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6 Amusing Historic Stereotypes of Major Russian Cities

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About the authorFor lovers of Russian culture, folklore, and history, Kotar’s work is a treasure. The grandson of White Russian immigrants, the 34-year-old is an author of epic fantasy novels inspired by Russian fairy tales. You can see his four books here on Amazon.

He is also a deacon of the Russian Orthodox Church, a professional translator, and choir director at the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, where he lives. Here is his bio from his blog, where he writes about many aspects of Russia. We highly recommend following it and subscribing to his email list to get exclusive material.

He has an excellent Pinterest page, and you can follow him on Facebook. Here is an archive of his work published on Russia Insider.

He is currently running a remarkably successful crowdfunding on Kickstarter to be able to publish his upcoming novels. Please support him if you can!


Stereotypes are a funny thing. On the one hand, they’re often no more than caricatures. On the other hand, there’s a surprising amount of bitter truth to some of them. Like the Russians say with their morbid humor, “In every joke, there’s a bit of a joke.”

This is especially interesting when we consider old Rus. We don’t have much to go on, historically speaking, other than chronicles, treaties, and a few bits of birch bark.

However, Russians have preserved some interesting stereotypes about the inhabitants of old Russian cities. Whether there’s any truth to them or not is almost beside the point. They’re fascinating, revealing a window to a world long gone, yet still persisting in the habits and personalities of today’s Russians. (Here’s the original Russian article that I translated)

EVERYONE IN GREAT NOVGOROD IS A REBEL

Novgorod’s rebelliousness is legendary. The image of a brawling Novgorodian is almost a calling card of the city. The reason this stereotype came about has to do with the old chronicles. They were filled with illustrations of the constant arguments at the Novgorodian Veche, a kind of popular assembly that met in the central square. (See my translation of “Martha the Mayoress” for a vivid fictionalized example).

Of course, there were arguments and even fights during the Veche. However, they did not constantly devolve into fist-fights, as the legends suggest. Naturally, the chroniclers would choose the most vivid and bloody examples from history to illustrate their point. After all, Novgorod was often an opponent of Kiev and, later, Moscow. But in actual fact, the inhabitants of Great Novgorod were fiercely loyal to their government and loved their city. Compromise was the order of the day, not broken heads. Plus, they were more than usually literate.

EVERYONE IN PSKOV IS A THIEF OR A MORON

Even in modern times, Pskovians have had to endure countless jokes about their crudeness, stupidity, and their lack of good manners. This may or may not be true. As for their lack of manners, that is entirely a matter of hats. The inhabitants of Pskov, no matter what their social standing, hardly ever doffed their cap before anyone (which is extremely bad form in old Rus). However, this wasn’t crudity or bad breeding.

It used to be that a hat symbolized one’s personal dignity. In Pskov in particular, to actually take off your hat meant to be shamed. It may be a bastardization of the more generally accepted rule that if someone else took your hat off your headthat was a terrible insult.

EVERYONE IN NIZHNI NOVGOROD IS A DRUNKARD

The painful topic of Russian alcoholism became especially relevant in Nizhni Novgorod at the end of the 17th century. A kind of epidemic of alcoholism rose up, and it was normal to see women as well as men lying in the streets in a drunken stupor. Foreign travelers recounted after their visits to Nizhni Novgorod that “Russians don’t do anything but feast.”

Of course, they did more than feast. But on holidays, Russians have always allowed themselves some excesses. It’s not entirely fair to single out Nizhni Novgorod, when alcoholism still is the gravest problem facing Russia today, as in olden times.

EVERYONE IN VLADIMIR IS A CRIMINAL

This stereotype appeared very early. It’s easy to understand. Vladimir itself had five prisons, including the famous “Vladimir Central Prison.” From the beginning, Vladimirians have been considered con artists who like a dangerous life. It didn’t help that the path to Siberia for exiled convicts went through Vladimir. It was even called the “Vladimirka.”

Exiled convicts stopped in Vladimir to have half their heads shaved (a scene vividly recounted in the excellent Russian film The Siberian Barber). Then they’d be branded as exiles or thieves, clapped in irons, and set upon the road to Siberia. In old times, the path could take as long as two years, and those two years were not counted as part of their allotted time.

Vladimir itself, for all that, was a typical enough provincial town.

EVERYONE IN ROSTOV IS AN ARTISAN

When a Russian hears the word “finift’” (enameling), he immediately thinks of Rostov. Nothing could change the old stereotype that every inhabitant of ancient Rostov worked in the enameling guild. That’s complete nonsense, of course. First of all, the best enamellists in old Rus were as a rule in Kiev, the capital city. There were also some famous artisans in Pskov, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, and Great Novgorod.

The only difference is that Rostov alone has preserved the traditional techniques of enameling since ancient times. Even today, there is a factory producing enameled work. Perhaps for this reason alone, tourists still visit Rostov exclusively to see enameled boxes.

THE INDUSTRIOUS YARSOLAVIAN

The industrious muzhik from Yaroslavl is an image that we even find in Gogol. From the times of Rus, Yaroslavians were known as people who were never apathetic, lazy, or prone to tiredness. Instead, they’re known to be active to a manic degree. This may have something to do with the odd tradition that Yaroslav is a city of buried treasure.

Apparently, wherever you turn, you see someone uncovering a jewelry box or trying to break into an ancient chest of drawers. Perhaps a little more seriously, Yaroslavians have long been known as “chicks of the cuckoo.” In other words, they’re more than usually capable of leaving their homeland without much regret. This quality has a clear historical origin.

Yaroslav was built on the crossroads of ancient roads—a path used by merchants from Scandinavia all the way to the Arab lands. From the middle of the 16th century, Yarsolavl became the most important center for trade in all of Rus. This constant movement often inspired young Yaroslavians to try out their luck in foreign lands.

True or not, such stereotypes make for fascinating stories. For myself, the “myth” of the boisterous Novgorodian comes to life in my third novel, The Heart of the World, in a semi-fictionalized setting of the Veche that goes fabulously wrong for all concerned.


Source: Nicholas Kotar

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What changes about life in Italy in October 2021?

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Some of these changes are confirmed, others still speculative, but each of the following may have an impact on your life in Italy soon. 

Here’s what we can expect in the coming weeks.

Oct 1st: Electricity and gas prices rise

The Italian government has stepped in to limit a steep rise in energy prices in the next quarter, after a 40 percent increase was predicted.

While this means bills won’t rise quite so sharply for Italian businesses and families, energy costs are still set to rise.

Electricity prices are expected to increase by up to 20 percent for those who do not fall into the lowest income brackets, according to Italian media reports, while a smaller rise is expected for gas bills.

READ ALSO: Italy to spend €3bn on keeping household energy bills down as prices soar across Europe

The precise figures won’t be known until the tariff for the upcoming quarter is published by Italy’s energy regulatory authority Arera, by the end of September.

The government’s measures will keep additional costs at zero for those least well-off, including households with an income under 8,265 euros, families with at least 4 dependent children with an income of less than 20,000 euros, those who receive a state pension or unemployment benefit, and people who are seriously ill, Sky TG24 reports.

The government funds will also cut the ‘general charge’ from gas bills for all throughout the last quarter of 2021, and on electricity for families and some small businesses.

Oct 1st: Italy-UK travel rule changes

People planning to travel to the UK from Italy or elsewhere in Europe from this month should note some changes to the entry rules.

From October 1st, due to a Brexit-related rule change the vast majority of EU citizens can no longer travel into the UK using an ID card; only passports are acceptable. Full details HERE.

As for Covid-related restrictions, vaccinated travellers from Europe will no longer have to take pre-departure tests when heading to England from Monday, October 4th.

Photo: Andreas SOLARO/AFP

New Covid restrictions – and a vaccine mandate?

In the coming days, the Italian government is expected to release details of its next decree updating Covid-related rules and restrictions within the country. 

Travel rules will not be included in this update – the next review of restrictions on most non-EU countries will come on October 25th (see below).

It looks likely that the maximum allowed capacity at stadiums, cinemas and theatres will increase after the government’s scientific advisory panel gave the all-clear to plans on Wednesday,

Stadiums will be able to sell tickets up to 75% of their full capacity, compared to 50% at the moment, while cinemas and theatres will be allowed to go up to 80%, according to news agency Ansa.

There will be no capacity restrictions for museums, although they will be obliged to make sure social distancing is respected.

All venues will only be allowed to admit customers with the green pass.

The Italian government is also considering whether to make vaccinations mandatory for more groups if it decides the rate of vaccination in the country is too low, and says it will make a decision by the beginning of October.

Vaccination coverage is one of the key factors the health ministry will take into account when deciding on any upcoming changes to the coronavirus restrictions.

Italy is tantalisingly close to reaching the government’s stated target of having 80 percent of the population fully immunised by September 30th – with some regions doing better than others.

Photo: Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

Oct 15th: Green pass requirement at all workplaces

This is the most important change to be aware of this month if you work in Italy.

From October 15th, the next extension of Italy’s green pass scheme will require all employees across the public and private sectors to show that they are vaccinated, recovered or have proof of a recent negative coronavirus test uding the country’s green pass health certificate.

Unvaccinated workers without medical exemptions will need to take regular tests at their own expense unless their workplace decides to provide them for free.

Employees who fail to produce a pass face penalties of between €600 and €1,500, and salaries can be frozen from the first day that they arrive at work without the certificate. Employers are subject to fines of between €400 and €1,000 for failing to uphold the rules.

Find more details about how the rules will work in practice here.

Oct 15th. Some people are allowed to switch their heating on

You read that right. Italy has restrictions on when (and how much) you’re allowed to heat your home, and the first places to be allowed to crank up the thermostat are northern and mountainous parts of the country, starting from mid-October.

Italy is divided into several categories depending on when authorities think it’s appropriate to turn the heating on in each area.

Those in the balmier coastal areas in places like Sicily and Calabria are last to be permitted to flick the switch on December 1st. Find out when you can turn your heating on here.

Photo: GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP

Oct 15th: New national airline ITA takes off

This is also the date that Italy’s new flag carrier ITA, replacing long-struggling Alitalia, will begin operating and selling tickets.

Alitalia will cease operating on October 14th and the company has confirmed that customers with bookings after that date can rebook or get a refund.

Oct 25th: Italy to review rules on travel from the US and Canada

Towards the end of the month, we’ll be keeping an eye on possible changes to the Covid-related rules on travel from ‘D-list’ countries including the US and Canada, with Italy’s current set of rules for arrivals from these countries in force until October 25th.

Oct 31st: Don’t forget to change your clocks

At 3am on Sunday, October 31st, the clocks will go back by one hour marking the end of summer time.



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IRFU must shoulder some blame for state of women’s rugby in Ireland

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Watching the distressed female Irish players trying to console each other after Saturday’s heartbreaking, last-ditch defeat by Scotland in Parma which wrenched World Cup qualification aspirations from their grasp made for a very uncomfortable, almost invasive, watch. It was a relief when the RTÉ cameras panned back to the studio.

Watching Sene Naoupu embracing a tearful Ciara Griffin, it’s a wonder that Naoupu had kept her own emotions under control. Representing Ireland at a World Cup in her native New Zealand would have been such a fitting finale to her stellar career.

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Q&A: Can foreigners become civil servants in Spain?

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For many Spaniards, landing a stable, paper-pushing civil servant position is the dream.

They know it’s not going to be exciting or to make them rich but they see funcionario work as ‘a job for life’ in a country where the unemployment level is notoriously high and much of the job market is based on temporary summer positions in tourism.

They also like the fact that civil servant jobs pay a decent salary compared with the national average and often work fewer hours too.

Funcionario positions in Public Administration, Social Security and Defense were paid an average of €29,580 gross per year in 2020.

This is higher than the national average gross salary of €24,395 per year, according to stats released by Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE), although that’s not to say some civil servants get paid considerably less than the above mentioned salary.  

So, if jobs in the civil service are so popular then how can you get one as a foreigner?

Can foreigners in Spain get civil service jobs?

The main answer is yes, you can get a job in the civil service in Spain as a foreigner, however, there are a few requirements.

Those eligible for civil servant jobs in Spain include EU nationals and those who are married to Spanish or EU nationals. You must currently be married and not divorced.

Children of EU nationals who are eligible to work in Spain (over 16 years old) and who are under 21 can also apply, as can those who are over 21 but who are financially dependent on their parents.

Third-country nationals with work and residence permits in Spain may also apply for civil service jobs.

READ ALSO: How can non-EU nationals bring family members to live in Spain?

Does this apply to all jobs in the civil service?  

No, the only jobs that foreigners can’t apply for and that you must have Spanish nationality for are those which “directly or indirectly imply participation in the exercise of public power or in the safeguarding of the general interests of the State and Public Administrations” according to the Spanish government.

What qualifications do I need?  

While some civil service jobs in Spain require a university degree, there are several that don’t.

Whatever types of qualifications you have, however, will have to go through the homologación (recognition) process so that it’s validated and accepted in Spain. Keep in mind that this can take months, and for non-EU qualification holders even longer.

You may also be required to show other proof and certificates.

According to the Spanish government: “This requirement will not apply to applicants who have obtained recognition of their professional qualification in the field of regulated professions, under the provisions of Community law”.

It also goes without saying that you will need a high level of Spanish to get a job as a civil servant and you may need certificates to prove this too. If you’re trying to get a job in Catalonia for example, you may also be required to know Catalan, as well as Spanish. 

What are oposiciones?

Oposiciones are the entrance exams you’ll need to sit to become a civil servant in Spain. Each type of position will have its own requirements, some easier and some harder, which involve a series of exams to test your abilities and suitability.

Some positions may require practical exams, while others such as for the police force will require a physical test. 

READ ALSO – Not just English teaching: The jobs you can do in Spain without speaking Spanish

Photo: FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP

Is there anything that will prevent me from getting a civil servant job in Spain?

Yes, foreigners should not have received disciplinary action or been fired from similar roles in public service in their own countries.

Also, those who are applying for jobs where they will be in contact with children may have to show a police check from their home country to prove that their record is clean.

READ ALSO: What are the types of work contracts in Spain and which one is the best?

What are the advantages of being a civil servant in Spain?

  • A decent salary
  • You have the right to take holiday days in addition to personal days off
  • Your social security is automatically deducted, giving you healthcare and pension rights
  • It’s a stable job that you are less likely to be made redundant from
  • You have the possibility of transferring to different departments

READ ALSO: The downsides of moving to Spain for work

What are the disadvantages of being a civil servant in Spain?

  • It’s a big investment in time and effort to get a job as a civil servant
  • The need for qualifications, extra tests, and exams
  • The extensive number of requirements and paperwork that needs to be filled out
  • Complicated systems as well as old-fashioned and bureaucratic work models
  • Monotonous work, where you’re unlikely to face new challenges
  • Little to no opportunities for remote employment



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