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

Venezuela to the U.S. – Home, Food, and the Little Things in Life – The North Star Reports – by Maria Olivares. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

Venezuela to the U.S. – Home, Food, and the Little Things in Life – The North Star Reports – by Maria Olivares. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

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[Photo credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Churro#mediaviewer/File:Chocolate_with_churros.jpg%5D

Life is in the little details, or so the saying goes. We go about our day thinking about bigger and brighter things—when the next paper is due, where we are going to meet for a date, what we are having for dinner—and often times overlook that which is foundational to a sense of normalcy. We ignore the small things that make our life ours. Try to think about it: what is one small thing that, if absent, would make your day feel off? Maybe it is patterned duct tape, maybe it is the salty smell of the ocean carried by the wind through your window, maybe it is the secret ingredient your mom uses for that special dinner you love. For me, it is churros.

Churros are fried pastries that originated in Spain. They are elongated and thin and have ridges because when they are made, the dough is funneled into an oil-filled pan through a baking sleeve that has a star-shaped nozzle. Churros are topped with sugar or dipped in caramel or chocolate. Some people like to roll them in cinnamon or drink them with hot cocoa and coffee for breakfast or snack time. These pastries are usually sold in churrerias or from street carts in Spain and Latin America. In my country, Venezuela, we have specific stores dedicated to selling churros and I, as a child, used to visit them occasionally with my sister and my mother.

I wasn’t a big fan of churros growing up. While I enjoyed them, they were a rarity for me and did not form part of my home culture. It was just one more store we passed by the mall that sold yummy things—a business with the magical power to make that dessert that my mother and I once or twice tried to make but had seared in oil. Churros were just…there.

When I moved to the Duluth, Minnesota for college, churros were the last thing on my mind. I was too distracted by all the novelty the United States could provide: stocked shelves at the supermarket, the sense of safety going around town at any time of day, and brightly-colored aisles devoted to M&M’s, Reese’s, and other candies that were foreign and rare to me. Starting college did not allow for much time to think about churros either, and so two years came and went with churros only coming up in conversation maybe twice when speaking to other international students about how different life in Duluth is compared to home and how sometimes we miss the simple pleasures of feeling a supermarket is yours instead of feeling relegated to an ethnic food section.

One fateful day, my friends and I made plans to meet for dinner at the cafeteria of our college. I went down the stairs and basked in the smell of melted cheese and toasted corn and, thinking it’d be Taco Tuesday, I strolled in and there they were: a plate of inch-long, cinnamon-covered churros. They were toasty and brown and warm and I could not help but tear up when I looked at them. It was like a long-lost lover reunion with a small mountain of doughy deliciousness. Ecstatic, I told all my friends. I told the other people in line. I came up to the person in charge of the cafeteria and hugged them. I was in Duluth, Minnesota, where the Hispanic isles carried Taco Bell desserts, and I had found a homely dish that, though quite different from what I was used to at home, came close enough to the original to click in my soul.

That night I had about twelve churros and a tummy ache, but I also realized how important these little desserts were to me. It was not only about food, or nostalgia. It was a matter of representation. Seeing a piece of home after such a long time in such a remote place was like a validation of my existence. It was a symbol of lazy weekend afternoons with my family strolling in a tiny mall; of hunting to find the ingredients for recipes when milk, eggs, and sugar are scarce; of the life I used to live. Seeing it on campus, my new home, was proof that I had once led that life. It was a reminder of how we can live comfortably in bubbles of reality we have created, forgetting or not realizing that the little details in our lives make them what they are or that people from other places don’t have the same little details or even big details like shelter, water, and safety.


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.

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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Filed under Maria Olivares Boscan, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

In The Mexican Mountains — The North Star Project Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Jennifer Battcher

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In The Mexican Mountains — The North Star Project Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Jennifer Battcher

I spent two weeks traveling in Mexico with a group on a service learning trip. One day, we visited a family of artisans in their home in the mountains. Their house was one room and the walls were made of branches. The floor was dirt. It was one in the afternoon and the family was just finishing their first and only meal of the day – tomatoes and lettuce. It was very important to them that they provided enough places to sit for all of their guests and, as I sat down on the bed in the corner, I couldn’t stop myself from wondering if there were bugs in the mattress. The father of the family knelt on the dirt floor and wove palm branches as he spoke to us about how his family members are artisans. As the branches bent and twisted in his expert hands, he talked about the baskets and other things they made to sell in the city. It was amazing to see all the things they could create by twisting palm leaves.

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I was sitting next to their daughter, who was holding her beautiful new baby boy. The father explained to us how they were having trouble affording formula for the baby, which they needed because the mother was unable to produce enough milk. As I looked around at their stick walls, dirt floor, and meager meal, I saw up close what absolute poverty looks like. Of course, I had been prepared to see this. After all, the purpose of our service learning trip was to educate us about these types of conditions, and we had visited other families in other parts of Mexico already. However, I saw something else in that house that I wasn’t expecting to see and it was overflowing from every inch of that one-room home. It caught me by surprise as I saw it on the father’s face, in the mother’s actions. I saw it as the family showed how they make baskets out of palm branches. I saw it in every corner of that dirt floor, every small proud smile of the new mama as she accepted compliments about her baby: This house was brimming with happiness. In the midst of terrible poverty was a calm and steady joy. They were together, they had their family, and they were happy. I will never forget that family and, as I settle into my life, getting older and acquiring more stuff, I keep them in mind. They had such contentment with so few possessions to call their own, so certainly I can be happy without the latest fashions and trendiest styles. This family is wiser than most and understood a concept it takes some people many years to figure out. Stuff will not fulfill your life; material things do not bring happiness. People, family, and experiences bring happiness.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to contribute to The North Star Project Reports — HLIANG@CSS.EDU

For all of the North Star Project Reports, see https://mgjnorthstarproject.wordpress.com/

The North Star Project Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’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 K-12 outreach program. We also welcome Duluth East High School, Duluth Denfeld High School, Dodge Middle School and other schools around the world to the North Star Project. The North Star Project 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

https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/january-2014/embracing-oa-universities-adopt-open-access-policies-for-faculty-journal-publications

The Middle Ground Journal will share reports from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Student interns have reported 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 dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star Project students and teachers.

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) 2013-present The Middle Ground Journal. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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Filed under Jennifer Battcher, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

Gustavo Petro, former mayor of Bogota, Colombia: What happened to his mayoralty? — The North Star Project Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Ana Maria Camelo Vega

Gustavo Petro, former mayor of Bogota, Colombia: What happened to his mayoralty? — The North Star Project Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Ana Maria Camelo Vega

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Gustavo Petro, whose mayoralty was supposed to end in 2016, was removed from his position on March 19 of the present year. What happened here?

Born in 1960, Gustavo Petro was an active member of the militant guerilla called M-19 in his early life. Years later, after this illegal group broke up, Petro became part of the political party Polo Democrático Alternativo (Alternative Democratic Pole). As a member of this party, in 2010 Petro became a presidential candidate, beginning a process which would not succeed. He lost, coming fourth after t Juan Manuel Santos, the new Colombian president, Antanas Mockus, and German Vargas Lleras, respectively. A year later, as head of his Movimiento Progresistas (Progressives Movement), Gustavo Petro won the elections for the second most important executive power position in Colombia, being named as the mayor of Bogotá. Because of his political activities, Petro has had to face constant persecution from government-run security organizations and threats against his life and his family.

Even though some sectors including Animal Rights and LGBT communities have supported him, Petro’s administration and policies were constantly questioned. Scandals caught the attention of citizens, governors, and national and international media, putting Petro’s ability to run Colombia’s capital city in question. One of the most outstanding cases was the chaos that resulted from the mayor’s new policy for Bogotá’s waste material. In 2012, with the aim of creating a city-owned waste company, Gustavo Petro decided to suspend the existing contracts with private waste management companies. The capital’s streets being overwhelmed by litter, the rental and import of used, unsanitary, ruined waste vehicles from the United States, and the death of one operator while collecting waste in a dump truck are some examples of why this poorly designed policy ended up in chaos. As a result, the mayor was forced to disband the city-owned waste company and resume contracts with private waste companies, which allowed Colombians to doubt his mayoralty in general. According to the official website of the Registro Civil Nacional de Colombia (Colombian National Civil Registry), 630,623 citizen signatures were collected and presented in order to recall his mandate. Out of these signatures, 357,250 were approved, more than legally required to start the official recall process.

On the basis of these circumstances, on December 9th, 2013, the Procuraduría General de la Nación República de Colombia (Office of the Inspector General of Colombia), led by Alejandro Ordóñez, issued a verdict dismissing Petro’s position as the mayor. Through his decision, Alejandro Ordóñez not only dismissed Gustavo Petro’s post, but also banned Petro from any public and political position for the following fifteen years due to the lack of planning and regulations in his waste policies. In response to this decision, social unrest and polarization in Bogotá increased significantly and the capital city entered a period of political instability. While for some Colombians Petro is the hope of a nation free from armed conflict, for others he is a symbol of incompetence.

Following Ordóñez’ decision, The Council of State is expected to decide soon if Mr. Petro must leave office. In a surprise move, despite a call by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights court to suspend Ordóñez’ decision on the grounds that it violated Petro’s rights, President Juan Manuel Santos opted to remove the position of mayor on March 19th, 2014. The Colombian president claimed that Petro had had enough opportunities to defend himself with no success.

What will happen now in Colombia remains to be seen. National and international media have claimed that the president’s action was a totalitarian decision to increase his power in the country, as the capital city is now under his control. The president made the Minister of Labour, Rafael Pardo, interim mayor, along with his followers. Petro claims that Colombian governors are not competent to rule the country. The claim for democracy is shouting out loud. President Santos says that the government acted in a transparent and correct way, and with the capital city is facing chaos in multiple areas including transportation, security, and employment, it becomes a national right to hold new elections in the city.

Not being the first irregularity in Bogotá’s government, Petro’s removal from office leaves much more to think about. Are Colombians the cause for their political instability? Joseph de Maistre once said, “Every country has the government it deserves.” The way in which Colombian democracy is being developed has constantly caught the attention of national and international commentators. Petro’s mayoralty will have significant consequences not only for the capital city, but for the country as a whole. It is not a surprise for anyone that it will take time for Bogotá to stay on track and become progressive once again. New candidates must emerge for future elections. More importantly, Colombians strongly need to take advantage of this opportunity and change the course into which Bogotá is headed.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to contribute to The North Star Project Reports — HLIANG@CSS.EDU

For all of the North Star Project Reports, see https://mgjnorthstarproject.wordpress.com/

The North Star Project Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’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 K-12 outreach program. We also welcome Duluth East High School, Duluth Denfeld High School, Dodge Middle School and other schools around the world to the North Star Project. The North Star Project 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

https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/january-2014/embracing-oa-universities-adopt-open-access-policies-for-faculty-journal-publications

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. Student interns have reported 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 dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star Project students and teachers.

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) 2013-present The Middle Ground Journal. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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Filed under Ana Maria Camelo Vega, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

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