Visitors’ Impressions of Russia

Posted on 28. Aug, 2014 by in Culture

Image by Stanley Wood on

Image by Stanley Wood on

If you have visited Russia, you have probably been asked by your Russian friends or by your family back home how you liked Russia. Some of the questions might have been

Как тебе/вам Россия?

Тебе нравится в России?

Тебе понравилось в России?

I’ve come across interviews with expats living in Moscow, published by the Moscow supplement to Afisha magazine (Афиша Город).  It is quite insightful and amusing to read their opinions — what’s more, you can borrow some of the expressions they used the next time you are asked this dreaded question.

Сесилия Парк – Сеул, Республика Корея:

Помню, как на первой деловой встрече меня удивило, что вокруг никто не улыбается.[I remember being surprised at my first business meeting that no one was smiling.]

Кроме того, русским мужчинам просто нравится проявлять заботу о женщинах. [Besides, Russian men just like taking care of women.]

Мико Арутюнян – Афины, Греция:

В Россию просто всё приходит года на три позже. [literally, "It's just that everything /fads, etc./ comes to Russia about three years later /than in the West/"; meaning Russia is behind the West in what's cool.]

Тут нет уважения и к пешеходам. [There is no respect for pedestrians here, either.]

Глен Баллис:

Холодно, дорого, далеко от всех городов в Европе и мире, никто не говорит по-английски. [It's cold, expensive, far from all European and world cities, and no one speaks English.]

Теперь город полон молодых активных людей. [Now the city is full of young, active people.]

Данило Ланге – Констанц, Германия:

Россия же всё время меняется, и это во многом то, что делает жизнь здесь такой привлекательной. [At the same time, Russia's always changing, and that's largely what makes living here so appealing.]

Конечно, какие-то процессы идут здесь с трудом — здесь людям, к примеру, всё ещё очень важно иметь собственный автомобиль. [Naturally, some processes are slow to catch on here -- for example, people put priority on having their own car.]

Отчасти тем, что вы очень рано вступаете во взрослую жизнь если в Европе заканчивают университет в 25–26, то здесь как раз в те самые 21–22. Женитесь и рожаете детей вы тоже рано. [/It can be partly explained/ by the fact that you enter adulthood very early -- Europeans don't graduate college until rhey are 25 or 26, and here people do graduate at 21 or 22. You get married and have children at a young age, as well.]

Image by greg.road.trip on

Image by greg.road.trip on

 Дерк и Том Сауэры:

Люди стали лучше жить, но они стали более циничными, сосредоточились на деньгах и перестали обращать внимание на перемены в обществе. [People's lives have improved, but they have become more cynical and obsessed with money, and stopped caring about changes in society.]

В Москве можно очень многого добиться в 25–26, а в той же Англии на это потребуется на 15 лет больше. [In Moscow, you can achieve a lot by the time you are 25 or 25, while in England it would take 15 years longer.]

Я вегетарианец, а тут вегетарианцам нелегко. [I'm a vegetarian, and vegetarians have a hard time here.]

Жан-Мишель Коснюо – Париж:

В Москве же, мне кажется, люди идут в клубы веселиться, а не найти себе пару. [It seems to me that in Moscow people go to nightclubs to have fun and not to find a partner.]

А русские женщины требовательны к мужчинам. [And Russian women are demanding of men.]

Здесь же люди гордятся родиной. [Here /as compared to France/ people are pround of their country.]

Луиз Диксон – Миннеаполис, США

Получается, что тут дёшево только пить, курить и ездить на общественном транспорте. [So, it's only cheap to drink, smoke, and ride public transit here.]

Здесь же к домашним тусовкам относятся серьёзнее — это приключение на всю ночь. [People take home gettogethers much more seriously -- it's an all-night adventure.]

Does any of this sound like your own impression of Russia? What would you add?

Comma Abuse in Russian

Posted on 25. Aug, 2014 by in Russian for beginners

Image by Véronique Debord-Lazaro on

Commas raise many questions
Image by Véronique Debord-Lazaro on

We are often so concentrated on the various skills involved in the mastery of a language that punctuation tends to fall by the wayside. In the absence of any other guidance, we rely on our own language in our writing, but that may sometimes prove wrong. I would like to point out several aspects of Russian punctuation concerning commas that are different from English and, possibly, other languages. Relying on their own language, people tend to get “comma-happy” and use commas more often than needed.

It’s worth saying that Russian punctuation can get very complex with layers of rules and exceptions. Most likely. you won’t run into the harder cases right away. However, if you read Russian well, I would highly recommend the website. They have detailed guidelines for Russian punctuation, and if that does not resolve your doubts, you can search their Q & A (справка) or even submit your own question!

1. Lists

English is a language that allows for a comma before the “and” preceding the last thing in a list of 3 or more — if it clarifies the sentence. An example would be “I bought bread, butter, and cheese.” It is sometimes known as the Oxford Comma. Not so in Russian! If there is an и before the last item in a series, no comma (запятая) is needed. So, our sentence would read “Я купил(а) хлеб, масло и сыр” (or хлеба, масла и сыра if you want to emphasize the “part” aspect of it).

Note that coordinate clauses joined by и are still separated by a comma.

Дверь открылась, и в комнату вошла женщина. (The door opened, and a woman came into the room.)

2. Dependent clauses

A dependent clause (придаточное предложение) is a part of the sentence that add information to be main clause (главное предложение). In Russian, each clause normally has a subject and a predicate (“verb”), although some clauses only have one of these two elements. With few exceptions, dependent clauses are separated from the main clause by commas. Compare:

I don’t know if I can come. – Я не знаю, смогу ли прийти.

The woman that lives next door is a scientist. – Женщина, которая живёт в соседней квартире, — учёный.

We’ll go hiking when it stops raining. – Мы пойдём в поход, когда перестанет идти дождь.

Image by Walt Stoneburner on

Image by Walt Stoneburner on

3. Adverbials

Adverbials (обстоятельства) are the words that explain when, where, why, or how something happened. In English, they may be set off by a comma if they come at the beginning of the sentence — like the first two words of this sentence. Russian does not require that. I will often see stray commas in translations from English into Russian, even done by native speakers.

После работы я зашла к подруге. (After work, I stopped by my friend’s place.)

В результате эксперимента были получены ценные данные. (Valuable data was obtained in /literally, “as a result of”/ the experiment; read more about the word order of this sentence here.)

For what it’s worth, “в результате” should not ever be separated by a comma.

Note that present participles referring to the same subject should normally be set off.

Улыбаясь, актёр поднялся на сцену. (Smiling, the actor came on stage.)

Are you aware of any other case of “comma abuse” in Russian? Are there any punctuation rules you would like to see explained?

Obesity: It’s Not Just for Westerners

Posted on 20. Aug, 2014 by in Culture, General reference article, History


Myself, fatified (courtesy of Fatify app)

Recently I read an article in U.S. News about the most obese countries in the world. To my surprise, Russia ranked fourth. In fact, it was not a shock that the U.S. was number one, followed by China and then India; however, Russia was a shock. I remember when I was growing up there were times when we considered it a privilege to eat meat. My parents and grandparents can remember waiting in long lines for hours just to get a loaf of bread. The more I discovered about this topic, the more it made sense.

A study conducted in 2012 by the Nutrition Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences stated that over 25 percent of Russians were overweight and that 55 percent of Russians carried excessive weight. The study also found that more women were overweight than men. This could make sense since the women bare the children. According to the State Statistical Office in Moscow, from 1950-1989 there was a strong shift in the dietary preferences of Russians. They changed from a diet higher in starchy foods like bread and potatoes to one that includes much more meat, dairy, and sugar. Economics is part of the reason for this, as is the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Anybody that has been to Russia during the last decade could not help but notice that more and more “western” fast-food chains are popping up. The first McDonald’s franchise was opened in Moscow in 1990 and in 2011 Subway surpassed them as Russia’s largest chain. While I would agree that there is both good and bad news associated with this influx of these new eating establishments, I would argue that the bad outweighs the good. The good aspect would be that Russians must have more disposable income some of which they spend on fast food. They wouldn’t build those restaurants if they were not profitable. Amazingly enough, these franchises are popping up in many cities, not just Moscow and St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, the heath issues that accompany these food choices are already being felt. According to the World Health Organization, in Russia, 80 percent of deaths are caused by chronic noncommunicable disease; these are diseases that are non-infectious and non-transmissible among other people. These usually develop as a result carrying excessive weight and being obese. They will greatly increase the chances of diabetes, stroke, cancer, and heart disease. Not only this, but as more Russians gain excessive weight, they will visit the doctor more often. Healthcare is another issue and I don’t have time to get into it now; however, as more and more people visit doctors and stay in hospitals, the more taxed the healthcare system will be. This could cause problems in the quality of care available and the costs could rise.

As I have stated in other posts, many Russians also like to smoke heavily – again they are ranked fourth in the world, and they like to drink. By combining all of the knowledge I have recently learned, it is not too surprising that Russians rank fourth now. Remembering a trip to Russia in 2006, you could buy so much American junk food – potato chips, candy bars, soda, etc… – even in small, remote villages like the one in which my grandmother lives. In looking at photos of the people and places I had visited, you can easily spot the excess weight many are carrying around. I remember when I first got to America over 11 years ago, I was astonished at how heavy people looked, now it looks like Russia is following suit.