Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ethnic Patterns

15 Days to go!
9 Days until our first rehearsal with audience!
7 Days until our first full dress rehearsal

I am often asked why I decided to come to Russia.  Many are intrigued why an American would have such an interest in Russia, but my reasons are unique:  (1) I am a scholar and historian of the ceremonies of the Olympic Games and (2) my family history is Volga-German, meaning that they were for generations, Germans living in Russia.

They lived along the southern Volga River region of Russia not too far from Sochi.  During the early 20th Century a genocide of Russian Germans annihilated these communities and culture.  Some escaped and settled in the plains of North America where the climate was similar.  Others died by starvation, during mass exodi to Kazakhstan or to the Gulags, work camps, in Siberia.  I am passionate about preserving their culture, and in a way, Sochi is helping to do just that.

As mentioned before, my interpreter serendipitous is of Volga German ancestry.  Although she doesn't speak German, she walked around yesterday in a Deutschland hoodie.  Here in Sochi, the Olympics have an official clothing pattern.  It is essentially a quilt.  However, each patch of the quilt is a different cloth representing a very specific Russian ethnic culture.  To find out more, click here and click on the pictures, using the arrows to scroll through the different patterns:

Ethnic culture is very important in Russia and you will see this on display in the ceremony.  The 1980 opening ceremony in Moscow featured and hour of ethnic dances in traditional clothing by all the ethnic groups of Russia.  This was the first mega ceremony of sorts.  I cannot tell you what we are doing this year, but one example of this patchwork of ethnic cultures, including the Volga Germans, is found in the quilt pattern.

Unfortunately, the quilt pattern, along with the Olympic colors, is over the top.  The workers are required to wear this, and for one day, I decided to join in and wear the full outfit so all of you around the world could have a good laugh at my blue pants.

Oh my...

Rainy, muddy day in the Russian sub-tropics

Rainy day in Sochi
Today, we have several monster tech rehearsals in the Olympic Stadium!  I'm excited to finally get the pieces to come together.  Despite what you may read or hear back in the states; I feel 100% safe here in Sochi.  I have armed guards with me at all times, I have many checkpoints to go through to get to work, and I cannot even bring in a crumbled up receipt or a cookie.  I do not see any way someone could get past the military of the Russian Federation.  They are top notch!  On top of that, we are going on lock-down, which will increase all the security operations.

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