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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Please Don't Take Offense

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 be offended, to pout

A hundred years from now, the chapter on this period in Russian history textbooks will be called "??? ???????." ??????? is a rich verb. It can mean to insult, offend, wound, hurt, harm or humiliate. When no one was looking, ??? ??????? became the ?????????? ???????????? ???? (the national idea of the Russian state). This national idea has two main tenets. The first is: No matter what happens -- ?? ????? ? ???????? (literally, "we are white and fluffy," which means that we are utterly blameless). The second tenet is: No matter what happens, ?? ???? ???????? ????? ????? (enemies from abroad are to blame for everything). So whenever there are explosions, assassinations, murder and mayhem, the refrain is: ??? ???????! (They're hurting us!) And whenever someone has the temerity to suggest that the problem just might be inside the country, once again the cry goes up: ??? ???????! (They're insulting us!)

I'm frankly getting just a tad bored with this verb. So I'd like to suggest some alternative phrases.

If, say, you are a large Russian corporation bidding on a strategic industry in a European country, and the stockholders don't like the price of the offer, the refusal of the Russian CEO to meet with them, and the idea that a totally foreign-controlled monopoly could gain control over a crucial resource, instead of claiming ?????????? ???????? ?????? ??????????? ???????! (They've launched a campaign against business in Russia!), try saying: ?? ?? ???????? ????. ?? ???????? ??????? ?? ???????. (We didn't take offense; literally, "pout." We accepted their decision calmly.)

If, say, a superpower would like to install in a nearby country a weapons system that doesn't exist against a threat that hasn't appeared and couldn't -- even if it were miraculously invented and installed -- stop Russian missiles, instead of insisting ??? ???????? ?????????? ????! (We're surrounded by hostile forces!), try saying: ?? ?? ????????? ??? ?? ???? ????. (We don't take this personally.)

If, say, the population of a neighboring country is upset that a group of Russians use a monument as a rallying point for insults and flag desecration and decides to move the monument out of the city center, instead of screaming ??? ????????? ?? ?????? ????? ???????! (They've defiled the graves of our ancestors!), try saying: ??????? -- ?? ???????? ????????? ??? ?? ?????. (You have to understand that their actions sting us or cut us to the quick.)

If, say, a Russian missile is dropped on a neighboring country, instead of shouting ??? ?????????? -- ??? ???? ????????? ????! (It's a provocation -- they attacked themselves!), try saying: ?? ???? ????? ? ???????. ??????????. (Don't get all hot and bothered; literally, "don't climb into a bottle." We'll sort it out.)

If, say, a seven-year-old English-language guidebook mentions prostitutes in Moscow, instead of announcing ?? ?????????? ?????? ? ??? ?? ???????! (We're going to take them to court for libel!), try saying: ?? ?????????? ??? ??????? ??????. (We swallowed that bitter pill.)

If, say, an obscure researcher in an even more obscure foreign think tank writes an unflattering article about the state of Russian democracy that is doomed to total obscurity until the Russian media puts it on the front pages, instead of declaring ???? ?????????? ??? ????? ?????????? (That condescending tone is incredibly annoying), try asking: ? ??? ? ??? ?????-?? ?????????? (Have we done something wrong? Literally, "do you have any complaints against us?")

And if, say, a foreign politician, citing Russian state sources, notes the high level of corruption, instead of snarling ??? ?????! (literally, "you're a fool yourself!" Or, your mother wears army boots), try saying: ?? ???? ???????, ?? ? ????? ?? ????? ???????, ?????????? ??????????????. (No offense, but bribe-taking exists in every country.)

I know, I know. Ain't gonna happen. But just think how much nicer it would be.

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