Select language:

Homeland in Danger

 /  / Russkiy Mir Foundation / Publications / Homeland in Danger

Homeland in Danger

25.05.2008

When commuter train operators outside Moscow went on strike in early May, executives from Russian Railways appealed to the courts with a request to stop “an illegal protest that presents a threat to the country’s defense and to state security.” In a formal sense, everything in the request was true, as labor legislation prohibits railway employees from going on strike. Whether such a prohibition is reasonable or not is another question. More interesting, however, is the language used by Russian Railways – “the country’s defense and state security.” How difficult it will be for strikers to talk about low paychecks and other social woes if this case goes to court. It’s easy to knock down any social activity with the “defense of the country” card.

Valery Gribakin, head of the center for public relations at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, recently produced the same card after it had become completely unacceptable to remain silent when asked about police abuse of power (this spring was quite rich in terms of news about all possible forms of abuse people face at the hands of police. Recently, in Izvestia, for example, there was an engaging story – “A Case of Agreement” – about two photojournalists from the publication who were taken into custody by unknown police officers during the recent March of Dissent. A court then sentenced them to six days imprisonment. “A frightful force,” wrote one newspaper about the police, despite its strong loyalties to the government. “It’s simply solidarity. Most are against them. We, if you will, “agree.”).

In speaking on the usual rumblings in the press and among social commentators, General Gribakin said that the “Ministry of Internal Affairs does not intend to tolerate slander directed against it” and that “individual citizens and social organizations that aren’t very popular are trying to attract attention to themselves by carrying out various far-fetched protests and not infrequently organizing provocation against police officers responsible for ensuring security at these events.” Two phrases already bring the discussion to a completely different level. By talking about abuse of power by police, one is already making life difficult for “individual citizens and public organizations,” and that itself is a consequence.

It’s unlikely that anyone would argue with the notion that Levitan reading the news on the radio today would be funny, to say the least. The news is not what it was then, and neither is the audience. People relate to radio broadcasts much differently today than before. Every era has its own voice, its own intonation. If today someone began speaking in the voice of sixty years ago, then bewilderment would be the only reaction that would ensue. It seems, at least, that we only see a response from people when stories appear about strikers threatening the country’s security or individuals carrying out antipolice provocation. But then, one could copy a press release from a 1937 issue of Pravda, make it a headline story, and nobody would notice. Nothing matters to anyone.

While certainly not the most important, a very vivid episode occurred in the first weeks of the Great Patriotic War during Stalin’s famous radio address on July 3, 1941 – “brothers and sisters, my friends.” It’s possible to write and speak about these words to this day. One might believe that Stalin adopted the language of religious sermons, scared at the defeats suffered by the Red Army. Another might disagree and be certain that it was a matter of patriotism and spirituality on the part of the Soviet leader. In reality, it is likely that Stalin changed his rhetoric because “ordinary” words about enemies, threats and defense against these evils had become so often used by numerous orators, songwriters and publicists by July 1941 that Stalin’s “ordinary” speech at that time simply wouldn’t have been heard – or it would have been heard, of course, but it wouldn’t have made a single impression at all.

It’s the same today. If our country really finds itself in danger, it will be extremely difficult to find the words to convey the reality of this danger. “Defense and security” have been overused with reference to the railway workers, and “provocateurs” with respect to the police. Even such peaceful drinks as kvas are advertised in Russia using the language of war manifestos.

The anti-Estonian and anti-Georgian utterances speak for themselves. Over the last year and a half or two, they have been made so frequently that if Russia suddenly finds itself faced with a true enemy, the president and state-run television will have to start swearing in order to be heard. All the other words have been used up already.

Last year, when one of the new entertainment centers used a slightly altered phrase from a famous poster by Iraklij Toidze – “Your Motherland Calls to Kick Back!” – many were offended by the blasphemy and desecration. The scandalous advertisement quickly disappeared from billboards. In reality, there was no blasphemy; people simply had a feeling for the trend. And this trend comprises the very same danger that truly faces us today.

Rubric:
Subject:
Tags:

New publications

Igor Zaretsky, the legend of Russian and world yachting has celebrated birthdays and anniversaries in the open ocean time and again. The yachtsman from Yaroslavl admits that he may celebrate his 70th birthday in the Golden Globe Race, a single-handed round-the-world regatta. A year and a half ago, Zaretsky became the only Russian participant of the famous race, which was followed by the whole world. The tricolor has been flying over the yacht of the native of Yaroslavl in all oceans, except the Arctic one.
60 years ago, an unusual university was established in the Soviet Union. It was named the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia, also known as RUDN University, where students from countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Middle East could go into higher education. Today, 200,000 RUDN University graduates work all over the world. And they all recall their alma mater with gratitude. Vladimir Filippov, the Rector of RUDN, spoke to the Russkiy Mir about history of the unique university.
120 years ago, Isaak Dunayevsky, perhaps the most famous Soviet composer of popular songs, was born in the quiet Ukrainian town. Could you think thirty-five years ago that a small musician, a fan of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Brahms and Borodin, would be able to become a master of the easy genre? But it is my extensive musical background that helped and still helps me to create light music by serious means, Dunayevsky wrote in his memoirs.
75 years ago, the Red Army liberated the Oświęcim concentration camp (the Auschwitz) - perhaps the deadliest Nazi concentration camp, which became a symbol of the Holocaust and quintessential example of inhumanity of the Hitler regime. However, in the war and post-war history of the world-known concentration camp, there were episodes that are still in the shadow of zeitgeist biography of the death factory replicated by mass media
The authorities and social activists of Crimea intend to popularize the Ukrainian language, which is one of the state languages ​​in the region. They intend to hold a forum, round tables and exhibitions on the peninsula to fulfill this task. In 2020, a newspaper and a regional TV program in Ukrainian are also going to be launched in Crimea.
On January 17, 1945, during the Warsaw-Poznan operation, Soviet troops liberated the Polish capital from Nazi invaders. It took the Red Army several days to get the Nazis out of the city.
Prominent Russian linguist, the person behind establishment of the Pushkin State Russian Language Institute and its first principle Vitaly Kostomarov recently celebrated his 90th birthday. However he does not quit his scientific researches. The scientist told the Russkiy Mir why Russian continues to be one of the most successful languages in the world and how the Soviet leaders facilitated the fact that we continue to speak the language created by Pushkin and Karamzin two centuries ago.
Turkan Oldjay, a Chair professor of Russian language and literature at Istanbul University, believes that the most important task in studying Russian language at the present stage is mastering not only the language system, but also history, literature and culture of the Russian people. We talked with the scholar researching Russian-Turkish cultural relations about Russian émigrés in Turkey, translations of Russian literature into Turkish, and how much Russian language and Russian culture are in demand in Turkey today.