Why We Should Love the Russians

I grew up during the Cold War (I added a link to that term for any Millennials who may be reading. I once trained a woman who had no idea what it meant to defect to America. I now assume nothing.) What this meant was that I was trained to fear the Russians. Politics; sports; punishment…didn’t matter what, fear the Russians.

But then Reagan, Gorbachev, and Glasnost appeared and many of us got to watch the fall of Communism and imagined Breshnev turning in his glass casket and the ghost of Lenin was finally snuffed out like Sandra Dee stepping on a ciggy. Suddenly there were food shortages and chaos in “The former Communist state of fill in the blank.” Not awesome and we went from fearing the Russians to feeling sorry for them.

Well, Putin changed all that and we’ve gone back to a, “Russia bad, America good” Rocky IV mentality. While that’s all well and good, we really are missing out on a lot of good shit over there in Commieville. Here are just a few reasons why you just gotta love those Ruskies…


Mink with Silver Fox trim. I want this coat so hard.

Fur A.F.

Last Sunday, instead of watching the Viking game (in the pit of my stomach I knew this wasn’t going to end well for our purple boys and I.Just.Can’t. watch them lose when just the week before I was screaming in joy with the rest of our new friends in an Atlanta hotel bar. I wanted that moment to be our last memory together. Heh) I watched the European figure skating Championships held in Moscow. With every scan of the sold out arena, I quickly noticed the multitude of fur coats. WHAT? Someone stands up to the PETA thugs? Figures it would be the Russians. Kudos. Now, you could say that those Russian winters are fur necessary but really, if you’ve ever visited Minnesota anywhere from October to April, you know that our winters are totally fur worthy.

I’d always wanted a mink coat. Ya know how some little girls in the 70’s cut out and taped pictures of Scott Baio and Leif Garret up on their walls, I cut out and taped pictures of fur coats. Totally serious. Fur coats were a mysterious luxury that I could only dream about in the quiet of my room. A woman wearing a fur coat didn’t have my problems. She was up on a pedestal where she remained untouched by others’ fuckedupedness and ruled the world in her fur coat. I wanted to be that woman.


A long fur coat meant that you could meet your husband at the airport in nothing but sexy undies and your fur. Someone make sure Matt see’s this please to increase my chances of a fur coat.

But then I guess we started feeling sorry for those cute little ferret type minks and we couldn’t wear fur anymore. JHMFC, I can’t say fag OR wear fur, what fun is life? But those Russians? Fuck the world, they’re wearing their fur. And if they can, I can. Fur is back on the dream list. Years ago, Matt’s mom offered me his Grandma’s fur coat. I so wanted to take it but short and stocky me didn’t fit into tall and graceful grammy’s coat (at 90 she’s still taller than me. That gives a hint as to how tall she was back in the day.)

When I was in my early 20’s, I mustered enough courage to walk into Dayton’s Oval Room and try on a few mink coats under the watchful eye of no less than three employees who, of course, knew I couldn’t afford to even be in there but let me have my fun anyway. Thank’s Oval Room employees, you let a young woman live out a fantasy, if only for a few moments.

Score one for the Russians, Fur A.F.



If you can name a strength sport, chances are high that not only has Misha done it, he’s done it at it’s top level. Also, power belly x a gazillion.

If you close your eyes and imagine the ultimate strength athlete in terms of raw talent; work ethic; camaraderie; charm; a joyful spirit; comfortable ego; a showman, and a zest for life, you would conjure Misha. It may be a different face, but it will be him nontheless.  He is one of Matt’s favorites among the Champions League days and he has quite a few stories that make you like someone you’ll probably never get a chance to spend time with (as a mortal anyway;)

Many Russian athletes just seem to have fun. I like that. They don’t put on some silly show for their eight or nine Instagram followers, they just show themselves. Usually pranking each other in some way with lots of deep laughter afterward, they remind us to always have fun. But when they are working or training, they go hard. That gets lost on many around these parts. There is always fun to be had, but goofing off while attempting a lift or a truck pull or a stone load is given the respect it deserves. It’s why I only watch a few weightlifter video’s. A) I learn from them but mostly, 2. these people just work gawdsawful hard and it shows all over their face. The fun will come but during the lifts? Business. They’re there to get better. To be better.

And then it’s time for fun.

World's Strongest Man 2010 - Sun City, South Africa

WSM 2010 Powerbelly twinsies. Scrumptious.

There is a video of Misha singing with other’s the Israeli national anthem in the gym while he plays his accordion. One of the greatest moments of this video is when a young woman walks out behind him with her coat (not a fur coat but she’s pretty young so maybe she’s still saving for hers) and hat on. At that moment, Misha playing his accordion and singing is so everyday in her life that she feels comfortable walking out during it. I love that. Lucky girl. If you have 10 minutes to four hours to waste, hang out on the Youtube and watch Misha videos. The beauty of them is that you never know what will be next. Strongman? Weightlifting? Shooting guns? Throwing his daughter in the snow? Singing with his shirt off?

Time well spent IMO. I can’t think of an American counterpart to Misha. One who can display charm as well as strength that spans his success. Also,


Tatiana Kashirina

Tatiana Kashirina is unarguably one of (if not THE) strongest women in the world. She approaches a 193kg clean and jerk with a methodical determination that shows no fear. I cannot imagine that kind of lifting. And don’t even think of being so stupid as to bring up drugs. Because drugs don’t get you a 193kg clean and jerk folks. If they did, this would be happening a lot more often. And it doesn’t…so shut up.

I miss seeing her on the platform. Her quiet confidence. Her strength.

I’m not saying Americans don’t have strength, obviously. What I AM saying is that if you admire strength, you’re going to have to include the Russians in that admiration because if you whimsically dismiss them to drugs, you are a stupid person who doesn’t understand how the strength world works. Don’t be a stupid person.

The National Anthem

Now, look, I love our National Anthem (I don’t know if I’m supposed to capitalize that or not so I will and then I won’t and one of them will be correct.) The flavor of the day protests against it at NFL Games were complete and utter bullshit. But we all knew that, right? That these slacktivist actions of few were an attempt to stay in the news cuz lawds know you’re playing wasn’t doing it.

Anyways. Moving on.

Growing up as the Russians won medal after medal at every Olympics meant that I would hear the national anthem no less than four bazillion times in two weeks time. I think it’s kind of funny now, looking back, how often my dad would stomp off in disgust saying that these athletes were robots and the gold medals didn’t mean anything to them. I mean, I dunno. They looked happy. I was just happy I got to hear their National anthem (see what I did there?) again. It’s loud, and majestic, and usually sung by men’s choirs and I don’t care who you are; when Rocky stood so small and bright in the boxing ring among all the uniformed spectators and politicians during the anthem, wasn’t that a moment?

In general, I really enjoy how European men like to sing folk songs. I think it’s awesome. A love for music and usually country unashamedly sung loudly…usually with alcohol. To me, this is very manly. Even without alcohol. We have a polka joint down the road here in Milwaukee, I’d really like to go. But they keep getting held up so I dunno, not. The owner did shoot a dude who was trying to rob him once though, that was cool. I’d just kind of like to go somewhere that gun shots aren’t the norm.

I’m picky that way.


But that National Anthem gets me every time. No, it’s not as great as ours. But when they play it, people stand. Every people. And you can joke that if they don’t they get shot. See, another reason why you should love the Russians.

I kid. Kinda.



The cellar where the Romanovs were executed.

Yes, America has a revolution. All the cool countries do. And I’m incredibly proud of ours, especially after learning so much more of it these last few years. Many died, still do in efforts to keep our country free. I am proud of that.

But Russia murdered an entire family in the middle of the night and then lied about it for 80 years and was then drowned into communism. I wonder when the Bush like Billboards went up along the roads of Russia with a picture of Tsar Nicholas that said, Miss Me Yet? Probably not ever but still, missed opportunity there.

Matt has had amazing visits to Russia. That’s cool and it’s definitely on my bucket list. He got to tour one of the Romanov palaces and even sent me a post card which only took about 6 months to get here. True story. His rep even took him to an Army museum and insisted on buying Oscar a true Russian Tank helmet. Yup. Oz has a true Russian Tank helmet in his collection thanks to the generosity of a Russian.

Score one for the Russians.




Now, really, I don’t want to see a world power leader shirtless while fishing but COME ON! Fucking Putin…fishing with his shirt off!

My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.

President Reagan

About tosabarbell

For training opportunities at tosabarbell, call or text Juli at 320-296-9313. e-mail to jep6095@gmail.com At tosabarbell, I build relationships cultivated in a strength and learning environment. There is no 12 week magic pill program to strength but rather a lifetime commitment to be the very best and most useful human you can be. tosabarbell is a private, home grown gym with three lifting platforms; squat rack; prowlers; throwing implements; bars, bumpers and everything else needed for an effective strength and conditioning program. Straightforward barbell programming including the Olympic lifts; sound (read: not fancy bullshit) diet advance for weight gain or loss; and strong coaching will ensure you will meet your goals such as becoming stronger, more explosive, and better conditioned. I have been coaching teams and athletes for over 30 years. I grew up participating in various sports at various levels but was always drawn to those that require strength training. I have multiple local, national, and world records in the sports of Weightlifting and Highland Games Heavy Events as well as a combined total of 5 World Championships. My 5 years of training and coaching under Mark Rippetoe provided a wide range of influence from some of the top strength & conditioning and throwing coaches in the country. I will strongly encourage tosabarbell athletes to compete (and prepare you to do so.) However, tosabarbell is also for those who wish to be stronger and go through life feeling better. Matt WanAt is a retired Professional Strongman who competed frequently with Strongman Champions League in Europe. He played a year of D1 football with Iowa before concentrating on his Chemical Engineering degree in Iowa City. He is a native of Wauwatosa and still remains a staunch supporter of Tosa East. This blog will be a mixture of strength notes, coaching and nutrition tips, personal shit; bacon delicacies, and a whole lot of fun.
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