Russian Language Blog

Presidential Debates in Russian Posted by on Oct 18, 2012 in language

First, a disclaimer is in order – this is NOT a post about politics, but about how to talk about politics.

Of course, as the saying goes, приличные люди о политике не говорят (well-mannered people do not discuss politics). Then again, rules change. It used to be that разговоры о сексе (conversations about sex) were also off-limits in a polite company. Well, 50 оттенков серого (50 Shades of Gray) has changed that, it seems.

Some people say that умные люди о политике не думают (smart people do not think about politics). Это утверждение спорно (This statement is debatable). And speaking of debatable, one of the most interesting things to watch during предвыборная гонка (election race) is, of course, президентские дебаты (presidential debates). Other words for дебаты (debates) are дискуссия (discussion, usually in a forum or panel format), прения (debate) and обмен мнениями (exchange of opinions).

With so many nouns to choose from, what options do we have for a verb with a meaning “to debate”? Sure, there is a verb дебатировать (to debate), not to be confused with дебютировать (to debut). Interestingly, while дебютировать is used quite often as in

Певец дебютировал в мульти-миллионном рекламном ролике (A singer debuted in a multi-million dollar commercial)

дебатировать (to debate) is used a whole lot less often and practically never when talking about politics.

Дискутировать (to dispute, to discuss), from дискуссия, aren’t all that popular either. It seems that the word is reserved to describe disputes that drag on and on and do not result in significant or positive actions as in

Чиновники продолжают дискутировать о необходимости защиты окружающей среды (Bureaucrats continue to discuss the need to protect the environment).

The verb преть doesn’t even mean “to debate”, but instead means “to perspire”. This, of course, makes sense for some of the longer or more intense прения (discussions, debates).

Certainly, political opponents might обменяться мнениями (to exchange opinions) during a debate. Unless they обменяться мнениями друг о друге (to exchange opinions about each other), обмен мнениями usually implies a spirit of сотрудничество (cooperation) and конструктивный диалог (constructive dialogue). As such, it’s rarely applicable to presidential debates in which противники (opponents) tend to схлёстываться (here: to argue) with each other over every issue.

So when talking about debates, we use the phrase обсуждать вопросы (to discuss issues), such as внешняя политика (foreign policy) and внутренняя политика (domestic policy). Внутриполитические вопросы (domestic policy issues) include экономика (the economy), налогообложение (tax policies), вопросы здравоохранения (health care policies), размер государственного долга (the size of government debt), безработица (unemployment), реформа образования (education reform), и так далее и тому подобное (and so on and so forth).

Of course, республиканцы (Republicans), демократы (Democrats) and those независимые избиратели (swing voters) who have made their choice, already know where their кандидат в президенты (presidential candidate) stands on these issues. These избиратели (voters) watch debates primarily to убедиться в правильности своего выбора (to confirm they are making the right choice).

So it seems that the debates aim at неопределившиеся избиратели (undecided voters) who have not made up their minds as to за кого голосовать на выборах (who to vote for in the elections). It’s either that, or the debates are primarily to keep various комментаторы (commentators) and эксперты (experts) busy dissecting and analyzing every word and every detail, from проверка фактов (fact-checking) to выбор галстуков (choice of neckties) and выражение лиц кандидатов (candidates’ facial expressions).

Now, if you watched the most recent presidential debates, you might have found them напряжённые (tense), агрессивные (aggressive), and эмоциональные (emotional). Undoubtedly, they were. Yet, if you are craving even more excitement and emotions, not to mention a fantastic opportunity to practice real-life Russian, try watching 2012 Russian presidential debates on YouTube.

And here are some phrases you might hear from your Russian friends during this presidential campaign:

Будете ли Вы голосовать на выборах в президенты? – Will you be voting in the Presidential election?

За кого Вы будете голосовать? – Who are you going to vote for?

Какой для Вас самый важный вопрос внешней/внутренней политики? – What’s the most important foreign/domestic policy issue for you?

Что Вы думаете о (имя кандидата в предложном падеже)? – What do you think about (candidate’s name in prepositional case)?

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  1. Rob:

    Из двух зол выбираем меньшее

    As the bumpersticker says: “Why settle for lesser? VOTE CTHULHU!”