The Dombyra: The Kazakh’s Musical Soul

The dombyra (домбыра) is a lute-style instrument. It is an ancient and quintessential piece of Kazakh culture and identity. In its most popular form, the dombyra has two-strings strung down a long, skinny neck and a pear-shaped body, flat at the front and rounded on the backside. The standard English spelling of dombra is taken […]

Nowruz: A Spring New Year of Modern National Pride

Nowruz is a spring solstice celebration that marks the beginning of the New Year according to the traditional Persian calendar. It has been a beloved holiday for some 3,000 years, surviving cultural change caused by centuries of tumultuous history. It is now celebrated on the set date of March 21st. The holiday has long been […]

Samsa: A Tasty Pastry of the Silk Road

The samsa (самса) is a meat- or vegetable-filled savory pastry. They are both flaky (слоеная) and crispy (хрустящая). They are enjoyed across the former USSR, where they are most associated with Central Asian cuisine. The samsa originated in the Middle East and spread across the Silk Road (Шелковый путь), reaching Central Asia, India, and Africa. […]

The Games of Dygyn: History, Sport, and Honor in the Sakha Republic

The original Sakha is given for some terms in parentheses. Photographs provided by Mitrofan kyyha Varvara Egorova-Dygyia, Susan Crate, and Kathryn Yegorov-Crate. The Games of Dygyn or the Dygyn oonn’uulara (Дыгын оонньуулара), as they are known locally, is a multisport competition held in the Republic of Sakha, located in Siberia. It is comprised of seven […]

Sakha Traditional Clothing: How to Dress in the Coldest Place on Earth

The original Sakha is given for some terms in parentheses. Photographs provided by Mitrofan kyyha Varvara Egorova-Dygyia, Susan Crate, and Kathryn Yegorov-Crate. The Sakha Republic, known as Sakha sire (Саха сирэ) in the Sakha language, is home to one of the most extreme climates on earth. Winter temperatures regularly dip past -45F, making it the […]

Baursak: The Donut of Hospitality

Throughout much of Central Asia, one type of bread stands out from all the rest – baursak (баурсак). These small pieces of fried dough are known throughout Central Asia among many of the Turkic and Mongolian-speaking peoples there. In Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan especially, they are served as everyday fare accompanied by tea and are staple […]

Beshbarmak: The Rich, Meaty Pasta from Central Asia

Beshbarmak (Бешбармак) is a dish enjoyed throughout Central Asia as well as regions of Russia and China. It consists of boiled meat served on a bed of thick, flat noodles and covered in an onion sauce called tuzdyk (туздык). A meal both hearty and delicious, beshbarmak is particularly popular in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan where it holds […]

Yhyakh: A Summer New Year in the Coldest Place on Earth

The original Sakha is given for some terms in parentheses. Photographs provided by Mitrofan kyyha Varvara Egorova-Dygyia, Susan Crate, and Kathryn Yegorov-Crate. Yhyakh (ыһыах) is the Sakha people’s annual summer festival during which Sakha make offerings to sky deities known as aiyy (айыы) and make merry before the laborious hay-cutting season. Yhyakh is often rendered […]

The Talking Yakut (Sakha) Phrasebook

The Talking Phrasebook Series presents useful phrases and words in side-by-side translation and with audio files specifically geared to help students work on listening skills and pronunciation. Each entry below, divided by category, features an English word or phrase in the left column and its Russian translation in the right. The Russian is presented in […]

Saida Mukhametzyanova: Tatar Folk Singer

Саида Мухаметзянова (Saida Mukhametzyanova) is a young Russian musical phenomenon known for her renditions of classic Tatar folk songs. Born in the Upper Pyshma of the Sverdlovsk Region in Russian, Saida began her musical education at a folklore singing studio at the age of four, where her teachers noticed her musical talent and encouraged her […]

Horse Trekking in Kyrgyzstan – Student Observations

While Bishkek is a modern, dynamic and constantly evolving city, it still provides an opportunity to tap into the ancient nomadic traditions of the Kyrgyz people. One of those traditions, horseback traveling, is becoming increasingly popular with SRAS students – and surely for a good reason. Practicing Russian and Kyrgyz while learning about local culture […]

Cheburek: The Half-moon Pastry from Crimea

On streets throughout the post-Soviet space, you can generally find the “чебурек” (cheburek) — a juicy, fried, savory pastry — for sale. This tasty treat likely originated in Turkey or Crimea and its popularity slowly traveled north and eventually spread throughout what is today the former USSR. Why It’s Called “Cheburek” (Почему они носят такое […]

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