Russian Illustrated “Bluebeard” – Y’Know, For Kids!

And just so that you don’t think Russian children’s books are all sunshine and rainbows, here’s an illustrated version of the French tale Bluebeard from the Soviet era. For all the full images, click here.

We often talk of how Disney films teach children outmoded lessons about gender – both boys and girls receive terrible lessons about how to construct their identity. Cinderella, for instance, teaches us that “if you’re beautiful enough, you may be able to escape your terrible living conditions by getting a wealthy man to fall for you.” The Little Mermaid says, “it’s okay to abandon your family, drastically change your body, and give up your strongest talent in order to get your man. Once he sees your pretty face, only a witch’s spell could draw his eyes away from you.”

Perhaps it’s good to have a children’s book that tells the story of misogyny straight-up, without wrapping it up with singing animal sidekicks and happy marriages. Beautiful illustrations, creepy tale.

Cvetik-Semicvetik (The Flower With Seven Colours)

Cvetik-Semicvetik, or “the flower with seven colors,” is a beloved tale from the USSR. There are many different illustrated versions out there, but perhaps the most trippy one comes from the mind of Russian artist Benjamin Losin. Losin apparently illustrated two different versions of this book, both of which are included here.

The story, lots more lush illustrations, plus a 1948 cartoon version of the tale, after the cut!

The Battleship Potemkin

One of the most acclaimed films of all time, and certainly one of the artfully made/broadly influential propaganda pieces created to this day, Sergei Eisentstein‘s 1926 feature film The Battleship Potemkin presents an exhilarating (not to mention highly dramatized, sometimes outright fictionalized) depiction of the 1905 mutiny of a Russian battleship’s crew agains their Tsarist commanding officers. Eisenstein made cinematic history with his development of the montage concept, and his unflinching use of realistic violence.

Via Jess Nevins comes word that we can watch the entire thing, uninterrupted, on teh YooToobz. It’s the version with the Shostakovich score, too. Pretty awesome (in the traditional sense of the word, even)!

The Girl That Snuck Into a Russian Rocket Factory

The internet is quickly becoming smitten with a young photographer/urban explorer who broke into an unguarded rocket facility in Russia. Jesus Diaz at Gizmodo writes:

Her name is Lana Sator and she snuck into one of NPO Energomash factories outside of Moscow. Her photos are amazing, like sets straight out of Star Wars or Alien. Now the Russian government is harassing her.

It was easy to get in. She just went there, jumped over the fence and got right into the heart of the complex through a series of tunnels and pipes, which was very surprising. After all, this is an active industrial installation that belongs to one of the top manufacturers of liquid-fuel rockets in the world. Their engines power the modern Soyuz, the Zenit 3SL, and the Angara and Baikal launch vehicles. Heck, their RD-180 engine powers the first stage of the Atlas V, an American rocket. More importantly, they have specially strong ties to the Russian military.

And yet, she found nobody. No guards, no security. Nothing. Just a few CCTV cameras here and there in rooms packed with huge machinery.

While some of these zones look decrepit and abandoned, the factory is active. In fact, the government is really pissed off about Lana’s adventure. The authorities have sent her letters saying that her situation will get “much worse” if she keeps posting photos from the factory.

Large, beautiful photos from Lana’s adventure at the rocket factory, along with a scanned letter from the authorities warning her of the dire consequences, can be seen at her LJ.

[via Michael Doyle / Marina GalperinaFrumiousBandersnatch]

The Friday Afternoon Movie: North Korean Labor Camps

Switched to a YouTube playlist because the VICE video would auto-play. You can see the full-length version at the link at the end of the article.

Perhaps not the best thing for the week of Christmas, but history cares not about holidays. Last Saturday, as I’m sure you all know, Kim Jong Il, the iron handed dictator of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, died from an apparent heart attack at the age of 69. The past week has seen a continuous outpouring of grief (some real, some staged) from within the Hermit Kingdom, while the rest of the world seems to look on with trepidation, waiting to see what his heir apparent, Kim Jung-un, will do.

Less than a week before Jong Il’s death, VICE News ran another of their fascinating looks into North Korea. Shane Smith, accompanied by freelance journalist Simon Ostrovosky, traveled to Siberia to investigate North Korean logging camps located deep in the forests. Here, North Korean citizens are contracted as laborers for up to 10 years, during which time they are housed, fed, and paid a pittance for their work. The North Korean government, meanwhile, was paid handsomely for what basically amounts to slave labor.

Smith’s interest seems to be twofold: to expose these camps, and to try to talk to North Korean citizens, a feat nearly impossible in his visits to the country itself. If you’ve seen Smith’s past work, then you’ll know what you’re in for. The reporting is solid, but there is a Gonzo aspect to it as well. A decent chunk of the forty minute documentary is spent on a crowded, sweltering train where the only thing to do to numb the boredom is drink. Unsurprisingly, it turns out to be rather difficult to get near these camps, but he and his crew manage to at least talk for a bit with some of the laborers.

Regardless of your feelings on the style, VICE has done a stupendous job exposing yet another facet of the horror that was Kim Jong Il’s regime. In the closing minutes of the piece Shane reveals that much of the scrutiny they found themselves under was no doubt due to the fact that the Dear Leader was visiting the same area of Russia at the time to meet with President Dmitry Medvedev and broker another labor deal, to sell more of his people. If that isn’t evil, I’m not sure what is.

Via VICE

The Fantastical Fairy Tale Art of Sveta Dorosheva


From Sveta Dorosheva’s “More Book Illustrations” portfolio.

Sveta Dorosheva‘s fantastical art could be compared to a brilliant dream collaboration among noted artists, for whom the goal is a visionary book of enchanted tales. Imagine an artistic hybrid comprised of the intricately-lined illustrations of Harry Clarke or Aubrey Beardsley, the luxurious art deco magnificence of Romain de Tirtoff (Erté) fashion plates, and the beautiful-on-the-verge-of-grotesque visages drawn by the enigmatic Alastair.

But! In this imaginary scenario, the artists realize there is something… some je ne sais quois… missing from their efforts. They entice illustrator Sveta Dorosheva to join their endeavors: she flits in, and with a mischievous smile and a gleam of amusement in her eye, announces “yes, yes, this is all very beautiful… but let’s make it FUN!” Although comparisons to the above-mentioned artists may be obvious upon first glance, the sense of enchantment, whimsy, and joyful wit present in Dorosheva’s work ensures that one not only appreciates they are gazing upon something technically pleasing or beautifully rendered; one also genuinely delights –and even emotionally invests– in the engaging imagery as well.

Though born in Ukraine, Sveta Dorosheva currently resides in Israel with her husband and two sons.  She has worked as as an interpreter, copywriter, designer (be certain to peek at her Incredible Hats or Fashionista portfolios!) , art director and creative director in advertising, and is currently pursuing her lifelong dream of academic training in art. Dorosheva recently spoke to Coilhouse about her lifelong love of fairy tales, and her inspired,  imaginative new project, The Nenuphar Book, which will be published in Russia this autumn.   See below the cut for her illuminating ruminations and a gallery selection of her extraordinary illustrations.


From Sveta Dorosheva’s “Weird and Wonderful: Fairy Tale Illustrations” portfolio.

“Russian Unicorn”

One Canadian crooner’s Top 40 banality yields another Bad Lip-Reader’s jejune BRILLIANCY:


via Sarah Blue

Bad Lip-Reader’s Black Eyed Peas, Ludacris/BeeGees and Taylor Swift piss-takes are sidesplitting as well.

“Russian Unicorn” lyric sheet after the jump.

Russian Photoshop Weddings

Via EnglishRussia:

It seems that some couples find their wedding moments not vivid enough. They believe that photo editing can make the memories of the wedding day even much more impressive and close the boring gaps with the help of the powerful Photoshop. It’s not recommended for people with highly sensitive nature to look at the pictures.

Damn, Russia… damn. More horrifying wedding photos after the jump, and even more over here.

Arturo Herrera Revisits “Les Noces”


A still from the 1923 Ballet Russes’ production of Les Noces.

Les Noces, known as Svadebka in Russian, was a production ten years in the making. Originally commissioning the score from Igor Stravinsky in 1913, Sergei Diaghilev, creator and leader of the Ballets Russes, intended the ballet to be choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky. The task was later handed to his capable and innovative sister, Bronislava, who was inspired by Cubism, Constructivists, and the relationship between body and machine as exemplified in the emerging Soviet Russia. More concerned with the dynamic quality of movement rather than the traditional posturing and composition of ballet, Nijinska’s choreography was novel and intensely physical.

With its premiere in 1923, Les Noces acted as a sacred drama that created a liturgy out of a wedding while exploring brutal peasant values through a modernist lens. The dancers, in their somber, simple costumes designed by Natalia Goncharova, were to resemble Byzantine saints leaving little room for expression or romance as they stabbed and spliced the air and stage with their rigid hands and feet. The result was one of the most enduring and influential ballets of the 20th century, still performed today.

Conductor Leonard Bernstein spoke of Stravinsky’s opening “cruel chord, made crueler with the lack of preparation,” and the unsettling score stays with you long after the final note has been sung. Influenced by the ‘folk orchestras’ of peasant weddings, Stravinsky employed only four pianos and soloist singers for his musical score, a far cry from the sweeping ensembles found in his compositions The Firebird, Petroushka and Le sacre du printemps. Now, New Yorkers and visitors to the famously noisy metropolis can get lost in the soundscape of Stravinsky as appropriated by the artist, Arturo Herrera.

On view at the Americas Society until April 30th, Herrera’s Les Noces (The Wedding) is an abstract homage to the classic ballet in the form of jumpy film projections, collage and sculpture. Take the time to visit the modest exhibit if only to experience the rattling pianos and piercing operatic vocals of the Stravinsky recording, haunting as any eulogy, juxtaposed against Herrera’s film of a world as bleak as Nijinska’s peasant girls all too aware of their fates.

The gallery at the Americas Society is located at 680 Park Avenue, NYC and is open Wednesday through Saturday, 12-6 p.m.

Click here for more information on the exhibit. For further reading on Les Noces, visit Ballet UK.

Diaghilev Gets His Due: The Golden Age of the Ballets Russes at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Coilhouse is delighted to welcome writer and dancer Sarah Hassan into the Coilhouse family. Her premiere piece for us is a 3000 word feature about Sergei Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes. This is definitely one of the most informative, inspiring, infectious posts you’ll read here this month, so settle in, and enjoy! ~Mer


Dancers in the original Le sacre du printemps production.

The Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris seems an unlikely venue for a riot. Yet almost one hundred years ago, on May 29th, 1913, fist-fights broke out in an audience made up of socialites, musicians, and artists. The institution in question was one that by today’s standards seems chaste and predictable: the ballet.

The premiere of Le sacre du printemps by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes has become the stuff of legend. Against Nicholas Roerich’s backdrop of a primitive Russia, the radical score by Igor Stravinsky came alive to the choreography of Vaslav Nijinsky, the danseur noble darling – and object of Diaghilev’s affection – whose unsurpassed defiance of gravity on Europe’s great stages had been leaving balletomane’s breathless. Now, the dancer whose roles included a lovesick puppet, a sprightly rose, and a predatory golden slave presented a complicated tableau of sacred ritual. With balled-up fists and downward glances, his dancers jumped and stomped their pigeon-toed feet in time with the violins as if trying to conjure up the ghosts of pagan tribesmen. The heavy woolen dresses painted with folk patterns on the peasant girls were in place of the frothy tulle skirts of nighttime sylphs and bejeweled torsos of slinking odalisques expected from a program a’la Russes.


Nicholas Roerich’s Costumes for Le Sacre Du Printemps.

The production, presenting a ‘new type of savagery,’ caused a literal aesthetic outrage among the haute Parisian audience. Backstage, as the birth of modern dance unfolded, Nijinsky screamed the tempo counts in Russian to dancers who couldn’t hear over the booing, while Stravinsky held him by his coattails lest the crazed choreographer topple into the orchestra. Diaghilev attempted to placate the uproar by turning the house lights on and off. Yet despite its unsuccessful reception, Le sacre du printemps was performed six times, and Diaghilev declared the opening night scandal to be ‘exactly what he wanted.’ It was clear that the ballet was no longer safe.

Thirty-two years after Le sacre’s premiere, Nijinsky, having succumbed to insanity, leapt for a photographer’s camera in a Swiss asylum. The image captured the aging dancer smartly dressed in a suit suspended in the air, proof of his once otherworldly powers. Yet, one can only wonder if the height Nijinsky was attempting to recapture was not his own, but that of the sacrificial virgin he created, dying from her own mad dance in a flash of beastly glory.


The banner at the Victoria & Albert Museum for Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes.

All the hoopla generated by Darren Aronofsky’s psycho-sexual melodrama Black Swan made it easy to believe that ballet had been once again recovered from the ashes of its own antiquity. With Jennifer Homan’s attempt to condense 400 years of history with her book, Apollo’s Angels, the ballet’s ability to survive in an age where anything goes and everything changes came into question – the blood-stained tutu of Natalie Portman’s Nina Sawyer notwithstanding. Madness is, by Aronofsky’s account, the cost of greatness. This idea is artistic old-hat, retold through ballet by Moira Shearer’s exceptional Victoria Page in The Red Shoes – a movie loosely based on Diaghilev and his company – and all the gory details of Swan, from broken toes, bone-thin frames, and endless retching struck a resonant, less glamorous chord. The curtain was pulled back to reveal an art that demands perfection as you claw your way to the top while clawing yourself apart. Ballet, according to Black Swan, is more an arena for the cruel and calculated and less the foundation for beauty, innovation and fantasy.

Oh, how the days of Diaghilev would beg to differ.