Orientation and Recommendations

I’m taking a break from adding new posts as it’s been harder to find suitable material. The 40+ existing posts continue to be useful and relevant — I generally tried to pick topics that would retain their interest for some time as a glimpse into (more or less) contemporary Russian life. Below I’ve highlighted posts that I think are particularly engaging and useful for language learners and instructors. I also fixed a couple broken links, so everything should be in working order. In addition, I updated the “More Online Russian Language Resources” page, and the Dictionaries page remains a good guide for language learners who haven’t yet discovered how helpful it is to consult a real, human-created bilingual dictionary!

So, click through for some immensely useful orientation and recommendations… and note that the full list of contents is always available from the main menu above.

The post on the massive, popular WWII Victory Day marches is culturally and historically interesting, moving and full of relatively simple, clearly articulated language. If one isn’t enough, there’s also an older post on the same topic.

Holidays are featured in several other posts; most of these come from an official, patriotic, militaristic or Orthodox-religious perspective. The post on believers greeting the Easter “Holy Fire” is good for some brief, fairly simple, clear language samples. The post on the traditional January baptismal ice-baths has very fragmentary language samples but the content is remarkable. For something more secular, see the post on New Year celebrations; the language samples are short and thus good for beginning-intermediate levels — the “желать + gen.” construction is especially prominent. For military themes, the post on Paratroopers’ Day is quirky, although the language is not as clear and connected as ideal; the post on Defender of the Fatherland Day offers a very militaristic style of patriotism with brief language snippets.

There are several posts with very good language samples that highlight Russia’s activist/protest culture. Aleksei Navalny’s speech at a political rally gives a good sense of his persona and is rhetorically engaging, repetitive and well-articulated in a way that makes it good for language practice. The post on Putin’s birthday protests has several good snippets that highlight the ironic memes and heavy youth involvement of protest movements. The post on the March 26, 2017 rallies has extensive excerpts from several different videos, all with relatively clear, understandable speech. One of my earliest posts is a very compelling video of a father discussing his son’s arrest, although there is some background noise. For something different, one could look at the clip of truck drivers protesting a new fee. I also have a post highlighting the volunteers who guard the unofficial people’s memorial to the assassinated politician Boris Nemtsov — a remarkable phenomenon that, if I’m not mistaken, continues to this day — but their speech is fast and fairly complex, so best for advanced learners.

On the other end of the political spectrum, four posts feature Putin. Putin has a distinctive, effective rhetorical style, and listening to him in Russian is essential for anyone who wants to understand his political persona. It helps that he also articulates clearly. In two of the posts (here and here) Putin is speaking unscripted, to American journalists, in a combative mode, at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. His comments in both 2016 and 2017 offer good language practice opportunities as he responds to charges of election interference. In two other posts, he is speaking from a script in more formal settings in September 2015 and October 2016. And on the topic of elections, there are also two posts on Russian elections (here and here), one featuring lots of voters using the “за кого” construction and the other focusing on concerns about election manipulation.

For those seeking less controversial topics, there’s a great post that highlights Russia’s successfully developing agricultural sector and features some cute baby farm animals. One could also listen to the comments of an Olympic fencer; the excerpts are pretty short, but there’s a good example of the southwestern dialect in her mother’s comments (for another example of that dialect, see this post). There’s also a post on Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, which contains a good example of a warm Russian birthday greeting. In another post, Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich comments on her national identities — her speech is clear and the sound quality is good.

There are two very good posts for anyone willing to engage with a darker topic — the war in eastern Ukraine. In one post, older women explain why they’ve decided not to evacuate their damaged village in a war zone. Another video goes back to the very beginning of the upheaval in Ukraine: we hear from a woman whose store burned down during violent clashes in Kiev in 2014. Although the journalist’s questions are hard to hear, the woman’s passionate comments come through very clearly.


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