Московский велопарад / Moscow Bike Parade

Bicyclist in Moscow

Audio content: Moscow residents describe their experience cycling in the city.
Visual content: Members of Moscow’s cycling community, some in festive costumes.

Video available at Певрый канал.

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!”.

SUBSCRIBE and you’ll get an email every time there’s a new post, or like the FACEBOOK page to see updates in your news feed.

Read more…

Сергей Карякин: шахматист и звезда / Sergey Karjakin, Star Chess Player

Sergei Kariakin interview

Audio Content: Russian chess grandmaster Sergey Karjakin discusses his recent World Championship match and his relationship with the game of chess.

This video can’t be embedded. Watch it here — at the new online television project from РБК.

Chess (шахматы) has long been a popular “sport” in Russia. The country produced many of the twentieth century’s chess grandmasters and World Champions, including Boris Spassky, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik. An interesting linguistic and cultural idiosyncrasy is the fact that chess really is referred to as a “sport” (вид спорта) in Russian, and its players are called “athletes” (спортсмены).

National interest in chess was reinvigorated in late 2016 when the Russian grandmaster Sergei Kariakin (or Sergey Karjakin, which seems to be the transliteration he usually uses) unexpectedly came very close to winning the World Champion title from the reigning champion, Magnus Karlsen of Norway. Karjakin is a chess prodigy who was the youngest person to ever achieve the “grandmaster” (гроссмейстер) designation; he was twelve years old when he won this honor in 2003.  Karjakin learned to play chess in Ukraine, his native country. In 2009 he moved to Moscow to continue his chess career and was granted Russian citizenship that same year. The 2016 World Chess Championship (Чемпионат мира по шахматам) occurred over the course of a few weeks in November. Karjakin had won the right to face off with Karlsen by winning the “Candidates Tournament” in March. The November contest was closely fought all the way through. At the end of twelve games, each player had only one victory, while the other ten games had ended in a draw. The two opponents then played four games of rapid chess as a tie break, with Karlsen emerging as the victor after wins in games three and four. Thus the Norwegian managed to defend his World Champion title, but Karjakin — or one of the many other talented Russian chess players — will likely have a chance to return the championship crown to Russia at the next World Chess Championship in 2018.

In the video featured here, Karjakin gives an interview to a journalist from the business media company РБК. In the portions of the interview included in the below transcript, he talks about his relationship with his opponent, his love of chess, his newfound stardom and his hobbies besides chess. In the second part of the interview, which goes beyond the scope of this post’s transcript, the two of them start to talk about politics and money. Karjakin seems to prefer to avoid politics, but when questioned he does say that “of course” the annexed province of Crimea belongs to Russia — an unsurprising point of view, given that he grew up in the Russian-oriented eastern part of Ukraine. He also discusses his income (his award for a second-place finish was 450,000 euros) as well as the high costs of hiring the best chess coaches for his training.

Заметки о языке:

• As already mentioned above, one interesting aspect of this video is the use of the terms “вид спорта” and “спортсмен” to refer to chess. Although it can sound odd to foreigners, this is normal usage in Russian. Also note that the word for chess, шахматы, is always grammatically plural. The word is an amalgam of the words for “check” (шах) and “checkmate” (мат).

• Karjakin’s speech is reasonably comprehensible but not always as clear as it could be — he sometimes partially swallows syllables or runs them together. However, this is a fairly common style of articulation for native speakers of Russian, so this clip makes for good practice in developing listening comprehension. Compare Karjakin’s style to that of his interviewer, for whom clearly articulated Russian is a professional expectation.

Read more…

Российская фехтовальщица на Олимпиаде / A Russian Fencer at the Olympics

Deriglazova with gold medal

Audio content: Russian Olympic champions and their families react to their victories. Includes an example of dialectical language variation.
Visual content: Russian athletes and fans, a few domestic interiors.

(Video embedded below, or available here)

Recently I took a break from Луч света to focus on my research for a little while, but I’ve been keeping track of some good videos and will be posting them over the next few weeks. Here is one more follow-up on Russia’s Olympic appearance. The video focuses most of all on Inna Deriglazova, a 26-year-old fencer who won a gold medal in a closely fought 12-11 victory over a former gold medal champion from Italy. We hear from her, her coach and her family.

This video clip has a few culturally and linguistically interesting aspects. The interviewees, and Inna in particular, come across as role models for the values promoted in official circles and in the state-controlled media — values of decency, graciousness, commitment to family and simple straightforward patriotism. The brief comment at the end from the 19-year-old swimmer Anton Chupkov, a bronze medal winner, also fits into this framework. Note as well the cross around his neck — a fairly common sight amid the post-Soviet revival of the Russian Orthodox Church. The segment ends, however, with a little jab at the U.S. (not included in my transcript): the announcers mention that the Russian swimmer Yuliia Efimova will be competing in the 200-meter breaststroke tonight and that the American swimmer Lilly King did not even qualify for this event. Russian fans are encouraged to gloat over this fact because of what happened after the 100-meter breastroke: King, the gold medal winner, did not congratulate silver medal winner Efimova because of doping suspicions. The International Swimming Federation had in fact banned Efimova from the Rio Olympics because of earlier positive doping tests. The suspension period for these violations was over, but Efimova was excluded because of the stricter criteria being applied to the Russian team because of the nation’s state-supported doping scandal (see the previous blog entry). Efimova subsequently won an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. She had to endure boos from the crowd during her races.

From the linguistic point of view, the video provides two interesting examples of atypical speech: a woman speaking a southern dialect and the speech of a young child — see below.

Read more…

Допинг-скандал: Кто не поедет в Рио? / The doping scandal: Who won’t be going to Rio?

Elena Isinbaeva, Russian pole vaulter

Audio content: Athletes and sports officials commenting on the exclusion of Russia’s track and field athletes from the Rio Olympics
Video content: leading athletes, coaches, track and field competitions

(Video embedded below)

Russian athletics has been caught up in a doping scandal of enormous proportions for the last year or more. A report by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) recently presented the results of their investigations. According to the report, Russian state agencies including the Federal Security Service (ФСБ, Федеральная служба безопасности) and the Ministry of Sport (Министерство спорта) oversaw the falsification of doping tests for Russian athletes in the years leading up to and including the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Over the course of several years, state agencies worked with the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory to simply reclassify positive tests as negative. Then, after the scheme was discovered, the Moscow laboratory was discredited by international organizations and its head, Grigory Rodchenkov, fled to the US in late 2015 and began sharing additional information about the doping system. The most sensational aspect of the scandal is the plot used to evade doping safeguards at the Sochi Olympics. Apparently there was a small hole in a wall between the secure room that stored athletes’ urine samples and an adjacent room that was outside the secure perimeter. In the middle of the night, Russian anti-doping officials would pass out urine samples to FSB agents in the next room, who would replace the tainted urine with clean samples that had been collected well in advance. Somehow the people involved managed to open and reseal the supposedly tamper-proof urine bottles without leaving a trace. Their efforts seem to have paid off: Russia won more medals than any other nation in the Sochi Olympics. See this article by the New York Times for more information.

After this state-directed doping scheme was revealed, the big question, of course, was whether Russia would be allowed to participate in the 2016 Olympics in Rio. In late July 2016, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued its decision: Russians would be allowed to participate, but any athlete who had been caught doping at any time in the past — even if the disqualification period had expired — would not be allowed to participate. Also, the entire Russian track and field team has been disqualified due to an earlier decision by the international federation for that sport. This article by Meduza gives a quick overview of how the decision affects Russia’s Olympic teams in various sports.

So how has Russia responded to this situation? That’s the focus of today’s post,

Read more…