CSEEES’ Russian Culture Box contains ten unique items/groups of items that represent different cultural aspects of Russia. Below are item descriptions and pictures.
Birch Doilies: These two doilies are made from birch, and are from the Siberian city of Tomsk, which is seen by name in both items. One doily is of a log cabin, and another of a horse. These doilies are decorative in nature and are usually put on display in a house by being hung up on a wall or set out on a table.
Cheburashka Doll: Cheburashka is a small, fuzzy brown animal with big ears that is the main character in a 1966 Soviet children’s story by Eduard Uspensky. According to the story, Cheburashka is not the name of the character, but more of an ambiguous term for the animal. In English it is roughly translated to, “tumbled”. This Cheburashka doll comes with a sheet of paper describing some of the plot of the story as well as other characters. The doll itself is wooden and leans from side to side.
Decorative Wooden Box with Picture: This is a model of a Russian lacquered box with a depiction of a winter scene. There are four distinct styles when it comes to these artistic boxes: Fedoskino, Palekh, Kholuy and Mstyora. Fedoskino is the art style of this particular box, and is considered the original style for lacquered boxes which originally came to Russia through a man named Pyotr Korobov. One typical use for these boxes was to hold tobacco, another later on was holding jewelry or knickknacks.
Decorative Wooden Eggs: Eggs are very symbolic in Russian religious culture, especially for Easter time. Decorative eggs are sometimes made out of wood, like this one, and can also be crafted out of crystal or faberge style into trinket boxes. Eggs like these can be given as gifts, and also can be styled for other holidays like Christmas as well.
Decorative Wooden Spoon: This wooden spoon is part of a larger wooden dish set with the same type of design on it. The style of art for dishes like these are a Khoklhoma style. This style usually is of brighter flowers, leaves or berries, and sometimes also incorporates the Firebird from Russian folklore. The colors typically used are yellow, red, black and green with gold sometimes being used as a background to give the dishes a metal look.
Dunkin Donuts Menu: A laminated copy pf a Dunkin Donuts menu in Russian. Both front and back have different items on this, as well as pictures of products. Often with chain restaurants and businesses that can be found internationally, there are cognates in the Russian language for what the place and well-known items, such as food, are called. A great example of this is in the name shown on the menu, “Данкин Донатс”.
Kokoshnik Headdress: A kokoshnik headdress is part of traditional Russian’s clothing and today are usually worn with traditional dresses or costumes for being in theater productions. A kokoshnik was primarily worn between the 16th and 19th centuries, with varying styles throughout different regions of Russia. Typically worn by married women, a kokoshnik would have thick ties in the back that made a bow, and some type of pearl netting in the forehead area with the other decorations ranging from simple embroidered flowers to gold and pearl extravagance. Kokoshniks are used in folk ware in Russia today, and also is traditionally worn by Snegurochka, the granddaughter of Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost.
Russian Flag: The current flag representing the Russian Federation was adopted in 1991 as the official state flag, and consists of three equally-parted colors, with white on top, blue in the middle and red making up the final third on the bottom. This flag can sometimes be seen with a golden eagle in the middle. For a period of time after the October Revolution in 1917, this tricolor flag was dismissed in favor of a red flag with the crossed sickle and hammer to represent communism and the new ruling party in Russia, the Bolsheviks which in turn became the Soviet Union. The flag was readopted in 1991 after the Soviet Union disbanded.
Matryoshka Doll: One of the most recognizable icons of Russian history and Culture, matryoshka dolls, also known sometimes as nesting dolls, can be traced to the end of the 19th century in Russia. These dolls first depicted peasant families and were not painted as elaborately as they are now. Sometimes the dolls would represent political figures of that time, and other times they would be playful characters that were very colorful in their dress. This matryoshka doll has seven dolls, which is the most common number to see.
Postcards of Krasnoyarsk: The city of Krasnoyarsk is located in Siberia, Russia. Founded in 1628, it is the third largest city in Siberia. There are three postcards that depict the different sides of the city. One shows a river view with tall city buildings and a ferry boat, since Krasnoyarsk is located along the Yenisei River. Another shows a more scenic view of the river, with some fall colors touching the leaves of the trees on the river bank. The third postcard shows the front of a governmental building in Krasnoyarsk. In a 2010 census, there was a little under 1 million inhabitants of this Siberian city.
Postcards of Moscow: Moscow is the capital of Russia and the most populated city in the country, with an estimated 13.2 million people living within the city limits. There are ten postcards of Moscow showing several different famous landmarks that people usually go and see in the city, as well as an older map of the metro system that is underneath the city from 2002. Some of the famous landmarks shown are Saint Basil’s Cathedral and Moscow State University.
Postcards of Tomsk: Tomsk is a city located in Siberia, Russia, along the Tom River. There are five different postcards depicting this city through several lenses, mostly with the monuments and impressive buildings and landmarks tourists can see on a visit there. One postcard in particular shows the main university building of Tomsk State University.
Russian Alphabet: The Russian alphabet is made up of 33 letters and derives from the Cyrillic script. The alphabet was first introduced in Kievan Rus in 988 A.D. and has evolved into the alphabet that it is today. It has 10 vowels, 21 consonants and two signs that affect how other letters are pronounced but do not make sounds themselves. Each letter has its own card, consonants are black, vowels are blue, and the two signs are in green.
Russian Coins: The currency used in Russia is the ruble, but just as in the United States we have coins that are parts of one dollar, the ruble is made up of kopeks. Russian switched from the Soviet ruble to the Russian ruble in the 1990’s and with that came a new value system. 100 kopeks makes up one ruble, and the coin increments are 1, 5, 10 and 50 kopeks, then 1, 2, 5, and 10 ruble coins. Often, the lower value kopek coins are not even accepted by vendors because of their low worth.
Soviet Coins: The currency used in Russia is the ruble, but just as in the United States we have coins that are parts of one dollar, the ruble is made up of kopeks, as was also the case during the Soviet Union. These coins are kopeks, “копеек”, and 100 kopeks make up one ruble. Because of Russian grammar rules, the spelling is different depending on how high the number is. For coins made in the Soviet Union, they are in values of 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 and 50 kopeks and 1 ruble coins. The culture box has Soviet coins with values of 1, 2, 3, 5, and 10 kopeks.
Soviet-Era Traditional Shawl: Shawls are worn all over Russia, and often times are called babushka shawls because they are usually tied under the chin and commonly seen worn by older women. The Russian word for grandmother is “babushka”, so the morphing of calling it a shawl to a babushka among people outside of the region occurred. Russian shawls can be very decorative, often made out of wool or cotton with beautiful patterns. They can be worn as headscarves or wrapped around shoulders and women of all ages in Russia wear them.
Ushanka Hat: A model of a Soviet-era ushanka hat. The symbol of communism and the Soviet Union, a sickle crossing with a hammer, is on the front of this hat. Ushanka hats are typically fur-lined hats that have flaps that can either be tied up or come down to tie under the wearer’s chin to cover their ears. The Ushanka hat became standard winter military wear for several countries including Russia after WWII. While the ushanka traditionally is made out of animal fur, faux fur can also be used and is commonly referred to as a “fish fur” hat, since the fur is fake.