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A cultural guide to Sochi opening ceremony

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 7, 2014 at 4:50 pm •  Published: February 7, 2014
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MOSCOW (AP) — Wondering about some of the Russian culture featured Friday in the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics? Here's a guide to the history, literature and art that made up a big part of the show.

WAR AND PEACE

For most, this enormous book is more doorstopper than showstopper. But many Russians, who grew up reading Leo Tolstoy's epic saga in school, know the story and its most famous scene — Natasha Rostova's first ball — by heart.

Bolshoi Theater prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova played Rostova, a young debutante in 19th-century Russia who is desperate to be asked to dance at her first ball. It's love at first sight when the handsome Andrei Bolkonsky, played by Danilo Korusnetsev of St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theater, approaches.

But their love proves cursed: Prince Bolkonsky is later injured on the battlefield by Napoleon's invading army, and eventually dies in Natasha's arms.

RUSSIA'S AVANT GARDE

The ceremony highlighted the young artists who took the country by storm after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Breaking away from what they called the decadence of traditional painting, the group pioneered a style influenced by industrial design and communist ideology.

The show made references to Kazimir Malevich, whose angular, almost sculpture-like paintings and famous black square were a loud rebuke to traditional painting. It featured Alexander Rodchenko, a groundbreaking photographer most famous for his dramatic pronouncement that 'Painting is dead,' and El Lissitzky, who pioneered propaganda as art.

After Stalin came to power in the 1920s and started to crack down on the arts, many of the country's energetic young artists fled the country or were killed.

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