Russia Day Five

Basketball is very big in Russia.  Everyone knows what is going on with the Lakers.  Well, not everyone.  Today is explore Ufa, Russia day.  I love the name Ufa.  It is just about the only Russian word that I know.  Each day a learn about a new way to dress for the cold.  Today, I am going with long Johns and then my ski pants.  This should work.  Take a look at some of these photos.


Each walking trip is an adventure.  This is right down the street from Cynthia’s Russian apartment.  There are always lots of people walking at all hours.   My gut feeling is that the streets are safe.  Everyone minds their own business.  It appears that you could walk anywhere.


It has snowed just about everyday.  You have your hands full just keeping from falling down.  The Russians have lots of practice not falling down in this kind of snow.


We have been taking long walks each day.  It is very difficult to hold a camera under these types of conditions.  My suggestion is to bring a light weight camera and a way to keep your lens from getting wet.


I have learned lots of new ways to clean the snow.  The Russians are very creative when it comes to finding creative ways to push snow around.  All of this will come in handy when I get back to California.


Here is a photo of our local university.  I will have more information in my next post.  I have seen students from Africa and Asia attending the university.  It is always great to be located in a university town anywhere in the world.  Hard Rock Bands are on the local TV and many of the American bands are well known in Russia.  We did stop in a Russian music store and I tried out a bass guitar that was made in China.  The cost was about $200.00 and the quality was high.  The store had a limited supply of musical instruments and the prices were good.

Kids Talk Radio Russian Backpack Journalist News Report No. 5


Russian as She Is Taught

15 November 2012 | Issue 5015

By Michele A. Berdy

Вопросы и ответы: questions and answers

Over 100 years ago, Mark Twain wrote a very funny piece called “English As She is Taught,” which chronicles American schoolchildren’s hilarious misapprehensions about the world, science and literature.

Some of them are clever in a wrong sort of way: capillary is defined as “a little caterpillar” and mendacious is “what can be mended.” Some are very confused: “The two most famous volcanoes of Europe are Sodom and Gomorrah.” And one or two are so wrong they’re almost right: “The United States is quite a small country compared with some other countrys but is about as industrious.”

Since then, it seems like trumpeting American ignorance has become something of a national tradition, like the annual poll that shows about one-third of the population has no idea who the vice president is.

My Russian friends have always been a bit smug about this — and rightfully so. The Soviet school system had many drawbacks, but it was pretty good at getting basic facts into kids’ heads.

But times change. A compilation of answers on a recent Единый государственный экзамен (nationwide college-entrance exam) that has been making the rounds on the Internet indicates that some Russian kids may be doing texting during class instead of paying attention to history lessons. But their creativity — linguistic and interpretative — would make Twain proud.

For example, one kid writes, При Иване Грозном происходило искоренение инакомыслия путем коррупции (Under Ivan the Terrible, opposing views were put down through the use of corruption). Another clearly sees the present in the past: Иван Грозный убил многих влиятельных бизнесменов, мешавших ему управлять государством (Ivan the Terrible killed a lot of influential businessmen who were preventing him from governing the state).

Some showed great use of figurative language: При Екатерине II страна покрылась университетами (Under Catherine the Great, the country became covered with universities). Она меняла фаворитов как колготки (She changed her favorites like pantyhose).

Others had some issues with word choice, something I sympathize with: В советских школах дети были как инкубаторы — у них всё было одинаковое (In Soviet schools, children were like incubators, they all had the same things). Врагов советской власти называли дивидентами. Дивидентское движение росло и ширилось (Enemies of Soviet power were called dividents. The divident movement grew and spread.) Ельцин осуществлял политику шаговой терапии (Yeltsin carried out a policy of step-by-step therapy).

But you have to applaud some of their logic: Большевики ликвидировали неграмотность для облегчения цензуры. Ведь как можно цензурировать неграмотность? Никак. (The Bolsheviks liquidated illiteracy to make censorship easier. Because how can you censor illiteracy? You can’t.)

Kids knew that Yeltsin was important, but they were a bit shaky on why: Ельцин был первым президентом СССР (Yeltsin was the first president of the U.S.S.R.). Ельцин — первый президент СНГ (Yeltsin was the first president of the CIS). Ельцин создал партию Единая Россия (Boris Yeltsin founded the United Russia party).

And then one kid was philosophical beyond his years: Закончилось всё, как обычно в России: беззакониями власти и недостатком продовольствия (It all ended like it always does in Russia: with the lawlessness of the authorities and food deficits).

I hope that kid passed with flying colors.

Michele A. Berdy, a Moscow-based translator and interpreter, is author of “The Russian Word’s Worth” (Glas), a collection of her columns.

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One thought on “Russia Day Five

  1. We invite you to leave comments. It gets very lonely in the middle of Russia. Take a look at where Ufa is on the map and you will see what I am talking about. The longer you stay in Russia, the more Russian you will learn. When I get back to the USA we will continue to work on our Mayan Visual Jazz Opera. We have posted this project on our website. It is so strange to be composing music for a Mayan Jazz Opera late at night in the middle of Russia. If you are in town, (Long Beach, CA) stop by the Museum of Latin American Art and catch our next performance on December 16, 2012, time from 1-4 PM.

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