Russian Language Blog

The «Русский Паспорт» vs. My Swedish Passport Posted by on Nov 14, 2008 in Culture, Soviet Union, Traditions

Some things happen for a reason. Other things happen for other reasons. Yesterday my wallet, my cell phone and my friend’s memory card (that she naively enough trusted me with) were stolen «среди белого дня» [‘in bright daylight’] from my backpack during lunch break at the university. Yes, I can think of funnier things to do with my time than to block my credit card, get a new library card and ID-card, and try to remember all the numbers I had in my cell phone. But as a matter of fact, all things considered, the outcome of this is – in a way – good. I am finally forced to buy a new cell phone, which I should’ve done at least a year ago, since mine was old enough to belong only among the rarities of the Nokia Museum in Helsinki. Today I went to the local office of my ‘old faithful’, the phone company of «Билайн» [“Beeline”], to get a new SIM-card for my old number, this way at least making it possible for people to call me, even though I can’t call them. Frankly, I absolutely love my local office of Beeline. And I believe they also love me. (I’m afraid there’s some irony in that statement.) Every time I go home to Sweden, I also change to my Swedish SIM-card, and when doing so, I always put my Russian SIM-card in a ‘safe place’. A month later, when I’m returning to «вторая Родина моя» [the second Motherland of mine], I always forget where this ‘safe place’ was, and as a result I always have to go to Beeline’s local office in my ‘hood and get a new one. That’s why they know me, rather well by now even, and knowing me means also knowing my Swedish passport. Because in Russia there are very few things one can do without a passport.

In Russia, as it was back in the days of the country that should’ve had websites ending with .su, national passports, or internal passports if you may, do in fact work very much in the manner of id-cards in other countries. In Russia you have a «паспортРоссии» [passport of Russia] and a «заграничныйпаспорт» [international passport], more often called «загранпаспорт» or even just simply «загран» in every day speech. The Russian passport is used for travel within the borders of Russian Federation, but also when you get married or have children or entry the military, as these events are included into your passport. Russia is surely something else, isn’t it? The international passport works like the passports we’re used to, thus allowing for crossing of international borders, and do not bear any stamps related to marriage or child birth or military service what so ever (as far as I know?).

Whenever I go to my local Beeline office to get a new SIM-card, they’re always baffled at my Swedish passport. It’s been three years, and I’ve been coming in with it every six months, yet they’re still baffled every time they see it. That should give you an idea as to exactly how rare a foreign passport is in the Urals. My Swedish passport creates all sorts of trouble for me in this country. Mostly because it is in, yes, you guessed it – Swedish. In Russia it is very important to always state the serial number as well as the usual number of your passport, especially when getting a new SIM-card. Swedish passports lack a serial number. But most essential of all is to write, in Russian mind you, «кемикогдавыданпаспорт» [by whom and when the passport was issued]. This causes constant pain for me. How would you translate “Polismyndigheten i Västra Götaland? By what it means in Swedish or by how it sounds when pronounced in Russian? The good people at Beeline solved this last year by stating in their official records that my passport is «выданмилицииГолландии» [issued by the police of Holland]. Thus every time I show up to get a new SIM-card I always have to answer the same question – why did you get your passport in Holland? And is that a European Union thing; can you get a passport in any EU country of choice? In the beginning this annoyed me. Now I’m cool with it. After all, I have come to the conclusion – after many years of wandering not only Russian soil but other soils as well – that my Swedish passport is magic.

When Mayakovsky wrote his «СтихиоСоветскомпаспорте» [predominantly translated as My Soviet Passport”] he could not have known that the day would come when a simple citizen of Sweden would prove him wrong. Or at least put his words to a certian degree of a test. And I did so by writing my own version of his poem:

My Swedish Passport (after Vladimir Mayakovsky’s “My Soviet Passport”)

I couldn’t be kept

spit at all your borders

fill in a form without respect.

But look!

Will you be so kind to…

be collected and controlled

will you stamp mine this time?

Yes, that is my picture, that is me.

Why are you here?

Where are you going?

Eyes stare but

no one can stop me

no other country can deny me.

Geographic borders

cultural chocks

like a bomb I will blow.

Because I have

my Swedish passport

with a picture of the three crowns

I could not be stopped

hiss in all your languages

break laughing through the customs.


I am

a Swedish Citizen!

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  1. Stephan:

    When I was living in Kharkov, Ukraine, I would go back and forth across the border with Russia to visit my girlfriend (now my wife). My Ukrainian visa had transliterated my name, Stephan, as Стефен, while the Russians had transliterated it as Стивен, which I hate, because I’ve never been a Steve or a Steven. Anyways, when crossing the border to Russia one day, usually the less demanding route, I wrote my name in the immigration form as Стефан and got an official who couldn’t tolerate the discrepancy. The visa was for Стивен, не Стефан. This lady must’ve conferred with every other official at the border crossing, holding up the 50 or so people on my bus. Look, I tried to say, showing an expired Russian visa that had gotten it right: Стефан. Стефан как Стивен! Finally they let me through.

  2. zdzichu:

    I love russia. I spend there almost every summer. This is a very interesting site, thought I do not share all the opinions here, I will definitely come back here to check what’s new.
    I am going to russai again in January to see some snow (it’s missing where i live). And here are some photos from Russia (last winter) if you are interested: See ya