Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Marching, Drenched, Toward a Green Spring

Late March is the time to expect spring and prepare for winter. As the saying goes: Nastupil martok, odevai sem' portok. March is here, put on seven pairs of pants.


Since no form of clothing can protect you from a day that starts with a blizzard and ends in warm rain with intermittent spells of icy sleet, we feel that you should at least be armed with the proper linguistic arsenal.


Trudging around the capital in March, you may notice the pozyomka, not really a snowfall at all, but a breezy wind blowing a dusting of snow at ground level.


You may walk out into a vyuga, which is a snowstorm with swirling winds, from the word vit'sya, to swirl.


There's metelitsa, a word made famous by Moscow's resurgent gambling industry, but that actually means a little blizzard.


Metelitsa's big sister, metel', came to town briefly last week and closed down the airports.


Imagine a very short, very intense and very localized snow squall: This is buran, which is also the name of a Russian space shuttle. Now imagine the same storm covering a huge area, kind of like a fleet of space shuttles, and you have a snezhnaya burya.


Up north, but thankfully not here, they have a thing called purga, a total white-out with winds so strong that people routinely get blown off their feet. During the polar night, this particularly inclement bit of bad weather has the charming appellation, chornaya purga, or black blizzard. The purga is accompanied by some of Russia's least pleasant snow, small hard bits of precipitation called kolyuchy sneg, stinging snow.


Any kind of snow quickly turns to something else this time of the year, although it's often hard to tell if it's sneg s dozhdyom, snow with rain, dozhd' so snegom, rain with snow, dozhd' s gradom, rain with hail, or just plain mokry sneg, wet snow.


Anyway, most people don't notice the difference, because they're too busy trying to keep their balance on that underfoot phenomenon Russians call gololyod, literally "bare ice."


Purists remind us that the proper way of saying "the roads are slippery" is na dorogakh gololeditsa, but the effect is the same: The pace a bit too hurried; the foot placed too confidently on the frictionless surface; the rapid, twirling descent; pain and embarrassment.


No catalogue of late winter wonders would be complete without a mention of slyakot', a combination of slush, ice, snow, mud and deep water so hard to describe it's almost ethereal.


So get out your galoshes, slap on that sou'wester, grab your umbrella and plunge out into the unknown! Only two weeks till the trees start to turn green.