I, a Passer, Close to Everyone, Alien to All 

I, a Passer, Close to Everyone, Alien to All. (“Я – прохожий, близкий всем, всему чужой.”) M.Voloshin

These beautiful lines belong to Maximilian Voloshin,  a Russian poet of Ukrainian-German origin, commonly known as Max Voloshin (1877 – 1932). I just finished re-reading Voloshin’s Faces of Creation (“Лики творчества”), a profound and masterful study of evolution of some art movements, a book which I had admired as a student, and now re-discovered again, nearly 30 years later.


“Art is intimate. Art is the artist’s appeal to another
man. The secret of artistic pleasure is always committed
only between two people.” M.Voloshin

Voloshin_01 Max Voloshin was one of the significant representatives of the Symbolist movement in Russian culture and literature. He became famous as a poet and a critic of literature and the arts.


His poetry is as symbolistic as his paintings, yet it is so besutiful that I keep rolling his words over in my mind again and again. Here are a few lines I particularly like; I tried to interpret them into English for you:

Так странно, свободно и просто      So oddly, so freely, so just

Мне выявлен смысл бытия,              I can grasp secret meanings of things:

И скрытое в семени “я”,                      The semen, revealing my kinks,

И тайна цветенья и роста.                The magic of rising and rust.

В растенье и в камне – везде,           In every creation or being

В горах, в облаках, над горами       In the clouds, beyond, and above

И в звере, и в синей звезде,             I can hear the song of agreeing

Я слышу поющее пламя.                  with the rapturous fire of life.


Voloshin was known for his brilliant translations of a number of French poetic and prose works into Russian, but amazingly, the Wikipedia article about him hardly even mentions the fact that Voloshin – a critic, a poet, and a philosopher – was also a great artist himself. As a tribute to his artistic talent, here are a few images of his wrks.

Voloshin_02 “The unconscious is, perhaps, the only reality,” Voloshin used to say. (“Бессознательное – это, может, единственная реальность.”) He believed that when a person’s conscious skills grow, the subconscious “burning” inside her dies out. (Сознательное мастерство растет, подсознательное горение идет на убыль. ) He himself, however, was the master of both, and his beautiful art is a prfect confirmation to this.






Quickly About Russian Question Words


Russians love asking and answering questions. In fact, quite often, our communication process keeps going mainly by means of aking each other short questions and jumping from one topic to another just for the sake of the speech process itself. When meeting, Russian close friends seldom greet each other by traditional “здравствуй” (Hello) or “Доброе утро” (good morning), they rather start with questions right away: “Ну что? Как дела?” (So? How are things?), “Что нового?” (What’s new?), “чем занимаешься?” (What’s keeping you busy?), “Что скажешь?” (What will you tell me?) “как оно?” (How’s it going?)… I could continue this list on and on. All these phrases are cliches: we use them so often that we pronounce them automatically, and quite often a newcomer may not recognize them by an unprepared ear. This is why, I listed the main Russian question words below in this article and supplied them with simple transliteration notes for your convenience.

I think I should share one more little secret here: unlike the English-speakers, when Russians ask something, they expect a full, detailed unswer. The talk may move from one topic to another and return back a number of times; Russian love to interrupt each other by telling stories that just came to their mind in association with the object of discussion, and usually they cannot wait to tell their stories.


People who ask too many questions are friendly called Почемучка (A-why-so-man or woman); those who seem to know answers to all questions are called Знайка (All-knowing guy).

The good news is the face that many questions in Russian language can be made by simply changing intomation of your sentence. For example, the phtase “Ты можешь мне позвонить” (You can call me) can be considered an affirmative sentence when pronounced with ordinary intonation, and the same phrase can turn into a question “Ты можешь мне позвонить?” (Can you call me?) simply by changing the intonation.

Still, there are a number of question words which, like in every other language, serve to ask for details of some events or actions. Here are these question words, and below, a couple of tables explaining how these words can/should be changed depending on the case, gender, or other grammar specificities.

The main question words in Russian:

Что? [shto] – What?      Кто? [hto] – Who?     Как? [kak] – How?

Сколько? [skolka] or [skoka] – How many?

Почему? [pachimU] – Why?

Когда? [kagdA] or [kadA] – When?

Где? [kde] – Where? (Used when you are searching for something. “Where is the bank?”)

Куда? [kudA] – Where to? (indicates motion towards something. “Where are you going?”)

Откуда? [atkUda] – Wherefrom? (indicates motion away from something. “Where are you coming from?”)

Какой? [kakOi] (m), Какая? [kakAia] (f), Какое? [kakOe] (n) – Which? What sort of?

Чей? [chei] (m), Чья? [ch’jA] (f), Чьё? [ch’jO] (n), Чьи? [ch’ji] (pl) – Whose?

Notes: Where gender is shown, the word should agree with the noun it relates to.
The word Какой declines like a stressed adjective, so it must also agree in case.
The words Что? and Кто? have different forms in different cases. Above is nominative. (others shown below)

Cases for the question words Кто? [hto] – Who? and  Что? [shto] – What?      

кточтопадежи This is a similar table, but is provides examples of related words and prepositions which are traditionally used with thes words when we answer case forms of questions Кто? [hto] – Who? and Что? [shto] – What?


I hope this information with help you a little bit. Don not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!

How to Memorize Russian Words with Less Effort

russian alphabet background

The English-speaking learners of Russian often complain about having hard time memorizing Russian words, which seem too long and difficult to pronounce. In this post we will look at some ways to simplify the process of memorizing Russian words.

First of all, let us agree that memorizing is a learning skill, which requires time and concentration of the learner’s attention, which means that the words cannot “jump” into our memory without our participation. So, the first condition of good memorizing is your intellectual and emotional state. Do not even try to memorize anything when your mind is busy thinking over some work problem or when you are excited or disturbed by something. Also, a very important thing is motivation. If you know exactly why you are learning Russian and how you may use knowledge of these particular words in the future, then you will memorize everything quickly and, as some students often put it, “almost without effort.”

To make your memorizing process as efficient as it can be, you may want to start a book (or a file) of new words, then you can enter every new word you come across, and thus, you can see your progress, daily. Some people, however, are not big fans of writing, they memorize everything “by ear” or “by their eyes”, so let us leave this choice to every person, individually.

The first thing you meed to do to remember a new Russian word is to look at it with full attention, and read it loud, trying to hear your own voice as you pronounce it and remember how the word is spelled with your eyes.

Let us take the word неожиданность, for example. It is long and difficult to read for a beginner. First, you need to know the basic information about the word: it is a feminine, singular noun, it has 5 vowels, which means it has 5 syllables (неоИан-ность), it has a stress on the 3-rd syllable (letter и is stressed) and it is used in its dictionary form (has no specific ending). All this information is usually available in dictionaries.

Now, for the pronounciation. Try to read it loud: неожиданность [ni-a-zhi-dan-nast’]. Repeat the word a couple of times and get your tongue accustomed to saying it.

So far so good, you will say, but what does it mean? The unpleasant thing is the fact that this word does not have a direct, completely equivalent translation into English, “неожиданность” means: an unexpected event, a surprise, something that happened unexpectedly. All right, you can probably remember the meaning of the word, but how can you remember this incredible sequence of letters?!

Here is a way: look at its syllables first-

неожиданность – [ni-a-zhi-dan-nast’] – and interpret it as: [new-a-zhid-an-nast] or even as: [new-as-shit-on-us]. I am sure this way the word is crooked all over, but it is beginning to create a trace in your mind.

The fact is, when you try to build up a meaningful association between a new piece of language [ni-a-zhi-dan-nast’] and something already familiar [new-as-shit-on-us] – no matter how crazy it may sound, our memory “catches” the new meaning right away, creates a visual association (I am sure your brain has already built an image in association with the [new-as-shit-on-us] combination), and then memorizing takes place. The only thing you need to know now is to make a mental note for yourself that Russian word неожиданность means something new happening unexpectedly, that is is a noun and sounds somewhat similar to the phrase [new-as-shit-on-us]: ni-a-zhi-dan-nast’.

The next step will be to train using this word in other word combinations (preferably, in the most commonly used combinations – just as it appears in its language:

приятная неожиданность – a pleasant unexpected event

Вот так неожиданность! – What an unexpected event!

You may also try to make up a sentence containing the word:

Это была полная неожиданность – It was a completely unexpected event (news)!

There are many other methods of memorizing language material, and we are going to look at more of them in our future posts, but most of those methods aim to achieve the same effect: to develop an image in your mind, which will “stick” to the meaning and to your way of “hearing” the new word. Try the above method for now – play with your words, try to develop associations with their meanings or the ways they sound and memorizing will become a lot easier.

As the last little tip I’d like to suggest you not to waste your time trying to memorize difficult words. If a word seems quite difficult, just skip it for now and go on to work with the next one; try to choose the easiest and the most “likeable” words in the first place. Try the ones which you can easily pronounce and associate with something familiar. This will save you the time and emotion of having to remember the “immemorizeable” stuff.

Did you understand what I meant by “immemorizeable”, by the way? Right, I meant to say: something that cannot be memorized. Your mind just did the job of understanding of this word (which does not exist in the English language, but is understandable to you because of its quite understandable parts). When you try to memorize Russian words, your brain pushes every new word through a similar process. This is why, if you learn to divide the “meaningless” Russian words into meaningful units of sounds, you can easily use your existing mind strategies for memorizing of the new words.

Thank you for reading this! See you soon with our next post.

Ukrainians Enjoying Visa Free Travel to Europe

According to Razumkov Center’s sociological study, 55% of grown up Ukrainians have never been abroad, 16.3% go abroad less often than once in 10 years, 11.6% of the population visit other countries once in 6-9 years, 8.6% travel once in 2-5 years, and only 8.7% go abroad once a year or more often. Today, when the doors of the European Union are finaly open, Ukrainians do not need visas to enter the countries of the so-called Shengen zone.


In a few days now, 40 million Ukrainians with biometric passports will be permitted to enter 30 states in the Schengen zone for 90 days for tourism or business. After many months of ongoing discussions and negotiations, the decision has eventually been made and will come into force on June 11, 2017.  The map below shows Ukraine in red, and the visa free territories in bright green, as well as the light-green territories where visa is issued upon arrival, and the grey territories are the countries which require a visa to be issued prior to the arrival into the country. Well, the good news is:



Our local press is full of articles about what to expect on a visit to Europe and how one should prepare for the trip. This fuss causes me mixed emotions, though. I am happy for the Ukrainians, of course. At the same time, this decision was preceeded with such a long period of procrastinating that it no longer excites anyone.


Still, I believe that every Ukrainian citizen – especially the young ones – MUST visit as many countries as it is possible, because-


The more Ukrainians travel, the sooner they can make their life better. Today, thousands of people still scold their country and always grumble: “Everything is bad, it just can not be worse!” I am sure these are the voices of those who have never traveled abroad.


If more people travel and finally see the world with their own eyes, this will open their eyes, I a, sure. There are so many things one can do in this country, and there are really many things which are really very good here. One simply needs to have a wider look on things to be able to see this. Today, Ukraine is becoming the country of opportunity for many. I hope that Ukrainians will soon show this to the rest of the world.



A Love Letter to a Russian Girl


a_love letter

Quite often, I receive requests from English-speakers for assistance in translating or editing their personal letters, addressed to Russian women, in order to make sure that nothing of what they say would sound inappropriate or clumsy to their charming Russian readers. This post, however, may be interesting to a wider audience than learners of the romantic Russian language. You are welcome to look through the “sample” love letter in Russian and its English translation, just to train you Russian!

This is a sample set of sentences to compliment a Russian woman and to share with her about your feelings. Certainly, there may be thousands of other ways to express whart you feel, but these are just a few examples in Russian and in EngLish. If you are a learner of Russian and would like to know more about how to write your letter or to translate / pronounce some phrases, you ae welcome to contact me and ask for explanations.

Привет, Солнышко! Hello, (my) Sun! (dear / love / darling),
Я давно хотел рассказать тебе о своих чувствах, но долго не мог решиться на это. It has been a long time since I wanted to tell you about my feelings, but I could not dare to do this.
Поэтому я решил выразить свои чувства в письме. So, I decided to express my feelings in a letter.
С тех пор, как я первый раз увидел тебя, в моем сердце загорелась маленькая искорка. Since the day we met for the first time, a little sparkle lit up in my heart.
С каждым днем она росла и становилась все ярче. It kept growing bigger and brighter day after day.
Я понял, что мои искренние чувства к тебе переросли в нечто большее. I realized that my sincere appreciation for you was turning into something bigger.
Я полюбил тебя всем сердцем и теперь я не могу представить себе жизнь без тебя. I fell in love with you with all my heart, and now, I cannot imagine my life without you.
Ты подарила мне все необходимое, что нужно для счастливой жизни. You have given me all I needed to feel completely happy.
Ты для меня – идеальная девушка. You are a perfect woman (girl) for me.
В тебе нет недостатков, ты само совершенство. You have no flaws, you are a perfection.
Я поражаюсь твоей красоте и изысканности. I admire your beauty and grace.
Я горжусь тем, что самая красивая девушка в мире стала моей. I am proud to have the most beautiful woman in the world.
В твоих глазах столько нежности и искренности. Your eyes are so tender and so sincere.
Ты даришь мне тепло, которого мне так не хватало до тебя. You give me the warmth, which I was missing so much before I met you.
Я не перестаю удивляться твоей очаровательной улыбке, которая заставляет меня забыть обо всех проблемах и разочарованиях. I can’t stop admiring your charming smile, which makes me forget about all problems and disappointments.
Мне хочется улыбаться вместе с тобой, я хочу всегда держать тебя за руку. I want to smile together with you and – always – I want to hold your hand.
Но самое главное, что я ценю в тебе, это твой внутренний мир. But most of all, I admire your inner world.
Ты такая добрая и чувственная, ты всегда понимаешь меня с полуслова. You are so kind and sensible, you always understand me perfectly.
Мне нравится говорить с тобой, мне нравится молчать с тобой, я обожаю просто смотреть на тебя. I like talking to you, I like to walk in silence with you, I love to simply look at you.
В твоих движениях скрывается столько открытости и таинственности одновременно, что хочется любоваться тобой вечно. Your movements hide so much openness and mystery at the same time, that I want to watch and admire you forever.
За все это я и люблю тебя, люблю искренне и открыто. For all this I love you, I love you sincerely and openly.
Благодаря тебе я познал любовь и обрел счастье. Thanks to you, I got to know love and found my happiness.
Мне хочется кричать об этом всем и тихо шептать тебе это на ушко. I want to cry about all this to everyone, and I want to whisper these words into your ear.
Я люблю тебя больше жизни и буду любить всегда. I love you more than my life and will love you forever.

Three beautiful girls sitting in cafe

Old Easter Traditions and Beliefs in Slavic World

This year Good Friday falls on April 14 and Easter Monday is on April 17. Since very old times, the Easter week is a holy time for every Slavic nation. Numerous traditions, customs, rules, omens, signs and superstitions have developed through centuries in connection with Easter festivities. As this is the time of very changeable, early-spring weather, lots of beliefs and popular superstitions are connected with observations of weather on the Easter week. Here are some of them, which have been observed through centuries by the Slavic peoples.


In order to make really good and tasty Easter cakes (called “пасхи” [pAshi]), it was advised that all family behaved quietly. No one was allowed to speak loudly in the house while the women were busy baking.

When the pashi and easter effs were cooked and decorated, they were taken to the church and “holified” there. After the ritual, the master of every house had to quickly carry the easter cake(s) to his home. The tradition was based on the belief that the family that reaches their home first after the church service, will get a better harvest that year and will be the first to finish their work on the fields.


A few other traditions were also strictly observed and followed-

  1. To keep the family life peaceful and happy, the whole family had to begin their holiday Easter meal together. All members of the family were expected to take their places around the table and everyone has to eat a piece of the “holified” Easter cake in the first place.
  2. Young women believed that, if they hit their elbow against a wall or a door that day, they would soon meet their fiancé and get married.
  3. If the Easter day was rainly, it was expected that the whole spring and the early summer would be rainly, too.
  4. If the day was sunny, it meant that the harvest would be good that year.
  5. The one who was the first to see the sunrise on the Easter morning was supposed to be happy all the year round.
  6. The elderly people brushed their hair on this day and counted the hairs that remained on the comb: that was supposed to be the number of grand-children which they would have.
  7. Young couples would kiss under a strong tree on the Easter day to make sure their relationship would be happy.


The Unknown, but Gorgeous Sights of Ukraine


Recently, Ukraine has been known mostly as a huge 40-million country to the east from Europe, which is being continuously challenged by geopolitical battles taking place in and around it. At the same time, numerous facts about the country are never brought up by any media, and today I would like to focus on Ukraine’s beautiful nature, because- what can be better than spending a vacation in a quiet place away from large cities, with beautiful nature behind the window and a plate of the most tasty food on your table after a long walk in the fresh, crispy air?

Here are a few sights of Ukraine you have probably never heard of.

The above photo features Kolochava village, which is called the longest village in Ukraine, as it stretches along the hills to 40km! There are ten ethno-museums located in the village, so you will never be bored there.


The name of Bakota village in Khmelnitskiy region is translated as “an always desired place”. It used to be the capital of Podillya back in the 13-th century, then it survived a very big many of historical events and today it is a small tourist place for those who love moderate climate and peaceful rest in the mountains.


Dzembroniya village in Ivano-Frankivsk region is called “a place where clouds are born”. Famous Ukrainian poets and writers used to stay here to get inspiration from its gorgeous nature.


Mezin, Chernihiv region lies on the side of Desna river. Archaeological findings of Paleolite epoch attract scientists and tourists here. The beautiful forests located around the village have gained it a second name – “Mezinska Switserland”.


Oposhnya (Poltava region) is also one of the most picturesque areas of the country. It is also a Mekka for ceramists and potters.


Iza (in Zakarpattya) is the center of basket-weaving. You can learn the craft here, right from the local masters, and also Iza is famous for producing the best cheeses ever!


Strusov, a village in Ternopyl region, is a beloved place for many travelers. The place has a long and the most exciting history, which has become immortal due to the ancient cave-church of St.Anthony and an old castle of Knight Goluhovsky.


Kamennoye village in Zhytomir region is regarded the healthiest place in the world, where everyone can heal their diseases. You will find a beautiful hodgepodge of huge rocks with natural caves that look like houses (though nobody lives there); the mysterious landscape of the place has given way to numerous legends, ballads and tales.


Trikraty (Mykolaiv region) is associated with a kossack family of Skarzhynski, one of whom devoted his life to studying botany and local plants. There are three famous nature parks in the area, and a beautiful Aktovsky Canyon, also known as “Devil’s Valley”.


In Lviv area, the old castle of Pidhirtsy has been called the local “Galician Versailles”. Right near and around the castle, a beautiful parkland and St.Josef Roman Catholic church are located.


Roztoki (Chernivtsy region) is a beautiful landscape nature park with its seven Bukovinski waterfalls and gorgeous hilly forests everywhere around.


A blue-water lake Synevir and a tiny village around it attracts those who seek the fresh air and peaceful vacation away from people and civilization.


Cherkassy region has its own peaceful corner: Morintsy village with a museum of Taras Shevchenko, the most beloved Ukrainian poet, painter and thinker, who was born here.


Trypillya (Tripole) is a worldly known town today due to the archaeological findings made by Vikentiy Hvoika, who excavated numerous items of the previously unknown ancient culture.Hvoika’s sensational discovery brought lots of attention to the place. Today, there are two museums in the town, where tourists can learn about the unique culture of the ancient local dwellers.

This list is certainly not full. Ukraine is uniquely rich in natural sights, qunique cultural traditions, and history, so everyone who is interested is welcome to visit and is guaranteed to never be bored here.

The Russian Language Survival Guide

Russia graffity-600x600

This one-page guide to basic Russian phrases will help you on your trip to the Russian-speaking cities.

Russian Language Survival Guide

English Russian Pronunciation
Good day/hello. Добрый день. Dobry den’
Hi/hello. Привет. Privet
Good evening. Добрый вечер. Dobry vechir
Goodbye. / Goodnight. До свиданья. Da svidan’a
See you. До встречи. Da fstrechi
Yes. Да. Da
No. Нет. Net
You’re welcome. Пожалуйста. Pzhalsta
Thank you. Спасибо. Spasiba
How much? Сколько? Skol’ka
I don’t understand. Не понимаю. Ni panimaju
Cheers! На здоровье! Na zdarovie
Can I have the bill/check? Счёт, (пожалуйста). Schot (pzhalsta)
Beer пиво piva
Water вода vada
Wine / vodka Вино / водка Vino / votka
May I? Можно? Mozhna?
Good. Хорошо. Harasho.
Excellent! Отлично! Atlichna.
Bad. Плохо. Ploha.
So-so. Так себе. Tak sibe.
Excuse me. Простите. Prastiti.
I don’t speak Russian. Не говорю по-русски. Ni gavaru pa ruski.
I’d like to… Я бы хотел… Ja by hatel
buy купить kupit’
I need your help, please. Помогите, (пожалуйста). Pamagiti (pzhalsta)
Where is…? Где…? Kde
Please,… Извините,… Izviniti
I don’t know. Не знаю. Ni znaju
Sorry. Извините. Izviniti



What Makes Learning Russian so Hard for the English-Speakers?

When asked this question, native English-speakers usually provide similar answers: the main difficulties are (in an approximate order of lowest to highest difficulty, and this is not a full list): learning Cyrillic, pronunciation, case for nouns / adjectives, verbal affixes / aspect, intonation, and word order.

Many language learners believe that, if they know a certain number of words, they will be able to communicate the language they are studying, and this may be true for some languages, but not in the case of the Russian language, where words change a lot due to numerous suffixes, endings, and prefixes, which are not only difficult to remember, but, what’s more, they may change the meanings of words dramatically. Learning words and their meanings is not enough in Russian. You’ve got to know a lo about various language structures and grammar rules, if you want to understand and speak Russian.

Those who have just started studying Russian say that learning Russian pronunciation is quite challenging, but in fact, it comes to you with practice. A more difficult thing, probably, is having to remember cases for nouns / adjectives and verbal affixes / aspect.

English has a large number of phrasal verbs which can have wildly differing meanings. In fact, Russian phraseology is very developed, too, and using it may be quite a task to a beginner, when all Russians use lots of phraseology and idioms in daily communication, which makes understanding Russian quite difficult for beginners.

Really many things in the Russian language are left to the learner’s memory. Russian suffixes, for example, may have predictable meanings, which tend to be “technical”, for lack of a better word, while prefixes are more abstract and polysemic—as are the English particles. For example, Rusian words распустить, выпуск, запуск, запущенный have the same root, by the way, but very different spelling and pronunciation, to say nothing about the meanings.

While English phrasal verbs like give up, go on, take off, take after— let you make educated guesses at what they mean, especially if you encounter one of them in context, a learner of Russian cannot reliably deduce the meanings of words by only knowing the meaning of a root or of the parts they are built of.

Also, many English-speakers find Russian language structure lacking logic; they believe that there are too many exceptions to each rule to even be able to call them rules at all. Other learners complain that Russian free word order makes it even more difficult to speak, because while putting words at random places in the sentence, you never know what logical accent your final phrase will acquire.

Here are a few interesting notes which I picked up at Russian learner’ forums;  these comments give you a great picture of their troubles while trying to master Russian:

Comment 1: “It is certainly the vocabulary that is giving me the most trouble, although I seem to have reached a point where words are beginning to be related to each other and I recognize the root and so can guess the meaning, and anticipate the form. The grammar, apart from becoming accustomed to the verbs, does not seem difficult…”

Comment 2: “DO NOT try to learn Russian by roots, prefixes, and suffixes. My SMALL experience with Russian prefixes and suffixes is that they do NOT modify in a logical manner.”

Comment 3: “Basically, you could learn 3 other languages as easily as you can learn Russian. And then there is the grammar.”

And now, for the last comment, on the most optimistic note, to wrap up the discussion for today. Enjoy!

Comment 4:  “If you put solid effort into learning Russian and maintain motivation and dedication, you will become conversationally fluent sooner than you expect! Once you get a foot-hold into the language, you will be learning and retaining more and more, easier and easier. It’s like learning a new word in your native language – it isn’t hard at all to remember it because you can subconsciously find the roots and words similar to it, and you hear it around you so you’re exposed to the word and “revising” it. Just take it slow and understand everything handed to you and you will be on the road to fluency in no time! Good luck :)”


Russian School Diaries: Sweet Memories to Keep

In Russia, Ukraine, and everywhere about the former USSR, every student of primary and secondary school must have a so-called diary (дневник [dnevnik]) – a printed notebook, where the student is supposed to make daily entries of their tasks for homework, and teachers usually leave short notes for parents and put down the student’s grades whenever he or she made an oral presentation in class or got a test grade in the class register. Dnevnik is a so-to-say form of communication between teachers and parents via the kid’s book of daily notes.


The school year extends from September 1 to end of May and is divided into four terms with a week-long vacation periods between them. The programme of study in schools is fixed, it amazes me how stable it has been over the years: the program which my mother had at her maths class in the 1950-es at the age of 12 is practically identical to what my daughter studied at her age of 12 in 2003. Neither can schoolchildren choose the subjects they want to study. The class load per student is 638 hours a year for nine-year-olds, 893 for thirteen-year-olds, plus there are official hours of additional classwork within the program. The students are supposed to write with pens of blue color, while teachers always use red. You can see the student’s notes in blue in the “dnevnik” below, and the teacher’s entries in red: the grades, the teacher’s signatures, and sometimes short notes for the parents asking to pay attention at their kid’s behavior or attention in the classroom.


Students are graded on a 5-step scale, ranging in practice from 2 (“unacceptable”) to 5 (“excellent”); 1 is a rarely used sign of extreme failure. Teachers regularly subdivide these grades (i.e. 4+, 5-) in daily use, but term and year results are graded strictly 2, 3, 4 or 5.

The teachers’ entries into “dnevnik” have always caused excitement in our minds, and the mother’s or father’s voice, saying: “Show me your dnevnik!” remains in everyone’s memory till the end of our lives!

High school kids are usually bored by school, and those wh want to show that they don’t give a damn to the school rules, can do this to their “dnevniks” sometimes:


But the most memorable are the humorous moments, when teachers, being driven to madness by kids, leave very funny notes in dnevniks. In Russia and Ukraine, we even have websites, where people contribute photos or scans of their kid’s dnevnik pages with very funny teachers’ notes. This page, for example, has a few entries about a boy’s bad behavior:

  1. “Нарисовал половой орган на доске!” – “He drew a penis on the black board!”
  2. Кричал “Ленин жив!” – “He cried out “Lenin’s alive!”, and in the bottom part of the page:
  3. “Продавал одноклассника в рабство” – “Tried selling his classmate to slavery.”

Looks like quite an action-packed day for a school boy, doesn’t it?



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