Russian Language Blog

Things That Get Called Russian – Part 1 Posted by on Jul 20, 2021 in language, Vocabulary

There are some things that are called Russian in the world. But not in Russia.

In today’s blog, I will tell you about what is called Russian and why. Nevertheless, not all Russians know it.

Russian Mountains

Image by Isaac Oliva from Pixabay

Russian Mountains – Русские горки

The interesting fact is that the oldest roller coasters were called “Russian Mountains.“And they really were indeed invented in Russia. It was Russian sledding (катание на санях) that became the original idea for roller coasters.

It is known that Russians have always loved sledding.

The 17th-century ice slides (ледяные горки) were 70-80 in height with a 50-degree inclination. In the 18th century, they became very popular in St. Petersburg. Peter the Great (Пётр Великий – a Russian emperor) and Catherine the Great (Екатерина Великая – a Russian empress) arranged for themselves the extreme Six Flags of the time.

Later, the popularity of roller coasters spread to other countries. There, Europeans modernized them with tracks vehicles. Finally, the first such attraction was built in Paris in 1804. Its name was Les Montagnes Russes, which means Russian Mountains in French.

In a like manner, modern roller coasters in the USA were built according to the Russian concept.

Oddly enough, however, the Russian term for roller coasters is American mountains (Американские горки).


Image by MikeGunner from Pixabay

Russian Roulette – Русская рулетка

This “folk fun” will be even madder than the previous one.

Not surprisingly, search engines return dozens of pages for the query “crazy Russians.”

However, The precise origin of the name is still unknown. Therefore, there is a chance that the Russians have nothing to do with it.

In addition, “Russian roulette” is sometimes also called “hussar roulette(гусарская рулетка)

I assume that you know the rules of this extreme game (игра). In simple words, this is a bet with a possible lethal outcome (летальный исход).

One (sometimes more) round loads to a revolver (револьвер), leaving some chambers empty. Then the cylinder is spun so that no one knows where the bullets (пули) can be. Actually, there are two variants of the game – with the spin of the reel after each move and without it. After that, the players take turns and place the gun against their temple. In the end, they pull the trigger (спустить курок)!

I read that some people still play with life this way. Probably, the best thing about it is that Russian Roulette obeys the general laws of probability theory.

Surely, due to the level of adrenaline, you can often meet Russian Roulette in thrillers (триллеры) and computer games (компьютерные игры).

Surprisingly, Russian literature of the last century did not have anything about Russian Roulette. Unexpectedly, this term was first used by Georges Surdez (Swiss writer) in 1937. An American newspaper published his story that told how Russian officers (офицеры) played this game in 1917.

Fortunately, today the phrase “Russian Roulette” is more often used in a figurative sense. It is not hard to guess that this means courage (храбрость), bordering on recklessness (безрассудство). Or vice versa.

I hope you enjoyed this topic. Stay tuned for more on the next blog.

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