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Andrey Chikatilo

20 November

On November 20, 1990, detectives arrested serial killer Andrey Chikatilo, who had became known as “The Butcher of Rostov”. During a 12-year period Chikatilo killed, dismembered, and occasionally cannibalized 21 boys, 14 girls, and 18 women in and around the southern region of Rostov in Russia. …

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Peter Carl Faberge

Peter Carl Faberge was a world famous master jeweler and head of the ‘House of Faberge’ in Imperial Russia in the waning days of the Russian Empire.

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Of Russian origin: Zavalinka

Vladimir Kremlev for RT Vladimir Kremlev for RT

Zavalinka is the mound of earth along the outer walls of a peasant's house.

The word originates from the Russian equivalent of the verb «to heap» - zavalit' and is a typical Russian hytorism. Literally zavalinka means mound or mud, which peasants used to coat the basements of their wooden houses with, in order to insulate them against the cold. Traditionally Russians built their log houses on wooden piles, so the basements were not protected from draughts and dampness. To make homes warm, peasants heaped mounds along the perimeter of the basement. 

Over the course of time, zavalinka was more often used to describe something other than just a mound of mud. It became a synonym of a ‘cozy corner' or a 'gossip bench'. The fact is that traditionally Russians used zavalinki as natural benches, where they could spend hours sitting and chatting, sharing gossip and the latest news. This is why if you google zavalinka in cyrillic letters on the Russian web, most of the sites to come up will be forum websites. In other words, zavalinka in old Russia was used to describe the same thing that the words 'forum' or 'message board' are used to describe nowadays.

Though the zavalinka completely surrounded a house, traditionally, the part where people used to sit was at the front of the house, facing the street. Thus it was more convenient to chat with passersby and not to miss something important. Girls would also make themselves up and sit on zavalinka, flirting with potential grooms. However, if a girl spent too much time on a zavalinki, instead of working in the backyard, she was considered careless and lazy and was out of the running as an eligible bride. 

Normally peasants flocked to their zavalinki at sunset, when the day was dying. Women would finish with their work in the garden, men would come back from fields… A traditional Russian-style squire dinner or 'meat tea' was waiting for them. And only after the meal would a family come out of their house and take a seat on the zavalinka.

Elderly people were given the best and the most comfortable seats. Women would knit or spin wool on a spinning wheel, or just husk sunflower seeds (another one of Russians' strong addictions)… And of course, they would chat. After all, this is what zavalinka was all about. When the first cinema projectors appeared in Russian villages, discussing films became one of the most popular topics.

Work in a Russian village was hard for children, who had to spend the whole afternoon helping around the house, haying, and cooking for livestock and grazing cattle. This is why they looked forward to the zavalinka-time more than their parents did. After dinner with a glass of a hot drink, fathers would mellow down and mothers would forgive their kids for their mischief.

Evenings on zavalinki traditionally ended with singing. Sometimes it seemed that a whole village blended into one big chorus. 

In modern villages zavalinki have been replaced with benches, but the word hasn't changed, and neither have the rituals accompanying the zavalinki pleasant pastime.

Written by Ekaterina Gracheva, RT Correspondent