Russian Language Blog

Russian Polls: What Transgressions Are Russians Willing To Forgive? Posted by on Apr 5, 2017 in Culture, when in Russia

A Russian public opinion company has recently conducted a poll of what infractions Russians are willing to overlook and which are unforgivable. I am going to list the top three forgivable and unforgivable behaviors — check out the ones in the middle on the study’s website.


Image from Pexels
German also has a word for riding without a ticket!

What’s Forgivable

  1. использование ненормативной лексики (swearing)
    Fifty four percent of all respondents said swearing could be condoned. This phrase literally means “using non-normative vocabulary.” Other synonyms for swear words are непечатная лексика (literally, “non-printable vocabulary”), нецензурная лексика, бранные слова, and мат. To swear is ругаться (ругаться матом if obscenities are involved). Take a look at our previous coverage of Russian swear words.
  2. безбилетный проезд в общественном транспорте (riding public transport without paying)
    This transgression seemed forgivable to 50 percent of all respondents. Безбилетный comes from билет, ticket. Общественный транспорт is public transport. A related word is общество, society. A colloquial way of referring to this behavior is ездить зайцем. Заяц is a hare, but in this case it refers to the person not paying the fare.
  3. Присвоение найденных вещей, денег (keeping found things or money)
    Forty one percent said this was OK. Присвоить means to appropriate (or sometimes “to pocket” or “to embezzle”). Another meaning of this verb is “to bestow” something, like a distinction. In that case, it is followed by the recipient in the dative and the thing being bestowed in the accusative.
young Indian boy

Image from Pexels

What’s Condemned

  1. Публичное проявление неприязни к представителям других национальностей (public displays of animosity towards other ethnic groups)
    Eighty one percent said this behavior was never acceptable. Проявление means “manifestation” or “expression.” We have published a post about verbs with the root -яв-. Представитель is a representative. Представлять can mean “to represent” or “to imagine.” Finally, национальность is a “false friend” and corresponds to one’s ethnic background as opposed to their citizenship.
  2. Дача/получение взятки (giving or taking bribes)
    Eighty three percent of all respondents condemned bribery. You might recognize дача as the word for a summer country house, also known as dacha. However, this word comes from дать (to give), and its homonym refers to the act of giving. Взятка is a bribe; взяточничество is bribery. This word comes from взять (to take; perfective aspect). The corresponding imperfective verb uses a different root — брать.
  3. Употребление наркотиков (Drug use)
    Ninety three percent said this infraction was unforgivable. Interestingly, alcohol got “only” 78 percent for the same question. Употреблять means to use or to consume. A related word is потребитель, consumer. Наркотики refers to illicit drugs. What is called prescription drugs (in other words, medications) in the US is referred to as лекарства.

What surprised you about these findings? How do they compare to your experiences in Russia and other Eastern European countries? How do they compare to your country?

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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.


  1. samonen:

    I’d say the percentage thinking bribery is unforgivable is alarming: it means 17 % of the respondents think corruption is kinda OK. The very idea of bribing public officials is absolutely appalling to me. My tolerance for it (or something a Russian might just think of as a “token of gratitude” or “hospitality”) is zilch.

    • Maria:

      @samonen It is definitely high, but I would expect it to be even higher in Russia, with corruption being so widespread. I was somewhat surprised that drug use topped the list, but it is consistent with the stigma against any drugs, including marijuana, in Russia (not so much with alcohol, though, har har).

  2. dinomabolo:

    Thank you so much. I am following this Blog to know more about Russia. I fervently wish to be accepted as volunteer in World Cup 2018. Mabuhay from the Philippines !

    • Maria:

      @dinomabolo Thank you for your comment and good luck with volunteering at the World Cup!