I belive that politic is for politicians, people are more important!
In this blog was written lots of bad things about russian politic - all that was true and it is sad, but now I want to start writing few words about Russians, their culture and traditions

8 Mar 2009

Orthodox church Music

Orthodox hymnody is a part of Russian musical culture. It is a specific world, the aim of which is the appeal to God and the service of Him; contrary to secular music, which satisfies the aesthetic needs of people.

Church singing, as a variety of sacred music, has its own rhythm and order and differs greatly from any other kind of music.

From ancient times till now all world cultures have used sound as a means of fascination and intoxication. Sound was always considered to have heavenly supernatural power. But speaking about the influence of music upon men, we must take into consideration that in ancient times the influence was much stronger, because of the absence of that acoustic sphere of "sound pollution" that today causes acoustic shock and diminishes the sensibility of modern men, distracts their attention, and therefore undermines their perceptive abilities.

In ancient times sounds, and sounds of music in particular, made people tremble with holy awe. We can assume that sound in general is connected with different spiritual worlds.

To leap from their own internal world to that of the spiritual level special music is often used because it is impossible for ordinary people in their usual state of mind to communicate directly with the higher spiritual world. Thus music becomes a kind of the bridge between earthly and spiritual worlds. Sound, in the language of people appealing to God, and harmony, can be the language of the Spirit in communication with people. That is the reason why every world religion makes use of music. This type of music supposes a collective perception of it. Actually, it is not only listened to, people plunge into it, taking part in a sacred service.

So music helps people to communicate with spiritual worlds. But the nature of spiritual world is not homogeneous. Fathers of Eastern church believe that the spiritual world can be heavenly and demonic. The lowest spiritual world is inhabited by demons - fallen angels with Satan at the head; the highest spiritual world is the world of the Holy Spirit. But the aim of Orthodox church music is to elevate the human soul to the heights of the world of the Holy Spirit. There is no instrumental music in the Orthodox church, though as Fr. Alexander Men wrote: "The use of musical instruments in church does not contradict Orthodox Christianity". The Bible says: " Praise Him with stringed instruments and organs " (Ps. 150: 4). In the times when Russian Orthodox Christendom was at its initial stage, the fathers of the Church connected the use of musical instruments with the service of demonic force, because instruments were widely used in pagan ceremonies. In attempts to draw a line between Christianity and heathenism the Russian Orthodox Church did not allow the use of any musical instruments at a divine service.

Psalm 150 says: "Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord". The Russian Orthodox Church considers that the praise of God has to be connected with breathing, it has to be vivid and inspired. A person that praises God plays the role of a musical instrument with a soul, contrary to ordinary instruments, that can not possess a soul. We often meet the comparison of a saint with a musical instrument, for example, an organ in Orthodox literature. The Church calls such a saint "the organ of the Holy Spirit". No musical instrument can surpass the human voice in the influence it produces upon men. That is the reason for the huge impression produced by this "angelic singing" upon our ancestors - the ambassadors of Great Prince Vladimir. They heard it during the divine service in the church of St.Sophia in Constantinople a thousand years ago. They told Prince Vladimir after that they did not know where they had been: either upon the Earth or in Heaven. Soon "angelic singing" could be heard all over Russia in numerous churches that began to appear after the Baptism of Russia.

Thousands of years passed. The singing that we can hear in churches nowadays is quite different from that "angelic singing" that came to Russia from Byzantium in the X-th century. But it still preserves that special reserve and solemnity, which elevates the human soul.

A lot of factors influenced Russian church singing during its thousand year existence. We can name the influence of secular music (including instrumental music as well), Russian folk singing traditions, and the interaction with Western culture as just a few of such influences. The centuries has formed Russian hymnody, melting the factors hostile to it in the flame passage of the Church. This long period of development resulted in three styles of hymnody, which we can distinguish today: cathedral hymnody (singing in cathedrals), parish hymnody (singing in provincial churches of parish significance), and cloister hymnody (singing in monasteries and convents).

Cathedral hymnody was formed in the great cathedrals of big cities, where the service was often conducted by bishops, and a lot of people were present at them. This kind of hymnody is distinguished by its solemnity and the brilliance of its sounding. Mixed four part choirs sing usually in such cathedrals. There is always a group of soloists, and large groups of men and women choristers present. Specially composed sacred music, of concert character, is performed there. All choral parts are usually doubled, and vertical lines of chords of such choirs cover a range of four octaves (or five octaves, in case the choir includes a basso profondo). The arrangement of chords in ektenes and tones is usually wide. It is the hymnody of Orthodox holiday splendour.

You can hear parish hymnody in small churches of provincial towns and villages, with their homely unpretentious atmosphere. There are not many parisheners present at week days there. But they attend their church regularly and know each other. The service is conducted by one and the same priest both on week days and on holidays. The sound of the choir is calm and of chamber quality. Small choirs or ensembles consisting mostly of women - choristers sing there. Men's voices are not numerous, and you can only hear them on feast days. The singing is melodious and harmonious. It corresponds to the interior of the church, and its decorations. It is characterized by special warmth, prayerfullness and sincerity. Worshippers often sing together with the choir. It is a plain sincere prayer, which is very close to the traditions of folk singing in spirit.

Cloister hymnody can be heard in convents and monasteries. This kind of singing has preserved its ancient basics to a greater degree. You will not hear ancient monophonic Znamenny chant there, but cloister hymnody still preserves the atmosphere of reservedness, contemplativeness and loftiness. Its sounding illustrates the words of the Cherubic song: "Let us now lay aside all earthly care: that we may receive the King of all ". This hymnody is like the quiet burning of a candle, or a flicker of an icon-lamp. It captivates the soul and leads it from earthly matters to the world of spiritual joy and prayerful contemplativeness. The choristers are only men or only women. This hymnody can be triphonic or quadrophonic, but it is usually unsophisticated, and presents cloister chants of diurnal cycle. It is an old tradition of big monasteries and convents to have two choirs, that stand on both sides of the altar and sing in turn. Small cloisters have only one choir usually. Cloister hymnody differs from any other kind of church singing. It is the singing of incomparable spiritual delight, the singing of Christ''s love and intelligent prayer. Cloister hymnody cannot be imitated by any secular, cathedral, or parish choir. To sing like monks one has to live a monastic life.

Therefore Russian Orthodox church singing at its present stage touches upon every possible spiritual state of a worshipper: from the tender and chaste joy of Announcement, warmth and brightness of Christmas, anguish and sorrow of Calvary, to the boundless triumph of Easter. Three styles of Russian hymnody fully express the whole range of feelings and states of the human soul.

Drinking Traditions

One of the most prominent Russian traditions is hard drinking. It does not mean they all are alcoholics; Russians are just drinking more alcohol when they are drinking.

It's applicable more in particular to men though women also drink much more than it's accepted on the West. Drinking a bottle of vodka for three, or a bottle of vine for each is normal and is not considered as excessive. Refusing to drink as much as the rest of the company is considered as disrespect. The favorite men's drink is Russian vodka, the favorite women's drink is Soviet Champagne - a decent Russian sparkling vine. Russians have poor taste in vines and prefer sweet vines.

Drinking until one falls is all right. The parties usually take place in private apartments, and majority of the guests stay to sleep overnight occupying all free space on coaches and the floor. The next morning the party may continue. Hangover, named in Russian "pokhmel'ie", is supposed to be cured by drinking a small amount of alcohol ("opokhmelitsya"). It does provide some relief but thereafter people usually can't stop. Small shops on the streets (kiosks) selling mostly alcohol and chocolate, work 24 hours 7 days a week, and the party can get extra drinks any time if they think they did not have enough.

A Russian joke:

(The diary of a foreigner working in Russia)

Was drinking with Russians. I think I'd better die.

In the morning came Russians, and said we should "opokhmelitsya". I'd better die yesterday...

Russian culture facts

Russia has a rich cultural heritage that is expressed in the cities, the countryside and the small towns of this striking and proud nation. While virtually every place you might visit during your travels here lives and breathes this culture, it is often most easily absorbed while visiting several of the country's attractions. The Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, for instance, is filled with famous Russian icons. The Heritage Museum and Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg are filled with brilliant art collections, while the many hamlets and small towns of the countryside exude a different sort of lifestyle. Old Cloisters and castles help visitors reflect on Russia's past and give the history of the country and interesting perspective.

Soviet Art

During the October Revolution a movement was initiated to put all arts to service of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The instrument for this was created just days before the October Revolution, known as Proletkult, an abbreviation for "Proletarskie kulturno-prosvetitelnye organizatsii" (Proletarian Cultural and Enlightenment Organizations). A prominent theorist of this movement was Alexander Bogdanov. Initially Narkompros (ministry of education), which was also in charge of the arts, supported Proletkult. However, the latter sought too much independence from the ruling Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), gained negative attitude of Vladimir Lenin, by 1922 declined considerably, and was eventually disbanded in 1932. After Stalin died Soviet Art went into decline as gradually Russians artists became more independent of the state and in the 1980s the government ruled that it could not restrict what Russia's artists could paint.


A Matryoshka doll (Cyrillic матрёшка or матрешка) is a Russian nesting doll. A set of Matryoshka dolls consists of a wooden figure which can be pulled apart to reveal another figure of the same sort inside. It has in turn another figure inside, and so on. The number of nested figures is usually six or more. The shape is mostly cylindrical, rounded at the top for the head and tapered towards the bottom, but little else; the dolls have no hands (except those that are painted). The artistry is in the painting of each doll, which can be extremely elaborate. The theme is usually peasant girls in traditional dress, but can be almost anything, for instance fairy tales or Soviet leaders.