The Berezka Ensemble – Russia’s Floating Dance Group

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Trade secrets are common in many areas of life, but dancing? I wondered how it could be possible for a dancer to have a secret step, when their art is plain for all to see. Turns out there is a particular dancing group from Russia that has a secret technique – the floating step – that no one can really see.

The Berezka Ensemble was set up in 1948, by choreographer Nadezhda Nadezhdina. Since then, it has become a symbol of sorts, something that Russia has been identified with. Having traveled to over 80 countries for performances, the troupe has recently made the news for something other than their famous floating step. The dancers have covered over 47,000 dancing kilometers, through their signature step. That’s longer than the diameter of the Earth!

Photo © Berezkadance.ru ..

The Mind-Blowing Wood-Carved Paintings of Kronid Gogolev

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Kronid Gogolev is a master wood-carver who creates incredibly detailed artworks inspired by the rural and provincial life of Russia’s northern regions.

For our artist of the day we chose to showcase Russian veteran wood-carver Kronid Gogolev, a man’s whose intricate wooden paintings are nothing short of awe-inspiring. Using simple tools, he is able to turn rough pieces of wood into masterpiece depicting the way of life and the traditions of the Russian northern village, capturing its original beauty. Each of his creations has its own unique features and characteristics, but they all manage to capture the attention of the viewer, transporting him to the real-life picturesque settings of the north.

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Dargavs – Russia’s City of the Dead

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A place called the City of the Dead actually exists in Russia’s North Ossetia, hidden in one of the five mountain ridges that cross the region. Needless to say, several myths and legends shroud the place, with locals claiming that no one has ever come back alive. The ‘city’ hardly ever gets any tourists either, although this might be due to the difficulty of just getting there.

Reaching Dargavs, the City of the Dead, entails a three-hour journey through winding, narrow roads, and several hills. The foggy mountain weather certainly doesn’t help matters. Once there, you’ll find that the city  is in fact another hill covered with small white buildings. It is these very buildings that cause the place to get it’s name. The white house-like structures, countless in number, are stone crypts where locals buried their loved ones. The city itself is an ancient Ossetian cemetery. Each family of the area has a crypt, and the higher the structure, the greater the number of people buried in it. The oldest of the crypts dates back to the 16th century.

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Real-life Jessica Rabbit Has World’s Biggest Lips

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It’s strange and funny to see how far people would go to achieve the kind of appearance they deem perfect. Case in point is Kristina Rei, a 22-year old nail technician from St. Petersburg, Russia, who has an obsession with the size of her lips. An obsession, that has today, earned her the status of the woman with the biggest lips in the world.

It’s really not uncommon to find women these days resorting to the knife or syringe to enhance their beauty. But what Kristina has done goes beyond the definition of regular beauty enhancements. She has endured over 100 silicone injections on her lips, spending around £4,000 ($6,200) on them.

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Sculptor Carves Room Entirely Out of Chocolate

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I don’t know what it is about people and chocolate rooms, but they seem to keep making them and we keep writing about them. This time a shopping mall in Kaliningrad, Russia celebrated its fifth anniversary by commissioning an artist to create a room entirely of chocolate.

The idea of building a chocolate room inside Kaliningrad Plaza belonged to Lithuanian ad agency Ad Hunters, who commissioned experienced sculptor Elena Climent to carve it out of 420 kilograms of dark, milk and white chocolate. Measuring around 20 square meters, the delicious-looking room features furniture like a chocolate sofa, table and carpet, as well as chocolate cutlery, candle holders, and flowers. 40% of the room is made of dark chocolate, another 40% is milk chocolate, and the rest is white chocolate.

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Russian Artist Paints with Molotov Cocktails

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Radya Timofey, a 23-year-old Russian artist is taking the art world by storm with a series of original paintings made by throwing Molotov cocktails at his canvases.

They are often used to cause chaos, but young Radya Timofey is turning Molotov cocktails into art tools to create beautiful portraits of soldiers who fought in World War II. He uses a mix of home-made napalm and oil-based substances to sketch the outlines of the portraits and then throws a Molotov cocktail at the canvas, setting it ablaze. After the artwork has stopped burning, a charred figure is revealed. Although the actual “painting” takes place in abandoned outdoor areas, Radya Timofey says “of course it’s dangerous to use fire like this, but we are careful. We put them on the hospital as a testament to their bravery, in life they literally did have to put their faces in the fire to fight the Nazis.”

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Manly Man Considers Razors a Luxury, Shaves with Shovel

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Alexander Karpenko, a 35-year-old English teacher from Nizhny Novgrod, Russia shaves with all kinds of sharp objects, including a shovel, hatchet or scissors, but not with razors.

Impressed by the war stories his grandfather, a WW2 veteran, told him about men who used anything sharp to shave on the battlefield, Alexander first experimented shaving with scissors when he was 16 years old. He realized razors were a luxury and decided to teach himself to use other more helpful sharp objects for his morning grooming. For the past 20 years, Karpenko has used all kinds of stuff like shovels, chisels or sharp knives to remove facial hair and claims he has never once used a common razor.

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Russian Couple Build Their Own Fairy Tale Castle

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A retired couple from the suburbs of Artyom, Russia have worked for 16 years transforming an ordinary house into a fairy tale castle, using only junk materials found on the street and at a local landfill.

They might be pensioners, but Alexey and Valentina Krivov don’t consider themselves too old for fairy tales. They didn’t want to grow old in their grey house and since they couldn’t afford to buy a castle of their own, they decided to build their own castle fit for a prince and princess. Alexey worked in constructions for most of his life and this gave him the chance to be a foreman for his own personal project, and Valentina had experience as a decorator and plasterer, so they figured out most of the details themselves. They started work on their architectural wonder in 1995, salvaging whatever materials they needed from the streets and the nearby construction landfill. As the castle started taking shape, their neighbors started noticing it and became eager to help the Krivovs in whatever way they could.

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The Subway-Riding Dogs of Moscow

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Everyone knows dogs are some of the most intelligent animals on Earth, but the stray canines in Moscow have really impressed scientists with their metro-riding routines. Every day, the dogs living on the outskirts of Russia’s capital jump on the tube all the way to the city center, the best place to scavenge for foods.

During the soviet era, dogs weren’t allowed into subway stations, and since restaurants and fast-food stands were scarce all around Moscow, they had no reason to venture into the city. Most canines preferred to live in the industrial areas, where they searched for food in garbage dumps, or lived on whatever workers threw away. But after the fall of the USSR, the situation changed drastically: their homes on the outskirts of Moscow were taken over by commercial centers and apartment complexes, while restaurants and fast-food carts popped-up downtown. A while ago, I wrote about Cacao, the bus-riding dog of Milan. I thought he was unique, but it appears Moscow strays mastered public transportation years ago.

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Girl Has Half of Brain Removed, Now Paints Like a Pro

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The human brain is a remarkable thing, and the incredible story of Taisia Sidorova, who gained an amazing artistic talent after having the left side of her brain removed, is proof of that.

Three years ago, 21-year old Taisia Sidorova, from Sankt Petersburg, Russia, suffered a severe car accident that left her with a smashed skull and bone fragments wedged in her brain. Doctors were skeptical about her chances of survival, and was even given the last rites, but even after she had the left hemisphere of her brain removed, she hung in there. The part of her brain responsible for logic and analysis was replaced with a protective metal place, but even though her family was warned that a long, painful recovery period was to follow, and that Taisia may never be the same, they never gave up on her.

Irina Sidorova, the girl’s mother, remembers she was like a vegetable in the beginning, and doctors didn’t believe she would survive. But she stayed by her bedside praying, massaging her limbs and talking to her. The miracle she was waiting for occurred on New Year’s Eve, while she was crying on Taisia’s bedside. The girl moved her arm trying to wipe away her mother’s tears. It was the breakthrough nobody expected anymore, and in two years’ time she regained her strength, started to speak and even learned to hold a pencil and paintbrush.

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Designers Recreate Double Coffee Logo from Coffee

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Latvian coffee shop chain, Double Coffee, celebrated the opening of its second venue in Moscow, Russia, by creating a giant mosaic of its logo, from cups of coffee.

The event took place on June 18, on Old Arbat Street, in Moscow, where a group of designers armed with clipboards started arranging plastic cups of coffee right on the pavement. No one really knew what they planned to do, at first, but as their work started to take shape, everyone recognized the logo of coffee shop chain Double Coffee. To celebrate their second Moscow venue, right on Old Arbat Street, they used 3,300 cups, 220 liters of coffee and 120 liters of milk to recreate the brand logo. To finish the job, the young designers sprinkled ground coffee around the logo to keep the cups together. It’s not clear what happened with all the coffee once the tasty installation was dismantled, but I’m sure the curious crowd that gathered around it was more than happy to help clear the street.

A similar coffee mosaic of the Mona Lisa was created two years ago, in Sydney, Australia, using 3,603 cups of coffee and 564 pints of milk.

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Russian Tuner Covers Audi A5 with 450,000 Swarovski Crystals

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Russian tuner Shampa stole the show at a tuning exhibition in Moscow, when they rolled out a white Audi A5 covered with 450,000 Swarovski crystals.

Now I’ve seen some pimped out rides in my days, including a gold-plated Mercedes, but I have to say Swarovski crystals are the best choice if you want your car to really shine. I was sold when I saw that SL600 covered in 300,000 Swarovski crystals, in Tokyo, and Shampa’s latest creation just made it that much more obvious. Apparently they ordered the crystals directly from Austria, it took 1,440 man hours to cover this baby in bling and cost the Russian tuner 6 million rubles, which is around $215,000. It’s the only one of its kind.

So what do you think, exceptional tuning or tasteless exhibitionism?

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Russian Band Plays Live Gigs Using iPhones and iPads as Instruments

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Cooperative Style, a teenage rock band from Kazan, Russia, is the world’s first group to play a series of live concerts using only Apple iPads and iPhones as musical instruments.

Instead of using traditional instruments, the teenagers download apps for drums, keyboards and guitars and play their Apple gadgets on stage, through a downloaded mixing desk. They play covers and hits by rock legends like Nirvana, and say their audiences really like their original performances. Ruslan Halikov, the iPhone guitarist of Cooperative Style says it’s a lot harder to play a virtual guitar that it is a real one, not to mention rock and roll poses don’t look cool at all. Still, the public seems to like what they do.

While these guys may be the first to play Apple’s cash cows in live gigs, the iPhone and iPad have long been used to make music by amateur groups, and some of their performances are really very good. You can find loads of videos on YouTube.

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Metro Surfing – Russia’s Deadly Extreme Sport

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Moscow’s metro system has recently become the scene of a new and deadly extreme sport – metro surfing. Teenagers jump on the back of trains and try to cling on for their lives as they video-tape the whole experience.

Believe it or not, metro surfing began as a desperate way of catching a ride during rush hour. The Moscow subway system is very crowded at this time and it’s close to impossible to get into the train, so young people started clinging to the back of it to reach their destination in time. Unfortunately, this desperate way of traveling somehow turned into a popular pass-time for teenagers looking for cheap thrills and internet fame. Metro surfers have now become such a common site that normal commuters hardly notice the crazy kids hanging on for their lives at the back of the train.

Wearing distinctive gloves, and sometimes clothes the same color as the metro to blend-in better, surfers wait on the platform the same as everyone else. Then, as the train leaves the station, they jump on the back of it and ride into the narrow tunnels, trying not to fall off. Most of them have cameras attached to their headgear to record the entire thing. They then post them on popular social media sites like Youtube or vkontakte (Russian version of Facebook), and brag among their friends. Even more alarming is that there are now groups of up to 2,000 members posting and commenting their metro surfing adventures online, and their numbers seems to be ever growing.

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Russian Pensioner Amasses a Fortune of Five Million Kopek Coins

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Yuri Babin, a retired military officer from the Russian city of Novosibirsk, has spent the last 13 year collecting a fortune of about 5 million kopek coins.

The kopek is 1/100th of a Ruble, the Russian equivalent of a cent. Babin began collecting them in 1998, following wide scale Russian bank defaults that caused the kopek to become practically worthless. Instead of trying to get rid of them, this Russian version of Mr. Scrooge decided to put together a huge collection of coins. He would pick them off the street and ask vendors to change his currency in coins of the lowest denomination.

The “kopek millionaire”, as locals know Yuri Babin, now has a fortune of around five million coins, which weighs over 7.5 tonnes, but is worth just 50,000 rubles ($1,500). But it was never about the value for Mr. Babin, he just loves bathing in his impressive fortune, and has even used a few kopeks to make his wardrobe shine.

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