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19 August, 2004

Russian Fairy Tales

I have decided to write about Russian Fairy tales, as I am part Russian.

It was a custom to educate a child with a lullaby sung by the mother. As well as a fairy tale told by the grandmother. Both constituted the air of folk poetry. They believed the baby breathed this in with the music and words. This in turn would influence the child's attitude and morality. The fairy tale itself was a lie, however, it contained truth. It was a good lesson for a regular fellow, so goes the Russian proverb.

Tales provided a look into the past, about the pagan beliefs of the ancient Slavs and heroic narratives. Also, it contained information of the defense of the father land against hostile nomads. People always identified with the underdogs in such fables.

A wealth of fairy tales were collected, classified and published in Russian by Vladimir Dahl, Ivan Sakharov, and Alexander Afanasiev. These scholars introduced the traditional fairy tales into Russian culture, literature and education. Pushkin based a number of his narrative poems on fairy tales. Fairy tales supplied plots and characters, for great Russian composers of ballets and librettos. Artists depicted in thier paintings, the most popular fairy tale heroes. Of these were Baba Yaga, a fearsome Witch, Koschey the Deathless, The wicked old man, The Gray Wolf and others. Many fairy tales were made into films in the 20th century. A couple of tales translated from Russian are Aloyonushka, Vassilissa, Snow Maiden, The Great Wolf.

I would have to say, The Snow Maiden is one of my favourite tales. Along with a tale called The Scarlett flower. The Snow Maiden is about a lonely old couple who always wanted a little girl but were unable to have one. One day in bitter winter, they decided to go out and make a girl. They started to roll snowballs to make her body and head. When they were done, a miracle happened. She came alive. She was a very good girl. Their prayers were answered. After having found and lost a love, the daughter became desolate. Then one day she just melted away. This touches me, as I also always wanted a little girl.

The second story is called the Scarlett Flower. In this tale a merchant has three daughters. He is going on a voyage. He asks his daughters what gifts they would like from his trip. They all want something different. However the youngest daughter wants a scarlett flower. He searches and finally finds one in the forest. A beast appears and tells him, for the flower he must give up his daughter. Upon return the daughter agrees. She goes to live with the beast. He was very kind to her and showered her with gifts. She took a trip and was late in returning. When she did the beast had died with her flower in his hands. She declared her love for him, and the spell was broken. The beast turned into a handsome prince. I believe this is the beauty and the beast story in a different version. It is a classic story of love, even in unusual circumstances. I can relate to this story, as I think any young woman could. The story of love overcoming all obstacles.

In conclusion, I think these tales are worth looking at. They are vivid, and tell a story about people and thier lives. They are a classic example of the simplicity yet rustic nature of Russian Fairy tales.

Amber Whitman.



Rasputin's Life and Death

 by Amber A. Whitman

Rasputin was born in 1869, in Tyumen, a district of Siberia. He arrived in Saint Petersburg in 1911 and was a young guard. Even today, he is known as a shadowy and mysterious character. He apparently had weird personality traits. Doctor's and skeptics came to the conclusion he must have been possessed. He had power's over the Tsarevich and the royal family, that could not be explained.

The young tsar had deadly episodes of bleeding known as hemophilia. Rasputin was able to stop the bleeding. The family though he was sent be god. Rasputin was close to the Tsaritsa's closest friend, Anya Vyrubova. She had a train accident and was almost killed. Her body was crushed and mangled. Rasputin went to her and held her hand and then started to chant, "Annushka, Annushka, rise! She awoke from her coma and tried to rise. Rasputin spoke telling all she would live. He also told everyone she would be a cripple for the rest of her life and she was.

In time he tried to befriend other members of the family without success. They did not trust him. He had no further luck with the church. He had a number of church hierarchy exiled after they turned on him. Rasputin had become a celebrity as he flaunted his many gifts and letters from the royal family. In 1916 a group of aristocrats with the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, decided Rasputin had too much power. He would have to be assassinated. They lured him to the Yusvpovsky Palace to meet the dukes wife as Rasputin also loved women. There he was led down to a cellar where he was fed poisoned cakes and wine. These had no affect on him. They decided to shoot him. He then got up and started to hit the prince numerous times. The prince was so upset he fled for help. When they returned Rasputin was gone. They found him in the yard crawling for the front gate. They shot him and then beat him. They bound him up and threw his body into the river. When his body was found, his bonds were broken and his lungs were filled with water. He did not actually die until submerged in the frozen Russian waters.

His heart was removed and stored at a military institute, until it was stolen in the 1930's. He was buried. Later his grave was reopened. After trying to transport the body to a secret burial site, the truck broke down. The body was cremated. The ashes were scattered at the site.

Cold Sores

As a person who suffers from cold sores, I felt I should write this piece. A cold sore is a fluid filled, painful blister that usually occurs around the mouth. Cold sores are also known as fever blisters, oral herpes, herpes febrilis, labial herpes and herpes labialis. Cold sores occur on the outer lips which distinguish them from canker sores, which develop inside the mouth.

Cold sores are caused by the herpes virus. There are eight different types of the virus. However only two of these viruses, herpes simplex 1 and 2 cause cold sores. The belief is that herpes simplex 1, infects above the waist, and simplex 2, below the waist. However both of these types can cause lesions on the lips or genitals. Recurrent cold sores are usually the result of the herpes virus type 1. Unfortunately oral herpes is very common with about 60% of the population having them, and another 25% experiencing recurrent outbreaks. The virus may remain latent for life or promote frequent recurrent cold sores. The highest risk period for spreading the virus is the initial appearance of the blister.

However some individuals may not have visible lesions and still can spread the infection. The virus may also be present in an individuals saliva, without obvious oral lesions. Viruses are not the same as bacteria. Bacteria are independent cells and can reproduce without help from thier host, while viruses enter the hosts cells and replicate. The host cell is subsequently killed and the virus released. In the case of cold sores, the ulcer is formed from the death of the cells and the immune response against the virus. The virus can remain dormant for months or years until an event triggers an activation.

Cold sores are usually located on the outside of the lips, nose, cheeks, chin or eyes. They are characterized by what is called a Prodrome period, before a lesion appears. An individual can experience fever, irritability, headaches and a tingling and or itching in the area where the lesion will appear. A day or more after this period the area will become red and inflamed followed by the formation of one or more blisters. These blisters soon erupt and release the virus and a grey coloured ulcer. This ulcer will eventually dry up and crust over, without leaving scar tissue.

There are a number of different treatment options. You can talk to your doctor or pharmacist. If you prefer there are some natural rememdies as well. If you place an icecube on the area for example, it will help with the pain.

Armed with the right medication and information herpes although frustrating, can be dealt with.

I will include in this section some of my current articles. They are all for different publications.


The Renaissance

The Renaissance Era was a period dating from approximately the 14th century

through the 16th century. It was a time of great change for Europe and the world, as a whole

new culture was beginning to emerge. Beliefs were tested. The idea that humankind ruled

nature developed, and has contributed greatly to modern science and technology.

It is thought that Renaissance political thought was very instrumental in forming the

government in the United States. The idea of freeing government from the religious aspects of

the church, thereby becoming more independent, was the key idea in this reformation. Many inventions were also developed in this period, the most important being gunpowder, the printing press and the compass. Another extremely important aspect of the Renaissance was the creation of prosperous cities, and is reflected today in our own society.

Trade increased dramatically, not only in the standard items of barter and exchange, but also in the area of luxury items as well. With the expansion of trade, towns grew wherever the trade routes met. Capital that accumulated through trade was eventually available for other enterprises, notably banking and industry, much as happens with capital gains today. Great gains were made in education. However, these were not without a good amount of controversy. There were two distinct type of education, one of which was scholastic, which concentrated on the study of logic, and the other being philosophy and the nature of reality.

Added to this were the humanists. They proposed to educate the whole person and placed emphasis not only on intellectual achievements, but also on physical and moral development. This is the method that has moved into today’s education as well. It is a compilation of different achievements and teachings to round out an individual’s knowledge, and, as is the case today, people became more interested in music and the arts. Many people began singing and took up musical instruments, much as they do in today’s society, with music being a huge influence. Literature and the arts began to flourish with a turning toward art inspired by nature.

Above all, the Renaissance movement left us fantastic monuments of artistic beauty that, even today, define our western culture.


The History of Coffee

Coffee was discovered in Eastern Africa in an area known as Ethiopia. A popular legend tells of a goat herder named Kaldi. One day he noticed his goats acting frisky after eating berries from a bush. Kaldi tried the berries. He found he had renewed energy. The news of this amazing fruit spread throughout the region. Monks started drying the berries to transport to distant monasteries. They reconstituted the berries by soaking them in water. They would eat the fruit and drink the liquid to provide stimulation for a more awakened prayer time. The berries were transported from Ethiopia to the Arabian peninsula and were first cultivated in Yemen. Then coffee travelled to Turkey where beans were roasted for the first time over fires. The beans were crushed and boiled in water, creating a crude version of the coffee of today.

Coffee arrived on the European continent through Venetian trade merchants. The catholics were totally against drinking coffee. In fact they thought the Pope should ban coffee, calling it the "Drink of the Devil'. However the pope had already become an avid coffee drinker. He liked it so much that he blessed it. Coffee houses spread quickly. Many great minds gathered in them for thought and creativity. In the 1700's coffee made its way to the America's by means of a French infantry captain. He travelled with a small plant. It was then transplanted to the Carribean Island of Martinique. There grew 19 million trees within 50 years. Coffee was declared the national drink of the colonized U.S. by Congress. Today coffee is a giant global industry employing more than 20 million people. This commodity ranks second only to Petroleum in its dollars traded worldwide. There are 4 billion cups consumed every year. Coffee is the worlds most popular beverage. In Brazil, over 5 million people are employed in cultivating and harvesting over 3 billion coffee plants. Sales of premium speciality coffees have skyrocketed. Sales have reached the multi-billion dollar level and increase annually. Well that is the history of coffee. It all started with a farmer wanting more energy. Even today most of the world wakes up to a cup of coffee to start thier day. I am one of those people who can't live without coffee, especially in the morning. Due to it's popularity, I am sure I am not the only one.