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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

There's a Riot Going On

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?? ??????? ??? ?????? ??????? ???? --????????????? ? ???????????: God forbid a Russian revolt -- useless and ruthless (from Pushkin's "The Captain's Daughter")

Russian has a number of ways of describing public displays of support or discontent. In real life, these can snarl traffic. In the virtual world of translation, the "false friends" used in describing them can trip you up. For example, ?????? is not what you hold in your office, unless the staff is protesting the latest dress code. It's a demonstration or rally. ?????? ??????????? ? ????????? ?????? ? ??????? ? ??????. (Pensioners and people with disabilities held a demonstration Saturday in Kazan.) People who take part in these rallies are ??????????? (demonstrators): ??????????? ????????? ??????? ??????. (The demonstrators demanded their social benefits back.) And ???????????? can be a march or demonstration, but also a parade: ???????????? ????????? ?????? ?? ??????? ????? ??????. (Veterans paraded down the city's main street.)

You can also get tripped up with the issue of ???????: In Russian, this refers to a kind of permission or permit, or, in the phrase ??????? ?? ?????, a warrant for someone's arrest. In English, sanctions usually refer to a more generalized approval or disapproval, like "under the sanction of tradition," or "sanctions against the country are being discussed." So what do you do with ??????? ?? ?????????? ???????? It's best to use "rally permit," even if you have to drive yourself nuts fiddling with the grammar: ? ???????? ?????? ??????????????????? ?????. (In Saratov, a protest rally was held without a permit.)

If you are feeling the need to express your opinion, you can ????? ?? ????? (take to the streets): ??????? ????? ??????????? ? ?????? ???????? ?????? ????? ?? ?????, ????? ???????????? ?????? ?????? ????? ????????? ?????????????. (In various parts of Russia, tens of thousands of pensioners took to the streets to protest the replacement of in-kind benefits with cash payments.) Demonstrations can be against something, in which case they can be called ????? ???????? (a protest rally or march), or for something: ?????? ? ????????? (a rally in support of).

When things get very nasty, you can refer to ??????? ?????????? (street riots): ? ??????? ????? ???????? ???????????? ??????????? ??? ???????? ??????? ??????????. (In Baghdad, rioting began after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was shelled.) In this case, there are usually ???????????? -- or clashes -- a neutral way of saying that people starting fighting each other: ????????? ???????????? ? ???????? ? ????????????? ?????????. (There were clashes with the police and American soldiers.)

When things get really bad, you can refer to ????????? – an uprising or rebellion. But as you read about recent events in Russia, you have to keep in mind historical allusions. An article titled ????????? ? ?????????? ("Rebellion in St. Petersburg") is word play on the revolutionary events of the last century and probably doesn't mean the Battleship Aurora is about to be taken.

Worst of all is ????: a kind of massive, violent revolt that wreaks nothing but havoc. The headline ???????? ????: ??? ???????? ("The Benefits Revolt: Who Is to Blame?") implies that discontent is at the boiling point. ???? is frequently associated with the oft-quoted phrase by Pushkin from "The Captain's Daughter": ?? ??????? ??? ?????? ??????? ???? -- ????????????? ? ???????????. (God forbid a Russian revolt -- useless and ruthless.)

You can also use ???? or the verb ????????? jokingly in less dire situations, like the refusal of your cocker spaniel to eat the expensive dog food you've set out: ?? ???????! ??? ??? ?????? ?? ???! (He's protesting! He hasn't eaten anything in three days!) This form of rebellion is also useless, but happily not as ruthless.

Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based translator and interpreter.