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The Warrior Brides of the Great Russian Knights of Old (Great Illustrations)

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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.


As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I’ve been slowly hammering away at a screenplay based on the life of St. Olga of Kiev. There aren’t many historical records about her, but the ones that we have paint the picture of a complicated, strong, self-willed woman who was ultimately remarkable not for her manly strength, but for her wisdom.

As I was writing the first scene, I got a little hung up on showing all this in as direct a way as possible, so that the viewer could at least get the hint of what’s to come. Without getting too far into the details of it, I basically fell into a cliché set by contemporary pop culture. The “warrior babe who swoops in at the last moment to save the day.”

My fellow writer read it and said, “You’ve got such a compelling character here. Why reduce her to a caricature?” And he was right. As much as people rightly complain about the damsel in distress trope, just flipping the roles isn’t all that satisfying either. Turns out, there’s a rich tradition of warrior women in Russian folk tales and epic poetry. And what’s so amazing about them is that they’re as comfortable in the kitchen as in the battlefield. Though they often have the strength to defeat ten men, they are just as likely to win a battle of wits or refrain from fighting at all.

I’m fascinated by the idea of the warrior woman, not least because I think every Russian woman (no exaggeration) is a warrior at heart. They’ve had too difficult a history, and too often they’ve had to take up a sword to protect the hearth. But they never lose their femininity either, befuddling many Western-style feminists, especially when they write articles like this.

Anyway, if you’ve read my books you know that I don’t write about domesticated women. Even though one reviewer called me a sexist pig once and recommended I get sensitivity training, the fact remains that strong women fascinate me. The source of that strength and the many ways that strength is expressed—that’s great fodder for stories.

So today I’ll share my translation of an article about the most famous warrior women from Russian tales and epic poetry. You can find the original Russian article here.

RUSSIAN VALKYRIES: MORE THAN A MATCH FOR THE LEGENDARY BOGATYRS 

It wasn’t easy for Russian bogatyrs to get married. Not every young maid could stand having a hero around. And so, it was often women warriors who captured their hearts. Except, more often than not, these women demanded a wooing equal to the bogatyrs’ most difficult labors.

Women warriors were such typical characters in Russian folklore that the word “bogatyrka” (woman warrior) is even included in the definitive 4-volume dictionary of the Russian language compiled by Vladimir Dal’. The folklorist Afanasiev includes in his collection a story that sounds like Wonder Woman—a garden filled with apples of youth is defended by a nameless druzhina of women warriors. But not all of them were nameless. Here are some of the most famous.

NASTASYA MIKULISHNA

Dobrynia Nikitich, one of the legendary “three warriors,” is famous for his defeat of the giant dragon Zmei Gorynich. But what happened afterward was less glorious for him. He met his future wife, Nastasya Mikulishna, on the way home. She challenged him to a battle and beat him soundly. It’s not enough that she beat him, but she even grabbed him by his golden curls, pulled him off his horse, and stuck him in… her pocket!

Only later did she decide what to do with him. She pulled him out again and decided to see what he looked like. If he was pleasant to look at, she’d marry him. If he was so-so, she’d chop his head off. Lucky for him, he passed the test, and they got married.

In another of the tales, Dobrynia was called to join an embassy to the Golden Horde. Nastasya waited for him to return for twenty years, then received a false report about his death. Prince Vladimir forced her to get married again, this time to Aliosha Popovich, the youngest of the three warriors. She reluctantly agreed. But during the wedding, Dobrynia returned, dressed as a jester, and she recognized him and ran into his embrace.

VASILISA MIKULISHNA 

Nastasya’s siter Vasilisa was no less impressive. She was married to a boyar of Chernigov named Stavr. In a scene reminiscent of The Taming of the Shrew, during a feast, Stavr started to boast about his wife’s many talents. The problem was that he unfavorably compared Prince Vladimir and his warriors to his much more impressive wife. The prince got angry and imprisoned him.

Finding out about this, Vasilisa came up with a cunning plan. She pretended to be a Tatar youth, brought her warriors with her to Kiev, then demanded the payment of tribute and a princess as her bride. The last was a barb directed at Vladimir, for whom it would be shameful to give a Christian princess to a heathen.

The princess in question suspected that the youth was no youth at all, and she expressed her doubts to Vladimir. So the prince arranged a test of strength, wit, and bravery. Of course, she bested everyone, forcing Vladimir to go through with the marriage. But during the pre-wedding feast, the Tatar “youth” sat gloomy at the table. Remembering that the boyar Stavr was an excellent musician, Vladimir called him to perform. AT that point, he recognized his wife. Vladimir was forced to admit that all Stavr’s boasting about his wife was nothing short of the truth.

NASTASYA KOROLEVISHNA

The story of Nastasia Korolevishna, the wife of Dunai Ivanovich, is especially dramatic. Dunai traveled to Lithuania with Dobrynia Nikitich to arrange a marriage between Apraksa, daughter of the Lithuanian king, and Prince Vladimir. Dunai, a hothead, said something rude to the king during their time there, and the king imprisoned him. But Dobrynia gathered an army and threatened the kingdom, at which point the king was forced to give him both Apraksa and Dunai.

Apraksa had an older sister, Nastasya. A while before, Dunai had wooed her and nearly paid for it with his life, but she bought the executioners off, giving him time to run away. However, when he returned to take Apraksa back to Kiev, he paid absolutely no attention to Nastasya. She was so mad, she decided to make him pay.

Finding him on the way back to Kiev, she challenged him to single combat, dressed as a foreign knight. Dunai defeated her soundly and was just about to finish her off with a knife when he recognized her. He was so impressed, that he took her back with him to Kiev, where they got married.

The end of the story is pretty horrible, as such tales often are, so I won’t translate it here. If you’re curious about it, email me and I’ll tell you.

THE FAIRY TALES

The most famous woman warrior in Russian fairy tales is Marya Morevna, whom Ivan the Prince wooed after being impressed with her military prowess. Interestingly, though she was probably the better warrior, he still had to rescue her from Koschei the Deathless. Still, this had less to do with his fighting ability, and more with the fact that he needed to atone for his mistakes.

Many historians think that the image of the warrior woman in Russian tales has to do with the early battles between Rus and the Polovetsians. All Polovetsian maidens had to be good with the sword, and their wedding rites included single combat between the groom and the bride. As I mentioned in a previous article, Russian princes often took Polovetsian maidens as their brides, first getting married in the Polovetsian style, then baptizing their brides and getting married the Russian way.

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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

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Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.



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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

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House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.

Price

This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.

Homes

Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”


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