More curiosity from Russia. Just days after President Vladimir Putin pushed a bill which would result in an end to US citizens adopting neglected Russian orphans, the nation opened a fraud trial against a man who’s been dead for more than three years.
And, as can seemingly only happen in Russia, the two are connected.
This made-for-Dostoyevsky case goes back to at least 2008, when Russian Sergei Magnitsky was arrested.
Before his arrest, Magnitsky, according to his lawyer, had uncovered a tax scam worth $235 million being perpetrated by interior ministry officials against the company he worked for, investment fund Hermitage Capital.
However, Magnitsky was then charged with the very crimes he claimed to have uncovered and was placed in pre-trial detention, according to Agence France-Presse.
He spent nearly a year in squalid prison conditions, dying at the age of 37 of untreated illnesses. A report by the Kremlin human rights council last year said he was tortured and handcuffed in his final hours, the wire service reported.
Even though Magnitsky is dead, he and his former employer – the head of Hermitage Capital, William Browder – are accused of tax evasion.
Let’s face it: you’ve got to be a pretty crappy person to have your name become synonymous with the word “traitor” throughout much of the world.
But that’s what Vidkun Quisling managed to accomplish in a rather short space of time.
Quisling headed the Nazi puppet state in Norway during a good part of World War II and in the process became the poster boy for collaboration.
Not surprisingly given his relationship with the occupying Germans and the fact he played a key role in sending a significant percentage of Norway’s Jewish population to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps, Quisling was executed shortly after the end of war in October 1945.
But were one to begin by examining the first 40-plus years of Quisling’s life, it would have been impossible to predict how things turned out.
The Jumping Polar Bear Blog took time recently to recount the good and bad concerning Quisling, and there was a great deal more good than one might suspect for someone who gained ultimate infamy as a Nazi sympathizer.
An 11-year-old Russian boy recently stumbled upon the best-preserved adult mammoth discovered in more than a century.
Zhenya Salinder discovered the frozen animal in the permafrost of northern Siberia while he was walking along the banks of the Yenisei River in late August, according to Agence France-Presse.
“He sensed an unpleasant odor and saw something sticking out of the ground – it was the mammoth’s heels,” said Alexei Tikhonov, director of the Saint Petersburg-based Zoological Museum.
Tikhonov rushed to the area after the boy’s family notified scientists of the find, described as the best such discovery since 1901.
“So far we can say it is the mammoth of the century,” Tikhonov said.
The mammoth is believed to have been aged 15 to 16 when it died around 30,000 years ago, according to Tikhonov.
It would appear the industrial diamond market may be turned on its head shortly.
After more than 30 years of essentially ignoring a massive diamond deposit – a find whose scale dwarfs anything discovered previously anywhere in the world – Russian scientists have stepped up research on the Popigai Crater, according to Agence France-Presse.
Just how big is the deposit, located in the far north of Siberia? It is believed to hold trillions of carats of diamonds.
By comparison, Russia’s main diamond-mining region of Yakutia has known reserves of 1 billion carats, the wire service reported.
Yet, the impressive discovery has been known in Russia for decades. Soviet scientists uncovered the 60-mile Popigai Crater, left by a huge asteroid in Siberia 35 million years ago, many decades ago.
At the time, the impact zone of the crater revealed “a fine material that was actually super-compressed diamonds caking the permafrost,” according to Agence France-Presse.
Asian scientists still believe they may be able to resurrect the long-extinct woolly mammoth, but don’t expect to see the Ice Age behemoths at your local zoo any time soon.
A team of Russian and South Korean researchers said they had discovered mammoth tissue fragments buried under meters of permafrost in eastern Siberia that could contain living cells.
“The existence of the cells – perhaps too few to achieve successful cloning, and treated with skepticism by many stem cell scientists – must still be confirmed by a South Korean lab,” according to Agence-France Presse.
But expedition member Sergei Fyodorov of Russia’s Northeastern Federal University said the discovery in the far north of the vast Yakutia region of eastern Siberia could lead to actual woolly mammoth cloning attempts.
“We discovered the mammoth tissue fragments in eastern Siberia in early August,” Fyodorov told the wire service.
“It seems that some of the cells still have a living nucleus. We saw that with portable microscopes on the spot – the cells appeared in color,” he said.
For much of painter Marc Chagall’s long life, the famed artist’s genius was frowned upon in the Soviet Union.
Today, however, Chagall, who was born in modern-day Belarus, is enjoying a revival in the former USSR, with a new exhibition examining the influence of folk art and his Jewish heritage on his work.
An exhibition at Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery seeks to “help people to understand the mystery of Chagall,” who always looked to popular art in his search for a distinctive figurative language, said curator Ekaterina Selezneva.
“Visitors often ask, why Chagall’s animals are blue, yellow or pink, why the bride is flying over the rooftops and the man has two faces. They will now understand where Chagall drew (his images) from,” she said.
Born Moishe Segal in 1887 to a poor Jewish family outside Vitebsk in modern Belarus, Chagall never turned his back on his life in the Jewish pale – the area to which Tsarina Catherine II confined the Jews of her empire in the 18th century – and recalls images of Vitebsk in each painting, according to Agence France-Presse.
Twenty-plus-years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, many hockey fans don’t realize how special it was when the USSR began allowing some of their top talent to come to North America to play in the National Hockey League.
Among the biggest names that came over in the late 1980s were members of the so-called “K-L-M Line”: Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov. The trio formed one of the most potent offensive lines in hockey history.
Together, they won two Olympic gold medals and several world championships before leaving for the NHL.
Krutov, who tallied 288 goals and 215 assists in 438 games during 12 seasons in the USSR, never made it big in North America, lasting just one season before returning to Europe.
Sadly, he died last week from internal bleeding at the age of 52.
“We lost a great friend, someone with whom all of us would go to war, without any doubt,” said Vladislav Tretyak, the Hall of Fame goalie who is now the Russian ice hockey chief.
Call them Ishmael.
A group of Russian scientists plan to embark on a journey next week to find the only all-white, adult killer whale ever seen.
But unlike Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s classic Moby-Dick, researchers from the universities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg simply want to study the rare and elusive mammal.
Nicknamed “Iceberg,” the alabaster orca was sighted near the Commander Islands in the North Pacific in August 2010, living in a pod with 12 other family members, according to Agence France-Presse.
Judging from its towering, six-foot dorsal fin, Iceberg was deemed to be at least 16 years old, said Erich Hoyt, co-director of the Far East Russia Orca Project.
“This is the first time we have ever seen an all-white, mature male orca,” Hoyt told the wire service. “It is a breathtakingly beautiful animal.”
The scientists refrained from releasing photographs of Iceberg until they were able to study him further, “but we have been looking for him ever since,” said Hoyt.
Russian scientists have bored down approximately 2.3 miles to reach a prehistoric lake that has remained untouched for tens of thousands of years.
The scientists announced this week that they had completed efforts to drill through Antarctica’s icesheet on Feb. 5 to reach the pristine waters of Lake Vostok.
“For me, discovering this lake is comparable to the first flight to space. In its technical complexity, its importance and its uniqueness,” expedition leader Valery Lukin told the Interfax news agency.
Lake Vostok lies in the heart of the Antarctic continent and is big as Lake Ontario, making it one of world’s largest freshwater lakes.
The lake has been covered by the vast Antarctic ice sheet for up to 25 million years, according to information found on a Columbia University website.
Lake Vostok, one of more than 145 lakes identified beneath the thick Antarctic ice sheet, was named for the Russian research station that sits above its southern tip – a place where in 1983 the temperature fell below minus 129°F, the coldest ever recorded on Earth.