Russian Language Blog

You are a sailor, Mishka! Posted by on Feb 23, 2022 in Culture, Holidays, Music, when in Russia

Ты одессит, Мишка, а это значит,
Что не страшны тебе ни горе, ни беда.
Ведь ты моряк, Мишка, моряк не плачет,
И не теряет бодрость духа никогда.

You are an Odessa native, Mishka, and that means

You are not afraid of neither misery nor misfortune.

Because you are a sailor, Mishka, a sailor never cries

Nor loses his spirit.

This nostalgic song “Мишка-одессит” sang by the brilliant Леонид Утёсов (Leonid Utyosov) has been on my mind a lot lately. And with today’s holiday in Russia I feel like it’s especially apt to listen to not only Utyosov’s majestic voice, but to the song’s lyrics.

For those new to the Russian public holidays, сегодня День Защитника Отечества or Defender of the Fatherland Day. And, as Maria has mentioned in her blog about public holidays in Russia, February 23rd and March 8th are considered reciprocal holidays: one for men and one for women. (For different views on March 8th read here.) However, more and more people are writing about the potentially harmful nature of holidays that perpetuate certain gender stereotypes. I really like how the Russian podcast studio Либо Либо wrote о гендерных праздниках (about gender holidays) in their post (see the photo below and follow the link to read the full post).

screenshot of libolibo

Screenshot of the post by author (read the full post here)

I especially like what the author writes in the last paragraph that I screenshot.

My translation: If we assume that all men have something “military” in their nature, just because they are “strong”, “brave”, and always “have to win”), we are inevitably perpetuating the idea that we have unquestionable biological “gender” roles. Therefore, men must “protect, fight back, attack”, you name it. Use violence but not show emotions. All of these are very harmful lies. And it is especially upsetting to think about this today.” [See the original post from libolibostudio’s Instagram account here]


Фото автора Guy KawasakiPexels

Now, let’s go back to the song for a minute. The melody is lyrical and catchy, yet the lyrics keep telling Mishka all the ways he can show he is a man.

As a kid, he shouldn’t cry when he is feeling down:

“И если горькая обида
Мальчишку станет донимать,
Мальчишка не покажет вида,
А коль покажет, скажет ему мать”

The chorus repeats over and over (with the exception of the last one):

“ведь ты моряк, [Мишка] моряк не плачет” (that you are a sailor, and sailors don’t cry)

As Odessa is being attacked the song continues “парнишке не бывает страшно, а станет страшно скажет он себе [припев]” (the young boy is not afraid and when he is he will repeat [chorus])

Only when his country emerges victorious, it is acceptable to cry but in a particular kind of way:

И, уронив на землю розы,
В знак возвращенья своего
Парнишка наш не сдержит слезы,
Но тут никто не скажет ничего.

Не сдержать слезы (literally, to not hold back tears) is, in my opinion, such an interesting choice here, because before that, when fear and misery would overwhelm our hero Mishka, he had to resist these feelings and not cry (не плакать). For all those emotional parts, the lyrics focused on the Russian word “плакать”, meaning, “to cry”. Сдержать слезы, even though in negation, sounds a lot more manly because we associate the word “сдержать” with “cдержать слово” or keep one’s promise. On its own, “держать” is a very versatile Russian verb that changes even more once prefixes come into place. Speaking of which, please read Ryan’s Racing through Prefixes Part I and Part II.

And lastly, нет войне (no to war).

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  1. Ph:

    Interesting as always, and a great choice.

    • bota:

      @Ph Спасибо. Если честно, не вериться что началась война, самая настоящая война. Болит душа и сердце за Украину, за мирных людей.