Russian Language Blog

Famous Quotes in Russian Translation Posted by on Feb 23, 2015 in Culture

There are certain quotes (цита́ты) from films, literature, folk sayings, and so on that have entered our everyday lexicon. This is the case with Russian, as well. Listed below are phrases originally said or written in languages other than Russian that are known to the vast majority of Russians. Can you finish these quotes? Hover over the underlined quotes to see the full phrase.

Земну́ю жизнь пройдя́ до полови́ны…

This quote is from The Divide Comedy by Dante Alighieri (Да́нте Алигье́ри). There have been several translations of this work, but probably most famous and critically acclaimed one belongs to Mikhail Lozinsky (Михаи́л Лози́нский). These are the first two lines, corresponding to “Midway upon the journey of our life/I found myself within a forest dark” in Henry Longfellow’s translation or “Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita/mi ritrovai per una selva oscura” in the Italian.

Нет по́вести печа́льнее на све́те

This quote comes from the final lines of Romeo and Juliet (Роме́о и Джулье́тта) by William Shakespeare (Уи́льям Шекспи́р). This particular expression is a slightly altered quote from Nikolay Grekov‘s translation (Николай Греков), “Печа́льнее нет по́вести на све́те, Как по́весть о Роме́о и Джулье́тте.” Shakespeare’s original reads, “For never was a story of more woe/Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”

This play is widely known in Russia and has inspired musical works by Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev.

Мы в отве́те за тех…

This phrase is often cited when talking about ethical treatment of pets. It comes from The Little Prince (Ма́ленький принц) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Антуа́н де Сент-Экзюпери́). The French says, “Тu deviens responsable pour toujours de се que tu as apprivoise.”


This is the Russian translation of the saying “The die is cast” (Alea íacta est), attributed to Julius Caesar (Ю́лий Це́зарь). This, of course, refers to an important decision the speaker has made from which there is no coming back.

Can you think of any other phrases that became famous in the Russian translation? I purposely did not include biblical quotes because you could say the whole book is one big quote. 🙂 I’m especially curious about sayings hailing from non-Indo-European languages.

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About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available in English on her website and Twitter and in Russian on Telegram.