Friday, 17 May 2019

скамья Benches for Russian Language Day

June 6th is Russian Language Day. In many countries around the world Russian speakers will be celebrating the love of their language. 

It's also the birth date of the Father of Russian literature. Pushkin doesn't seem to be celebrating but that's maybe because Russian Language Day didn't start until 2010.

Russian is one of the six main languages and is spoken by around 200 million people around the world. It's a beautiful language, well suited to literature and music and dancing.

And benches of course. Or as they say in Russian, скамья

Now it's time to get our pencils out and celebrate one of the world's widest spoken languages.,_Novosibirsk_7.jpg

What are the pencils for? Well, throughout this story you'll find lots of references to Russian literature. See how many you can find and check your answers after the credits at the end of the blog. 

Or just read along and see how annoying you find my English-speaking friends and family. 

There are some surprising images of benches from a wide variety of people who have lived and travelled in Russian speaking countries.

Surprise is the greatest gift that life can grant us. 

My husband, His Excellency: I haven't seen a Russian camera in ages! Is this a Lubitel?

The role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them.

My best imaginary friend Miggy: You are no artist, Seashell. And you're not much of a writer either. Can we get this story started?

Ok but where to start? Everything cracks and shakes, the air trembles with similes, no one world's better than another; the earth moans with metaphors.

My cat: Maybe just show a picture of some Russians on a bench?

I like this photo of three people at a Moscow bus stop. Because good things come in threes. 

His Excellency: Or Бог любит Троицу as they say in Moscow.

Miggy: They've got that look of resigned waiting that you see all around the world at bus stops. 

Russians are great readers of their literary heritage. 

                                   Reading in the Garden 1915, Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky 

Russian is a Slavic language. Its alphabet has 33 letters and is written in the Cyrillic script.

Lord Brassica, Fifth Earl of Drizzly: Good heavens. This looks like seagull scratchings.

Funny that you mention seagulls, Lord B. We'll come back to that later. Seagulls and the Russian language are inextricably linked.

Miggy: You'll also need to read the Russian alphabet in handwriting script.

His Excellency: You will need to know this if you want to read Yuri Gagarin's t-shirt.

Yuri Gagarin is the Russian cosmonaut who was the first man in space back in 1961.

His Excellency: He trusted the law of gravity and it let him down. 

And now Russian is a compulsory language for people going to the International Space Station. 

My cat: I hope we're going to see some cats in this story.

Indeed. I found many pictures of cats on benches in Russian speaking countries.

Lord Brassica, Fifth Earl of Drizzly: How do ruddy cats come into it?

My cat: Cats get into everything on the internet, as you know. Or кошка as they say in Russian.

Here is a Russian cat on a bench.

This is Pushkin.

Miggy: Named after the famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin I guess.

Pushkin_on_a_Park_Bench 1899, Valentin Serov

His Excellency: A man who fought 29 duels. 

Lord Brassica: By jove, couldn't he find anything else to do?

Yes, he wrote poetry. Pushkin is the Russian peoples' third favourite leader of all time.  

His Excellency: I'm not going to ask who's first and second.

Lord Brassica: My mater is the greatest leader of all time. A splendid woman!

Miggy: Let's not get started on your ancestors, Lord B. We want to talk about Russian literature.

His Excellency: Mine too. Mikhail Bulgakov is a great writer with a terrific sense of humour.

Miggy: I'm a big fan of Tolstoy. He sat on his bench and wrote the world's best love stories.

Tolstoy in the Room with the Arches 1891, Ilya Rein

His Excellency: It has to be said that Russian literature is a little gloomy though. It didn't end well for Anna Karenina, did it?

Miggy: Or Lara.  

My cat: Or Konstantin.

His Excellency: Lensky came to a bad end.

And Pushkin come to think of it. 

His Excellency: Fighting a duel is a bad way to die. Terrible.

Lord Brassica: That name rings a bell with me. Some relative of my mater's. Ivan somebody. 

Miggy: Ivan The Terrible?

Lord Brassica: That's the one. Frightful chap apparently. Gives me the collywobbles. 

Vasilisa Melentievna and Ivan The Terrible 1880, Nikolai Nevrev

My cat: Maybe better to stick with cats then.

Miggy: Or bears.

Lord Brassica: Or seagulls.  

His Excellency: But never, ever give a dead seagull to someone as a present. This is the lesson that Konstantin learned the hard way.

Lord Brassica: I say, a dead seagull is a jolly interesting gift. I wouldn't mind one myself. I get a brace of pheasants in a Harrods hamper every now and then. 

Back to benches now, if you don't mind. Benchsite is, after all, a blog about benches. 

I've been reading up all about benches in Russian speaking places.

Natasha Nesterova by Mikhail Nesterov 1914

I pinned down this brilliant bench in Gomel in Belarus.

In Russian-speaking countries young and old like to sit on benches.

Photo by Adam Jones

They are a very good place to socialise.

Friends and neighbours sit together on benches.

And Babushkas come out to organise all the stuff God doesn't have time to do.

They keep an eye on things.

Miggy: Do these babushkas play Babushkaduko? 

my image, my artwork 2018

What, the nine squares by nine thing? I doubt it. They're too busy doing other things.

Baba on a Swing, Filipp Malyavin

It's a good thing babushkas and benches are on hand though. 

Because a lot of people seem to be fond of a drink.

So benches are often gathering places for a vodka or two.

His Excellency: These look very much like beer bottles to me.

It's not unheard of to have homemade vodka hidden in beer bottles. And then some people sleep off their vodka beer on benches.

Lord Brassica: Or in my son's case, champagne.

Miggy: It has kept his heart alive but bemazed his brain. 

I believe Turgenev was very fond of champagne.  

His Excellency: Yes, Louis Roederer was his drink of choice, served with ice.

My Cat: I once spent a month in the country reading Turgenev.

There's no need to show off. We know you were a high flyer at Moscow University. 

Miggy: Oh look, it's Chekhov's Three Sisters!

His Excellency: Olga, Masha and Irina. God loves a trinity. Бог любит Троицу 

Lord Brassica: I say! These are jolly good looking gels!To Moscow!

Miggy: It's rather a long journey to Moscow. Or to St. Petersburg for that matter.

His Excellency: Moscow... how many strains are fusing in that one sound, for Russian hearts! what store of riches it imparts!

But these aren't The Three SistersAnd they're not Moscovites. These young women are from Tashkent in Uzbekistan. 

Lord Brassica: Not a clue where that is. Somewhere near the Isle of Wight I suppose. Quite a palaver to get there.

My cat: If we only knew . . . if we only knew. 

Miggy: Anyway, isn't it a bit chilly sitting out on benches in these countries where weather is inclement?

Lord Brassica: I say, this is a jolly attractive gel. Is this Anna what's-her-name?

His Excellency: Could be. I'm getting a whiff of vinaigre de toilette. 

Lord Brassica: It looks like her hair has got rather out of control though.

That's a parka, Lord B. It gets a bit parky in Russia at certain times of year.

My Cat: As every Russian cat knows, it's best to wear your own fur.

Miggy: What about Russian language though? Can we get started now PLEASE.

I'm just not sure we're quite ready.

His Excellency: If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.

Miggy: And if you look for perfection you'll never be content. 

My cat: We can start with the weather. That's what we'd do in England.

Miggy: We'll need a cup of tea then. Get out the samovar.

Lord Brassica: I'm a bit peckish. A Big Mac would be spiffing.

There's no time for that. 

His Excellency: Since the tea is not forthcoming, let's have a philosophical conversation.

I know you're a philosopher. I guess we can talk about some very snowy Russian benches.

Lord Brassica: Blimey! Who'd fancy parking their backside on a bench like this?

Or this. 

Yes, bench conditions in Russian-speaking countries can be icy.

But these people are hardy. A little cold doesn't put them off a bracing swim. 

You see even in Siberia there is happiness.

And don't worry, there are plenty of glove benches around.

Miggy: I don't think gloves would do it for me. I'd need some shelter.

At the first sign of greenery the benches come out of their shelters.

Lingering snow is no deterent for bench sitters and dog walkers. They're out in all weathers.

I wonder if this is The Lady and the Dog that Chekhov had in mind.

Miggy: Wasn't it two dogs?

My cat: One dog and three sisters.

And a cherry orchard.  

Lord Brassica: I am partial to a blooming cherry orchard. But what's that got to do with dogs?

His Excellency: Let's return to our rams, as they say in Russian. Вернемся к нашим баранам 

Miggy: So are we ever going to speak Russian in this blog or are we going to be silenced by stupidity?

My cat: You can't imagine how stupid the whole world has grown nowadays.

Well, I'm no expert in the Russian language so I have have asked for help from a family who are visiting Paradise Island from their home in Moscow.

my photo

His Excellency: I'm not keen on matryoshkas. They're so full of themselves.

Miggy: I'm pretty sure no modern Russian would thank you for showing these dolls.

Yes, I know, they're a bit of a stereotype, But I've never been one to resist a stereotype. Have you seen my Dutch bench story? Think windmills, dikes, and dozens of wooden shoes. 

Or in this case, brightly painted benches.

Miggy:  I must admit, it's always great to see the onion domes of St. Basil's Cathedral.

What do we want?
Onion domes!
When do we want them?

Or as they say in Moskva, 

что мы хотим?
когда мы хотим их?

His Excellency: I doubt that anyone has ever said this in the whole of Russian history.

And Russia has a long history, of course. Here is a bench from 1907.

Double-M @

Lord Brassica: I think I remember something about the Ruskies doing away with their royal family a couple of years ago.

That was quite a while ago, Lord B. It was 1918. The Russian Revolution: Ten days that shook the world.

Lord B: Crikey, it must have been quite an earthquake!

Well, the effects were certainly earth-shattering for Russian people. The established society broke down.

His Excellency: The Bolsheviks would have done away with you too, Lord B.

Lord Brassica: Not bloody likely! I'm a Peer of the Realm don't you know. And I have a very attractive wife.

That's a nice coat she's wearing. Looks like it's made from yak's wool. 

His Excellency: Description should be very brief and have an incidental nature. 

Well, I'd describe this as three. A holy trinity again.

Miggy: It's too easy to get bogged down in the past with a lot of old fashioned benches.

I love this vintage stuff though and I'm sure a lot of my readers do.

Lord Brassica: You have readers for this nonsense?

Yes. A lot of folk like my stories. There's nothing wrong with folk benches.

His Excellency: It's a steppe up from your cheesy puns I suppose. 

Miggy: Are we EVER going to talk about the Russian language?

Of course. Here's a bench with a bit of Russian on it. Hands up anybody who can read it.

Source of image unknownö

His Excellency: Well, that would be around 200 million people.

Miggy: I can't read Russian but I checked my translator and it looks like something about wifi.

My cat: Peace in the world and wifi on every bench!

Lord Brassica: Do they have wifi in Russia?

His Excellency: Good heavens, how old is this computer? Dr. Zhivago could have kept his medical records on this.  

Miggy: I think there's an elephant in the room here isn't there? 

My cat: I have the feeling that I've seen everything but failed to notice the elephants.

OK fair enough: this story about Russian Language Day hasn't gone very well. 

His Excellency: It has been more war than peace.

My cat: It hasn't been a bench walk in the park. 

Park_Bench 1910,_Maria_Feodorova

Miggy: When everything is easy one quickly becomes stupid.

And stupidity causes His Excellency great pain. 

His Excellency: Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart.

Lord Brassica: Oh my giddy aunt, this story is a frightful yawn.

I haven't done very well, have I? 

His Excellency: Well, you never reach any truth without making fourteen mistakes.

My cat: Only fourteen?

Miggy: Very likely 114. 

I wish I had just kept it simple. A couple of cats, a bench, a few Russian dolls.

my photo

His Excellency: Inside every Russian doll there's another Russian doll screaming to get out. 

Miggy: I feel like screaming. This story has fallen apart.

I'm getting fed up now. 

Or   мне скучно as they say in Bishkek.

My cat: It would have been better to stick with Russian cats.

Black Cat, Nickolai Tarkhov

You're right. This story has destroyed me. 

Old Woman with Cat 1885, Akseli Gallen-Kallela

Lord Brassica: You need to buck yourself up, Seashell. Stiff upper lip and all that. 

His Excellency: Would a drink help?

His Excellency: If you ask me, something sinister lurks in men who avoid wine, games, and the company of lovely women.

Lord Brassica: I quite agree. I like a woman who's up for a bit of slap and tickle. 

Young Woman on a Swing 1910, Filipp Malyavin

I've had enough. I'd like to be somewhere else right now. Maybe out in a boat with a Russian poet. 

In the Boat 1888, Konstantin Korovin 

His Excellency: Life is better where we are not. As the Russians are fond of saying.

My cat: Maybe you should just write a blog about British benches? 

I am of so little interest to the British public that I don't care in the least. 

Miggy: But you can't stop here. You have to round off the story somehow.

His Excellency: Yes, an unusual beginning must have an unusual end.

Lord Brassica: I say, what's that frightful noise?

My cat: They're cutting down the cherry orchard.

I'm not surprised. It seems that Russian benches literature is a catalogue of misery.

So I'm going to retreat to a bench in a pretty little беседка .

And perhaps, somewhere, some day, at a less miserable time, we may see each other again.  

Miggy: Come on, at least leave us with some good wishes for Russian Language Day. 

I can't. My voice is wild and simple. I am untranslatable into any one tongue.

Miggy: Maybe a sunny bench then?

OK, this is it. Best I can do.

С Днем русского языка!


Russian is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, along with English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese. It is used in organsations such as the World Health Organisation, UNESCO and The World Bank. It is also one of the main languages on the International Space Station. Worldwide there are 155 to 200 million people who speak Russian.The Russian language is an official language of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Latvia and Estonia. It's also spoken, to a lesser extent, in other countries that were once constituent republics of the Soviet Union, and in Israel and countries of Western Europe.  

Aleksándr Sergéyevich Púshkin (1799-1837) was a Russian poet, playwright and novelist of the Romantic era, said to be the founder of modern Russian literature. He moved beyond the formal language in which Russian literature was written at the time and brought natural speech and foreign influences to create modern poetic Russian. Pushkin's birthday, June 6th, was chosen as Russian Language Day when the United Nations began national language days in 2010. And yes, he died in a duel at the age of 37. 

The beautiful bronze figurine shows The Great Russian Poet on a Bench so it's a great gift for a writer or lover of literature. The bronze statue is from Sergey at   They have knights, warriors, political figures, all kinds of bronze artworks, all beautifully made. 

The delightful pencil bench is one of many in the city of Novosibirsk, Russia. This one is in the sovetsky District, photographed in 2016 by K Artem.1 and made available under a Creative Commons International license. I saw it at,_Novosibirsk_7.jpg  And by the way, if Number 2 pencils are so popular, why aren't they number one?

Misha Maslennikov lives in Odessa. His photostream has albums of stunning photos showing ordinary people living their lives  in the north. See his album Kolodozero for some gorgeous black and white portraits of people in a rural setting.  There are also colour photos, such as the very peaceful man on a bench who is in the album Once in the North, specifically Rodionovo village, Podporozhsky in the Leningrad region.  

His Excellency is one of my two husbands. He is a philosopher and a man who takes an interest in many subjects, apart from chemistry. Mungo, my imaginary husband, is my travelling companion and soulmate but he is not a great lover of poetry. He blames this on his schooling, which focused mostly on woodwork. For more about my two husbands and their education see

A Lubitel is a Russian camera for amateurs which is based on an earlier 1930s design. The one shown on the bench belongs to Lis Bokt. Lis comes from Germany but in 2011 she was living in Michigan. Lis describes herself as a photographer by passion, past-time and profession. She is also a scientist, an etymologist, a designer, a seamstress, and a traveller. And she loves her Lubitel, that's why she gave it its own self-portrait. 

The photograph of three people at a bus stop is by Katya, who lives in Bulgaria. The photo was taken in Nagorny in Moscow in 2016. She explains it like this: Once upon a time someone else's grandparents were sitting on the bench, and my granddaughter Yanochka sat beside them.

Reading in the Garden was painted in 1915 by Russian symbolist artist Nikolai Bogdanov-Belsky (1868-1945). 

Woman on a Swing and Young Woman on a Swing (1910) are both paintings by Russian artist Fillip Malyavin (1869-1940).

I find the cyrillic alphabet fascinating and beautiful. It dates from the 9th century and there are 80 languages which use variations of it. The Russian alphabet has 33 characters, as shown in the image from INeverCry at
Having been around for centuries, the alphabet is in the public domain.

The second version of the cyrillic alphabet shows handwritten script . This image appears in wikimedia commons are
Its title is  Odreczny Alfabet Rosyjski because it was put there by a Polish person, Adam Redzikowski ,in 2012.  Thanks, Adam

At Cyrillictees Mikael makes Russian/Soviet tee shirts, including ones about space exploration and Laika the space dog. Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, on 12 April 1961. The quotation he made at the time and shown on the t-shirt is: Having flown around the world in the Space ship Sputnik, I witnessed how truly beautiful our planet is... Let us preserve this beauty and not destroy it. 

Lord Brassica, Fifth Earl of Drizzly, is a gentleman farmer here on Paradise Island. He loves his horse Tonks, his dog Pru,and his 1947 Landrover, in that order. He indulges his wife, Lady Jessica Brassica with a replica mall in the basement of Drizzly Manor, a beach hut on the Esplanade, and unlimited amounts of cash for shopping. However, it has emerged that he doesn't know as much as you'd think about farm animal benches, especially cow benches or sheep benches. He knows a bit more about horse benches, learned from his horse Tonks, and possibly something about dog benches from his dog Pru. What he really knows though, is picnic benches.

Andrey is Russian, I can tell from his Flickr name, but that's all I know about him. He photographed the beautiful grey cat on the multi-coloured bench at Solntsovo, Moscow back in 2015. 

Pushkin the cat was photographed in 2007 by Crishna Simmons. Neither Crishna nor Pushkin are Russian speaking; they're from Woking in the UK and probably just speak English.

Alexander Pushkin on a Park Bench was painted in 1899 by the artist Valentin Serov (1865-1911). The work is graphite, watercolor, whitewash on paper and it's in The State Museum of Alexander Pushkin, St. Petersburg, Russia. The image is in the public domain because of its age. 
A statue of the poet Pushkin also appears on a bench in the town of Pushkin. Originally called Tsarskoe Selo (Tsar's Village) the town changed its name to Pushkin in 1937 because Pushkin studied there. 

The Russian woman on a bench is of course not Lord Brassica's mother. She's from a vintage postcard made back in 1966 by V. Menshikov. The card can be used for Mother's Day or for International Women's Day (March 8). The postcard is one of many collected by Lucy at Russian Soul Vintage. Lucy, in St. Petersburg, has a fabulous collection of postcards, books, and ephemera which you can explore and get inspired by. If you like vintage memorabilia, Russian or otherwise, this shop will delight you. There are two further images from Russian Soul Vintage later in the story.

Ivan the Terrible was truly terrible. The 1880s painting by Nikolai Nevrev (1830-1904) depicts Ivan with his sixth wife, Vasilisa Melentievna. Though there is doubt that they were actually married, Vasilisa is thought to have taken a lover and Ivan had her lover impaled. Vasilisa was buried alive in 1579. 

My favourite books were written by dead Russians. No, really, they were. Anna Karenina, War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, Doctor Zhivago - what's not to like? That's why I was so pleased to find this button at Beanforest, an etsy shop with an assortment of silliness in Michigan USA. Buttons, magnets, gifts - very silly indeed.

The statue of writer Mikhaill Bulgakov is in the Bulgakov Museum in Moscow. It was photographed by Jay Springett in 2011. Jay has an album of photos from the museum, including Bulgakov's typewriter and pages from The Master and Margarita. ://  

If you like cats, here on Benchsite there are plenty of purrfect feline benches for World Cats Day, as well as more than a few cats playing pianos. But cats are not our only animal benches.  In fact, we have a whole Ark of animal benches. See which ones Noah saved. If dogs are your thing, you’d be barking not to have a look at Maybe you prefer deer? Or pigs? We've got farm animals too. The Cream of Bovine Benches. How about some Baaaaaad Sheep Benches?  There are sunny bunny benches for Easter and poultry benches which are no spring chickens. We've had horse benches for The Year of the Horse and goat benches for, yep, The Year of the Goat. We've got Great British Birds and even creepy crawlie insect benches for National Insect Week. And monkeys? Of course we have monkeys; Eddie has made sure of that. It's not just The Year of the Monkey. Oh no, we've had plenty of Eddie's monkey business.

Tolstoy in the Room with Arches, an oil on canvas, was painted in 1891 by Ilya Repin (1844-1930). Repin was one of the most famous artists of his time, known for his realism. 

Tolstoy is Count Leo Nikolayevich (1828-1910) a Russian writer, aesthetic philosopher, moralist and mystic. He read law and oriental languages, but began his literary career after joining the army in 1851. After serving in the Crimean War he published Tales of Army Life and Sketches of Sevastopol. His novel War and Peace (1863-1869) is considered by some to be the greatest novel ever written. His second great work, Anna Karenina (1874-1876), carries the seeds of Tolstoy's personal crisis between the claims of the creative novelist and the moralizing propagator of his own ethical code. 

Masha is a much loved bear who used to sit on a bench at Aleksandra Nevskogo Embankment in Veliky Novgorod, Russia. Apparently he was there only during the summer months but in August 2018 he disappeared and it looks like he's broken.

Anton Chekhov's famous play The Seagull concerns a young woman named Nina who has an admirer named Konstantin. Nina is horrified when Konstantin presents her with a dead seagull that he has shot himself. To make a long story short, there is another shooting at the end in which someone is killed. Spoiler alert: it isn't a seagull. 

Knowing cats' motives with birds, I'm not sure that my cat was thinking about Anton Chekhov's masterpiece The Seagull. Lorenzo Jacopo was thinking of Hitchcock's The Birds when he photographed a seagull on a bench 2008 in Trieste in Italy.

There are many benches in Russian art, with and without people. The pretty girl on a bench is Natasha Nesterova, painted in 1914 by Mikhail Nesterov (1862-1942). This post impressionist painting is in the Museum of Russian Art in Kyiv. 

Olga has a whole album of photos from Belarus, including lots of photos of the interesting benches in the park in Gomel. Gomel has 11 parks and 58 public gardens and they have really gone mad on creative benches. One of them is the giant clothes peg bench shown in the story. There are also dice, an XYZ bench, a pencil bench, and a bench involving cheese and a mouse. And speaking of mice, Olga has photographed many lovely cats.

The elderly woman in the headscarf was photographed  in Suzdal, one of the cities in the Golden Ring near Moscow. She was photographed by Adam Jones in May 2008. Adam Jones is a Professor of Political Science, at the University of British Columbia in Kelowna,  Canada. The image is available under Creative Commons 3.0 license. I saw it at

Patrick Siemer is a motion artist from San Francisco. In April 2000 he was in St Petersburg, where he photographed a group of people on a park bench.

The clever eyeglass bench in Kiev, Ukraine, was photographed by Naranek Kosh. I saw it on Wikimedia where its title is 
Очки для чтения» I think the artist might be Сергей Данчинов 

Somewhere in the Ukraine in 2009 two old friends sat on a bench together. Andrew photographed them. Andrew is an independent researcher from the UK. He takes great photographs of animals and of the Ukraine.

Babushkas were gathered around for a Bench Convention in 2007 when they were photographed by Dasha Gaian.  Russians say that God couldn't exactly manage to keep order on this planet by himself, so he invented babushkas (elderly women) for that. They certainly look like a formidable group; you wouldn't want to mess with them.   Dasha also photographed Gurzuf the cat in 2006. A gorgeous grey cat, Dasha called him The Bench King. 

The Hand Bench in Kiev was photographed by Cielodip in 2012 Cielodip is one of those people who travels widely; her albums include Utah, Istanbul, Hawaii, and lots of California. 

The three girls are not Chekhov's Three Sisters. In 2015 Prince Roy was in Dushanbe, Tajikistan where he saw three lovely girls on a bench. He tried talking to them but as he didn't speak Russian it was all very difficult. It amused the girls, though Prince Roy wasn't sure what they might be saying about him.

The road sign is on the Russian motorway M11 from Moscow to St. Petersburg. The sign is in Novgorod, about halfway between the two cities. The photograph was taken in 2011 on the Mercedes-Benz F-CELL World Drive. The yellow car, I think, is a Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-Cell

In 2012 Huub Zeeman from Amsterdam was travelling toward Kazan in Tatarstan when he stopped in Suzdal. There he photographed a woman drinking on a bench.

Back in 2007 Chris was in his early 40s, Welsh, and living in Yorkshire. He went travelling in Russia where he noticed that a lot of people drink on benches. He photographed some evidence of Drinking the Moscow Way.   

Root is the son of Lord and Lady Brassica of Drizzly.Whilst Lady B is gorgeous and Lord B is wealthy and personable, Root has none of these qualities. In fact, he has no qualities whatsoever, as became apparent in my Bus Stop benches blog last year. 

Harris Walker is from Rocky Mount in North Carolina. Back in 2007 Harris went to Yaroslavl in the the Siberian region of Russia  to work in orphanages throughout the region. He saw a bit of Russia while he was there. Can you work out what МАКДОНАЛДС is?

The girl in the furry parka is of course not Anna Karenina. She was sitting on a yellow bench near the Lenin Library in 2007 where she was photographed by Boris Bartels.

Polyrus is a very well travelled retired bitter divorcee who lives in the UK and enjoys taking pictures. Polyrus has albums from all over the world and a special album of St Petersburg. A photo that caught my eye was the snowy unused park benches near the Finlandia station.

In the Park shows the first snow on October 26, 2015 on benches in Tomsk, Western Siberia. The photographer is Andrei Zverev who captured it on his Canon IXY 20 IS (IXUS 80). Well, not literally captured it. Andrei describes his photostream collection as pure anarchic eclecticism style. 

Iced Bench and Bin to my mind captures the essence of beautiful cold. Alexander Kolosov photographed the iced bench and bin in December 2012. He saw it at  Petrozavodsk, Karelia Republic in the far north near Finland. I highly recommend Alexander's beautiful travel photos, especially the mountains of the Caucacus.

Andrey Papko is from Murmansk in Russia. He's an Extreme Winter Swimmer. On the day this photo was taken the air temperature was -15°C  and the water was a balmy  2°C 

The roofed bench in greenery is actually a bench swing. It was photographed in the village of Ivanovskoye, Istra Raion, Moscow Oblast. It was formerly the Kozlovsky Manor House and was last used as a school for the deaf. It was photographed in 2009 by carlfbagge

The sheltered bench under snow is called Зима в Харькове. That's Winter in Kharkiv. It was taken by Корниенко Виктор aka Victor Chernenko in  Январь 2010 года. That's January 2010. You're welcome.   

Müde is the name of the photograph of the woman with the little dog. It was taken by Onnola on a November day in 2010 in Sudende, Berlin. It looks like Onnola is a bit of a bench person as her street photography is full of benches.

Chekhov and Tolstoy are just two of many unique dolls designed by Debbie Ritter at Uneek Doll Designs. Characters from history, fiction, politics and all walks of life are made by Debbie in a variety of materials including wood, wire, clay and paint. They have appeared on Benchsite many times before. In this story Anton Chekhov is dressed in a gray pinstripe suit with white shirt and black beck tie. The tiny details of his face are handpainted and he has real fiber hair, glasses, and a tiny "copy"of his plays for the finishing touch. Leo Tolstoy wears a blue peasant shirt with belted sash and gray linen trousers. He stands a mere 4 1/2 inches tall (about 11.4 centimeters). Debbie's collection includes other Russian-speaking figures such as Anna Akhmatova, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. 

Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) is one of the most well known Russian authors and produced some of the best plays and short fiction still enjoyed today. The Cherry Orchard, The Three Sisters, The Seagull, and Uncle Vanya are among his best known plays. He practiced as a medical doctor throughout most of his literary career and once said Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress.

Matryoshka dolls are like Marmite - either you love them or hate them. I love them and purchased rather too many on a trip to Russia and Ukraine a long time ago. I also love matryoshka jokes because, well, they are so full of themselves.  Inside every Russian doll there's another Russian doll screaming to get out is a joke from Phil Mann at Battle Acts, Edinburgh Fringe.

I'll bet you didn't expect to see Matryoshka Happy Dogs in this story? Well, they're made by Olga the Doll Lady in Brovary, Ukraine. She makes all kinds of beautiful and intricate little nesting dolls. The image shows five pieces of wooden nesting Happy Dogs dolls. There's a labrador retriever, a beagle, a bulldog, a yorkie and a chihuahua. The largest doll is 10 cm/ 4'' tall, the smallest is 2,5 cm/ 1''. Materials are linden wood, acrylic paints, gouache, varnish gloss and all Olga's dolls are made with love. 

Anton Vavilov photographed the girl in a smog mask in Luzhniki, Moscow in August 2010. I don't know what the air quality was like that day but it's an interesting photo.

The six coloured gloves were photographed by Andrei Zverev in June 2015. The bench was captured by his Canon SX50 HS in Kuskovo village near Tomsk, Western Siberia, Russia. I don't mean literally captured; I mean photographed.

Double-M from Athens, Georgia found the very old bench print, which is an  image from the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, published in Russia,1890-1907. The book copyright has expired, so these images are in the public domain.  You can see it at Double-M's Flickr photostream at 

Alexander Kalinin photographed an unexpected bench in the snow in March 2016. He found it at Krasnoyarsk, Krai, in Russia . And if you'd like to see some splendid photographs of Russia you'd do well to visit his photostream

Lady Jessica Brassica is a fashionista and former model with Studio Joop from Overbearing in Holland. Now she has her own fashion house at Ballyfrumpy in County Offhand in Ireland. She loves shopping at her replica mall and having poetry read to her by Young Male Readers dot com. She is happily married to Lord Brassica, Fifth Earl of Drizzly but last summer Lady Jess spent rather a lot of time at her beach hut with Troy.

I have already mentioned Lucy at Russian Soul Vintage in St. Petersburg. For this story I chose two vintage Russian prints but as Lucy sells a lot of stuff, they may be gone by now. Don't let that stop you - she has loads more to choose from.

Black Cat is an 1887 painting by Russian artist Nikolai Tarkhov (1871-1930). 

The barefoot old woman outdoors with a cat is an extraordinary painting but it's not Russian. Old Woman With a Cat was painted in 1885 by Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865-1931). At the rate I'm going, this scene shows how I will end up. 

Ольга runs Dekor Severa, an etsy shop packed with colourful painted furniture, boxes, and traditional Russian designs.The small red and green wooden folk benches are ideal in a hallway as a bench, or as a footstool. They're made by hand and painted in the style of the Northern Dvina, which is the traditional culture of the Russian North.

The bench with the yellow bin beside it has been graffitied in the manner of urban benches everywhere. This one was done in Moscow back in 2007. But of course you want to know what it says. It's a great message: peace in the world and wifi on every bench! I have been unable to find the photographer but do get in touch if you know. 

 cea+ is from the Netherlands. In 2009 cea+ photographed some computer-like benches which are apparently advertising. OK, they look a bit dated now but how many computer benches have you found?  cea+ admires the community of visually-gifted flickrers and keeps finding here amazing pictures and projects that are both informative and inspiring.

In 2014 Leidolv Magelssen took a delightful photo of two people on a bench in Ulan-Ude, Russia. One of them is yawning.The photo is no longer appearing in Leidolv's photostream but you might want to have a look at his other photos.

Maria Feodorova (1859-1934) painted her Park Bench oil on canvas around 1910.  Sorry, I know nothing about Maria or the park or the bench. This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. I saw it at

Ekenitr  from The Netherlands photographed the Disproportional Bench in August 2013 at an exposition in The Hague. The white tilted bench is entitled Russia XXI, by Kirill Alexandrov

Het means No in Russian, simple as that. Het is a bamboo paper Soviet vintage print which  comes from Alexandre Ludivic, whose shop is Vintage Art Printing in Andorra la Vella, Andorra. Vintage advertising, maps, Japanese art, botanicals, travel posters - there are all sorts of fascinating prints to choose from.  I have found that the original HET is by Victor Ivanovich Govorkov, made in 1954. 

In the Boat (1888) is a painting by Russian artist Konstantin Korovin (1861-1939). It's in the Tretyakov art museum in Moscow, where I once spent a lovely afternoon with a knowledgeable young art student. 

Although the bear is a Russian symbol, the sad, lonely bronze bear on a park bench is not Russian and has nothing to do with the Russian language or literature. Jo the bear is from the Stadspark in Maastricht, Netherlands, the last in a long line of bears in captivity in a bearpit zoo in this location. The Berekoil began in Maastricht in 1920 when two bears were put in the enclose to entertain people visiting the park. Artist Michel Huisman sculpted Jo, using his own hands for Jo's paws. The statue can be seen as an ode to the brown bears that lived in the pit and an elegy for extinct animals. In August 1993, after mediation of the National Inspection of Animal Protection, Jo was transferred to the bear forest of Ouwenhands Dierenpark in Rhenen where he died in 1997. 

The delightful little summerhouse is called Besedka in Russian. This one is near Ekaterininsky Park in Moscow. It was photographed in 2009 by carlfbagge.  The photographer notes that the Russian word for this type of structure, беседка, and the Russian word for conversation/talk/chat, беседа, have the same root.

The sunny garden bench at the end of the story is known as The Bench of Reconciliation or as they say in Russian, Русский: скамья примирения на ВГ
Leppimise pink Venemaal may be the creator but don't quote me on that. It was photographed in September 2015 by Zirman and made available on a Creative Commons license on Wikimedia.

If Russia doesn't do it for you and Ireland doesn't tickle the cockles of your heart there are plenty of benches from other countries here on Benchsite. Japan, for example. And a whole fiesta of benches from Mexico. There's a whole alphabet of Dutch benches and a bench from each of the countries of Europe. Every summer Miggy and Mungo and I go on a mission to find benches so see how we ate our way through found the tasty benches of Italy. We got high on benches in the Alps but Greece was a mission impossible. And then there are the benches of St. Helier, and the benches of Las Vegas, where Mungo and I gambled on love

Answers to Russian literature references quiz

Surprise is the greatest gift that life can grant us Boris Pasternak

The role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them. Anton Chekhov

Where to start? Everything cracks and shakes, The air trembles with similes, No one world's better than another; the earth moans with metaphors.
Osip Mandelstam

It has kept his heart alive but bemazed his brain. Vladimir Nabokov, 1955. He was talking about gin though, not vodka, beer, or champagne. 

A Month in the Country is a book by Ivan Turgenev

If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.  Ivan Turgenev

If you look for perfection you'll never be content. Anna Akhmatova

Since the tea is not forthcoming, let's have a philosophical conversation. Anton Chekhov

You see even in Siberia there is happiness. Anton Chekhov

You can't imagine how stupid the whole world has grown nowadays.
Nikolai Gogol

Description should be very brief and have an incidental nature. Anton Chekhov

When everything is easy one quickly gets stupid. Maxim Gorky

You never reach any truth without making 14 mistakes and very likely 114. Fyodor Dostoyevsky  

In 1900 in response to a query from a young translator about publication of his works in Britain, Chekhov wrote: I am of so little interest to the British public that I don’t care in the least.

An unusual beginning must have an unusual endMikhail Lermontov

Perhaps, somewhere, some day, at a less miserable time, we may see each other again. Vladimir Nabokov

If you ask me, something sinister lurks in men who avoid wine, games, the company of lovely women, and dinnertime conversation. Such people are either gravely ill or secretly detest everyone around them. 
Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita

Moscow... how many strains are fusing in that one sound, for Russian hearts! what store of riches it imparts!  Alexander Pushkin

The quote from Chekhov suggests where our current phrase The Elephant in the Room might have come from.

Your voice is wild and simple. You are untranslatable Into any one tongue.
Anna Akhmatova

Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.
Fyodor Dostoevsky

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