Russian Language Blog

And the ‘Name of Russia’ is… Posted by on Dec 29, 2008 in History

АлександрНевский [Alexander Nevsky]! If you remember (and have been a reader of this blog for long enough – thanks, by the way!) I wrote about the Russian people voting in the national contest/TV show «ИмяРоссии» [Name of Russia] in a post of mine back in July [ИмяРоссии: who’s your pick?]. Well, ladies and gentlemen, yesterday the voting was finished and we have a winner! Not only is he a saint in the Russian Orthodox Church, he also beat the Swedes once upon a time, this Alexander Yaroslavich Nevsky [Александр Ярославич Невский] (May 30, 1220 – November 14, 1263). He was the Grand Prince of Novgorod and Vladimir during some of the most trying times in the country’s history. He is regarded as the key figure of medieval Russia, and was the grandson of Vsevolod the Big Nest. Alexander Nevsky rose to legendary status on account of his military victories over the German invaders while employing shrewd conciliatory policies towards the powerful Golden Horde. Though it is not clear – at least not to me – exactly what Nevsky will be doing now that he has been honored with this bright, shiny title. Since he’s dead he won’t be around to open any malls, and since he’s already a saint, there’s very little left for him (or his fans more likely) to strive for. I’m just kidding. I get it. I understand that this was planned as a way to make the Russian public look at things in a broader, historical context, try to search deep into the country’s history and find someone in there who they think would be a good source for patriotic feelings and of inspiration for the young generation. In that aspect I think this contest turned out splendid, because it did get many people more interested in history. What wasn’t so splendid was when Stalin, during the summer, was number one, but was knocked down several places after the producer of the show appealed to viewers to vote for someone else. Though this is as sure a sign as anything that Stalin has been ‘rehabilitated’ in Russia during 2008, I still think people should take a moment and think about things. In this contest Stalin came in third, yet Pushkin, who Russians claim so fiercely is «нашевсё» [‘our everything’], finished fourth. What if the same contest had taken place in Germany and Hitler would have beat Goethe? Think about. And try not to freak out.

His last name – «Невский» – comes from the name of the river «Нева» [Neva]. Which is a river between Lake Ladoga and the Baltic Sea, traveling through – of all places! – «Питер» [‘Piter’; more known abroad as Saint Petersburg... or perhaps Leningrad?]

But if you’re browsing the site for «ИмяРоссии», (something that I would highly recommend you do, even if your knowledge of Russian isn’t as good as you’d like it to be. There’s goodies for everyone with a passion for Russia there!) you should make sure to check each of the top 12 persons’ sites. For every candidate there is not only a short biography, but also a collection of their most famous quotes, as well as a test. The test is for you. For you to find out how well you know you Pushkin or Nevsky or – why not? – Stalin and Dostoevsky. I did the test for the two last candidates, and my results are embarrassing. I think I need to stop studying Russian literature, and go get my major in Russian history instead. Why? Because I scored 15 out of 15 in the test on Stalin on my first try, yet could not manage to get more than 11 out of 15 in the test of Dostoevsky. I tried to fix my terribly shameful score, but no matter how I hard I try and google and think, I can’t do it. Another funny thing is also the little text you receive after completing each test:

My result for Dostoevsky:

«Вы ответили правильно на 11 вопросов  из 15:

За это Вы награждаетесь медалью “Знаток биографии Достоевского”. Вы, безусловно, поклонник творчества Фёдора Михайловича, но у вас есть пробелы в знании его жизни. Хотите узнать больше? Приглашаем ознакомиться с его досье.»

[You correctly answered 11 out of 15 questions:

For this you receive the medal “Connoisseur of Dostoevsky’s Biography”. You are, undoubtedly, an admirer of Fyodor Mikhailovich’s art, but you have some gaps in your knowledge of his life. Do you want to find out more? We invite you to get acquainted with his dossier.]

My result for Stalin:

«Вы ответили правильно на 15 вопросов из 15:

За это Вы награждаетесь медалью “Корифей биографии Сталина”. Поздравляем! Вы оправдали, оказанное Вам высокое доверие. Увы, краткий курс ВКП(б), больше не преподают в высшей школе, но вы могли бы быть его преподавателем.»

[You correctly answered 15 out of 15 questions:

For this you receive the medal “The Leading Light of Stalin’s Biography”. Congratulations! You have lived up to the high confidence that was given to you. Too bad that they no longer teach the short course of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in higher education, though you could have been the teacher of it.]

What can I say – I know my Simon Sebag-Montefiore as well (or, as was proved today – worse) than the history of realism in Russia during the second half of the 19th century. Did anyone else have a deep, long, satisfying love affair with his “Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar”?

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  1. Cordelia:

    Interesting post! I am Swedish but had never heard of Nevsky! Had you heard of him before you moved to Russia?

    After hearing about you maxing out the Stalin test I think I will at long last read Simon Sebag-Montefiore’s books. But aren’t there any Russian historians who have written similar or better books about Stalin though?

  2. james 0 mintz:

    Thanks for the interesting blogs in 08′ My Russian not very good, otherwise I would have answered in Russian. I am on the first level of Rosetta Stone.

  3. Эин:

    Alexander Nevsky is a also a great film!

  4. Susan:

    Hi Josefina, I really enjoy your blog, just started studying Russian language after many years of interest in the history and a love affair with Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, great book.