For 150 years the railway line between Moscow and St Petersburg ran as straight as an arrow for 403 miles. Straight, but for one big bend near Novgorod. The story goes that Tsar Nicholas was so fed up of officials dithering over the route that he plonked a ruler on the map and drew a straight line between the two cities, accidentally drawing around his finger in the process. Too terrified to point out his error, the builders constructed the railway with the Tsar's bump in place.
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Friday 29 April 2011
Chekhov died of tuberculosis in the German spa of Badenweiler in 1904, aged 44, uttering the famous last words, "I haven't drunk champagne for ages." His coffin arrived in St Petersburg in a railway wagon labelled, "fresh oysters".
Sunday 17 April 2011
Tuesday 05 April 2011
Endeavour's final spaceflight has been delayed to avoid a "schedule conflict" with a Russian cargo flight.
Saturday 02 April 2011
On 1 September 2004, Muslim Chechen terrorists took 1,200 children and adults hostage in a school in Beslan, North Ossetia.
Whatever the weather: Rain and snow for 190 days a year – then summer sun transforms St Petersburg
Saturday 19 March 2011
St Petersburg is situated along the shores of the Neva Bay in the Gulf of Finland; it has a continental climate, moderated somewhat by the Baltic Sea. Because of the city's northerly latitude it experiences a huge variation in daylight hours during the year, ranging from six – in midwinter – to 19 hours a day. Twilight may last all night in early summer, from mid-May to mid-July, and this celebrated time is known as the White Nights.
Friday 04 March 2011
Joseph Brodsky's observation that what he liked about life in the US was "being left alone to do what I can do" is faintly reminiscent of Philip Larkin's commendation of Hull as "a town that lets you write." In fact, the free-range Russian exile and the travel-shy Englishman share several affinities, including jazz. Lev Loseff records Brodsky's early poetic attempts at creating an effect of improvisation: "I'm a son of the outskirts, the outskirts, the outskirts,/ in a wire cradle, dank hallways, are my door and my address,/ streetcars clanking, rattle bang ring, stone sidewalks, soles,/ girls lined against painted wood fences,/ grassy banks, oil spot/ factory lights" ("Russian Gothic").
Wednesday 05 January 2011
Icebreakers are trying to free three Russian vessels trapped in the frozen waters of the North Pacific.
Friday 31 December 2010
Books aren't like assassinations: even with the most exhilarating, it can be hard to recall where you were when they happened. I'm not sure exactly how I came to read 'The Overcoat' by Nikolai Gogol, though it was definitely several years before I went to live in Moscow. I do remember that Gogol's dizzying short story about Akaky Akakiyevich, a St Petersburg clerk who buys and loses a new coat with a cat-fur collar, was a revelation.
Wednesday 22 December 2010
Dreamed up in the heady days of ever-rising oil prices, before the financial crisis struck, it represented the optimism and swagger of the new cash-rich Russia.
Tuesday 21 December 2010
Tuesday 21 December 2010
Saturday 11 December 2010
Sunday 28 November 2010
Saturday 27 November 2010
The embarrassment of bank holidays in April, caused by the impending royal wedding on 29 April, makes it possible to squeeze an extra trip without taking much more time off work.
Wednesday 03 November 2010
A 17-year-old has survived a 50-minute flight hidden in a plane's landing gear in Siberia.
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
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- 4 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says