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    Blog Posts - About Russia

    Russian Government Presents Library of Congress with Ten Restored American Silent Movies

    From the Russia Times:

    The Russian government has presented the Library of Congress with digital copies of ten American silent films that had been thought to be lost forever, but were found in Gosfilmofond, the Russian state film archive.

    The copies of the films, carefully restored by Russian masters, were handed over to the head of the Library of Congress, James Billington, on Thursday. The solemn ceremony of transfer enjoyed the presence of the head of Presidential Affairs Department, Vladimir Kozhin, the general director of Gosfilmofond, Nikolay Borodachev, and the general director of the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library, Aleksandr Vershinin.

    Specialists at the Library of Congress revealed that over 80 per cent of American “silent era” movies that were created between 1890s and early 1930s no longer exist in the country. Over 20 years some of the films in international archives.

    The ten transferred films were on loan to the Soviet Union in the 1920s. Some tapes still have Russian subtitles. However, Vladimir Kozhin believes these works are still of significant cultural value and “will cause great interest in America”. The list of digitalized tapes includes “The Arab” (1915), an adventure film by Cecil B. DeMille; “The Valley of the Giants” (1919) directed by James Cruze; “The Call of the Canyon” (1923), a Western directed by Victor Fleming; “Circus Days” (1923) directed by Edward F. Cline and others.

    Billington, who, incidentally, is one of the leading American experts in Russian culture and history, thanked the Russian experts for their rescue of the precious films and for returning them to the US. He named the restored and digitized films “a magnificent gift” and “a remarkable sign of friendship between two countries”.

    Kozhin also thanked representatives of Library of Congress for their contribution to the creation of Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library in St. Petersburg.

    Russian President Does Yoga to Reduce Stress

    From the New York Times:

    MOSCOW — Russia’s first president organized a tennis revolution, and the second encouraged his people to practice martial arts.

    If this trend continues, the country will soon be standing on its head.

    President-elect Dmitri Medvedev has joined the thousands of Russians eager to learn the ancient Indian art of yoga.

    “Little by little, I’m mastering yoga,” Medvedev said in an April 2007 interview with Itogi, a weekly magazine.

    Yoga, he explained, helped him relax from the stress of work.

    “You get enormous experience from working on the realization of the national projects, but the responsibility is huge,” he said. “To prevent headaches, I needed to practice sports more intensively than before.”

    Medvedev’s spokeswoman, Zhanna Odintsova, said the president-elect was unavailable for an interview about yoga. But the Trud newspaper reported that Medvedev’s wife, Svetlana, convinced him to take up yoga.

    It appears that after one year, Medvedev has made huge progress in developing his yoga skills, having mastered shirshasana, the headstand pose also called also the “king of asanas” because of its positive effect on the entire body.

    “I can even stay on my head,” he told the magazine Tainy Zvyozd last month.

    There are dozens of different yoga schools, and it is unclear whether the president-elect practices the challenging Iyengar, or Ashtanga, yoga or the more meditative Kundalini yoga.

    Prohibited during the Soviet era due to its connection with Hindu religious practices, yoga is becoming more and more popular in Russia. Yoga centers are opening every month in Moscow, and if Medvedev continues the tradition of his predecessors, Russia’s yoga craze is likely to intensify, a White House official said.

    “The past two presidents have launched the tennis and judo trends,” the official said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. “If Dmitri Anatolevich is fond of yoga, we will soon have more yoga schools than India. This is how things work in Russia. If the head of the state has a hobby, it will become the hobby of the nation.”

    Boris Yeltsin, a former president, started playing tennis to combat stress and developed the habit of playing three times a week. Under Yeltsin, tennis – which enjoyed little popularity in the Soviet Union – received generous funding.

    It was under Yeltsin that Russia began producing a steady stream of world-class men and women’s tennis players. Yeltsin was so fond of tennis that he appointed Shamil Tarpishev, the long-serving Soviet Davis Cup captain, as his personal coach and gave him an office in the Kremlin.

    Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia learned to appreciate martial arts. Putin, a judo black belt who is known among his fellow judo club members for his haraigoshi, or wicked sweeping leg throw, began studying judo at 14. Last year, Putin and Yasuhiro Yamashita, a world judo champion from Japan, made an instructional video together.

    During Putin’s time in office, judo has become increasingly popular, and judo competitions and documentaries are frequently shown on television.

    “Now the federal television channels show the European and world championships, even if they are usually broadcast very late,” said Roman Karasyov, head of the Association of Amateur and Professional Judo Clubs.

    Khatuna Kobiashvili, the publisher of Yoga Journal Russia, estimated that at least 100,000 people regularly practice yoga in Russia. The magazine – published by The Moscow Times’ parent company, Independent Media Sanoma Magazines – sells 55,000 copies a month nationwide, she said. “If we sell this much, this means people are practicing yoga,” Kobiashvili said.

    Asked whether he would start taking yoga classes out of respect for the new president, the White House official laughed and said he would think about it. “You need to be very flexible for this kind of sport,” he said, “We’ll see what the future holds for us.”

    Medvedev is an avid sportsman and enjoys swimming in addition to yoga, Odintsova, his spokeswoman, said.