Wednesday Dec. 30, 2020’s Smile of the Day: The USSR

On this Day:

The USSR was created by a proclamation in Moscow from the Bolshoi Theatre.  The Soviet Union was organized as a federation of RSFSR, Ukrainian SSR, Belorussian SSR and Transcaucasian SSR.

After the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, pushed for socialist revolution on the streets on 7 November 1917, the Red Guards stormed the Winter Palace in Petrograd, ending the rule of the Provisional Government and leaving all political power to the Soviets.  This event would later be officially known in Soviet bibliographies as the Great October Socialist Revolution. In December, the Bolsheviks signed an armistice with the Central Powers, though by February 1918, fighting had resumed. In March, the Soviets ended involvement in the war and signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.

A long and bloody Civil War ensued between the Reds and the Whites, starting in 1917 and ending in 1923 with the Reds’ victory. It included foreign intervention, the execution of the former tsar and his family, and the famine of 1921, which killed about five million people. In March 1921, during a related conflict with Poland, the Peace of Riga was signed, splitting disputed territories in Belarus and Ukraine between the Republic of Poland and Soviet Russia. Soviet Russia had to resolve similar conflicts with the newly established republics of Estonia, Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania.

On 28 December 1922, a conference of plenipotentiary delegations from the Russian SFSR, the Transcaucasian SFSR, the Ukrainian SSR and the Byelorussian SSR approved the Treaty on the Creation of the USSR and the Declaration of the Creation of the USSR, forming the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. These two documents were confirmed by the first Congress of Soviets of the USSR and signed by the heads of the delegations, Mikhail Kalinin, Mikhail Tskhakaya, Mikhail Frunze, Grigory Petrovsky, and Alexander Chervyakov, on 30 December 1922. The formal proclamation was made from the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

A fellow in Moscow decided he wanted a car. During those times, items deemed to be luxuries were scarce, and there was a long wait for them. So he saved up for it over a period of years. When he finally had enough money for the car, he went to the dealer and paid the money.

The dealer said, “Congratulations. Come back 8 years from today and you can get your car.”

The man asked, “When should I come back? In the morning or the afternoon?”

The dealer was puzzled. “After 8 years, what difference does it make when you come in?”

The man said, “Because the plumber is coming in the morning.”

Second, a Song:

Perhaps no musical instrument is identified with Russia as is the Balalaika.

The balalaika is a Russian stringed musical instrument with a characteristic triangular wooden, hollow body, fretted neck and three strings. Two strings are usually tuned to the same note and the third string is a perfect fourth higher. The higher-pitched balalaikas are used to play melodies and chords. The instrument generally has a short sustain, necessitating rapid strumming or plucking when it is used to play melodies. Balalaikas are often used for Russian folk music and dancing.

The balalaika family of instruments includes instruments of various sizes, from the highest-pitched to the lowest: the piccolo balalaika, prima balalaika, secunda balalaika, alto balalaika, bass balalaika, and contrabass balalaika. There are balalaika orchestras which consist solely of different balalaikas; these ensembles typically play Classical music that has been arranged for balalaikas. The prima balalaika is the most common; the piccolo is rare. There have also been descant and tenor balalaikas, but these are considered obsolete. All have three-sided bodies; spruce, evergreen, or fir tops; and backs made of three to nine wooden sections (usually maple).

The prima balalaika, secunda and alto are played either with the fingers or a plectrum (pick), depending on the music being played, and the bass and contrabass (equipped with extension legs that rest on the floor) are played with leather plectra. The rare piccolo instrument is usually played with a pick (per Wikipedia).

Here, the 7-year-old prodigy Anastasiia Tiurina performs the classic Russian folk song “Valenki” with the National Academic Orchestra of Russian Folk Instruments at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall of the Moscow Philharmonic (per shareably.net).  I hope you enjoy this!

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAfuMol1e-0)

Thought for the Day:

“Literature has its own life, even in a dictatorship like the Soviet Union.” – Heinrich Boll

Have a great day!

© 2020 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

Leave a Reply