russian workers and railroad personnel settled in the area. They ultimately decided to remain there even after they finished building the railway. Noting Harbin’s steady growth following this settlement, China declared Harbin an “open city” in order to further promote trade opportunities. Hundreds of immigrants, chiefly from Russia but from other countries as well, flocked to Harbin to help and build up this rising economic centre. Harbin also offered a safe haven for people under persecution, and thus groups such as Eastern European Jews and Russian dissidents of the Bolshevik regime relocated to Harbin as a place of refuge. The influx of people and businesses helped Harbin carve out an identity as an eclectic and bustling city; nicknames such as “the Paris of the Far East” and the “Moscow of the Orient” provide further testament to its cosmopolitan reputation.

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[A monument to Mao Zedong and other key figures in the foundation of the People’s Republic of China .]

However, these glory days were not meant to last. China’s regional neighbor Japan had been demonstrating its imperial expansionist ambitions and invaded northeastern China in the 1930s. Japanese occupation proved devastating for Harbin; the Japanese army’s control of the city’s transportation hubs was a massive blow for its economy. Additionally, thousands of residents in and near Harbin fell victim to Japanese biological warfare experiments that were being tested at this time. After the Japanese were expelled from Harbin following their defeat in WWII, members of the Chinese Communist Party entered the area and Harbin became a key base for Communist forces during the Chinese Civil War. After the Communists’ victory and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Harbin returned to Chinese rule and began a new chapter in its history.

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[A red lantern in the window of an ice castle.]

Over the next few decades, the Chinese population of Harbin substantially increased as the Chinese government promoted it as a base of heavy industry. Simultaneously, the Russian population steeply declined due to mass outward migrations to escape Japanese and Chinese control, Soviet deportations, etc. In terms of cultural and demographic terms, Harbin today is much less ethnically diverse than in times prior. Despite these significant changes in Harbin’s make-up, the influence of Russian culture is still clearly evident in several aspects of day-to-day life, such as architecture, monuments, merchandise and foodstuffs, etc. Furthermore, while Russian and Chinese influences are most predominantly visible in Harbin, other cultures have further added to the city’s cosmopolitan flair. The Harbin Jewish New Synagogue Museum is the most prominent remainder of the Harbin Jewish community’s legacy. The city features the Daowai Mosque, and ethnic Uyghur and Hui people that form part of China’s Islamic minority operate several restaurants and noodle shops. The streets are dotted with Thai, Korean, and Mongolian restaurants, and the city even features an ornate Indian Quarter! All of these details blend into the background of the cityscape yet offer tantalizing hints to the mosaic that is Harbin’s identity. With all of these factors in mind, Harbin is a centre of multicultural synthesis in China and a very worthwhile place to explore further in depth!

Works Consulted

China Briefing Media. China Briefing’s Business Guide to Beijing and North-East China. China Briefing Media, 2006. Accessed April 25, 2016. https://books.google.com/books?id=M2TvFN9DmqkC&pg=PA211&lpg=PA211 &dq=harbinopencity&source=bl&ots=EkeKrpus6W&sig=uPf5JqrwgsG_8TPF76 Vi3paHcUc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi0x_3hn6fMAhXDYqYKHbgMBKc 4ChDoAQgcMAA#v=onepage&q=harbinopen city&f=false.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Harbin”, accessed April 24, 2016, http://global.britannica.com/place/Harbin.

“Harbin Travel Guide.” Travel China Guide. Accessed April 24, 2016. https://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/heilongjiang/harbin/.

King, R. Todd. “Harbin’s History.” RToddKing.com. 2005. Accessed April 24, 2016. http://www.rtoddking.com/chinawin2005_hb_hi.htm.

Song, Candice. “Harbin History.” ChinaHighlights. July 28, 2014. Accessed April 24, 2016. http://www.chinahighlights.com/harbin/history.htm.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Learning a New Language — The North Star Reports – by Kathryn Marquis Hirsch. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

Learning a New Language — The North Star Reports – by Kathryn Marquis Hirsch. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

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[Photo 1: Russian State Library– largest in the nation and 4th largest in the world. The statue out front is of Dostoevsky.]

Editor’s Note: We are pleased to note that this is our 200th article. A remarkable feat for an all volunteer staff of dedicated student editors and writers. Professor Liang.

As countless many have expressed before, learning other languages not only allows one to converse with more people, it also gives a deeper understanding of other cultures because so much is lost in translation. Spoken language expresses much more than simply noun, verb, tense, and other elements which can be easily translated. (This is why excellent human translators are essential and cannot be replaced by software. Idiomatic speech, nuance, and situational context are largely lost on computers.) To respect the whole of another person or people requires an attempt to understand these elements of language that are less obvious but not insignificant.

In college, I had one professor who insisted that all thoughts are framed in language. All thoughts. Period. Many of my fellow students nodded in ready agreement, or perhaps in the hope our professor would move on, but he would have had better luck convincing a wall than me because I know from my own personal experience as well as from discussions with many others that this is just not true. Some of the thoughts, feelings, and dreams that defy words’ constraints are not only failed by my native English, but are outside of the framework of language. Others, however, are the sort of concepts that “words cannot express,” though it seems like it should be possible if only I could find the right words. One of the great pleasures of learning other languages has been finding such words and terms.

My resistance to my professor’s declaration aside, I do not dispute that languages reflect and influence ways of thinking in an endless circle– this is why they provide an invaluable window into the deeper culture of a people. Certainly my own thoughts have been shaped by English. But a wonderful benefit of learning other languages has been gaining new ways of structuring ideas. From time to time I will learn a concept that exists in Russian or Korean that is so delightfully apt, so perfect, that I wish it existed in English but as it stands it would require paragraphs of explanation or just does not exist at all. It was only possible for me to learn them incrementally, learning vocabulary and grammar and cultural context until I could think in the right steps to lead all the way there.

I do not mean to be a show-off by touting the wondrous expansion of my mind through foreign language study; I imagine those who have lived their entire lives multilingual would find my observations trite. This desire to find the right word is behind the adoption of foreign words found in almost every widely spoken language, and it seems these words or terms are often learned and incorporated rather than translated because they are so suitable just the way they are. Larger concepts are similarly easy to learn and incorporate into one’s thinking, given the foundation to do so. However, I don’t want to minimize the amount of work that I have put into studying other languages, because it does require dedicating one’s effort and time, and I have felt overwhelmed for moments at every stage. People seem to forget what they went through and often ignore what can be observed in young children: learning a language takes years and years of constant work and daily tutoring from every older person around you. It has often been frustrating and humbling, but in spite of starting in my thirties (well past the point where I could hope a nice Russian or Korean couple would adopt me and immerse me in their language), I have been able to progress and I am convinced that this is possible and worthwhile for anyone who wants to learn.

My practical advice would be to mix methods of learning rather than trying to do a strict regimen of only immersion or textbook study. Starting out when you’re older (not a baby), you won’t have time to go through another childhood of learning first to understand then speak then read, and being able to read facilitates the self-study that real progress will require. I’ve found it’s best to take an analytical approach, examining existing habits and ways of thinking about language and comparing these to the language being learned. For example, I think many people whose first language is English are intimidated by the concepts of formal and familiar speech or of masculine and feminine words. But actually, this isn’t entirely foreign to native English speakers. In English, even for a singular “you,” we use “you are” and “you were” instead of the “you is” or “you was” that would fit the overall structure of English. This is counterintuitive and something that native speakers often take some time to pick up on, but by the time we’re older, most of us don’t even realize how irregular it is. Among English speakers, saying “you is” is a common mistake, usually made until the speaker acquires the habit of using plural forms for “you” after of hearing and reading the proper usage. But it’s such a logical mistake to make that no one should beat themselves up over it.

Once you begin to study a different language, it’s not only interesting to see how other languages address these sorts of questions in their system, but also to gain a new perspective on what we do in English and how it works together. I was struck at first by how in Korean, each concept is a root word that is then conjugated into a noun, verb, adverb, or adjective simply by use of the appropriate suffix. It’s really neat and efficient and makes learning vocabulary somewhat easier (in a way). It eventually dawned on me, however, that this isn’t really all that different from what we do in English. Take the word “red” for example- it’s an adjective, right? But in Korean, it would be listed in the dictionary in a form that is at once adjective and noun. “Red” the color: noun. “Red” the attribute: adjective. But in English, it is the same! What does it mean if the apple is red? It exists in a red way. It is in a red state of being. Things can be reddened, or they can redden of their own accord. (Realizations like this please me far too much.)

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[Photo 2: A lighting shop in Russia, has nothing to do with the U.S. president, but an interesting false cognate.]

This all goes back to the time and effort factors in learning a language, which would be hard to overstate. If you are a native English speaker like I am, unaccustomed to masculine/feminine/neutral, that’s okay– if your new language uses this concept, you’ll just learn it. Perhaps more important that dedicating time and energy is a willingness to make mistakes and even to make a fool of oneself from time to time with the inevitable misunderstandings and failures you will experience when it comes to actually using a new language. I accept that I will have to spend the rest of my life trying to improve in Russian and Korean, and that I will never master either language. This is also okay– few people ever do. Decades into daily use, I certainly can’t claim that my English is flawless. I will gladly admire the greatest writers and orators in each language along with everyone else.

Learning new languages is a rewarding and enjoyable show of respect. Of course, it would be impossible for any one person to become conversant, let alone fluent, in the language of every person they’ll ever want to interact with in their lifetime. And knowing another language is unlikely to result in some sort of magical meeting of minds; people who share a native tongue are not of a single mind. But it certainly goes a long way toward understanding, and where it falls short, the effort made demonstrates one’s recognition that others have intellectual value and a willingness and desire to connect.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch serves as the Managing Editor of The North Star Reports and is a JD candidate at The university of Minnesota – Twin Cities Law School.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal’s online learning community and outreach program with undergraduate and K-12 classes around the world. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, Colombia, Norway, northeastern China, Nicaragua, Micronesia, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, El Salvador, England, Finland, Russia, Cyprus, and Haiti. We also publish student reviews of books, documentaries, and films, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers. We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Petrozavodsk, The Republic of Karelia, Russia: An Introduction– The North Star Reports – by Marin Ekstrom. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

Petrozavodsk, The Republic of Karelia, Russia: An Introduction (Петрозаводск, Республика Карелии, Россия: Введение) – The North Star Reports – by Marin Ekstrom. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal.

A Special Series from our Assistant Editor Marin Ekstrom

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[IMG_0362: The Republic of Karelia Music and Drama Theatre (notice the cheering golden statues from up high)]

Despite Russia’s vast geographic expanse, outsiders tend to think about the country in terms of just two cities: Moscow and St. Petersburg. Yet if one goes off the beaten track, he or she will discover that Russia has a plethora of intriguing, dynamic cities and communities with their own rich histories and cultures.

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[IMG_0369:Apartment complexes in the Kukkovka district (this picture coincides with the beginning of the White Nights)]

Petrozavodsk is one such example. It is located in the northwestern portion of Russia (north of St. Petersburg and close to the Finnish border) and is the de facto capital of the Republic of Karelia, a federal subject of Russia. Karelia is a stunningly beautiful area with dense pine and birch forests and thousands of lakes (including Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega, the two largest lakes in Europe), and also has heavy concentrations of mineral deposits. In fact, Petrozavodsk (or “Peter’s factory” in Russian) was established by Peter the Great in home 1703 to utilize these natural resources—and what began as a settlement at an iron and canon works plant has now evolved into the modern-day city of Petrozavodsk.

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[IMG_0409: A neoclassical KFC (that also used to be a movie theater and a dance club)]

Today, over 250,000 people call Petrozavodsk their home. The city is situated on the shores of Lake Onega forms a spellbinding blend of sophisticated neoclassical buildings, Soviet and modern architectural structures, and forest and greenery. Its industrial and economic performance continues to do well, as during the time of its foundation. However, Petrozavodsk has branched out in other ways to diversify its identity. The city’s many prestigious universities gives it a reputation as a vibrant university town, and its vast array of museums, theaters, festivals, and other institutions and events imbues it with a rich cultural life. It has a long history of cultural interaction with Finno-Ugric peoples (Finns, as well as indigenous Karelian and Vepsian groups), making the city an intriguing blend of dual Russo-Finnish cultural influence. For these reasons and countless more, Petrozavodsk is a unique and fascinating community that deserves much respect and recognition both in and outside of Russia.

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[IMG_0415: A giant granite monument to Lenin in downtown Petrozavodsk]

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[IMG_0337: The stunning wooden churches on the nearby Kizhi Island]

As stated earlier, Russia is an incredibly vast place, yet little is relatively known about it beyond Moscow and St. Petersburg. Yet once someone decides to venture outside of these two major hubs, he or she realizes that Russia is a much deeper and fascinating place than he or she could have ever imagined. Petrozavodsk is just one such standout community and not only a marvelous place to visit, but also a wonderful starting point to fully explore the dynamics and spirit of the Motherland (Родина).

For more information, see other links (i.e. maps):

Petrozavodsk in comparsion to the rest of Russia: http://www.worldatlas.com/img/locator/city/029/17329-petrozavodsk-locator-map.jpg

Petrozavodsk with Scandinavian/ former Karelia focus: https://www.awesomestories.com/images/user/6f56d2fd02.jpg


Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal’s online learning community and outreach program with undergraduate and K-12 classes around the world. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, Norway, northeastern China, Micronesia, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing reviews of books, documentaries, and films, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers. We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.
Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Bliss in a Blue and White Tin: Sweetened Condensed Milk in Russia — The North Star Reports – by Marin Ekstrom. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

Bliss in a Blue and White Tin: Sweetened Condensed Milk in Russia
written by Marin Ekstrom, edited by Jacqueline Dufalla and Kelly McMasters. This article was originally published on the blog of Russian in Translation, an volunteer-run organization that provides Russian-to-English translation for Russian institutions. If you are interested in learning more about Russian in Translation, please visit its website at http://ritpitt.weebly.com/

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[The iconic blue-and-white tins of Russian sweetened condensed milk. Picture Credit: http://englishrussia.com/images/boil_your_milk_right/1.jpg%5D

They say that ambrosia and nectar are the foods of the gods, but I think sweetened condensed milk has to be pretty close to the top of that list as well. In the United States, this sticky-sweet concoction is only occasionally consumed, and even then, it is primarily reserved for baking purposes. However, sweetened condensed milk is much more widely consumed throughout the world and enjoys particular popularity in Russia. Russians have invented all sorts of creative and delicious uses for sweetened condensed milk (or sgushenka/ sgushyonnoye moloko): they pour it over over blinchiki, spread it in between waffle-like wafers, use it as the “glue” that holds muraveinik anthill cakes, mix it in for honey cakes, use it as fillings for various commercial cakes and candies…the list goes on and on. An especially popular use for sweetened condensed milk involves boiling it – in the can itself – for a few hours, which transforms it into a caramelized spread called varyonoe sgushyonnoye moloko similar to dulce de leche. However, this can prove to be a daunting challenge with potentially dangerous (and messy!) results if the can explodes! Yet no matter what the usage, sweetened condensed milk is a beloved mainstay in kitchens all over Russia.

marinmilk2[Caramelized sweetened condensed milk explosion- AHHH! Picture Credit:http://bashny.net/uploads/images/00/00/13/2013/05/02/2d5c202c7c.jpg%5D

How did sweetened condensed milk garner such popularity in the first place? First, let’s look at how sweetened condensed milk was originally developed. Marco Polo noted that Tatar groups perfected a precursor to condensed milk: “they have milk dried into some kind of paste to carry with them, and when they need food they put this into water…[it] dissolves, and then drink it.” However, sweetened condensed milk in its current, most well-known form was invented in the nineteenth century. Nicholas Appert first “evaporated and preserved milk by heat in a sealed container” in 1810. In 1856, Gail Borden patented a sweetened condensed milk process that utilized heat, sugar, and vacuum pressure that made milk portable, storable, and long-lasting; his invention was an effort to combat food-borne illnesses that stemmed from poor refrigeration and food storing methods at that time. Sweetened condensed milk sales had their first major boost during the American Civil War and quickly gained a reputation as a wartime staple. At the same time, it spread out to international markets, where it also helped alleviate problems with food preservation and distribution. In the case of Russia, its first sweetened condensed milk-producing factory was constructed in Orenburg in 1881. Its popularity really took off during the tumultuous wars that characterized Russia in the first half of the twentieth century (particularly World War II), when supplies of food ran short, resulting in a demand for long-lasting, durable food products. It remained a common treat in Soviet times, especially when chocolates and candies were in short supply. Gradually, it became an endearing symbol of blissful sweetness throughout the USSR. Today, sweetened condensed milk has lost some of its edge due to the wider variety of goods available in Russia’s post-Soviet open markets, but it is still enjoyed by young and old in the country.

marinmilk3[Blini smothered with sweetened condensed milk. Picture Credit: http://www.zastavki.com/pictures/originals/2014/Holidays___CarnivalPancakes_with_condensed_milkon_Shrove_Tuesday_059243_.jpg%5D

Sweetened condensed milk has earned a well-deserved place as one of Russia’s most beloved treats. Many reasons can be attributed for this status: given that the Tatars first created condensed milk, and the fact that the Tatars and Russians have had a long and rich history of cultural interaction, perhaps Russians view themselves as “pioneers” of the product. Perhaps it is a symbol of wartime hardships or a consistent sweet spot in times of uncertainty and depravity. Whatever the explanation, I think all can agree that condensed milk is delicious, and it will continue to sweeten up Russians’ lives for years to come!

Sources

History of Condensed Milk.” Ichnya Condensed Milk Company. Ichnya.com, 2009. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://www.ichnya.com/en/page/show/information/milkhistory/&gt;.

Kipfer, Barbara Ann. The Culinarian: A Kitchen Desk Reference. Digital image.
Books.google.com. Google Books, 11 Apr. 2012. 145. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
<http://books.google.com/books?id=2zFDAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA89&lpg=PA89&dq=marco+polo+condensed+milk&source=bl&ots=RMVRbUXhO7&sig=2K3khz79jzB3NK7sJGloNxih3Mg&hl=en&sa=X&ei=nldhVN-_EovasATr4oLYDA&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=marco%20polo%20condensed%20milk&f=false&gt;

Moskin, Julia. “Milk in a Can Goes Glam.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Mar. 2010. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
<http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/03/dining/03milk.html?pagewanted=all&gt;.

Parfitt, E.h. “The Development of the Evaporated Milk Industry in the United States.” Journal of Dairy Science 39.6 (1956): 838-42.Archive.lib.msu.edu. Michigan State University, 1956. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.
<http://archive.lib.msu.edu/DMC/sliker/msuspcsbs_evap_evaporated16/msuspcsbs_evap_evaporated16.pdf&gt;.

Polo, Marco. “Chapter IX: Manners and Customs of a Strange People-Concerning the Tatars and Their Ways- The Origin of Condensed Milk.” Ed. Noah Brooks. The Story of  Marco Polo. N.p.: Century, 1897. 86-93. Print.

Schneider, Edward. “A Twist on Condensed Milk.” Diners Journal A Twist on Condensed Milk Comments. The New York Times, 27 Mar. 2008. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/27/a-twist-on-condensed-milk/&gt;.

Trowbridge Fillapone, Peggy. “Why Early Canned Milk Was Initially Rejected By The Public.” About Food. About.com, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
<http://homecooking.about.com/od/milkproducts/a/canmilkhistory.htm&gt;.

yulinka, comment on “A Twist on Condensed Milk”, Diner’s Journal, The New
York Times, entry March 27, 2008, comment posted March 27, 2008,
http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/27/a-twist-on-condensed-milk/?_
r=0 [accessed November 14, 2014]

“Из истории сгущенки, история сгущенного молока.” Из истории сгущенки, историясгущенного молока. Upakovano.ru, 3 Mar. 2009. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://www.upakovano.ru/articles/1874&gt;.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our program. We also welcome Duluth East High School and other schools around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing reviews of books, documentaries, and films, projects on historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.

We thank The Department of History and Politics for its generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org The NSR is sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact chief editor Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Thirty-Four — St. Petersburg, Russia, Preparing to Head Back to the U.S. of A.

The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Thirty-Four — St. Petersburg, Russia, Preparing to Head Back to the U.S. of A.

By Marin Ekstrom
Week 7: St. Petersburg, Russia, Preparing to Head Back to the U.S. of A.

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It feels surreal that I am nearing the end of my two-month stay in St. Petersburg. While I have been enchanted by the city, and have greatly enjoyed the experience overall, I have noticed myself “checking out” over the past week. At this point, I am ready to come home, as I feel the need to resume “reality” (family, work, college), and I am extremely anxious to rediscover the conveniences and commodities that…well, let’s just say Russia made me realize how much I used to take them for granted.
At the same time, it feels bittersweet to draw an end to my amazing summer in this fascinating nation, and I realize how much I will miss it when I return to America. Therefore, in order to best balance these conflicting emotions, I decided to create a table highlighting some of the pros/cons of St. Petersburg and “da Nordland”:

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I hope that by making this table (no matter how silly some of the points are), I will be most able to fairly access my impressions of Minnesota and St. Petersburg. I want to veer away from over-romanticizing either place, at the risk of developing home-sickness (or vacation-sickness?), but nor do I want I paint them in overly-negative lights, as I have had mostly positive experiences with both places. Instead, I believe that by reminiscing the “good, bad, and the ugly” of Minnesota and St. Petersburg, I will come up with the most balanced assessments of each places and what they have to offer.

The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Summer Reports.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

This summer we will re-tool and re-design the collaborative program, drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This summer The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here throughout the summer, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, June, 2013

(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 6, Spring, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Thirty-One — St. Petersburg, Russia, Museum Mania in St. Petersburg

The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Thirty-One — St. Petersburg, Russia, Museum Mania in St. Petersburg

By Marin Ekstrom, Museum Mania in St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg is a Mecca of museums, and the exhibitions range from everything from bread, chocolate, vodka, hygiene, communication systems, military weaponry, cats, erotica, religion, art and more. In other words, if any random concept pops into your head, there is most likely a museum dedicated to it somewhere in the city.

While I only explored a fraction of the museums available in St. Petersburg, here is a little “taste test” of what there is to discover here:

1)The Kunstkamera

One little tidbit about Tsar Peter the Great: he was a REALLY weird guy. Look no further than the Kunstkamera, his own little “cabinet of wonders.” The museum offers five floors of eclectic offerings: the first two floors are anthropological displays, highlighting the various ethnic groups and customs of the Americas, Asia, and Africa. The third floor features various artifacts (i.e. laboratory equipment, desks, letters) from the era of Mikhail Lomonosov and the Academy of Sciences. The fourth floor, an astronomical observatory, displays tools related to this branch of study, and fifth level holds the Great Gottorp Globe, one of the world’s first planetariums.

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The crowning achievement in the museum’s bizarreness, however, lies on one of the second floor’s wings. This section demands a stomach of steel, as it includes: sets of teeth that Peter the Great pulled out (he had a bit of a dental fetish), a taxidermy two-headed cow, and the skeleton of Peter the Great’s gigantic servant, and displays of malformed babies pickled in glass jars. Yeah- it’s quite a sight.
2)The Zoological Museum

In the grand tradition of Peter the Great’s…”uniqueness”, the Zoological Museum was formed as an extension of the Kunstkammera’s zoological collection. The museum exhibits a huge array of taxidermies, life-sized models of animals, and various other exhibits dedicated to the animal kingdom. I personally considered the mummified mammoths, the whale skeletons, and the extensive butterfly collections as the standouts of the museum.

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While this museum is heaven on earth for biology/zoology majors, anyone can find something to enjoy here, and will walk away with a greater appreciation for our critter friends.
3)The Museum of Dolls

Admittedly, a combination of my inner child and incurable nerdiness drew me here. Despite these less than sophisticated reasons, it turned out to be a great decision! Stepping inside of the museum immerses you into a dreamscape, filled with fantastic dolls and puppets of all varieties. The wings featured everything from the fantastical (“Fairy Tales”, “The Enchanted Forest”), the international (Spanish flamenco dancers, Italian Carnival-ers, French dolls with enormous white bouffants, Indian deities, Persian marionettes of camels and shahs, etc.) the historical (Muscovite defenders, Red army soldiers, the tsars) and the traditional (Baba Yaga, dioramas of Maslenitsa and other colorful folk celebrations, etc.).

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I not only liked the museum for its whimsical, imaginative atmosphere, but also its emphasis on how dolls and puppets serve as anthropological tools that represent complex cultural aspects.

4) The Sergei Kirov Museum

A little primer on Sergei Kirov, the namesake of this museum: he was a major Soviet political figure from 1918-1934, and at his pinnacle of his career, he served as the First Secretary of Leningrad and potential contender against Stalin. He was assassinated in 1934, which helped catalyze the Great Purge and the show trials (though according to rumors, Stalin himself ordered the execution).

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The museum, renovated from the former residence of Kirov, details the very aspects of Kirov’s life and character through the various rooms of his house, such as his love of hunting, his hobby of making and rearing shoes, and the gifts he received from factories. It also features halls dedicated to what Soviet life in the 1930s-1950s, which includes a children’s wing (complete with creepy 50’s toys and Young Pioneer memorabilia) and a visual display of food rations based on career status. Some of the most interesting highlights of this museum include: Kirov’s personal letters, Russian versions of The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, the outfit that Kirov was assassinated in, and countless portraits of Stalin scattered throughout the museum.

The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Summer Reports.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

This summer we will re-tool and re-design the collaborative program, drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This summer The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here throughout the summer, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, June, 2013

(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 6, Spring, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Twenty-One, St. Petersburg, Russia — Moscow and St. Petersburg

The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Twenty-One, St. Petersburg, Russia — Moscow and St. Petersburg

By Marin Ekstrom, Week 5: Moscow and St. Petersburg

Despite Russia’s enormous size, and the multitude of interesting cities within its confines, most discussions about the country boil down to just two cities: Moscow and St. Petersburg.
These cities have been endlessly compared and contrasted for centuries: Moscow, the truly “Russian” political and economic megalopolis, versus St. Petersburg, the Western European literary and cultural center. As I signed up for a weekend excursion to Moscow, I decided to use this opportunity to learn more about Russia’s capital, and to analyze how it aligns with my impressions of St. Petersburg and Russia as a whole.

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My group mates and I summed up the Moscow trip in a single word: “weird.” First of all, the city is laid out in a jumbled heap. Moscow, unlike St. Petersburg, did not have an organized plan of layout. Therefore, settlements just keep building up haphazardly at any patch of empty space. In addition, an estimated 11 million people, and perhaps an additional 2 million undocumented immigrants, live in Moscow (for a sense of comparison, New York City has 8 million residents), and the city features an extensive metro system with over 200 stations. Therefore, it is little wonder why Moscow poses such an intimidating presence, especially for a navigationally challenged small town girl such as myself.

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Secondly, the city has a grittier flavor to it, in comparison to St. Petersburg. While Moscow still offers spectacular views, I noticed much more gray-brown concrete slabs, graffiti, dump yards, aged Soviet monuments, and devastated beggars. These elements have molded Moscow into a rough-and-tumble concrete jungle, which very much juxtaposes the illusion of royal grandeur in St. Petersburg.

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Lastly, the city compresses a hodge-podge of buildings and monuments together. On the outskirts of Red Square, the medieval Kremlin, St. Petersburg-esque tsarist palaces, towering Stalinist Gothic towers, sleek, contemporary skyscrapers, and gold-domed Orthodox churches are all located within close vicinity of one another. While this makes for impressive views, it also has a slightly schizophrenic quality, making it difficult to access an identity for Moscow.

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And yet…despite the oddness I encountered, I found myself inexplicably drawn to Moscow. I feel that it represents a more historically rich, diverse, and complete picture of Russia, as it embraces elements of Kievan Rus, Mongol Russia, the Rurik and Romanov dynasties, the Soviet Union, and modern capitalist Russia into its identity. Whereas St. Petersburg occasionally feels like a tsarist simulacrum of Western Europe, Moscow, in all of its intoxicating chaos, presents a grander, more authentic perspective of Russia.

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Granted, I only visited Moscow for three days, which is not nearly enough time to familiarize oneself with the megalopolis. Nevertheless, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to explore it, compare it with St. Petersburg, and use both experiences to further immerse myself with the Russian psyche.

The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Summer Reports.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

This summer we will re-tool and re-design the collaborative program, drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This summer The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here throughout the summer, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, June, 2013

(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 6, Spring, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Sixteen, St. Petersburg, Russia, Nationalism and Internationalism in Russia

The North Star Project, Summer Report Number Sixteen, St. Petersburg, Russia, Nationalism and Internationalism in Russia

Marin Ekstrom, Week 4: Nationalism and Internationalism in Russia

The term “Russian” most likely conjures such images as burly Cossacks, plump babushkas with head coverings, and matryoshka nesting dolls. While these depictions represent a partially complete picture of Russia, the country also includes (or once included) a variety of ethnic groups, due to its enormous geographic expanse. Russia today is experiencing a massive identity crisis; on one hand, it is trying to carve out a national identity, while on the other hand, the nation descends from a rich multiethnic history, which complicates attempts to define what “Russia” truly is. Therefore, I would like to dedicate this report as a way to make sense of these contradictory sentiments.

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While attending a seminar titled Politics and Economics in Russia, the issue that stuck out the most to me was the nationality question. Poverty-stricken Central Asians, especially Uzbeks and Tajikistanis, are migrating north to Russia, often working in low-paying, physically demanding jobs in order to better support for themselves and their families. While this situation parallels the relationship between the U.S.A. and Mexico, I think there are other key factors to consider. Most notably, Russia faced a serious demographic crisis during the worst years of the 1990s. While the situation is stabilizing (I can’t tell you how many massively pregnant yet perfectly coiffed pregnant women we’ve run into), many Russians fear the religious and ethnic shifts posed by Central Asian migration, which has contributed to a developing sense of nationalism. These attitudes are perhaps most noticeable in the political sphere: two of the four main political parties in Russia, Just Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party, operate on a platform of ultra-nationalism, based on such factors as ethnicity (Slavic roots) and religion (Russian Orthodox Christianity). So far, these groups have laid low under the two main parties, United Russia (the non-ideological, pro-Putin’s plan) and the Communist party. However, it will be interesting to see what route these burgeoning ideals will take in the near future.

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My next set of musings stands in stark contrast to the paragraph above, as it details my trip to the Museum of Russian Ethnography, a museum dedicated to the rich cultural diversity of the historical Russian Empire. The museum features wings dedicated to broad categorizations of geographical ethnic groups: European Russia (i.e. Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Moldavians, Baltic peoples, Scandinavians, Jews, Bashkirs, Tatars, etc.), the Caucasus and Crimea (Georgians, Azerbaijanis, Armenians, etc.), Central Asia (Kazakhs, Kirghizs, Uzbeks, Turkmen, Tajikistanis, etc.) and Siberia/ the Far East (i.e. Buryats, Yakuts, etc.). While Russia’s geographic vastness and multiculturalism is a key reason for my interest in the country, I did not realize the sheer impact of that diversity until visiting the museum. The thousands of artifacts on display range from buckskin teepees, small Buddhist shrines, meticulously woven carpets, dreidels, pechi (stoves), straw ornaments- the list goes on and on, and covers an enormous spectrum of material culture. With all these factors in mind, I now realize how terrifically complicated it is to define “Russia”, as all of these influences have contributed towards shaping Russia into what it is today.

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In short, this week has offered a fascinating view into the nationality question in Russia. Only time will tell how it continues to evolve in the coming years: will Russia try to enforce a strict national identity, or will it accept a growing sense of dynamic nationhood? For me personally, my visit to the museum emphasized how interaction of ethnic groups has made the “Russian” identity much more fluid and fascinating than I had originally perceived it to be, and I hope that Russia embraces its diverse heritage.

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The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Summer Reports.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

This summer we will re-tool and re-design the collaborative program, drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This summer The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here throughout the summer, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, June, 2013

(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 6, Spring, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Thirteen, St. Petersburg, Russia — On History, Architecture, and Monuments

The North Star Project, Summer Report Number Thirteen, St. Petersburg, Russia — On History, Architecture, and Monuments

By Marin Ekstrom, St. Petersburg Week #3

I live in the central part of St. Petersburg, which feels like a fairy tale come to life, due to its colorful palaces, swirling onion domes, and location on the glittering Neva. This classicality emphasizes the legacy of the tsars, and since 2013 marks the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, this era has been highlighted more than usual. For example, I regularly encounter monuments dedicated to pre-revolutionary figures, and have noticed the image of Peter the Great featured on countless advertisements. Although I am dazzled by the elegance and rich historical subtexts of this area, it also creates a facade that romanticizes the era of the tsars while minimizing other historical influences. However, a weekend excursion to Novgorod led us out of the bubble of beauty and into a more complete representation of Russia.

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We drove to Novgorod by bus, which allowed us to view the outskirts of St. Petersburg. The wondrous palaces transformed into gritty concrete complexes surrounded by graffiti and monuments dedicated to Lenin and World War II. After that, we viewed the Russian countryside, with its blue lakes, mixed forests, and dumps of abandoned vehicles and clods of dirt; I had to pinch myself as a reminder that this was not northern Minnesota. Finally, we arrived in Novgorod, a town that means New Town, but is actually one of the oldest cities in Russia. It was there that we visited the Museum of Wooden Russian Architecture, a charming display of cabins, huts, and churches that represent traditional rural peasant life. We also toured millennium-old Russian Orthodox churches, and while they are whitewashed and crumbling on the outside, the interior is filled with breathtaking Christian icons and golden candles. Finally, we saw the Millennium of Russia monument, a bell-shaped behemoth that encapsulated the historical formation of imperial Russia in tangible form. All of these impressive sights astounded us, and helped us to create a fuller picture of Russian life.

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All in all, I enjoyed history coming alive in our trip to Novgorod. The bricologe that is Russian history creates a sense of beautiful chaos, and I am pleased to say that I have a slightly better grasp of that phenomenon by traveling beyond central St. Petersburg.

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The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Summer Reports.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

This summer we will re-tool and re-design the collaborative program, drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This summer The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here throughout the summer, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, June, 2013

(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 6, Spring, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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Filed under Marin Ekstrom, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang