Russia: «не страна, а анекдот!» [not a country, but an anecdote!] Posted by josefina on Mar 16, 2009 in News
I’ve decided to hunt this country not for mushrooms (it’s too early for that) but for cases – «охота на падежи!». Whenever I come across interesting use of cases in the Russian reality around me, I will take a picture of it and publish it here, hoping it can – with time, of course – shed some light on the six wonderful (and wonderfully difficult) cases of Russian language. Yesterday, while riding the «маршрутка» [‘marshrutka’; mini bus] (an excellent place to come across all sorts of subtle messages from the driver to the public) I came across «творительный падеж» [instrumental case] in the following sign: «Благотворительностью не занимаюсь» [I’m not engaged in charity; or less subtle: I don’t do charity].
First a disclaimer – the expression «Россия – не страна, а анекдот!» was not coined by me, but I heard it over the previous weekend. However, I can’t seem to recall where I got it from, or from whom I heard it (or perhaps, I read it somewhere? I could’ve sworn I read it in the latest number of «Русский репортёр» on Saturday, but after browsing through it thoroughly I must admit that this was not the source of it after all), but what I can assure you of is that I heard it from a Russian, thus this is by no means my ‘expat opinion’, but a Russian point of view on Russia. Perhaps it was the professor of «языкознание» [linguistics], with whom we have two lectures every Saturday, who said it in connection with the outrage the Russian people has shown in regard to the fact that this year’s Russian contribution to the Eurovision Song Contest will be sung with a Ukrainian refrain. Whoever it was that said it, it was good said, and I’ve had it on my tongue for a long time now without being able to find the right words, though I was thinking the exact same thing. Russia is indeed an anecdote, and that’s why everybody loves Russia – everybody appreciates a good anecdote from time to time, and Russia’s the best one!
For example, while reading the local source for Yekaterinburg news today, I came across the following headline: «Президент Медведев предложил отправить безработных на прииски» [President Medvedev proposed sending unemployed people to the mines]. At first one thinks – is it the 1st of April today? But no! It’s not an anecdote, it’s just this country. Like all other countries in the world now during the economic crisis, Russia has suffered great increase in unemployment, reaching official numbers of almost three millions (but, as always in Russia, the real number is much larger). Something must clearly be done to solve the situation; as always they’re trying to figure out how to answer one of the country’s two traditional and eternal questions – «что делать?» [what is to be done?] (the other question is: «кто виноват?» [who’s to blame?], but seems as of late to be living in the shadows, as answering it might be impossible at the moment). One of the answers could be to give private individuals the right to go search for gold in the farthest northern regions of Russia around Magadan (also known as «Колыма» and made famous for… uhm, another solution to another problem). Other solutions, as proposed by the president, would be to busy unemployed persons in building constructions for the Olympics in Sochi, fixing roads, or why not lend a hand in the erection of bridges on the island Russkij on the Far East? In general, the main solution can be summed up in one sentence – if unemployed people just moved to Siberia or the country’s Far East, then everything will work out fine:
«Со своей стороны партия “Единая Россия” в начале февраля предлагала выделять россиянам, оставшимся без работы, наделы земли в Сибири и на Дальнем Востоке при условии переезда туда на постоянное место жительства.» [For their part, the party ‘United Russia’ in the beginning of February offered to designate to Russian citizens, who have been left without work, parcels of land in Siberia and on the Far East provided they move there for permanent residence.]
I would have very much liked to have been a fly on the wall when this decision was ‘brainstormed’. One half of me wants to whisper: “Mister President, that’s not a new idea”, while the other half wonders if Putin’s cell phone was «вне зоны доступа» [in a zone without connection] on this day… What do you think? Would you, if you were out of work in Russia, agree to move to a small slice of land somewhere in the depths of Siberia? The romantic half of me blissfully screams «да!», while my more pragmatic half mumbles «ещё бы!» [ironic: yeah right!]…