Cultural Night: Former Soviet Union
University of North Dakota
Russia may be under new management but the culture of the Soviet Union lives on.
Students at The University of North Dakota crowded the Loading Dock to learn all about the lifestyle and culture of the former republic. “We [Soviets] felt unified as a country,” said UND Chemistry Associate Professor Alexei Novikov. “We were united, even on an international level.”
Though Novikov grew up in the Soviet Union as a child, he still recalls the lifestyle of a typical Soviet with clear detail. “Humor was big in the Soviet Union,” Novikov said. Sure, some people got in trouble for it, but it was ‘part of our culture.’ Soviet humor was “rich in anecdotes and hidden satire.”
“Everything the Soviet Union produced was big and heavy,” Novikov said. “You could at least use it to crack nuts.”
Students who attended were treated to a language lesson along with a trip back in time. Novikov, accompanied by several Russian dancers, demonstrated a dance once performed by the Young Pioneers, the Russian equivalent of the American Boy Scouts.
After a few trivia questions, it was time for a feast.
In the Soviet Union, residents had three food options available to them: home cooking, party dining or public food service, obschepit.
“You could sneak your way into eating at the party cafeterias,” Novikov said. “The food was better and much cheaper.”
Guests were treated to a typical “regulation” Soviet meal, arranged into three courses (the first, second and the compote).
- A beef and rice soup, the harcho, completed the first dish.
- Meat and a garnish (potato, rice, pasta, and buckwheat) made up the second. Our course of Teftelis pyure was a meatball and mashed potato dish.
- A fresh apple compote ended the meal. Typically, the compote could assist a cup of tea, juice or other sweet liquid. A popular drink, kissel, was fortified with gelatin. “It was definitely an acquired taste,” Novikov said.
Novikov reflected on the past, saying, “[The USSR] was first in space ... first on the moon and put the first man in space.” Yet, all things considered, Novikov is pleased the Soviet republic “dismantled in a really, really peaceful way.”
“Things weren't that different, I was young when the Soviet Union fell,” Novikov said. “Luckily, I didn’t have to support myself and I wasn't exposed to much difficulties.”
“By now, more or less, the turmoil is over."
Armenia will be featured in the next Cultural Night on March 10, at 6:30 p.m. in the Loading Dock. The event is free with authentic cuisine for just $1.
Lee, Sean, "Cultural Night: Former Soviet Union" (2011). UND News Archive. 34.