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Meet Michael McFaul, the New US Ambassador to Russia Posted by on Jan 30, 2012 in Culture, News, Russian life


In case you did not know, «я американка» [I’m American]. I grew up here and I go to university here, and I tend to look at foreign affairs through an American lens. I realize that a large portion of our readers are not American, so this post may not be as relevant or apply to you. However, the American ambassador to Russia was recently in the news and I thought it would be interesting to write about him. I present, without further ado, a post about ambassadors and other diplomatic-related vocabulary. 

The new United States ambassador to Russia is named Michael McFaul (his name is transliterated into Cyrillic as «Майкл Макфол»). «Он работал профессором в Стэнфордском университете» [He worked as a professor at Stanford University]. As ambassador he lives in «Спасо-хаус» [Spaso House], the official residence of the United States ambassador in Russia.

There has been controversy ever since McFaul arrived in Russia because he met with some opposition leaders. Plus, he was involved in the «перезагрузка» [reset] policy with Russia that does not seem to have been entirely successful. McFaul does not speak Russian as well as his «предшественник» [predecessor], John Beyrle. «Байерли свободно говорит по-русски» [Beyrle speaks Russian fluently]. (Seriously, Beyrle’s Russian is amazing. Listen to an interview with him sometime.)

Some more general vocabulary: in Russian, ambassador is «посол», so it is pretty logical that «посольство» is embassy. «Консульство» is consulate. (And remember, the two are different! In general, embassies are usually larger and are led by an ambassador, whereas consulates are led by a «консул» [consul].) «Дипломат» [diplomat] is nice and easy to remember. «Паспорт» [passport] and «виза» [visa] are also nice cognates.

What do you think of the new United States ambassador? Do you have any questions about diplomatic-related vocabulary? Let me know in the comments!

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About the Author: Natalie

I'm Natalie and I love the Russian language and sharing my knowledge with others. I graduated from university with a dual degree in Russian language & literature and history.


  1. Delia:

    I can add the following: if there’s no ambassador or (s)he is on vacation, the embassy is temporarily headed (возглавляет) by a charge d’affaires/Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) (поверенный в делах/ заместитель посла). When a new ambassador arrives in the country, he usually meets the head of the country (глава правительства) to present (вручить) letters of credence (веритальные грамоты) and he has to be accredited (аккредитирован) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) (в Министерстве иностранных дел/в МИДе) which is an equivalent of the Department of State in Russia.

  2. Richard:

    Mr. McFaul also has an account on Живой Журнал (Live Journal). ЖЖ was mentioned by Yelena in the previous post.

    Knowing this sort of “vital” information is required according to the rules and regulations of the Union of Political Junkies 😉

  3. Victor:

    Hi Natalie,

    I’m fan (поклонник) of your great blog. Your Russian is perfect in contrast with my English (чего не скажешь о моём английском) .
    I confused a little bit with formal meaning of follows :”McFaul does not speak Russian as well as his «предшественник» [predecessor], John Beyrle. «Байерли свободно говорит по-русски»” Phrase as well as here can be interpreted doubly (двояко): 1. John Beyrle also (так же, как и Макфол) does not speak Russian and 2. McFaul does not speak Russian as good as Beyrle does. May be comma in right place can be solution here. If you put it before first “as” you get first meaning, and if you put it after “well” – second. It’s like in famous Russian formula:” Казнить, нельзя помиловать!” versus “Казнить нельзя, помиловать!”

  4. alexei:

    В своём обращении к россиянам Путин сказал, что Макфол воевал во Вьетнами и даже попал в плен. Что Вы можете на это сказать? Почему этой информации нигде нет?

  5. Andor:

    Ambassador McFaul has also got a Twitter (твиттер)account in order to instigate (in his wild dreams) a Twitter Revolution in Russia.
    McFaul, Color Revolutions,
    “The factors for success include
    1) a semi-autocratic rather than fully autocratic regime;
    2) an unpopular incumbent;
    3) a united and organized opposition;
    4) an ability quickly to drive home the point that voting results were falsified,
    5) enough independent media to inform citizens about the falsified vote,
    6) a political opposition capable of mobilizing tens of thousands or more demonstrators to protest electoral fraud, and
    7) divisions among the regime’s coercive forces.
    We should also note that these cases were not wholly independent from one another, and indeed were most likely linked by demonstration effects. Moreover, identifying the commonalities may also help us to isolate other factors often regarded as vital to success that were not present in all these cases.”