Moscow’s aggressive traffic and capricious weather are no barrier to the bicyclists featured in this post’s video! Although the Moscow Metro is, quite rightly, the most famous means of transportation associated with the city, the bicycling movement has also been making a mark in Moscow over the past several years. The bicycle sharing program Велобайк began in 2013 and has grown to include 380 automated rental points around the city. Bicycle paths and marked lanes (велодорожки, велополосы) have appeared in a few places, as you can see in this map provided by the advocacy group Веломосква. The people in the video featured here are taking part in a nighttime bike parade in July 2017. These organized rides, featuring roads closed to traffic and a festive, casual atmosphere, appear to take place about four times a year — so you might be able to join a parade yourself if you end up in Moscow at some point! The transcript below highlights some of the more easily understandable comments by parade participants.
Заметки о языке: Some of the richness of Russian verbs of motion is visible in the transcribed passage. We see the multidirectional imperfective verb “ездить,” the unidirectional imperfective verb “ехать” and the perfective verb “поехать.” “Ездить” comes up when one of the speakers is referring to his commute in general, both to and from work; “ехать” (conj. еду, едешь) appears as soon as he wishes to refer specifically to one leg of the trip, i.e. describing the literal process of motion in a single direction; and “поехать” appears when the correspondent wants to say “let’s set off!”.
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Audio content: Former paratroopers talking about how they celebrate their famous annual holiday. Visual content: Paratroopers young and old in their “telniashka” shirts, Gorky Park, people swimming in fountains, paratrooper banners.
One late summer event that always gets a fair amount of media attention in Russia is День ВДВ, i.e. “Paratrooper” or “Airborne Forces Day,” marked annually on August 2. “ВДВ” stands for “Воздушно-десантные войска” (“Air descent forces”) — soldiers trained to parachute from airplanes into enemy territory. August 2 is the anniversary of the first jump by airborne forces in 1930, and it’s now the day that both current and retired paratroopers — often called “десантники” — gather together to express pride in their organization, have a good time and reminisce with former comrades. Anything related to aviation had a special cachet starting in the early days of the Soviet Union, which may be one reason this particular segment of the military is so celebrated. Or maybe it’s just the paratroopers’ holiday flair that has drawn attention. In any case, two key elements are always associated with this celebration: watermelons and swimming in fountains. Neither element is necessarily officially supported, as a certain irrepressible lawlessness is part of the cultural image of the holiday. In recent years watermelons have not actually been supplied. (If I understand correctly, paratroopers paying for the watermelons was never part of the tradition.) Many men do end up in public fountains regardless of whether park administrators have decided to officially allow this activity. In Moscow, paratroopers traditionally gather in Gorky Park (Парк Горького). They wear blue berets and тельняшки, the iconic blue-and-white striped shirts that are part of their uniform (they are also part of the Navy uniform, and are fairly commonly worn by men outside the military as well). Many of them drink alcohol. In 2017 revelers reported that security allowed alcohol into the park as long as it was in plastic containers. A common exclamation is “Слава ВДВ!” (Glory to VDV!), which you can hear shouted at 9:55 in the video for this post. The paratrooper motto is “Никто кроме нас!” (“No one but us!”). Although the holiday has a reputation for rowdiness, it can also be a family event, and reports indicate that in recent years more and more men are bringing their wives and children for a picnic in the park.
In 2017 a reporter for НТВ reporting on this event was unfortunately punched live on air by a drunk man yelling about Ukraine — but it was reported that he was just a bystander, not actually a paratrooper (he was wearing neither a telniashka nor a beret). Nevertheless, perhaps in that spirit, the reporter from TV Rain who went to Gorky Park in 2017 ended up talking mostly to paratroopers who were too inebriated or too profane in their speech to provide good material for language practice (the profanity is bleeped out, so there is no learning potential there). So I went back to the segment for 2016, when TV Rain’s intrepid Vladimir Romensky managed to interview quite a few men who had interesting things to say about their military service and the holiday traditions. All of the segments were enjoyable to watch so I included them all below — pick what you like. In the first segment, a relentlessly optimistic and pleasant young paratrooper manages to fend off Romensky’s somewhat challenging questions in his determination to give the holiday a positive and appealing face and downplay all the wars happening in the world right now. In the second segment, a middle-aged man shares some interesting information about traditions of paratrooper service and the ways the army has changed over the past few decades. And in the third segment, a man who is a bit more profane and drunk than the first two puts an interesting spin on the question of whether or not to swim in fountains on this day.
Заметки о языке:
– A common nonstandard or regional variation of Russian is to use the preposition “с” in place of “из.” For example, referring to a city, a person who does not speak standard Russian might say “с ростовской области” or “с Пензы” (the city) instead of “из ростовской области” or “из Пензы.”
– The third speaker uses “ё-моё” several times as a euphemism for obscene language. Obscene phrases and their euphemisms can be tossed into speech almost as a filler, to express mild surprise or irritation.
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Audio content: Putin responds to questions about Russian interference in the US presidential election. Includes many examples of his trademark folksy-aggressive communicative style.
Video embedded below and available on Youtube. [UPDATED 7/23/2017 after the previous video was taken down]
I thought Luch sveta readers and Russian language learners would find it interesting to check in on what President Vladimir Putin has been saying about claims of Russian interference in foreign elections. The video featured in this post is also a wonderful example of Putin’s distinctive speech style (see comments below). To get a real feel for who Putin is, you need to hear him speaking in Russian in a non-scripted, combative setting like this one.
In the clip below, Putin responds to questions from NBC News journalist Megyn Kelly during an event at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (Петербургский международный экономический форум) in early June 2017. (Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is sitting between the two of them.) The Forum is an annual event intended to build connections between Russian and foreign business and political leaders. The event has become quite prestigious since Putin began promoting and attending it regularly in the mid-2000s.
Keep some background information in mind as you listen to Putin’s comments. In October 2016 the U.S. Intelligence Community announced that it was confident the Russian government was behind the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails. In January 2017 the CIA and FBI expressed “high confidence” that Putin had personally ordered a broad influence campaign meant to improve Trump’s election prospects and also undermine faith in the U.S. democratic process regardless of which candidate would win. The same report found that Russian hackers had gained access to voter information from several U.S. state election systems, but it did not find that actual vote tallies were altered. The Russian government’s influence campaign also involved the spreading of false information on social media channels. Russia’s influence campaigns are not limited to the U.S.; Russian media outlets also spread false information during the spring 2017 French presidential campaign, and the eventual victor, French President Emmanuel Macron, said that his campaign experienced many hacking attempts.
The Russian government’s response, as you’ll see in the video, is to deny the allegations, labeling them as hysterical or irrational Russophobia. Putin suggests that
Audio content: Participants in Moscow’s Victory Day celebration tell the story of their family’s connection to the war. Video content: Images of the “Immortal Regiment” Victory Day event in Moscow.
Links to two videos below.
My first blog post concerned the remarkable “Immortal Regiment” event that has become a popular part of Russia’s annual Victory Day (День победы) celebration on May 9. Two years later, the event has only grown in scale, and so I thought I’d offer some fresh material drawn from the most recent iteration of this popular parade. While many people associate Russia’s Victory Day celebration with the traditional Soviet military parade (the military parade still occurs; for images, see this video), the “Immortal Regiment” is a very different event, one based on the mass participation of regular citizens. The point is that people walk while carrying portraits of family members — parents, grandparents and great-grandparents — who participated in the “Great Patriotic War” (or, “Great Fatherland War,” Великая Отечественная Война), as World War II is known in Russian. The event allows even those ancestors who did not live to see the end of the war, or who were far away from major cities when Germany surrendered, to symbolically participate in a victory parade. The event mixes happiness and sorrow as Russians celebrate a historical moment of great national pride while preserving the memory of the immense sacrifices made to defeat the Nazis.
The “Immortal Regiment” is a new phenomenon in Russia. The first Immortal Regiment was spontaneously organized by journalists at an independent TV station in Tomsk in 2011. (The station, ТВ2, no longer broadcasts — like most other non-government-affiliated media outlets, it was gradually shut down in 2014.) The Tomsk event was soon picked up at the federal level and began to receive government support. “Immortal Regiment” marches now occur in cities across Russia and in former Soviet republics or nations with significant Russian populations. Vladimir Putin joined the event in Moscow for the first time in 2015 and this year once again walked at the head of the Immortal Regiment. Official estimates are that 850,000 participated in this year’s event in Russia’s capital, where the route runs down Tverskaia Street to Red Square, and that eight million people marched across the country.
This was a very positive report from Channel One on volunteer clean-up days in parks across Russia. They even made brooms double as selfie sticks! I also noticed that several minutes later they reported on some small anti-Putin protests that happened that same day. Presumably they expect viewers to draw the desired conclusion about what kind of civic engagement is best.
Another sign of spring is of course the early May holidays. Preparations are underway for WWII Victory Day (День победы) on May 9. Channel One had a reporter show off some military technology that will be featured in the parade. Another report displayed people handing out the orange-and-black Ribbons of St. George (Георгиевская ленточка). The ribbon was originally a component of a WWI and WWII military decoration and is now a common popular symbol of national pride.
Victory Day Parade: One of my earliest posts featured the popular “Immortal Regiment” parade that happens on May 9th — a remarkable phenomenon of contemporary Russia. It’s a great resource for learners or instructors.
Audio content: Voices from the March 26 anti-corruption protests in cities across Russia. Video content: Images of the protests, chanting crowds, speakers, police detainment of protestors.
I’ve finally found time to put together a great selection of voices and images from the anti-corruption protests that occurred in cities across Russia on March 26, 2017. The protests, which drew more participants than any similar event in the last several years, were organized by Aleksei Navalny’s Фонд борьбы с коррупцией (ФБК, Anti-Corruption Fund). In particular, demonstrators were reacting to the recently released video Он вам не Димон (He’s Not “Dimon” to You — a reference to a very casual nickname for Medvedev, which his press secretary famously rejected), in which Navalny methodically — and with quite a bit of PR skill — presents evidence that Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev has profited from numerous corrupt arrangements that give him access to magnificent vacation properties and luxury goods. The video is part of Navalny’s quixotic campaign to be elected president in the 2018 elections, an endeavor that is unlikely to end in his actual electoral victory but that nevertheless threatens to significantly undermine the political security of Putin and his circle.
Navalny’s video, together with details turned up by his foundation’s earlier investigations, is a pop culture phenomenon. The video seems to have appealed to young people in particular: many observers commented on the large number of high school students and college-age people at the protest events. Numerous “memes” related to Medvedev are visible in the videos below. They include ducks (a reference to a house for ducks located in a pond at Medvedev’s alleged secret dacha), athletic shoes (the first “thread” in Navalny’s investigation is a pair of colorful athletic shoes visible in Medvedev’s Instagram, which Navalny links to an Amazon order sent to an anonymous email account supposedly linked to Medvedev) and the phrase “сами вы держитесь!” (“hang in there yourself!!” — referring to Medvedev’s ham-handed response to a group of elderly people complaining about their meager pensions in 2016 — he told them to just “hang in there”).
Any group political protest in Russia is supposed to be pre-approved and assigned to a particular site by the authorities. Several of the March 26 protests were officially approved, but most were not. In Moscow, participants claimed they were just out for a “walk” (прогулка) near the Pushkin statue on Tverskaia street in the center. Although the vast majority of protesters attended the events without experiencing immediate repercussions, significant numbers were arrested, including about 700 in Moscow, according to the video from Телеканал Дождь below. Police also visited the offices of the Anti-Corruption Fund, initially claiming there were concerns about a fire, and took all employees into custody. Navalny was given a fifteen-day prison sentence. Authorities blamed him for leading the youth astray by encouraging them to engage in dangerous activities.
Four videos are linked or embedded below. They include images and participant comments from the Moscow protest (video one), speeches in Novosibirsk that give a taste of the protesters’ rhetoric (video two), an overview of events in multiple cities with chanting crowds and comments from individual participants (video three), and a viral video of a school-age boy’s short speech in Tomsk (video four). Also, Meduza compiled a photo gallery of events in numerous cities.
To learn more about Navalny, see this earlier post on his speech to an opposition rally.
Заметки о языке: Useful words include “вор” (“thief”), “воровать” (“to steal”), “митинг” (“demonstration”), “акция” (“rally”), “позор” (“shame,” commonly chanted at police who are detaining protesters), “коррупция” (“corruption”), “власть” (“power,” “the authorities”), “задержать” (“to take into custody, detain”), “молодёжь” (“young people”), “терпеть” (“to be patient, to put up with”).
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Ведущая: Я напомню, что в нескольких десятках городов России сегодня, двадцать шестого марта, проходят акции против коррупции, поводом для которых стало расследование Фонда борьбы с коррупцией Алексей Навального о премьер-министре Дмитрии Медведеве.