Russia Reviewed in 2017, pt. II of II

Three days ago, I examined feedback from the end-of-year survey and decided to change a few things on Russia Reviewed this year. Today’s post is shorter and focuses on my personal New Year’s resolutions (those connected to Russian Studies and blogging, anyway).

Clean up that editorial policy.

This blog could become an asset in the future, should I continue my current course of RA analysis and/or translation. Wouldn’t want any future employers to see my rage pages, now would we? 🙂

In all seriousness, I’d like to return to a few reviews and rewrite them because I feel I could’ve done a better job. I challenge myself to write longer posts, craft more compelling arguments and shed that last bit of “classical Russophilia”* I’ve been clinging to.

Translate a book of at least 100 pages.

Россия. Надежды и тревоги by Evgeny Primakov, perhaps?

You know, just for practice.

Grow a thicker skin.

As the blog’s first troll and the events of December 12th have shown me, the world of Russia-watching is a dangerous place both online and offline. It’s not for the faint of heart. Despite having pure human interest in and a passion for Russian affairs (you’d think those would be enough to drive me), I’m still hurt by accusations hurled at me by other Russia-watchers across the ideological spectrum. My solution? Grow a skin thick enough to prevent those comments from stinging. This of course doesn’t mean ignoring all criticism. Criticism is like a disease: it’s unpleasant, but the organism occasionally needs it. However, toughening up will require learning the thing most difficult for a person inclined to listen, like myself: how to tune some people out.

Find some confidence. Or some courage; either will do.

Lots of applications for it:

  • daring to make mistakes when speaking Russian
  • combating self-censorship in my writing
  • being unafraid to ask weird or ugly questions
  • wearing “useful idiot” as a badge of honor (not really…but you get my drift)

Get to writin’.

This year, I want to either write a short story (5-6 pages) or complete research/worldbuilding for one of my six working novel/comic ideas. (Not idea 5A-E though; my research for that one will remain incomplete until a certain leader dies…)

Stay sane.

Actually, no guarantees on this one. The batcrap insanity surrounding Russia isn’t going away any time soon. It’s only a matter of time before my battered carapace cracks and I drown in the waves of hysteria, distortions, and inflammatory rhetoric pouring in from all sides. If 2016 was any indication, the turnover rate is pretty quick. In a matter of months, I went from a calm, inquisitive, somewhat naive Russia-watcher to a frustrated fiend ready to choke out anyone who forced the TrumPutin narrative on me. So if I go certifiably nuts in 2017, it’s 100% Russia’s fault!


*Tricky thing, this classical Russophilia. At best, it leads one to gloss over faults like abuse of administrative resources in Russia; at worst, it leads to Romantic infatuation with the country. Classical Russophilia’s effect on me is closer to the former than the latter.



  1. A thought. Seeing as you have here a native Russian speaker (waves hand) you can always ask me if you have some questions about the language. I also had a very strange idea this “morning”, rising up from the olivie salad induced coma, to enLYTTEN all people iterested in studying Russian language about the names of various animals and birds… as used in a way to insult other people. You will be amazed how often calling someone else a [insert animal/birdie here] in Russian speaks volumes about your attitude to that person, that person’s personality and is not considered to be “R-rated” as, say Russian mat.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Birds??? Whoa, I’m fascinated! Do tell (after the effects of your New Year’s feast wear off, of course.)”

    Here? In this comment section? Is this okay with J.T.?

    Okay – “demo version” of it. Part 1 “The Bird is the Word”

    Actually, this won’t be 100% insult-themed post (I know – what a blunder!), but a general talk about the usage of bird names as a way to comment about your fellow humans… in Russian.

    1) The hen (rus. курица). Uses to ironically/negatively describe a busybody woman, constantly worrying about trivial stuff and/or overprotective mother/granny/GF/wife, going to great length to “protect” their (usual male) “charge”. The process of “caring” about said charge is referred to as “To cluck like a hen over smb” (rus. “Квохтать как курица над кем-то”). Also could be used in expressions, questioning someone’s bravery, e.g. “У него душа куриная” (lit. “He has hen’s soul”) and is close to use to the English language expressions about chickens.

    2) The rooster (rus. петух). Prison slang term for a male (passive) homosexualist. Considered close to R-rated insult and a good reason to issue a strong (preferably – in the face) retort for anyone suggesting that.

    3) The goose (rus. гусь). Now mostly out of use, but still encountered in expressions describing uncaring person or just uncaring jerk. E.g. expression/exclamation “Хорош, гусь!” talks not about “good” quality of someone, but directly likens someone (male) to this bird. Ergo the most famous goose-centric expression: “С него всё, что с гуся вода” (“Everything washes away from him, like water off goose”).
    The female goose (rus. гусыня) is used to refer to silly, naïve (female) person.

    4) The gobbler (rus. индюк). Used to describe pompous, full of himself (male) person – not always even an official of any sort, just someone you see behaving in such a way.

    5) The blackcock and cock of the wood (rus. глухарь и тетерев). Wood birds and a good sport for hunters. According to widely held belief, both of them related birds are hard of hearing. Hence the expression “глухой, как тетерев” (“deaf as a cock of the wood”) or “глухая тетеря” (same, and despite using the (f) form of “тетерев” could be applied to any person). The name itself – “глухарь” – shares the root with the word for the deafness (rus. глухота). Also the police slang refers to a murder case with little chance to be solved as “глухарь” and applies the same word to the late victim.

    6) The owl (rus. сова (f), филин/сыч (m)). Owls are night predators so there was another widely held belief among the hunters – that they have too sensitive eyes to see anything in the broad daylight. This translated to sometimes (not often) use it to refer to the people with poor eyesight (it’s done rarely only because there are better comparisons – i.e. the mole). Another use is to compare to “сыч” someone gloomy, passive-aggressive or who is angrily eyeing every your move as if readying to spring into action any moment now.

    7) The crow (rus. ворона (f)). Rarely used nowadays as a standalone insult. In general, can be still applied to a female person who doesn’t take care of her appearance, especially hair (“crow’s nest”) and clothing. Most often used in the expression “белая ворона” (white crow) used to describe someone obviously odd, weird, out of the ordinary and non-fitting-in person.
    When someone is doing nothing, clearly bored or distracted while doing some task, it’s often said that said person is “считает ворон” (counts the crows) – i.e. in the sentence “Хватит ворон считать – делом займись!”.

    8) The eagle (rus. орёл). “King of the birds” so to speak. Most often than not a (male) person is referred to as “орёл” in ironic/positive sense after doing something “impressive” and/or “heroic”. E.g.: your warrant officer could jokingly call a squad of soldiers who in timely fashion did such vital task as clearing a parade grounds from the snow as “Орлы!” (“Eagles!”).

    9) The swan (rus. лебедь). A slightly dated word for a female swan (“лебёдушка”) could still be used as a compliment for a woman, who exemplifies positive swan-ish qualities: she can walk gracefully like one (“пройтись лебёдушкой”) or she has a beautiful neck (“шея – лебединая!”) or she’s just really beautiful.
    Again – folk wisdom time! According to yet another belief, swan could sing one absolutely stunningly beautiful song… but only at the end of its life. Ergo “the last hurrah”, or the last good book/song/poem/political action done by somebody is referred to as the “swan’s song”.

    10) The peacock (rus. павлин). An embodiment of vanity and self-beautification of a man, especially the one who like bright and garish clothes. Dated word for a (f) peacock (rus. пава) is virtually out of use, and used to refer to haughty/uppity woman.

    11) The magpie (rus. сорока). While in the English the magpie is an epitome of “Oh, shiny!” and stealing stuff, in Russian she (its always she here) is an epitome of a gossip and endless chatter. A rumor or some piece of inside information could be said to be “brought on magpie’s tail” (rus. “сорока на хвосте принесла”).

    12) The sparrow (rus. воробей). Sometimes used to refer to someone ugly/dirty cute by going an extra mile and adding a suffix to end up with “воробушек”. Plus could be used to refer to the people who for various reasons eat too little – “поклевал, как воробушек”.

    That’s what I’ve recalled so far about the birds.

    Liked by 2 people

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