Meet our charming and amazing Russian tutor – Nina Gopaldas!

Hi there! My name is Nina (she/her), and I am a senior comparative literature major. Learning the Russian language has been the highlight of my Reed experience, but I understand that learning a new language can be a long and difficult process. I am available to help make that process a little easier! I am always happy to practice grammar, writing, and speaking with you. If my schedule doesn’t work for you, please shoot me an email! We can find time outside my available hours.

Привет! Меня зовут Нина (она/её), и я — студентка четвертого курса. Моя специальность — сравнительная литература. Изучение русского языка было самой яркой частью моего опыта в Риде, но я также понимаю что изучение нового языка может быть долгим и трудном процессом. Я готова помочь с трудностями процесса. Я всегда рада практиковать грамматику, письмо, и разговорную речь с вами! Если мое расписание вам не подходит, напишите мне на имейл, и мы найдём другое время встретиться.

Note from a Labbie: Nina tutors for Russian 111, 112, 120 as well as 220. So if you’re thinking about studying Russian or currently in the process – don’t miss out on practicing with Nina and learn from her vast experience!

Non-Russian Russian Music for Your Consideration

One thing I’ve learned in my year learning Russian is that the Russian-speaking world is very much massive. With speakers of the language spanning across the entirety of the Post-Soviet Union and its allies, it’s almost impossible to find Russian language books, shows, movies, and music without finding some that are decidedly not of Russian origin. So for your consideration, dear reader, I have compiled a list of some singers and bands from outside of Russia that you can add to your Russian language playlist. Keep in mind that while none of these songs are obscene by any means, you may want to find translated lyrics before playing them in public. 

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Investigating Narrative Levels in the Short Stories of Vladimir Nabokov

For a semester project here in the language lab, I chose to investigate narrative levels and how they interact and change in stories. To do this, I attempted to replicate a project published in The Journal of Cultural Analytics, a journal focusing on the intersection of data and human action. The project aimed to understand how narrative levels work, as well as how uniformly standard definitions of them could be identified by different scholars in different places. The project lays out three main types of narrative that deviate from the main speaker, narrator, or story:

Uninterrupted narrative: this is just a narrative by itself. It has the same speaker, the same time period, and the same point of view. 

Embedded narrative: A story within the original narrative. The original narrative will always signal a reason for an embedded narrative. These typically take place in dialogue, when a character is prompted to tell a story.

Interruptive narrative: a structural separate narrative in the midst of the original narrative. It is usually signaled by some sort of stopping point in the original narrative, such as a chapter end or a section break, and often changes narrator or time period. Unlike the embedded narrative, there is nothing within the original narrative that prompts an interruptive narrative. 

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Film Recommendation: Зеркало (Mirror)

Andrei Tarkovsky is one of, if not the most famous Russian film director of all time. One of his most beloved films by Russian people, Зеркало (1975) is a semi-autobiographical sequence of clips playing with memory, war, and daily life in Moscow.

The film features stunning creative techniques, such as Tarkovsky’s famous long shots. The one above is considered not only one of his best shots, but one of the best in film history. Other techniques include color schemes and themes such as the mirror, time, and poetry, which is read by different characters and narrators throughout the film.

The plot is kind of tricky to explain. A dying poet is the narrator (something that isn’t revealed until the end), but the story is far from linear or clear. The scenes switch between different time periods, and it’s sometimes difficult to keep up with which one you’re actually in.

I’m no film buff, but this is definitely one of Tarkovsky’s most important works. He’s a hard director to understand no matter what, so you might as well start here! The Russian is fairly hard to understand, and I did need the help of subtitles to understand what was going on.

Museums in St. Petersburg

If you’re planning a trip to Russia soon or hoping to go there eventually, museums are a great way to learn about a city’s history and culture. Of course there’s the Hermitage in St. Petersburg: Peter the Great’s old palace that is now one of the largest art museums in the world. If you go to Russia’s cultural capital, you’ll have to stop by that one, but here are a few others that you can’t miss.

The Russian Museum

Established by Tsar Nicholas II, the Russian Museum is the first and largest collection of Russian art in the world. It is housed in the Mikhailovsky Palace right off of Nevsky Prospect by the Gostini Dvor metro stop. The collection features Russian art from the 10th to the 21st centuries, along with a sizable amount of modern art from other countries. You can find names from Rublev to Picasso, and the layout is much less intimidating than that of a big museum like the Hermitage.

The Menshikov Palace

Built for Alexander Menshikov, a royal official and one of Peter the Great’s closest friends, Menshikov palace was the first palace in St. Petersburg, and the only one to survive from the beginning of the 18th century. The admission is free for students, and inside you’ll see rooms and furniture both from the time period of the palace and after. It’s located right on the Neva river, and is beautiful to walk around inside and outside.

Dostoevky’s House

Though only one of many house museums, this is perhaps the most famous, as it is for one of Russia’s most iconic writers. Dostoevsky was a known wanderer, drifting from house to house. This is partially his childhood building, and the last apartment he and his family lived in until his death. The museum is only a few rooms and features his own furniture and pictures from his family and daily life. After seeing this museum, be sure to check out the other house museums such as that of Nabokov and Akhmatova!

Modern Russian Writers

We’re all familiar with, or at least have heard of, the classic novels of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, but modern writers are sometimes left out when studying Russian. Here is a short introductory guide to some contemporary works you may want to check out!

Vera Polozkova is a Moscow-based poet, who often puts her poems to music. She started writing by posting poems on her blog, and was later discovered and published by the writer Alexander Zhitinsky. Her poems cover many facets of daily life, and are often characterized as nontraditional and without a particular form. She believes that performance is a crucial part of poetry, and you can find many of her videos on YouTube. Her collection of poems “Nepoemanie” is also available in Russian on Amazon.

Dividing her time between Moscow and Israel, Lyudmila Ulitskaya writes novels mostly pertaining to religious tolerance and inclusion. As an ethnically Jewish woman who is religiously Christian, her writing deals with these struggles and others during the Soviet Union. Her books, including her newest titled The Green Tent, can be purchased on Amazon. She is also a well-known activist, most recently appearing as a speaker in an anti-war protest in Moscow.

With her relatives including Leo Tolstoy and Ivan Turgenev, Tatyana Tolstaya was born into a family of writers. Her works mostly take place during, towards the end of, or as speculation after the Soviet Union, and her writing style is thought to be characteristic of Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov. Several of her novels are available at the Reed library, including her most famous, The Slynx, a dystopian novel about a forgotten post-Soviet Moscow.

Russian Food in Portland

Right here in Portland, Oregon we have a huge community of Russian people and culture. From grocery stores to music, there are plenty of opportunities to be found here. This is just a guide to some restaurants you may want to check out.

You guessed it, the first on my list is Kachka. Located at 960 SE 11th Ave, their new location, they serve any meat you might want, anything pickled you might want, and Russian delicacies such as “Herring Under a Fur Coat” or a selection of caviar. For those of you of age, their drink menu is full of creative cocktails and beer and wine from all over eastern and central Europe. If you don’t feel like spending this much money, they still house their old location with Kachinka, a cheaper, more casual version with similar style food and drink.

Next is Pelmeni Pelmeni, a Russian food cart located in the Hawthorne Asylum Food Carts. The menu is pretty basic: they offer chicken, cheese, or potato dumplings in a small or large order. For a drink you can have water, kvas, or apple or lime juice. It’s not a sit-down place, but you can get a fun bite to eat while your out!

Last is Roman Russian Food Store, a Russian grocery store on 10918 SE Division. You can purchase Russian desserts, meats, and prepared meals. A favorite of many in the Russian community here, it’s definitely worth stopping by!

Film Recommendation: Russian Ark

Russian Ark (2002) follows the 300-year history of St. Petersburg. Directed by Alexander Sokurov, this 96-minute film was completed in one shot, entirely taking place in the Winter Palace of the Hermitage Museum.

The narrator, a ghost of the city, follows an unnamed “European” through the museum, witnessing actors with beautiful costumes portraying historical figures such as Peter the Great, Tsar Nicolas II and his family, or Leningrad citizens during Soviet times. A lot of the Russian is quiet and muffled, so it may be hard for beginners to get everything. Either way, it’s still an interesting cinematographic piece!

This film is perfect if you want to learn something about past and presents notions of St. Petersburg and see a new use of cinematography. If you want to learn more about the making of the film, you can watch In One Breath (2003), a documentary that follows the making of Russian Ark.

Soviet Cartoons

Soviet cartoons are some of the best out there. Along with their artistic value, they’re great for keeping up your Russian! Here are a few suggestions to start with.

  1. Винни Пух is the Russian version of Winnie the Pooh. This first came out as a film in 1969, followed by two other sequels. The main characters are Winnie the Pooh and Piglet instead of Robin, and the illustrations are a little more rugged and with lots of character. The Russian is fairly simple, but Winnie’s voice can be a little hard to understand. You can find it on YouTube here.

2. Тайна третьей планеты (Secret of the Third Planet) is a science fiction animated film that came out in 1981. It is based on the children’s book Alice’s Travels, and follows the store of Alisa, who follows her father in what ends up being a detective story. The Russian is very clear and easy to hear, and the illustrations are great! This one is also available on YouTube here.

3. Бременские Музыканты (Bremen Town Musicians) is a 1969 animated film based on a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. It follows the story of a donkey, a dog, a cat, a rooster, and their master Troubadour, and is known for its lively soundtrack and rock n’ roll songs. The Russian is fairly easy to follow as well! It is on YouTube as well, right here.

Media Recommendation: “Кухня” (“Kitchen”)

Кухня is a Russian sitcom that came out in 2012, and consists of 6 seasons and 120 episodes. It follows the story of the main character, Maxim Lavrov, and his quest to become a chef in one of Moscow’s best restaurants “Claude Monet.” Maxim, along with the rest of the restaurant’s workers, are constantly finding themselves in humorous situations.

The conversation is fairly slow and simple, so the show is good for intermediate and advanced speakers to practice their listening. It’s also good for beginners, as a lot of kitchen and food vocabulary comes up.

The show can be found for free on YouTube. You can also purchase a subtitled version on Amazon, but I’d encourage you to save the money and practice your Russian.