Starting Anew or Again or Freshly Baked

Новый: new (more or less) И снова я… (It’s me again), still thinking in February about новый год (new year) — and of course старый новый год (old new year, i.e., by the old Julian calendar) — and how things новый that happen снова are often not new at all. In fact, снова (literally “anew”)…

Documentary on Jailed Kremlin Critic Alexei Navalny Nominated for Oscar

The U.S.-produced fly-on-the-wall documentary “Navalny,” which followed the now-jailed Russian anti-corruption campaigner and Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny during the aftermath of a poisoning attempt in 2020, was nominated for an Academy Award on Tuesday. The film, directed by Daniel Roher, shows Navalny during his recuperation in Berlin from poisoning with nerve agent Novichok and as…

Reboot of Soviet Cartoon Becomes Russia’s Highest-Grossing Film

A Russian film reboot featuring legendary Soviet cartoon character Cheburashka has become Russia’s highest-grossing film of all time, surpassing the first part of James Cameron’s “Avatar” despite only being released two weeks ago, according to statistics published by the Russian Cinema Fund.  The total box office from “Cheburashka,” which was released on Jan. 1, has already surpassed…

Reboot of Soviet Cartoon Becomes Russia’s Highest-Grossing Film Ever

A Russian film reboot featuring legendary Soviet cartoon character Cheburashka has become Russia’s highest-grossing film of all time, surpassing the first part of James Cameron’s “Avatar” despite only being released two weeks ago, according to statistics published by the Russian Cinema Fund.  The total box office from “Cheburashka,” which was released on Jan. 1, has already surpassed…

First Probe Opened Into Breach of Russia’s New ‘LGBT Propaganda’ Law

Russia’s Interior Ministry has opened its first investigation into a breach of the recently expanded law against so-called “LGBT propaganda,” State Duma Deputy Alexander Khinshteyn announced on his Telegram channel on Tuesday.   President Vladimir Putin signed a series of amendments to Russia’s existing anti-LGBT legislation into law in November, making any promotion of “non-traditional sexual…

The Pie that Destroyed the Soviet Union

Where there’s Christmas, there’s Christmas Eve. Twelve days “from star to water,” that is, from the appearance of the first star on Christmas Eve to baptism on Epiphany. This holiday is a vivid example of how pagan and Christian rituals merged in our history. Russian holidays have always been an amazing combination of spiritual rejuvenation…

The Russian Film Industry Goes East

In 2022, Russian filmmkers were virtually shut out from Western markets. They were not invited to the world’s main film festivals and their films were boycotted. The alternative? Go East.  The logical first step was to try to forge closer ties with India, which has the largest film industry in the world and a long…

Documentaries on Russian Opposition, Climate Change Shortlisted for Oscars

Two documentaries about prominent Russian opposition figures and a film on life in the Russian Arctic are among the titles shortlisted for the 95th Oscars released by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Wednesday.  Daniel Roher’s “Navalny,” which explores the events following the Kremlin critic’s nerve-agent poisoning in August 2020, was shortlisted…

The Hopeless Quest for Language Purity

Общеупотребимые слова: commonly used words Every year or so some state organization at some level in Russia demands or proposes or drafts a law that would keep foreign words out of the Russian language so that the Russian language will remain, well, purely Russian. The fact that this happens regularly suggests that the process is…

Words of the Year 2022

Слово года 2022: Word of the year, 2022 Every year a group of Russian word-watchers track all the words and expressions that seem to capture the spirit — or obsessions — of the year coming to an end. The group, headed by linguist and professor of Russian language and literature Mikhail Epstein, is made up…

Angry? Welcome to the Zoo!

Бешенство: rabies, fury The Russian language has lots of ways to describe getting angry, losing your temper, and flying off the handle. Сердиться/рассердиться (to get angry) is just so bland. It can’t capture the rage you feel when, say, you spend two hours filling in an online application, hit “save” and watch your work disappear…

The Art of Pâté

The Russian word “pashtet” (паштет) may not be Russian originally, but now it is firmly part of the language. But few people today know the origin of this term. The word “pâté” is related to the word “pasta.”  This isn’t just a fun fact of linguistics. Pâté was indeed related to dough. A few centuries ago,…

Get Ready for Seasons Greetings

Щедрая душа: a generous soul It’s that time of the year again: holidays, parties, merrymaking followed by more holidays, parties and merrymaking. If all goes well and we are lucky, we spend time with hospitable, good-natured, well-meaning folks. Naturally, this got me thinking about how to express this in Russian. The fun part is that…

In Russia Thursday is Fish Day

Thursday was a special day in the Soviet Union— Fish Day. All the cafeterias in the country only sold fish dishes that day. Until Friday dawned, meat and poultry were off the menus and Soviet citizens dined on fried pollock or minced cod patties. Fish Day was invented by Anastas Mikoyan in 1932. The order…

Russian Pandemonium Pop Quiz

Ералаш: mish-mash, chaos; Soviet-era children’s television show It’s Friday in a rather gloomy November, which is the perfect time for a pop quiz. Clear your desk of all papers, switch off your cell phones, get out your pencils and start testing your knowledge of Russian. Паноптикум is (pick two): a) a special wide-angle lens used…

Aleksandr Gorshkov, Half of First Ice Dance Olympic Gold Medal Pair, Dies

Russian skater Aleksandr Gorshkov, the first Olympic ice dancing champion and president of the Russian Figure Skating Federation, has died at the age of 76, the federation said Thursday.  “Aleksandr Georgyevich gave his whole life to figure skating, his contribution to the development of Russian and world skating is invaluable,” federation director general Alexander Kogan told…

Can Protest Art Exist in Russia?

Three young women wearing the capes of superheroes, their bodies painted in the colors of the state flags of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, make love on a white canvas that symbolizes the canvas of history. This video performance “NO” and another work were shown in August at the Climate Cultures Festival in Berlin. The performance…

Russian Ushnoye: Soup or Stew?

Ushnoye is yet another mysterious Russian dish that culinary experts are still arguing about. We decided to be detectives and investigate it through the centuries of Russian cookery. The famous Russian lexicographer Vladimir Dahl defined it this way: “Ushnoye is a meat or actually any kind of broth, stew, or a hot dish made of…

Russian Audiences Held ‘Hostage’ By Mock Ukrainian Soldiers in Pro-War Play

Theatergoers south of Moscow were held “hostage” and shot at by actors playing Ukrainian soldiers during an immersive play that glorifies Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, local media reported Tuesday. Opening scenes from the production titled “Polite People” showed actors dressed in Ukrainian military uniforms violently capturing audience members and shooting them with what appeared to…

Who Doesn’t Love Cabbage Rolls?

A joke in Russian goes like this: some people eat meat, some people eat cabbage, but on average people eat cabbage rolls. Today everyone in Russia knows what cabbage rolls are. But 200 years ago this was a culinary novelty for Russians. The traditional territory of cabbage rolls is Eastern Europe and Scandinavia — although…

Adam Curtis’ ‘TraumaZone’ Delivers Harrowing But Essential View of Russia’s Post-Soviet Decade

Nobody can accuse Adam Curtis of lacking ambition in his new BBC series “Russia 1985-1999: TraumaZone.”  In a harrowing seven-hour viewing experience made up entirely of archival footage, the British filmmaker attempts to recreate the atmosphere of the Soviet Union’s final years and Russia’s brief experiment with democracy. While not as broad in scope as…

Adam Curtis Delivers Harrowing But Essential View of Post-Soviet Russia in New Series

Nobody can accuse Adam Curtis of lacking ambition in his new BBC series “Russia 1985-1999: TraumaZone.”  In a harrowing seven-hour viewing experience made up entirely of archival footage, the British filmmaker attempts to recreate the atmosphere of the Soviet Union’s final years and Russia’s brief experiment with democracy. While not as broad in scope as…

Chocolate Potatoes for Dessert

One of the rites of culinary passage for foreigners in Russia is the first time they are introduced to a “chocolate potato,” one of the iconic dishes of Soviet cuisine. It was served in restaurants and student cafeterias, and often made at home. Made of crushed dry cookies or breadcrumbs mixed with butter, condensed milk…

To Err is Human in Every Language

Вышла ошибочка: whoops I’m not sure there’s an art to making mistakes, but there is an art to deciding which verb or phrase you want to use in Russian to describe your particular screw-up. Was it a misunderstanding? A lapse of judgment? Did you get something wrong? Was it an honest mistake or did you…

The Paradox of Pelmeni

Pelmeni are a paradoxical dish. Although Siberian pelmeni most likely came from China originally — from famous New Year’s dumplings called jiaozi — their name — pelmeni — is from the group of Finno-Ugric languages. They are considered a “national Russian dish,” although up to the mid-19th century or even later pelmeni were a truly…

Why is There a Dog in Your Email?

@: собака (dog) Today I have a very exciting topic:  Russian punctuation and typographical marks. No, really! Don’t you want to know why @ is a собака (dog) in Russian and what you call those claw-like Russian quotation marks? Haven’t you asked yourself if дефис the same thing as тире? And surely you have pondered…