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Sochi’s Abecedary

February 13, 2014

I just got around to watching the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics last night, and I was of course struck by the choreography (even if only four of the rings unfolded).  I was particularly interested in the striking film of the character of the little girl Любовь/Lyubov (“Love”) working through a Cyrillic abecedary (now conveniently archived at Wikipedia).  Here it is:

Letter

English

Russian

Category

А ABCs Азбука general
Б [Lake] Baikal Байкал geography
В [Igor] Sikorsky’s helicopter [also associated with US] Вертолёт Сикорского aviation and space technology
Г [Yuri] Gagarin [first human in space] Гагарин aviation and space technology
Г Gzhel [pottery] Гжель folk culture
Д [Fyodor] Dostoyevsky Достоевский literature
Е Catherine the Great Екатерина II history
Ё [Animated Film] “Hedgehog in the Fog” Ёжик в тумане cinema
Ж [Aerodynamicist Nikolay] Zhukovsky Жуковский aviation and space technology
З Corn mowing machine Зерноуборочная машина technology
И Empire Империя history
Й [Pyotr Ilyich] Tchaikovsky Чайковский music
К [Wassily] Kandinsky Кандинский painting
Л Lunokhod [lunar rover robots]

Луноход

aviation and space technology
М [Kazimir] Malevich Малевич painting
Н [Vladimir] Nabokov [also associated with US] Набоков literature
О [International] space station

Орбитальная станция

aviation and space technology
П [Dmitri Mendeleev’s] periodic table Периодическая таблица science
Р [Sergei Diaghilev’s] Ballets Russes Русский балет performing arts
С Sputnik Спутник aviation and space technology
Т [Leo] Tolstoy Толстой literature
Т Television [likely referring to Boris Rosing’s experiments] Телевидение technology
У Ushanka [hat]

Ушанка

folk culture
Ф Fisht [a mountain and the name of the Soichi stadium holding the opening ceremony] Фишт geography
Х Khokhloma [painting style] Хохлома folk culture
Ц [Rocket scientist Konstantin] Tsiolkovsky Циолковский aviation and space technology
Ч [Anton] Chekhov Чехов literature
Ш [Marc] Chagall [also associated with France] Шагал painting
Щ [Architect Alexey] Shchusev Щусев architecture
Ъ [Alexander] Pushkin [note the Ъ is implied but not explicitly written in the name] Пушкин literature
Ы We [note that the Ы appears at the end of the word] Мы general
Ь [The little girl narrator of the story] Lyubov (“Love”) [note the Ь appears at the end of the word] Любовь general
Э [Sergei] Eisenstein Эйзенштейн cinema
Ю [Gleb Kotelnikov’s] Parachute [note that Ю appears in the word] Парашют aviation and space technology
Я Russia [note that Я appears at the end of the word] Россия geography

 

Now grouping these together, we see the most popular broad categories are

Arts (5 literature, 3 painting, 2 cinema, 1 architecture, 1 music)

Science and technology (8 aviation and space technology; 2 [other technology]; 1 science)

It was a bit surprising to see so much formal culture discussed in a popular forum (especially since the program also included references to War and Peace, etc., and featured classical music icons such as Anna Netrebko and Valery Gergiev). 

Contrast Russia’s pride for its high culture, for example, to the opening and closing ceremonies at the Vancouver Winter Olympics which featured performances by K. D. Lang [yes, I know she does not like to capitalize her name], Garou, Nelly Furtado, Bryan Adams; with the closing ceremony featuring William Shatner, Michael J. Fox Catherine O’Hara, and Michael Bublé.

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