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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin's Toes and 'You Know Who'

To Our Readers

The Moscow Times welcomes letters to the editor. Letters for publication should be signed and bear the signatory's address and telephone number.
Letters to the editor should be sent by fax to (7-495) 232-6529, by e-mail to, or by post. The Moscow Times reserves the right to edit letters.

Email the Opinion Page Editor

????????? ????-?? ?? ??????? ??????: to step on someone's toe

President Vladimir Putin's address to both houses of parliament certainly was a crowd pleaser. Who could be against ??????, ??????? ? ???? (love, women and children)? Or Franklin D. Roosevelt?

Your friendly quote-finder is pleased to inform you that the passage cited by Putin is from one of FDR's Fireside Chats. Nothing got lost in translation; in fact, it's a bit more powerful and vivid in Russian: ??????? ??? ??????? ???????????????? ??????????, ??????? ???????? ???? ?????????????? ????? ??????? ??????, ?? ????????????? ????????? ???-???? ?? «??????? ??????» ? ????? ????????? ?? ??? ??????. ?? ??? «??????» ???, ??? ????????? ??????? ???????? ????????? ??? ?????????, ? ????? ????, ???? ? ??????? ??????, ???????? ????? -- ?? ???? ?????? ?????. (In the working out of a great national program which seeks the primary good of the greater number, it is true that the toes of some people are being stepped on and are going to be stepped on. But these toes belong to the comparative few who seek to retain or to gain position or riches or both by some shortcut which is harmful to the greater good.)

In Putin's speech this year I was struck by the assertive verbs to introduce key ideas: ??????? (I remind you); ??????? (I am convinced); ?????? (I note); ??????????? (I'm counting on); ?????? (I believe); ??????? (I repeat); ?????? (I'm certain); and ????????? or ???? ??????????? (I stress / I want to stress), which I counted 12 times.

In general, this was an upbeat, punchy speech, filled with phrases like ?????? ????? (powerful spurt ahead); ????????? ???????? (the engine of development); ?????????? ??????? ?????? ?????????????? ????? (achieve high rates of economic growth); ?? ?????? ????????????? (we must give incentives); ??????? ??????? ??????? ?????? (today work is going well).

As a foreigner I couldn't help noting the call ????????????? ?????? ? ?????? ????????????????? ????????, ????? ???????????? ? ??????????????? (to encourage the flow into the country of qualified migrants -- people who are well educated and law-abiding). I can't argue with the president's request to us: ? ????????? ?????????? ? ?????????? ???????? (to be respectful of Russian culture). True, that's not quite the problem of foreigners in Russia that I would emphasize, but hey, I promise to do the president's bidding.

In other parts of the speech foreigners were mentioned obliquely. Putin used my favorite ???-??? (someone in the sense of "you know who") with: ????, ??? ???-??? ????? ?? ?????, ????? ?????? ???????? ? ???? ????????? (I know that someone would very much like Russia to get bogged down in these problems). And another "you know who I mean" was: ?????? ?? ??? ? ???? ?????? ???? ?? ??????????? ????????? ???????? ? ????????????? (far from everyone in the world has been able to abandon the stereotypes of bloc mentality and prejudice).

And when the president praised Americans for their high military budget, his pronunciation of ???????! ???????! (Good for them! Good for them!) simply dripped with acid. We got the message.

But I do agree with the president: We need success ?? ?? ??????, ? ?? ???? (not in word, but in deed). For this I offer the Berdy Brest-Belarussian Test (the BBBT). You know the intersection of 1st Brestskaya Ulitsa and Gruzinsky Val by Belorussky Station that has been a traffic nightmare for 25 years and where, for the last five years, no Moscow driver has so much as glanced at the traffic lights?

In the BBBT, when there is a well-paid, well-equipped, hard-working traffic cop standing at that intersection day and night, regulating traffic and making sure that cars stop on red and go on green -- then I'll believe that Russia is truly a flourishing, democratic society based on rule of law and respect for the rights and freedoms of its citizens.

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