Posts Tagged With: russian history

Grandfather Frost on Red Square

An old Russian postcard from probably the 1970’s, with a secular Grandfather Frost bringing gifts on his horse-drawn carriage.Grandfather Frost

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Soviet Christmas…Communist Christmas? Oxymoron?

When communists came to power in Russia in 1917, they banned religion and Christmas. But people wanted to celebrate and decorate their “New Year’s” (the new official name) trees. The government went along with that desire and started making the new kinds of ornaments. Like these ones…sovelka2

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Moscow Dreams is featured on Kindle Books and Tips today

My novel Moscow Dreams is featured today on “Kindle Books and Tips.”

Check out Moscow Dreams and other books featured books out here:

Pretty good results so far. If you are a writer, sign up for their “Advertiser List” here:

to keep up with advertising opportunities on that site.


Categories: My Books about Russia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cool as a Cucumber: An Easy Russian Salad

Coat of arms of the Union of Soviet Socialist ...

Summer is a great time for salads. Any salads, but especially the lighter ones, with green vegetables and light oil dressings. So, I’d like to share with you some recipes for Russian summer salads. And they are different from American green salads. How? Most American green salads involve a lot of leaves: spring greens, spinach, or some type of lettuce. And that’s great. But sometimes, as you reach into the mysterious depths of your fridge, you can’t find any of those leaves, or maybe you just want a change.

So, try this one:

Salad Ingredients:

2 medium cucumbers
2-3 medium tomatoes
1 onion (I prefer red)


1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
(sunflower oil is traditionally used in many Russian salads, but you can be a rebel and use something else!))
1 tablespoon of white vinegar
1 garlic clove (finely shredded)
(a lot of Russian recipes tend to use garlic: perhaps, it’s because it was one of the few readily available spices in the Soviet Union, or maybe, it’s because of the proximity to Transylvania and all its vampires…)
salt and pepper (to taste)
1 tablespoon of horseradish (okay, okay, it’s optional!)


Thinly slice tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. Add the dressing. Mix and enjoy!

Categories: Russian Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Twelve Months of a Soviet Childhood is FREE on Kindle today

  For the past few years, I’ve been writing stories about growing up in the Soviet Union, based on my childhood experiences.  This past summer, I finally put these stories into a collection.

As the title implies, these stories include all the four seasons. The collection will take you from busy life in Moscow to peaceful summers in the Russian countryside. Here’s the link:

I hope you enjoy it!!


Categories: My Books about Russia | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

MOSCOW DREAMS is FREE on Kindle today

cover     My book MOSCOW DREAMS is FREE on Kindle today. Click on the image to download it. ENJOY!!!

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Russian Christmas


In the spirit of the season, I’m posting an excerpt from my novel MOSCOW DREAMS where the characters are decorating their Christmas tree. No, not a Christmas tree. Christmas celebrations were banned in the Soviet Union for a long time. So, they are decorating a New Year‘s tree. I hope you enjoy it! HAPPY HOLIDAYS, whatever holidays you’re celebrating!

“You have to see the tree!” she said to Babushka.

“You have to see something, too.” Babushka took a small cardboard box out of her black bag. “Look what I found,” she said even before they got to the living room. “I haven’t seen this box for a couple of years. And all this time, it was on top of my wardrobe!” She put it on the corner of the dinner table that was free from other boxes and opened the lid. “Remember these?” Babushka pulled out three snowflakes made out of old starched fabric that used to be white. She smiled as if remembering something, her eyes glistened for a moment.

“Of course!” Vera Nikolaevna said and gently touched the snowflakes. Marina remembered them, too. She knew that Babushka made them during World War II, almost fifty years before. Marina’s grandfather was in charge of a field hospital and he, Babushka, and their daughter, Marina’s mom, moved from one city to the next with the army. They couldn’t take any tree ornaments with them, so they made their own when they could. Marina’s mom still had a few glazed pine cones from that time.

Babushka turned to Nikolai. “These were special. Marina’s mother was the only kid in the field hospital, and all the nurses felt sorry for her around the holidays. The frontline didn’t allow for much of a holiday. To cheer her up, they gave me some medical gauze to make snowflakes.”

“They are beautiful,” Nikolai said.

Marina carefully hung the three snowflakes on the tree.

Babushka took two more ornaments out of her box, a cat and a fish made out of tin foil and painted with something that looked like faded nail polish. “And these are from my childhood,” she said.

Babushka was a young girl when the Communists came to power in Russia in 1917. Her family had always celebrated Christmas – Mom would bake pies, Dad would bring a huge tree from the forest, and the kids would decorate it. But in 1917, Christmas and Christmas trees were banned, along with all other religious symbols and celebrations.

Babushka sighed, then smiled shyly. “My parents hid all their nice Christmas ornaments in the basement, but we still celebrated. We made our own.” She handed the cat and the fish to Nikolai. “Find a good place for them on the tree.”

He looked at the two tin ornaments closely before he hung them on the tree. “When did you start decorating again?” he asked.

“In 1937, at the very height of Stalin’s terror. That’s when the government decided that it was not the tree that was the problem, but religion. So, Stalin officially allowed decorations, but not Christmas. That’s how the holiday became secular. From then on, it was a New Year’s tree and Father Frost instead of a Christmas tree and St. Nicholas. Soon, New Year’s Eve became the most important holiday of the winter season, not Christmas. Factories went back to making ornaments. But they were different. Take a look.” Babushka got out a glass ornament with a faded portrait of Karl Marx, a figurine of an ice-skater, and a clip-on parachutist, his glass parachute covered with a thin net for a more realistic effect. “Funny, aren’t they? Karl Marx, sports, and the military might — that’s what the government wanted people to believe in. No more angels or crosses.” Babushka handed the ornaments to Marina. Marina hesitated, not sure what to do with these strange ornaments. “You can still put them on the tree. It’s our history,” Babushka said.

“I remember this one,” Vera Nikolaevna said. She carefully picked up a glass rocket painted silver and red, with the large letters “USSR” on it. “When Yuri Gagarin went into space, the whole country was fascinated with space exploration.”

“And very proud,” Babushka said. “Which is much more than I can say about this.” She picked up a large, glittery corn on the cob.

“Is it some pagan symbol?” Nikolai asked.

Babushka laughed. “No, not a pagan symbol. Not at all. It was an idea by one of the Soviet premiers, Nikita Khrushchev. He visited the United States and fell in love with corn. He insisted on trying to grow it here despite our cold climate. Didn’t work. So, we only got this kind of corn.” Babushka put the ornament on the tree and looked into the box. “I think that’s it.”

Categories: My Books about Russia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Twelve Months of a Soviet Childhood

  For the past few years, I’ve been writing stories about growing up in the Soviet Union, based on my childhood experiences.  This past summer, I finally put these stories into a collection.

As the title implies, these stories include all the four seasons. The collection will take you from busy life in Moscow to peaceful summers in the Russian countryside. Here’s the link for you to check out and read some sample pages:

I hope you enjoy it!!


Categories: My Books about Russia | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

“Firebird” and a Russian Witch

American witches were one of the things that surprised me most when I first came to the United States. With their little black dresses, elegant capes, and pointy hats, they looked to me like they stepped out right of a fashion magazine. I wondered where they lived and what they did before and after Halloween. They also made me think of their Russian colleague, Baba Yaga. Here’s a short excerpt from my children’s book “The Firebird: Adventure One” where two siblings, Alex and Katie, meet a Russian witch.

Here’s the link to the whole book:



Thick black clouds covered the sun, and the wind became stronger. Now it was whining and howling like a sick animal. Where did that storm come from? Alex looked up. Branches above them rustled and dropped a few yellow leaves. Another gust of wind picked up the leaves and whirled them around.

“It’s like a little tornado, all made up of leaves,” Katie said. “It looks cool!”

The leaves were twirling faster and faster, higher and higher.

“It’s getting bigger,” Alex said. He could not see the leaves anymore, just a dark column twisting in front of them. A sudden gust of cold wind made Alex shiver.

Katie grabbed his arm tightly. “I’m scared now. What’s going on?”

At that moment, the column stopped twirling, and the leaves fell back to the ground. Everything became still.

Instead of a twirling column, an old woman dressed in a shaggy black skirt with purple stripes and a purple cotton blouse with wide sleeves stood in front of them. Her long white hair reached down to the hem of her long skirt, her crooked nose almost reached her chin. Large black warts covered her wrinkled face. She was leaning on a thick moss-covered stick.

“Well, black cats and ravens! Kids in my forest!” the woman shouted. “What are you doing here?”

“We were just going home,” Alex said. “And we got a little lost.”

The woman cackled. “And now you may get a little eaten!!”

Alex wanted to run, but his feet would not move. He felt like they had grown into the ground. And then he remembered Aunt Karina’s second rule. Don’t talk to old ladies. But it was too late.

“Alex, look at her fence!” Katie whispered.

Right behind the woman was a fence. It was made from tall wooden poles. On top of each pole sat a human skull. Eyeholes of the skulls were glowing with eerie twinkling light. The front gate was made of bones, the lock on the gate – from sharp pointed teeth. It was so dark that Alex could not even see if there was a house behind that fence.

“Why is it so dark here?” Katie asked.

“Because something is missing.” The old woman cackled, revealing three black teeth in her mouth, and pointed to two poles that did not have skulls on top. “See?” She moved closer to the kids.

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What is the Self-Cooking Tablecloth?

The Self-Cooking Tablecloth is a common magical item in Russian fairy-tales. Here’s how I described it in my book “Leshi and the Pike: Adventure Two.”  Just before this scene, ten-year-old Alex and his nine-year-old sister Katie are following their new friend Leshi (an eccentric woodsprite) to the tsar’s palace. Then, they get hungry… Here’s the scene: (for more about the book, go to

Leshi stopped and plopped down on the ground.

“Break time,” he said. “We can’t go conquer the tsar on empty stomachs.”

“But we didn’t bring any food,” Katie said. “We didn’t think we’d be gone that long.”

“Wrong,” Leshi said. “Twice wrong.” He laughed. “Lucky that you have me to take care of you.” He reached into a pocket of his sheepskin’s coat and pulled out a rolled-up fabric. “Ever seen this? Incredible stuff. A tablecloth. Our meal will be exquisite.”

“What’s so incredible about a tablecloth?” Alex asked. “And how are we going to cook?”

“Watch and learn, my young friends,” Leshi said. “My cooking is simple magic. Have you heard about the Self-Cooking Tablecloth?”

“Our mom has a self-cleaning oven,” Katie said. “We know about that.”

“A self-cleaning oven?” Leshi said. “Now that’s a silly idea. Why clean it when it will just get dirty again?” He shook his head. “This tablecloth is much better. Just watch!” Leshi shook the tablecloth in the air to unroll it. “Catch the other side!” he shouted to Alex and Katie.

Alex grabbed one side, Katie – the other. For a second, the big white tablecloth flopped around. Then, it covered all three of them. Now, they were under the tablecloth. As soon as one of the corners of the tablecloth hit the ground, Alex heard the clinking of breaking dishes followed by an avalanche of freshly baked bread, red caviar, roasted meat, mashed potatoes, forks, knifes, spoons, and even candle-holders. Alex covered his head with his hands to shield himself. A moment later, everything became still.

“Are you okay, Katie?” Alex asked.

“Fine.” She brushed spaghetti out of her hair.

“Oops,” Leshi said. “Wrong side up. And even wronger side down. Help me turn it over.” Leshi shook his head to free himself from a candle-holder stuck on his horns. “Grab on to the other side and flip it over.”

As soon as the tablecloth was placed on the grass the right side up, the broken dishes flew up into the air and turned whole again before landing on top of the tablecloth. Roasted chicken, fresh vegetables, steaming mashed potatoes, and bowls of delicious hot soup garnished with dill made Alex mouth water.

“Eat to your heart’s content!” Leshi said. “Stuff yourselves!”

Alex and Katie sat on the ground and feasted on all the yummy food. Alex especially liked Leshi’s dessert, a soft and spongy apple pie. The dough tasted sweet, and the apples – a little sour. Together, the taste was just perfect. As soon as Alex put the last bite of his pie slice into his mouth, he heard the thumping of horse’s hooves on the ground. He peered through the thick brush and saw a golden carriage go by.

“Quiet!” Alex said. “The tsar is coming!” He pointed towards the carriage.

“We should go before the tsar does something bad to Emelya,” Katie said. “Who knows what the tsar could be planning.”

“Agreed! End of feast then,” Leshi said and started rolling up the tablecloth. The dishes were disappearing one by one, as if vanishing into thin air. Leshi picked up the now empty tablecloth and stuffed it back in his pocket.

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