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Move With The Times: Uses of Современный (“Modern”) In Russian Posted by on Dec 27, 2018 in Vocabulary

One of the words that is used a lot in Russian is совреме́нный. This word, which literally means “modern” or “contemporary,” is extremely versatile and can express meanings ranging from timeliness to technological advanced to being hip. Let us look at these related but distinct senses.

contemporary architecture

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Happening these days

This is a neutral sense of совреме́нный. Used this way, this word simply means “today’s” or “current,” and does not necessarily express approval.

В совреме́нной стати́стике соверше́нно справедли́во всё бо́льше внима́ния уделя́ется дома́шним хозя́йствам.
Nowadays, statistics rightly devotes more and more attention to households.
[Потребительские запасы — сущность и подход к анализу // «Вопросы статистики», 2004]

Ста́тус Но́вого го́да в совреме́нной систе́ме росси́йских пра́здников соверше́нно уника́лен.
The status of New Year in the Russian holiday system today is absolutely unique.
[Олег Николаев. Новый год: праздник или ожидание праздника? // «Отечественные записки», 2003]

Happening at the same time as something else

This word can also mean “contemporary” but not current—in the sense of “happening at the same time as something in the past.”

Одновреме́нно он открыва́ет для себя́ совреме́нную по́льскую поэ́зию ― Тувима, Слонимского, Броневского.
At the same time, he discovers contemporary Polish poetry—Tuwim, Słonimski, and Broniewski.
[Ревекка Фрумкина. Последние свидетели // «Отечественные записки», 2003]


In this sense, современный does convey a positive attitude in that the thing described is up to date and fit for the demands of the day.

При всём стара́нии руководи́телей институ́та эксперимента́льная ба́за старе́ет, и ста́вить совреме́нные о́пыты не всегда́ удаётся.
No matter how hard the institute leadership may try, lab equipment is becoming obsolete, and it isn’t always possible to conduct modern experiments.
[Сергей Алексеев. Превращения цепей. Премия для молодого ученого-теоретика (2003) // «Известия», 2003.02.20]

laptop and tablet

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Cutting edge

This is a very frequent usage you may see. It goes beyond saying something is current or modern and expresses approval of something technologically advanced or cutting-edge.

Испо́льзуя совреме́нные техноло́гии, лаборато́рия, состоя́щая из трёх иссле́дователей, мо́жет в тече́ние ме́сяца вы́делить и очи́стить бо́лее 100 белко́в.
With the help of advanced technology, a lab consisting of three researchers can extract and purify over 100 proteins in one month.
[В. Зверев. Вакцины: от Дженнера и Пастера до наших дней // «Наука и жизнь», 2006]


When used about people, современный can be close to “open-minded” or “hip” and mean someone who’s kept abreast of the current attitudes and developments.

В его́ кома́нде мно́го молоды́х люде́й. Они́ совреме́нные, образо́ванные и подгото́вленные.
There are many young people on his team. They move with the times, and are well-educated and trained.
[Акрам Айлисли, писатель: «Я хотел сжечь свои книги…» (2002) // «Известия», 2002.08.14]

I hope you enjoyed this post and next time you see this word, you’ll be pick up not only on the meaning of современный but also on the author’s attitude. Are there any other usages or examples you would add to this post?

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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.