A Russian Spotlight on Great Britain: the Way We See It

If you are a Russian who had English classes among other subjects at school, you certainly remember worming through the texts about Great Britain in your course books, and I bet you must remember your teacher of English! My memory still keeps the sound of my teacher’s voice, reciting with a terrible accent: “London is the capital of Great Britain…” Our teachers, who had never been to any of the English speaking countries and hardly ever met an English-speaker in person, did their job of teaching us about the British culture so well that many grown up Russians and Ukrainians today still have an unbreakable image of a typical Britisher in their heads: a neat, skinny man wearing a bow hat and a cane, walking around the Houses of Parliament, whose manners and face bear elusive, but reappearing features of Sherlock Holmes, Margaret Thatcher and Mr.Bean at the same time.

In a so-called English school, where I had classes of English during the whole 10-year cycle, we were taught even more: we had known the disposition of forces in the Battle of Hastings and such vital facts for the Soviet citizen as the dates of life of King Richard and the average weight of the Stonehenge stones. My teachers, both at high school and later in the English language department of university acknowledged the London accent as the only correct and legitimate, and thus the only accent acceptable in the classroom (you can imagine that accent in their performance, right?), so I remember myself sitting in the “lingua-phonetics” classroom (that’s how they called it) with a small looking glass in front of my mouth, trying to keep the “typical British smile” (that’s also the way they called it) and repeating after the tape recorder dozens and dozens of times: “She sells sea shells on the sea shore…”

At the same time, our teachers never taught us simple things like the names of little objects which surround us in everday life: door handles, buttons, road bumps, cracks on plaster, and so on. Our teachers had a very artificial vision of the western lifestyle, and I believe many teachers of English still have it now. So even now, after decades of learning about English cultures and lifestyles, I am still surprised every time I find out a fact which I should have known since school, but I’d never heard it from anybody.

Just recently I found out that “the United Kingdom does not have a constitutionally defined official language (thank you, the UK Guide! http://www.commisceo-global.com/country-guides/uk-guide) It appears that English is the main language being spoken by more than 70% of the UK population and is thus the de facto official language.

The Guide I just mentioned above, provides very good sets of information about various cultures, and I believe their description of traditionalBritish etiquette and customs is quite correct. Anyway, I enjoyed reading through the paragraphs about the UK, and am now moving on to read about my own culture. Who knows, maybe I am going to learn something new there, too!

P.S. This is the famous Starkov and Dixon’s school coursebook of English which we used to have in the Soviet time as the main and the only book of English. This one was for 8-th graders (13-14 year-olds), and we were always called pupils, sometimes just comrades, but never we were called students.

en_textbook_soviet1

OMG! Leo Tolstoy Never Stops Tweeting!

I keep finding more and more twitter-long quotes of the great writer! Here are a few more. I can’t help sharing them, they are wonderful!

tolstoy_prokudin-gorsky

Happy is the one who is happy in his home. (Счастлив тот, кто счастлив дома.)

The strongest people are always simple. (Сильные люди всегда просты.)

It’s better not to do anything than to actively do nothing (Лучше ничего не делать, чем делать ничего.)

The best people are always among those, who are being condemned by the world. (Ищи лучшего человека среди тех, кого осуждает мир.)

While doing good, be grateful for this (opportunity). (Делая добро, будь благодарен за это.)

To be happy, one’s got to believe that happiness exists. (Надо верить в возможность счастья, чтобы быть счастливым.)

He who does not do anything, always has numerous assistants. (У того, кто ничего не делает, всегда много помощников.)

The only condition of success is patience. (Единственное условие, от которого зависит успех, есть терпение.)

The Striking Truth of Life in Leo Tolstoy’s “Tweets”

The greatest Russian thinker has been known for writing mindblowingly long sentences. To break this myth, I continue to publish short lists of Tolstoy’s quotes, which are only as long as ordinary tweets, yet are really massive in meaning.

Everyone dreams to change the world, but no one sets the goal to change themselves. (Каждый мечтает изменить мир, но никто не ставит целью изменить самого себя.

The least simple are the ones who prefer to look simple. (Менее всего просты люди, желающие казаться простыми.)

Real knowledge comes to us through our hearts. We know only the things which we love. (Настоящее познание дается сердцем. Мы знаем только то, что любим.)

Ambiguity of words is an invariable sign of obscurity of thought. (Неясность слова есть неизменный признак неясности мысли.)

Speak only about the things that are clear to you; otherwise, keep silent. (Говори о том только, что тебе ясно, иначе молчи.

People look silly to each other mainly due to the fact that they want to look smarter. (Люди кажутся друг другу глупы преимущественно от того, что хотят казаться умнее.)

Learning Two Languages at a Time

Learning two languages at a time can be really overwhelming. The fact is, when you learn a new language, your brain is doing a continuous job of putting the new knowledge in harmony with the existing knowledge and so-called mind patterns, which are “adapted” to your native language and ways of thinking. As a result, if you “stuff” your memory with too many language structures and quite new patterns, you may feel overtired, emotionally worn out, and even depressed.

At the same time, every one of us has his or her individual limits, and I have met people who used to study two or more foreign languages at a time quite successfully. Still, the knowledge of every language is determined by the ability  to communicate in it, which is impossible to do without continuous practice of speaking. If you have lots of language speakers around you all the time in a bilingual country (like the French provinces of Canada, for example), then your chances to successfully master two languages at a time, will be much higher.

Still, I would not advise a native English-speaker, for example, to try and learn Russian and Ukrainian at a time. Slavic languages have many similarities between them, but they are quite different from the languages of Germanic group; this kind of study may become quite tiresome and such learners may end up losing motivation for study at all.

learning-too-much
“This is the first time I’ve done this kind of blog, in that it’s an open question to all of you who read. I’m not sure I’ve mentioned it in a previous post, but I’m learning Spanish. I’m about level B1 and go to a weekly two-hour course. I started properly learning in September 2013. […]

via Have you ever learnt two languages at once? — Dan in Deutschland

What Distinguishes the Russian Lifestyle?

These are a few of really many specific features of Russian lifestyle, which make it so unusual for the eyes of a westerner. We will discuss more in the future articles. The illustrations you’ll see here are scenes of Russian authentic life from V.Vasnetsov’s artwork.

vas_01

1. Russians consider themselves a well-educated nation. They will be very surprised if you tell them you have not read Pushkin or Tolstoy, though, like everywhere in the world, the young generation tends to read less and devote more time to watching movies and killing time at computer screens.

2. The basic primary and secondary education programs in Russian public schools are unified by the Ministry of Education all over the country, so all kids of secondary and high school ages seem to have pretty similar knowledge about every subject they study at schools.

vas_04

3. Every Russian (Ukrainian) city has at least one theater and a concert hall. Russians are very fond of live performances. In many cases, tickets are affordable (the prices in cinemas and theaters are comparable), so, once in Russia, you should certainly try attending an opera, or a symphony concert, or a musical, a ballet, a drama, etc. If you are lucky, you can see an amazing ballet or an opera with live orchestra music for as little as $5-$10. It will certainly be worth the time and expense.

4. Since the Soviet times, Russians have an unwavering community spirit, which sometimes goes a bit beyond the limits acceptable by the westerners, but if you would like to experience it, ask your Russian friends to take you to a big party, a picnic, or a celebration.

vas_02

5. Russian culture is non-individualistic. The power of an individual in Russia is much less than in the west and most deals are pushed through family, friends and acquaintances. A famous Russian saying is, “One is not a soldier in the battlefield.”

6. To make things work in Russia, one needs to be acquainted with some people in power. This is why Russians tend to maintain more friendships than an average westerner. If you know the right people, you can arrange to have the most difficult tasks/situations resolved.

vas_06

7. The majority of Russians belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. Religion, however, is not a real part of their life; many attend church once in a while just to “light a candle”, which is a way to ask God for something to happen (a business deal, an exam) or to remember a deceased person, but in fact, many Russians would rather pay attention to horoscopes than to the Bible.

8. A church marriage is not official in Russia. A couple has to register their marriage with local government authorities before they are allowed to have a church ceremony performed.

vas_05

9. Health care and secondary education are free in Russia, though Russians joke that education becomes less and less free with every year. It is still possible to get a university education for free by passing the entrance exams, but the universities are decreasing the number of students who study on a free basis because of poor state financing.

10. The majority of Russians don’t have what the westerners call “good manners.” Most of the people in the streets and in offices look gloomy, and it is not common to smile to everyone who makes eye contact with you. In conversation, Russians do not hesitate to say what they think in a way that doesn’t leave room for any misunderstandings. Quite often , they do not mean to be rude, it’s just their way of doing things.

vas_08

11. Russians are used to situations where everything is unpredictable and unstable. They have to adapt to new rules and laws quickly. So do not be surprised if you plan a dozen of meetings throughout a week, and only one or two of them will really happen. It is quite common for Russians to cancel a meeting in the very last moment under the pressure of some unexpected circumstances.

12. Nowadays, the majority of Russian people do not really understand the huge difference between life in Russia and in the West. Very few Russians have ever been abroad, so their image of the western world is quite different from what it is really like.

vas_07

13. Russians love to complain about having a very difficult life, but still they do not consider their life miserable; many believe that things are changing for the better and “everything’s starting to work out” for their country.

14. Russians like to emphasize their different attitude towards material values and consider themselves as sincere, cordial, understanding, and unselfish. Do not be surprised if they ask you right in the face whether you like the Russians and how much you like them (expecting, of course, to hear some nice response). They like talking about the “specifics of Russian soul” or the “mysterious Russian soul,” and will certainly mention the famous phrase of a Russian poet, “You can’t understand Russia with your mind.”

15. Russians believe in the great mission of the Russian nation in this world. Even if you hear them criticize their country and life, you are not supposed to do the same, or they will start defending it furiously. They blindly believe that they are citizens of the largest county in the world, which has a very rich history, and they are proud of it.

vas_09

Interesting Facts About Leo Tolstoy

tolstoy_prokudin-gorsky

Everyone knows that Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910) was a Russian novelist, essayist, playwright, and short story writer who wrote classics such as War and Peace and Anna Karenina, and is considered to be one the greatest novelists of all time. Some facts of his long life, however, still remain understudied, and only those who study his biography very thoroughly, may know the following:

  • Leo Tolstoy wasn’t a good student. When he enrolled in the Oriental languages program at the University of Kazan, he consistently received low grades, and was described by his teachers as, “both unable and unwilling to learn.” He left after two years, and never finished his degree.
  • Leo Tolstoy fought in the Crimean War from November 1854 to August 1855. During this time, he used much of his free time to write. This helped him to remain strong while living through the terrible experiences of war.
  • While fighting in the Crimean War Leo Tolstoy wrote Boyhood. It was the second book in his autobiographical trilogy Childhood. Boyhood. Youth. After returning home from the war Leo discovered he was already popular on the literary scene in St. Petersburg.
  • Leo Tolstoy witnessed a public execution in Paris in 1857, which bothered him for the rest of his life.
  • In 1860-61, while on a trip to Europe, Leo Tolstoy met Victor Hugo, the author of Les Miserables. Leo’s political views were believed to have been shaped during this time.

tolstoy-and-wife

  • Leo Tolstoy married Sofya Andreyevna Bers in 1862. She became his lifetime partner and carried the burden of being a wife, a mother, a housekeeper, Tolstoy’s personal secretary, and the family business manager, all at the same time. She gave birth to 13 children over the course of 20 years.
  • In the 1860s Leo Tolstoy wrote War and Peace.
  • In 1873 Leo Tolstoy wrote Anna Karenina, which was published from 1873 to 1877 in installments. The royalties helped build Tolstoy’s wealth.
  • Because of Leo Tolstoy’s unconventional ideas he was watched by Russia’s secret police for a time.
  • His Christian anarcho-pacifist ideas were widely influential. Late in life, after the publication of War and Peace and Anna Karenina, Tolstoy became deeply involved in exploring his religious and social beliefs. He openly declared his Christian beliefs in 1884, with a book titled, What I Believe, and began developing a radical anarcho-pacifist Christian philosophy that would serve as a prominent theme in his later works.
  • As a result of developing his unconventional philosophy, Leo began giving away a lot of his money, which his wife Sofya could not aprove. Leo granted her control of his copyrights and royalties.
  • Leo Tolstoy became established as a religious and moral leader in the last 30 years of his life. Mahatma Gandhi is said to have been influenced by Tolstoy.
  • He Inspired a Religious and Social Movement. Though Tolstoy’s work led to the birth of a religious and social movement, the adherents of which called themselves “Tolstoyans.” The Tolstoyans sought to promote and live out Tolstoy’s ideas and beliefs, including participating in social activism and reform, becoming vegetarian, and living a life of asceticism. Communes sprang up in places as far afield as South Africa, India, Japan, and the United States.
  • While on a pilgrimage with his youngest daughter Aleksandra on November 20th, 1910 Leo Tolstoy died. He left behind his wife Sofya and 10 children.
  • Leo and Sofya had 13 children but only 10 lived beyond infancy.
  • Tolstoy’s War and Peace is often referred to as the greatest novel ever written.
  • By the year 2010, there were the total of 350 ancestors of Tolstoy’s family living (or previously living) in 25 countries of the world. Since 2000, they have developed a tradition to meet annually in Yasnaya Polyana (Tolstoy’s estate).
  • Tolstoy is not as celebrated in Russia as many might think. The Kremlin did nothing to celebrate the centenary of Tolstoy’s death, November 20th, 2010, to the dismay of many. The oversight stood in contrast to 2010’s nationwide festival surrounding the 150th anniversary of Chekhov’s birth.
  • The Russian Orthodox Church has remained firm in its refusal to lift Tolstoy’s excommunication, despite receiving several requests to pardon the author. It acknowledged Tolstoy’s importance as a writer, but maintained that it cannot lift an excommunication after someone’s death.

tolstoy-at-work_repin-1891

Ivan Bunin. Loneliness.

autumn_rain_she_leaves

Whenever the weather is humid and cold, I remember lines from Loneliness, a beautiful poem by Ivan Bunin (1870 – 1953).

Bunin was the first Russian writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and was noted for the strict artistry with which he carried on the classical Russian traditions in the writing of prose and poetry, his name did not appear often enough in our school textbooks during the Soviet time, because Bunin left Russia for Paris in 1920 and spent the rest of his life in immigration.

Одиночество (Loneliness) is one of his most beautiful poems. Bunin devoted the poem to his friend, an artist from Odessa Pyotr Nilus, but this poem is undoubtedly an autobiographical one. The feeling of loneliness can be noted in most of Bunin’s poems and prose. This state of mind was quite typical for authors like Bunin, whose works happened to be underestimated both at home and abroad.

The poem was written in the summer of 1903, during a stay in Konstantinopol, where he felt lonely being far from his family and friends. Right before the trip, Bunin had gone through a tragical moment in life: he broke up with his wife, Anna Tsakni. The personal drama affected him deeply; life looked gloomy and senseless, Bunin was going through a deep depression. The translation below is a very good one, it repeats original beat and rhythm of Bunin’s masterpiece.

Loneliness

The rain and the wind and the murk
Reign over cold desert of fall,
Here, life’s interrupted till spring;
Till the spring, gardens barren and tall.
I’m alone in my house, it’s dim
At the easel, and drafts through the rims.

The other day, you came to me,
But I feel you are bored with me now.
The somber day’s over, it seemed
You were there for me as my spouse.
Well, so long, I will somehow strive
To survive till the spring with no wife.

The clouds, again, have today
Returned, passing, patch after patch.
Your footprints got smudged by the rain,
And are filling with water by the porch.
As I sink into lonesome despair
From the vanishing late autumn’s glare.

I gasped to call after you fast:
Please come back, you’re a part of me, dear;
To a woman, there is no past
Once love ends, you’re a stranger to her;
I’ll get drunk, I will watch burning logs,
Would be splendid to get me a dog.

(Taken from: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/loneliness-332/)

%d0%b8%d0%b2%d0%b0%d0%bd-%d0%b0%d0%bb%d0%b5%d0%ba%d1%81%d0%b5%d0%b5%d0%b2%d0%b8%d1%87-%d0%b1%d1%83%d0%bd%d0%b8%d0%bd

This is the Russian version of the poem and a rare recording of Bunin’s voice, where he reads the poem himself:   Bunin reads his poem Loneliness

Одиночество

И ветер, и дождик, и мгла

Над холодной пустыней воды.

Здесь жизнь до весны умерла,

До весны опустели сады.

Я на даче один. Мне темно

За мольбертом, и дует в окно.

Вчера ты была у меня,

Но тебе уж тоскливо со мной.

Под вечер ненастного дня

Ты мне стала казаться женой…

Что ж, прощай! Как-нибудь до весны

Проживу и один – без жены…

Сегодня идут без конца

Те же тучи – гряда за грядой.

Твой след под дождем у крыльца

Расплылся, налился водой.

И мне больно глядеть одному

В предвечернюю серую тьму.

Мне крикнуть хотелось вослед:

«Воротись, я сроднился с тобой!»

Но для женщины прошлого нет:

Разлюбила – и стал ей чужой.

Что ж! Камин затоплю, буду пить…

Хорошо бы собаку купить.

osennyaya

The Life Behind Russian Sayings

pogovorkiRussian popular sayings – поговорки [pagavOrki] – were developed through centuries and of course, like everywhere else in the world, are reflections of traditional lifestyle. If you write about Russian life you may need to use some, but they will hardly help unless you understand the “story” behind every saying. Here are a few examples.

Не имей сто рублей, а имей сто друзей. Friendship is better than money.

Literaly, it is translated like “Don’t have 100 rubles, but have 100 friends”. Friendship is very important to Russians, because to them, it is an equivalent of ability to survive. Many animals prefer to live in pecks, or flocks, or herds, and so do Russians. They believe that if you have a lot of friends, you are garanteed against trouble. If you were poor and hungry, your friends would pitch in and help you get what you need. If you feel depressed, you don’t need a councelor – just visit your friend and let him listen to you (you have probably heard about Russian overnight sittings with vodka in kitchens). If you need motivation, go to your female friend (each Russian man tends to have one) and sob out your sorrows to her: she will always know what to say to support you. This is why, if you ask a Russian what is most important in life, the answer will not be “having money”, it will be: “having many good friends”.

С мира по нитке – голому рубашка. If everyone pitches in and helps, you’ll have what you need.

This saying is a follow up to the previous paragraph. It literally says: “take a little thread from the world and a poor (naked) man will have a shirt.” Again, it confirms that Russians have a great love of community, The belief is strong that they can succeed together, while a lonely man is doomed to fail.

Два сапога пара. Two peas in a pod.

The saying “two boots are a pair” does not only remind you about cold Russian winters, it is used to describe two people who are compatible and close. Behind these words, there may be an implication that you’ve got to expect the same behavior from the people who have been friends for a very long time. People learn from each other, they share experiences and opinions, and as Russians prefer communal life to individualistic lifestyle, many have similar looks on life. Honestly, for many people these are not even looks on life, they are just imprints of other people’s opinions, which got stuck to one’s memory and became their views, too. This is why many Russians seem alike in their approaches to life. Two peas in a pod!

В тихом болоте черти водятся Still waters run deep

This is a rough equivalent to the English saying, meaning literally: “in quiet swamp, demons can be found”. The Russian saying is somewhat darker and may imply that the person being described may display unexpected behavior. This saying is always uttered as a warning. Russian history is filled with stories of betrayal: each generation can recall numerous examples of detecting  informants, squeals, snitches, and spies in communities which had seemed to be quite supportive and friendly (there are numerous examples of this in literature, too), so this phrase remains popular through centuries. Every child can hear it from mother now and then, from a very early age. I think this may be the reason of the Russians’ odd behavior: with all their openheartedness, they remain a bit suspicious about everyone they deal with, because… who knows? Still waters run deep… In quiet swamp, demons can be found!

Баба с воза – кобыле легче It will be easier without him/her.

“When a woman gets off the carriage, it is a relief for the horse”. This saying is not really a complaint about a woman’s weight (though sometimes this may be the case, too), but a note that it is relieving for the whole company when someone undesired has finally left.

I think it might also be a metaphor to women’s love to talk. If she speaks a lot and then finally leaves, it is a relief!

Нашла коса на камень. He ran into a brick wall.

In Russia, this saying is interpreted like “the scythe found a rock” refers to a common problem that makes you stop what you are doing. Usually, the saying means that some event has interrupted a process, so it must be fixed now. In past, it was often related to farm works. Today, you can hear this phrase during working discussions in offices, when someone repeatedly refuses to agree with common opinion and this hampers the whole working process.

 

There are hundreds of idioms in Russian language, and really many of them are widely used in everyday life situations. I will share more some day, If you like.

 

About some odd Russian traditions

russian_lifestyle

As I am partially Russian and write about Russians (and Ukrainians), I love sharing about peculiarities of Russian language, culture and lifestyle. Here are a few specific Russian traditions which look quite unusual to English-speakers. The following things are common for all regions of Russia and to some areas of Ukraine:

  • Not smiling at people with whom you randomly make eye contact. According to Russian logic, a smile is supposed to be genuine and should only be shared with friends;
  • Dressing up to go to the store or anywhere else, even if you are going out just for one moment. This “rule” is observed by women in the first place, but men in cities and towns also tend to follow it;
  • Sitting down for a minute before heading on a trip. This is an old tradition that is believed to keep bad luck away from the traveler. Once the suitcases are packed, most Russians will typically pause and sit quietly for a minute before leaving;
  • Making really long and complicated toasts. Russians also like telling anecdotes as often as possible. When in Russia, expect to hear lots of toasts, lengthy anecdotes, and too much of explaining of every joke;
  • Answering “how are you?” honestly and fully. Russian logic goes like this: “Once you have asked it, you really want to know the answer, so I am going to give you all the details now”;
  • Celebrating New Year’s more enthusiastically than Christmas. Even the Christmas tree is traditionally called the New Year tree. Presents are purchased for the New Year celebration. Christmas is good, too, but it is celebrates on January, 7, and feels like the New Year’s aftertaste;
  • Calling all females “girl”: девушка [dEvushka]. To call up a female waitress, you yell, “Девушка!” (Girl!), no matter how old she is;
  • Sitting down at the table for a meal and staying there for hours. When groups of Russians get together for dinner, they will sit down, have dinner, and talk. Then they will talk some more;
  • Always keeping your bags. Russians never throw away any bags, just because you never know when you might need one;
  • Preparing way more food than is necessary for when friends come over;
  • Living with their parents. It is quite a common thing that an entire Russian family – parents, children, grandparents – will live together in one apartment;
  • Meeting complete strangers and then becoming friends with them immediately… especially if there is something to drink, and there is always an abyss of topics to discuss. So don’t be surprised if you are invited over for “some tea” after only 10 minutes of conversation; and
  • Russians never show up to someone’s house without a gift in hand. It can be a dessert or a bottle of wine if it’s dinner, or it can be chocolates or flowers (never bring an even number of flowers – that would be a funeral tradition). It’s not really important what it is, as long as you bring something.

History of Russian Roulette

Russian roulette (русская рулетка) is a lethal game of chance in which a player places a single round in a revolver, spins the cylinder, places the muzzle against their head, and pulls the trigger. “Russian” refers to the supposed country of origin, and roulette to the element of risk-taking and the spinning of the revolver’s cylinder being reminiscent of spinning a roulette wheel.

RR

It is claimed that this practice was widely known in Russia in the early 19th century. However, there is only one written source before the 20th century: in Mikhail Lermontov’s 1840 “The Fatalist”, one of five novellas comprising his A Hero of Our Time, a minor character survives a version of Russian roulette.

There are a number of legends trying to explain the origin of the game, most of them are based on opinion that the game used to be popular among soldiers and officers of the Russian army. According to one of them, in the 19-th century, Russian roulette was a popular time killer among prison guards in Russian prisons. The legend says that the guards made stakes on life and death of their prisoners and made theguys poor prisoners play the game in front of their eyes.

Another version states that Russian army officers used to voluntarily play this game to surprise others with their bravery.

Russian roulette was also said to be an effective, but relatively safe trick, because on some revolvers, when the trigger is not cocked, the drum rotates freely. Therefore, if the drum is well lubricated, during its rotation the only cartridge will snap down under its own weight and remain in the bottom of the drum, so the chamber of the drum coaxial with the barrel is highly likely to remain empty. However, on many types of revolvers, when the trigger is cocked, the drum does not rotate freely, including the famous “nagan” revolver, which was the main gun of the Russian army at the beginning of the 20-th century: a specially designed spring fixated the drum in firing position even when the trigger was not cocked, so the mass of the cartridge could not have a noticeable effect on the drum position.

russian roulette

The first written mention of the term “Russian Roulette” refers to January 30, 1937. Georges Surdez in the article “Russian Roulette” in the American magazine «Collier’s Weekly» provides a dialogue with a French Foreign Legion sergeant who had served in the Russian army:

«Feldhaym … Have you ever heard of “Russian roulette”?»

When I said that I had not, he told me all about it. When he served in the Russian Army in Romania, approximately in 1917, when everything was falling apart, the Russian officers believed that they were loosing prestige, money, family, country, and honor in the face of the Allies. Frustrated and driven by despair, some of them – right at a table in a restaurant or just surrounded with friends – would suddenly fetch a gun, remove one bullet from the drum (so that there was only one empty slot), twist the drum, put a gun to their head and press the trigger. The probability that the the gun would shoot and that the officer’s brains would splatter everything around was five chances out of six. Sometimes it happened, and sometimes it didn’t.”

This passage describes the most extreme and the most “deadly” version of Russian roulette, when there remains only one empty slot in a drum of a revolver. The 4.2 linear revolver Smith & Wesson, also known as the “Smith & Wesson-Russian” which had been the main gun of the Russian Imperial Army prior to “Nagan”, also had a drum capacity of six cartridges and could also be used for Russian roulette game – even before World War One.

  • Follow Share love. Educate. Inspire. on WordPress.com
  • New: English for Your Job Interview

  • An Interview

  • Recent: Romantic English Phrasebook

  • Recent: Romantic Russian Phrase Book

  • Rina’s Short Story

  • Languages & Lifestyles

  • Archives

  • Goodreads

  • 101 Books

  • Follow me on Twitter

  • Writing

  • Blogs I Follow

Shelf Love

live mines and duds: the reading life

May The Best Book Win!

librocubicularist | scrivener | tattoos