Anti-Semitic vandalism in Estonia, Russia

This video says about itself:

17 September 2015

Members of the Estonian parliament received parcels containing an edition of a speech on homosexuality delivered by Heinrich Himmler. The booklets were distributed by a neo-Nazi group, with Tallinn set to recognize same-sex unions in several months.

On Wednesday, the book with Himmler’s speech about homosexuality was delivered to the mailboxes of Estonian parliament (Riigikogu) members along with a pen with ‘’ written on it, Delfi news website reports. is the website of a Neo-Nazi group MTU La Colonia. The organization is a non-profit association headed by notorious Estonian national socialist Risto Teinonen, a Finnish national and one of the leaders of the far-right Estonian Independence Party (Eesti Iseseisvuspartei, EIP).

The EIP is currently not represented in the parliament.

The website advertised the mailout, writing “We hope that lawmakers are going to find time and get familiar with this work.”

According to Delfi, the book was printed at the print shop of Haamer publishing house registered in the city of Tartu. Nationalist Risto Teinonen is known for being a member of the board at Haamer.

The incident comes as in the near future the Estonian parliament has to pass implementing acts to the law that will legally recognize same-sex unions from January 1, 2016.

In October 2014, Estonia became the first former Soviet state to recognize same-sex partnerships after passing the Cohabitation Act.

Reichsführer of the SS (Schutzstaffel) Heinrich Luitpold Himmler, one of the senior leaders of the Third Reich and Germany’s Nazi Party, delivered his anti-gay speech to high-ranking SS officers back in 1937.

From the Jewish Telegraph Agency:

Holocaust monuments defaced in Russia, Estonia

Swastikas painted near Tallinn, memorial to hundreds of murdered Jews in Pskov smashed

September 2, 2016, 2:07 pm

MOSCOW — Unidentified individuals vandalized Holocaust monuments in Russia and Estonia.

The Baltic country’s Jewish community last week reported the drawing of swastikas on the Holocaust monument of the city of Kalevi-Liiva, which lies 10 miles east of the Estonian capital of Tallinn.

“It is sad that such incidents are taking place in our country. It is hoped that this will not happen again,” the community wrote about the incident, which was discovered after Estonian National Day celebrations on August 20.

Separately, a monument built near a mass grave of Jews murdered by Nazis in the Holocaust was smashed in the Russian district of Pskov, situated some 200 miles southeast of Kalevi-Liiva.

In January 1942, hundreds of Jews were shot to death by Germans at the site.

According to a report Thursday by the Russian news agency Interfax, the desecration in Pskov occurred sometimes between August 14 and August 29.

Police are investigating both incidents.

White killer whale seen again

This video from Russia says about itself:

White orca in the Fourth Kuril Strait

19 September 2014

In August-September we surveyed the southeastern coast of Kamchatka and Northern Kuril Islands as part of a humpback whale project funded by Russian Geographical Society. In the Fourth Kuril Strait, between Onekotan and Paramushir islands, we met a large aggregation of orcas, but soon after we started photographing them for photo-IDs, the fog thickened. Soon, we couldn’t see anything further than hundred meters, so we stopped to listen for the sounds. Suddenly a group of orcas approached us, and right next to the boat, a white orca surfaced. It was not the famous Iceberg, but a small white orca, likely a juvenile. We soon lost the whale in the fog, but the image was fixed in our mind and in this short piece of video. We hope to meet more white orcas next year.


Sep 2, 2016 10:32 AM ET

All-White Orca ‘Iceberg’ Spotted After Long Absence

The 22-year-old marine mammal is one of a handful of white killer whales that have been documented in Russian waters.

“Iceberg,” an all-white male orca, was spotted after a four-year absence, according to the organization Russian Orcas.

“Iceberg is still travelling with his family of fish-eating orcas,” the organization wrote on Facebook, noting that its FEROPS (Far East Russia Orca Project) team made the sighting.

Iceberg was first spotted off Russia’s Commander Islands in the North Pacific in 2010 by FEROPS scientists and then seen again, in 2012. Believed to be about 22 years old now, he appeared healthy then — a member of a fish-eating pod, in contrast with some killer whale pods that chiefly dine on other marine mammals — though the nature of his all-white status was still up in the air. “We don’t even know if he is a true albino,” FEROPS researcher Erich Hoyt told LiveScience in 2012.

RELATED: Rare White Orca Seen Off Coast of Russia

Now, though, Iceberg has reappeared for the cameras, off Russia’s Kuril Islands, and it turns out he’s not the only white orca on the scene. FEROPS scientists have just published a paper in the journal Aquatic Mammals in which they document the existence of 5 to 8 other white orcas in Russian waters.

The scientists remain unsure of the reason for the orcas’ distinctive coloring, including that of Iceberg. True albinism is a genetic disorder that leaves the skin without pigmentation.

“Russian waters appear to be the world’s number one area for white killer whales who may be leucistic (patchy white pigmentation) or true albinos,” Russian Orcas noted on Facebook. “It’s a dubious honor. As reported in our paper, albinism probably indicates inbreeding of small populations.”

“Albinos or leucistic .. we’re not sure,” Hoyt wrote on social media.

RELATED: Albino Whale ‘Gallon of Milk’ Spotted off Mexico

An especially close-up look at the alabaster animals could help.

“With regard to Iceberg’s pod, we have no genetic data,” Hoyt wrote on after the 2012 sighting, “but we are hoping to meet them again in summer 2012 and learn more about the phenomenon of white whales, why they occur, what it means and whether Iceberg is a true albino — perhaps we can catch a glimpse of a pink eye — or ‘just’ one of the most beautiful orcas anyone has ever seen.”

Eurasian bittern video

This video from Russia is about an Eurasian bittern.

Ice-trapped orcas saved in Russia

This video from Russia says about itself:

19 April 2016

After an eight-hour-long operation rescuers freed three orcas, including one pup, which had got trapped in ice in the Sea of Okhotsk, Sakhalin, on Tuesday.

New telescope use improves astronomers’ quasar science

This video says about itself:

13 August 2015

The Spektr-R[6] (or RadioAstron) is a Russian scientific satellite with a 10 m (33 ft) radio telescope on board. It rivals the U.S Hubble space telescope. It was launched on the 18th of July 2011. Uses in astrophysics, cosmology, studies of black holes and exoplanets etc.

From Space Fellowship:

Earth-Space Telescope System Produces Hot Surprise

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Tue Mar 29, 2016 8:43 pm

Astronomers using an orbiting radio telescope in conjunction with four ground-based radio telescopes have achieved the highest resolution, or ability to discern fine detail, of any astronomical observation ever made. Their achievement produced a pair of scientific surprises that promise to advance the understanding of quasars, supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies.

The scientists combined the Russian RadioAstron satellite with the ground-based telescopes to produce a virtual radio telescope more than 100,000 miles across. They pointed this system at a quasar called 3C 273, more than 2 billion light-years from Earth. Quasars like 3C 273 propel huge jets of material outward at speeds nearly that of light. These powerful jets emit radio waves.

Just how bright such emission could be, however, was thought to be limited by physical processes. That limit, scientists thought, was about 100 billion degrees. The researchers were surprised when their Earth-space system revealed a temperature hotter then 10 trillion degrees.

“Only this space-Earth system could reveal this temperature, and now we have to figure out how that environment can reach such temperatures,” said Yuri Kovalev, the RadioAstron project scientist. “This result is a significant challenge to our current understanding of quasar jets,” he added.

The observations also showed, for the first time, substructure caused by scattering of the radio waves by the tenuous interstellar material in our own Milky Way Galaxy.

“This is like looking through the hot, turbulent air above a candle flame,” said Michael Johnson, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “We had never been able to see such distortion of an extragalactic object before,” he added.

“The amazing resolution we get from RadioAstron working with the ground-based telescopes gives us a powerful new tool to explore not only the extreme physics near the distant supermassive black holes, but also the diffuse material in our home Galaxy,” Johnson said.

The RadioAstron satellite was combined with the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, The Very Large Array in New Mexico, the Effelsberg Telescope in Germany, and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Signals received by the orbiting radio telescope were transmitted to an antenna in Green Bank where they were recorded and then sent over the internet to Russia where they were combined with the data received by the ground-based radio telescopes to form the high resolution image of 3C 273.

The astronomers reported their results in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

In 1963, astronomer Maarten Schmidt of Caltech recognized that a visible-light spectrum of 3C 273 indicated its great distance, resolving what had been a mystery about quasars. His discovery showed that the objects are emitting tremendous amounts of energy and led to the current model of powerful emission driven by the tremendous gravitational energy of a supermassive black hole.

The RadioAstron project is led by the Astro Space Center of the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Lavochkin Scientific and Production Association under a contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency, in collaboration with partner organizations in Russia and other countries. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.

See also here.

Tolstoy’s War and Peace as BBC TV series

This video series says about itself:

The BBC’s War & Peace

Twenty part drama of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel. The Rostov family prepares to celebrate the name-day of Countess Rostova and her younger daughter, Natalia, nicknamed Natasha.

First broadcast in 1972/3 this was one of the BBC’s earliest historical drama series for colour television. Stretching into a mammoth 26 episodes if memory serves, it received only a luke-warm reception and never really garnered much interest from the viewing public. The original series was heavily edited into 20 parts and re-broadcast a few years later, but it never really caught on.

This upload is the 20 episodes version. Very much a novelty at the time, colour TV across our measly three television channels in the UK was all the rage. The broadcast of episode 1 coincided with the arrival of our first colour TV at home. War & Peace became something of an obsession with me at the time and I could never understand why it had such a dismal reception. The modern viewer might spot a few familiar faces and wonder what ever happened to them. There might be one or two faces that went on to find greater fame and fortune.

By Joanne Laurier in the USA:

Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace dramatized in a new television series

11 February 2016

Leo Tolstoy’s titanic novel War and Peace has received a new adaptation by the BBC and is now airing globally. Directed by British filmmaker Tom Harper, the serialized television production stars American actor Paul Dano and British actors Lily James, James Norton, Jim Broadbent and Stephen Rea in leading roles as part of a large, predominantly UK cast.

This video from Britain says about itself:

Lily James: New BBC drama the best adaptation of War and Peace

14 December 2015

Former Downton Abbey star Lily James has swapped one period drama for another, as she plays Natasha Rostova in what the Cinderella actress describes as the most truthful and faithful adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Lily stars alongside James Norton and Jim Broadbent in the six part drama of the Russian writer’s depiction of the Napoelonic wars.

The Joanne Laurier article continues:

Tolstoy, one of the greatest of the great Russian fiction writers of the 19th century, was born in 1828, three years after the Decembrist Revolt in which a group of officers rose up in one of the first open struggles against tsarism. He died November 20, 1910, five years after the 1905 Revolution in Russia and seven years before the October Revolution. Tolstoy’s other great works include Anna Karenina (1877) and Resurrection (1899).

His epic War and Peace, first published in its entirety in 1869, is set during the period of the Napoleonic wars (1803-1815) and the French invasion of Russia. It follows the members of several Russian aristocratic families as they seek to survive the confusing, frenzied, bloody times.

The eight-hour miniseries opens in 1805 in St. Petersburg, as Napoleon’s victories and his army’s conquest of significant portions of western Europe are having an increasing impact on Russian life. Many of the central characters are introduced at an upper crust social gathering. Among them is Pierre Bezukhov (Dano), awkward but amiable, and initially a supporter of the French leader: “Napoleon’s a great man! He stood above the revolution, he put an end to its abuses and kept all that was good about it! You see good in revolution, sir? The equality of all citizens, freedom of speech, liberty, equality, fraternity, these are ideas we could learn from in Russia.”

Pierre looks on with disgust at the room’s “overfed aristocrats.” The illegitimate son of a wealthy count, he will soon become the object of intrigue for the sinister Prince Vassily Kuragin (Rea), who makes an unsuccessful attempt to suppress the will that names Pierre the inheritor of his father’s vast estate.

Another guest at the party is Pierre’s friend Andrei Bolkonsky (Norton), the intelligent and ambitious son of retired military commander Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky (Broadbent). Also present are the Rostovs, a noble, but down-on-their-luck Moscow family that includes a vivacious daughter Natasha (James), a quiet niece Sonya (Aisling Loftus) and a son Nikolai (Jack Lowden), who has just joined the army commanded by the veteran General Kutuzov (Brian Cox) (“He’s about the only man in Russia who knows what the war’s about and that includes our glorious Emperor.”). Nikolai’s parents (Greta Scacchi and Adrian Edmondson) are depending on their son to reverse the family fortunes.

Russia is in alliance with the Austrian Empire at this point (in the Third Coalition against Napoleon) and a restless, unhappy Andrei (“I can’t bear this life”)––whose young wife is pregnant––and Nikolai set off for the front. Meanwhile, Kuragin maneuvers Pierre into marrying his morally loose but beautiful daughter Helene (Tuppence Middleton). Her incestuous relationship with her dissolute brother Anatole (Callum Turner) is one indication of her manipulative, deceitful character.

Thus the stage is set for the various personal and political stratagems, unions and disunions, as the epoch of war heads toward its denouement following Napoleon’s fateful invasion of Russia in 1812 and the declaration of war by a reluctant Tsar Alexander I (Ben Lloyd-Hughes). On the eve of the invasion, Napoleon (Mathieu Kassovitz) brags that he has 600,000 men while the Russian army has only one-third that number and lies in shambles.

The mini-series

War and Peace has been adapted by Andrew Davies, best known for his reworking for television of such classics as Pride and Prejudice (1995), Vanity Fair (1998) and Sense and Sensibility (2008). He also wrote the popular British political thriller serial House of Cards (1990). His work on the current production results in a credible condensation of Tolstoy’s massive, complex story, some 1,400 pages and more than half a million words long.

Visually graceful and aided by numerous accomplished performances, this large-scale, high-quality production is, on the whole, a gripping experience.

The series paints a picture of a Russian aristocracy in which petty and selfish motives predominate. Andrei Bolkonsky goes off to war primarily to escape a vapid, stuffy life. Nikolai Rostov has other motives: his gambling debts have nearly bankrupted his family. He considers it more honorable to turn soldier than remain in the clutches of a nasty, egotistical mother and kindly, but ineffectual, father. In the end, under pressure from his parents, Nikolai breaks his engagement to the impecunious Sonya in favor of a more advantageous liaison.

Andrei Bolkonsky’s sister, the modest Marya (Jessie Buckley), shows her spiteful landlord coloring when she deals with the serfs on the family estate who refuse to help the household escape from the invading French army. Bellows one angry peasant: “The French will set us free and give us land! What have you ever done for us?”

Unfortunately, the production seems to side with Marya and her self-centered concerns. She is soon rescued from the legitimate wrath of the peasants by the timely appearance of Nikolai and his regiment. It is the one major scene that points to the fact that this parasitical social layer lives off the exploitation and enslavement of the peasantry.

Pierre, the moral conscience of War and Peace, tries to be honest when he sadly admits that “my life is one mistake after another … I wanted to change the world for the better, help my fellow men and look at me a fat, drunken aristocrat who makes a bungle out of everything.” To make amends for what he considers his mistakes, Pierre becomes obsessed with assassinating Napoleon.

In a relatively modest way, the mini-series does provide some sense of the great events that shaped the Tolstoy novel—namely, the aftermath of the world-altering French revolution. The depiction of the Battle of Borodino in September 1812, the bloodiest single day of the Napoleonic wars, with some 70,000 Russian and French casualties, is one of the series’ strongest sequences. Here, at least for a moment, the aristocratic lifestyle is left behind and we see something of the horror of war: men cut in half, doctors sawing off legs, the misery of the wounded and dying. And later there are the horrific consequences for Moscow’s population.

A duality exists in Tolstoy’s work between sharp condemnations of the aristocratic life and his acceptance of the inevitability of that life. In his remarkable 1908 tribute to the novelist, Leon Trotsky observed that, despite everything, Tolstoy continued to place in the center of his artistic attention “the one and the same wealthy and well-born Russian landlord” as though outside this universe “there were nothing of importance or of beauty.”

The mini-series tends to adopt the same standpoint, which is far less defensible given the subsequent course of Russian and world history. Trotsky noted that at the end of the novel, Tolstoy showed Pierre Bezukhov, “the restless seeker of truth,” as “a smug family man,” and “Natasha Rostova, so touching in her semi-childlike sensitivity,” as “a shallow breeding female, untidy diapers in hand.” The present series does the same, only more so. The final scene grates with its complacency and suggestion that contented family life offers some consolation for the massive destruction and loss of life.

That being said, Davies is genuinely skilled at choosing and adapting enduring, classic works. True, his genre of intelligent costume drama is not the be-all and end-all of artistic effort. One might even say that stylish adaptations like War and Peace have a certain soothing effect on an audience (with the exception of the battle scenes). If we were currently flooded with challenging artistic evaluations of the status quo, it is unlikely that such series would receive quite the attention they do. However, given the actual state of cultural affairs, this version of the Tolstoy epic attracts attention for its general intelligence and pleasing aesthetic qualities.

To their credit, the makers of the miniseries have tried to capture certain crucial features of the novel. A naturalness and elegance underscore and heighten the emotional intensity. As in Tolstoy’s narrative, there is truthfulness, a lack of pretension and artificiality: the viewer is engaging with real people, who have real, complex lives and feelings.

In dozens of essays the leading Russian Marxists, Plekhanov, Lenin, Trotsky and others, pointed to the great contrast between the immortality of Tolstoy’s artistic achievement and the poverty of his philosophical and social ideas. …

Nonetheless, as an indefatigable social critic, an enemy of cruelty and oppression, Tolstoy played an enormous role in undermining the tsarist regime and the entire Russian social order. Reactionary forces in the former Soviet Union have not forgiven him to this day.

In an obituary, Trotsky magnificently paid tribute to the great writer: “Truth in and of itself possesses a terrible, explosive power: once proclaimed, it irresistibly gives rise to revolutionary con­clusions in the consciousness of the masses. Everything that Tolstoy stated publicly… seeped into the minds of the laboring masses … And the word became deed. Although not a revolutionary, Tolstoy nurtured the revolutionary element with his words of genius. In the book about the great storm of 1905 an honorable chapter will be ded­icated to Tolstoy.”

It would be misleading to suggest that Tolstoy’s fierce indictment of Russia’s institutions is sufficiently present in the War and Peace mini-series. However, its honest presentation inevitably communicates elements of the social critique, and also may lead the viewer to investigate Tolstoy’s work further. That would be all to the good.

Orphan Siberian tigress Zolushka now a mother

This video from Russia says about itself:

Zolushka Is the First Rehabilitated Amur Tiger to Give Birth in the Wild!

10 December 2015

WATCH new mom Zolushka, the first-ever rehabilitated Amur tiger to give birth, and her young cubs playing in the wild. Learn all about this new family’s remarkable story of success here.

Zolushka (‘Cinderella’ in Russian) had been found as a cub, almost dead, after poachers had probably killed her mother. She had been freed in 2013.

See also here.