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In Preparation 












Reader in Russian in the University of Oxford 



PRF. cr:o VAT!ON 

N* 2 2 1993 






THE appearance of this volume at the present 
moment is so apposite that any prefatory or 
explanatory remarks are really superfluous, all 
the more so that the authoress is already known 
in this country by her excellent writings on Russia 
which have appeared in the course of the last 
few years. It has, however, been suggested that 
something may be usefully said as to some purposes 
which, amongst others, this book may serve. In 
the first place, it is something really new, being an 
exposition of Russian psychology illustrated by 
examples of the Russian language. One often 
hears said by those who have read translations 
of Russian works, or books written in English 
about Russia, that they do not yet understand 
Russian psychology. To that it may be answered 
that it is very difficult to understand Russian 
psychology without knowing, at any rate, some- 
thing of the Russian language. Translations of 
Russian books are sometimes inexact, and books 
about Russia are sometimes one-sided. The fact 
that this book on Russia, Russian, and Russians 
is written by a Russian in English endows it with 
the authority of an original, and saves it from the 
tedium and incorrections of a translation. The 
authoress has lived long enough in England to 
know what is both interesting and unintelligible 
to English readers, and has lived long enough out 
of Russia to be able to look at her country and 
countrymen objectively and to appreciate fully the 
value and beauty of her own language ; at the same 


time she is still able to write sufficiently subjec- 
tively to be inspiriting, and sufficiently broad- 
mindedly to be convincing. In this way, with the 
aid of the numerous quotations from such authors 
as Gogol, Dostoyevski, and others more modern, 
the book will appeal to those who are interested in 
Kussian literature and psychology, but have no 
time or inclination to study the language ; written 
in an engaging and conversational style, it brings 
certain interesting and illuminating aspects of the 
Russian character and language to them in their 
armchairs, as it were. 

In the second place, the book will be directly 
useful to the rapidly increasing number of people 
in this country who are actually studying the 
Russian language. The many aptly chosen lin- 
guistic examples and their explanations and inter- 
pretations which illustrate the book go a long way 
towards providing a Russian syntax very attrac- 
tively disguised, and will help to impress certain 
remarkable characteristics of the Russian lan- 
guage on the minds of students more effectively 
and pleasantly than the arid pages of grammars 
and textbooks are wont to do. 

Although differing somewhat radically from the 
authoress in certain points amongst others, of 
pronunciation and the vexed problem of trans- 
literation (and therefore it may be hoped not to be 
suspected of collusion) the writer has no hesitation 
in saying that for serious students of the Russian 
language, literature, and psychology, the present 
work, being, as it is, a sort of concentrated essence 
of Russia, is equal in value to half a dozen of the 
large books on that country which have latterly 
been so plentifully showered upon us. 




EDUCATED English people seem to be interested nowa- 
days in Russian literature. Happily, there exist some 
translations which convey the general meaning of the 
originals very well indeed like those by Mrs. Edward 
Garnett and a few others. But even they could not 
possibly transfer the atmosphere of the Russian speech, 
its beautiful subtlety, or its extreme analytical power. 
These have no equivalents in modern English (nor in 
other modern languages, but my little study partly con- 
cerns the comparison between the Russian and the 
English speech only). Hence the gaps in the best of 
translations; and hence the appearance of these pages, 
the aim of which is to show that those who want to 
understand the Russian national character and to grasp 
the beauty of Russian literature, should try and learn 
the original Russian speech. Let not the difficulty of pro- 
nunciation stop anyone. Firstly, we are not so particular 
on a foreigner's pronunciation as a Cockney or an English 
labourer are on the ' exact ' pronunciation of English ! 
I hope those who have visited Russia have had the 
opportunity to notice that we are capable of ' catching a 
word on its flight,' as we say. Secondly, it is chiefly not 
the sounds themselves, but that logical flexibility of our 



language which we would love to introduce to all the 
world but cannot, for the lack of a medium. 

Much of the following in the main part of this book 
will startle a casual reader as bad English but this is 
just the point: there exists no good English for many a 
conception which I want to convey from the Russian ! 
The only way I can suggest is for the reader to try and 
detach his mind from the usual modern English and to try 
and penetrate with it into the attitude of the Slavonic 
mind. This may be worth while trying for those who 
really want to investigate this mental attitude; because 
the mechanism of thinking, the process of thought 
itself, reflects of course the nature of a nationality just 
as much as its politics and customs do. And a patient 
reader will, perhaps, get an additional glimpse into the 
national Russian mind through seeing the possibilities 
which are open to the Russian speech. 

What is discussed in this book beyond the preface is 
not included in Russian grammar- and text-books. The 
complexity of our syntax is naturally such a matter of 
course to us, that the branching off of its nuances strikes 
one only when one is confronted with the task of ex- 
plaining them to a foreigner. If it were not for my 
wonderful English friend to whom this book is duly 
and gratefully dedicated, and who has a regular 'flair' 
for tracing the beauties of every language and takes a 
rare interest in it, I should never have been struck by 
all the subtlety of the Russian one, notwithstanding all 
my love for it. It is only thanks to our studies with him 
and to his knowledge of the philosophy of the old and 
modern languages, that the pearls of the Russian one 
rose for me from its sapphire deep. 

I hope that perhaps some of the Russian subconscious 
mind will reveal itself in each of these little pearls to the 
eyes of my English reader and will make him see that 


learning our language in the original is worth the energy 
it requires; especially for those who are really interested 
in the Russian land itself: for I must repeat that this 
little work is not a formidable theoretical essay in com- 
parative philology, but a sketch of the Russian national 
psychology as reflected in the language. 

But I hope it will also be helpful as a character-sketch 
of the language itself to all those who have already begun 
studying it and may even arouse some interest in the 
minds of those who have not yet considered this some- 
what exciting occupation. 

Meanwhile, the Preface itself is meant only for those 
to whom the idea of learning Russian is no more strange ; 
and all that follows in it should not be considered as 
generally readable material, but only as an offer of some 
help to the actual students. 

The only way for an English person to really grasp the 
quaint, characteristic beauty of the Russian literature is 
to study the language in the original. But not through 
grammars and text-books only: they suffice to frighten 
anyone away ! These booklets with the pronunciation 
authoritatively fixed by their non-Russian authors x drive 
even a Russian crazy: what can, then, be expected from 
the unfortunate English ' self-scholar ' ! 

There are enormous difficulties in conveying the exact 
Russian sounds by means of the Western (Romance) 
characters, and I cannot help making a big point of it. 
The nature of the two alphabets coming from different 
sources 2 is reflected respectively in the two spheres of 
sound so different, that the two languages (English 
and Russian) cannot be said to have a common denomina- 
tor. Therefore the transliteration is rather like investi- 

1 Like, for instance, C. A. Thimm and J. Marshall's Russian 

2 The Russian alphabet comes from the Greek, via Old 


gating the laws for prime numbers, subject of which is 
full of pitfalls for the unwary. 

These insurpassable difficulties account for the fact 
that there exist no two persons one of them Russian and 
another English knowing the two languages equally well 
who would entirely agree on the details of trans- 
literating Russian into English (or the other way round). 
I think that only practical, careful oral instruction given 
by genuine Russians can start the English ear and pro- 
nunciation on the right road. There are a few excep- 
tions amongst non-Russian people, of course, who can do 
it almost reproachlessly and they should be admired ! 

Meanwhile, this little work is not meant to be anything 
like a text-book, but one interesting for a general reader 
though more or less philologically inclined; therefore I 
prefer not to squeeze our Russian words into the exclu- 
sively English spelling more than it can be helped: all 
vowels in my Russian verbal illustrations are represented 
by the Italian vowels, and not by the exclusively English 
ones. Also, with the consonants, s always sounds an 
original ss (as in sun, but never otherwise); again, z 
always sounds as in zeal, and never as in azure, and is 
never represented by an s; the / stands for the French 
sound in je (instead of replacing it by the zh)\ and h 
also stands for its sound alone, instead of using the 
clumsy and unfair kh / I do so with the instinctive 
Russian habit of putting one letter for one sound (as we 
always do in our alphabet) whenever possible instead 
of increasing the genuine number of letters in the Russian 
words. When talking about the Russian language, 
English people always exclaim: ' Oh, those awful endless 
words !' But the fact is that they are made longer in 
appearance by applying the English spelling, which does 
not contain a sufficient number of single letters for 
various sounds. 


Ask some genuine Kussian to tell you slowly and dis- 
tinctly the Russian words for: soap, dust, soap-bubble, 
a far way, to be in exile, height (the poetical form of the 
word), cod-liver oil, to climb, to howl, the decrease, a 
white forehead, my dear (beginning with the letter M), 
to wash, ripple, dismal life, wrath, etc. 1 He will find it 
utterly impossible to write them down for you in English 
letters, whilst you will find it equally impossible to pro- 
nounce these words after him on the spur of the moment 
unless Russian was the first language you heard round 
your cradle, or unless you have spent many, many 
years in Russia, or have a philological genius innate 
in you (which is not often the case: personally, I 
have found only one scholar-specialist of the last de- 
scription in the course of many years of residence in 

The cause lies in the close succession of very hard con- 
sonants and very dark vowels, with consonants so soft 
and vowels so light that almost no Western ear or tongue 
seems to be able to master it without energetic practice. 
Particularly unconquerable appears to be the hard, in- 
describable vowel which is vainly represented in English 
by i, and y, and w, and a, and what not ! It is pro- 
nounced approximately as i in bit, only much deeper and 
darker. Next in difficulty come the soft t, r and /, and 
especially whole words consisting exclusively of soft con- 
sonants and light vowels 2 : 'ep'er'=now, <fe^'=children, 
= the green, r'att = ripple, t'em'en' = darkness, 

1 Here are these Russian words transliterated in the nearest 

S)ssible way, which is explained and suggested in this Preface: 
ylo, pyP, m^l'ny puz^r', dal'n'i put', byt' v ssylke, vys', ryb'i jir, 
lazit', vyt', ubyl', b'ely lob, m'ily, myt', zyb', unylaya jizn', zlost', 
etc. For original Russian spelling see the list of Russian words 
at the end of the book. 

2 I am applying the now adopted system of marking the 
soft (palatalized) Russian consonants by putting a small comma 
at their top corner. 


vz ) at > =to take, ri'ed ) el'a=a, week, zcTes'=here, st ) ep= 
steppe, rubdv'love, os'=ax, 'mf&=people 5 2'ecA'=a leek, 
pr^el > est'=de\ight, c?'en'^=money, <f es'oZ'=ten, p'er'el'et'et? 
=to fly over, dr'arf an untranslatable definition for every- 
thing utterly valueless and wicked (the nearest to it in 
English is rubbish, but it is impossible to call an English 
person ' rubbish,' whereas this Russian definition clearly 
condemns a person's wickedness : ' He is an awful 
rubbish !' is the worst Russian characteristic one can 
think of with the exception of podTetz, which stands 
approximately for the English 'cad'). 

To express these sounds in English letters is an almost 
insurpassable problem to us. That is why so many 
Russian names now known in the West of Europe are 
spelt in different ways; we ourselves cannot find exact 
equivalents for our sounds even when we are well ac- 
quainted with the groups of Teutonic and Romance 
languages, and we are quite prepared to listen to our 
names and to see all sorts of Russian words as disguised 
by the foreign spelling and pronunciation ! 

And how could this be otherwise? With nearly all the 
Russian consonants there exists another, a soft (palata- 
lized) way of pronouncing them as well, which is com- 
manded by the light vowels or by the ' soft sign ' follow- 
ing them. It makes all the difference 'to the meaning of 
certain words the way their final consonants are pro- 
nounced, hard or soft : thus, brat means ' brother ' while 
brat* means 'to take'; von/ means 'go away!' while 
von 1 means ' stink ' ; mol means ' breakwater ' while moV 
means ' moth ' ; krov means ' shelter ' while krov means 
' blood ' ; pyl means ' ardour ' while pyV means ' dust,' 
etc., etc. 

The soft consonants ef and t 1 can be found in Europe 
outside the group of Slavonic tongues only in the Hun- 
garian. The Spaniards, Portuguese, and Italians follow 


us in their soft I and n but not at the end of the words, 
which is constantly the case in Russian. 

Our I, even in its hard form, is not the English I ; it is 
not the gentle English I, but a richer sound : it is either so 
hard that a Westerner breaks his patience against it if he 
does not care to practise; or it is so elusively tender, that 
at first hearing it he finds himself completely baffled. 

There are 32 pronounceable letters x in the modern 
Russian alphabet, for we not only have more sounds 
than the Westerners have, but we also have a special 
single letter for each different sound, and have there- 
fore no need of the French, English, German, Hun- 
garian (and even Polish) manner of grouping letters in 
order to define one special sound like ch, sh, ts, ou, ai, ea, 
eu, oo, ee, kh, tch, sch, cz, sz, etc. That is why our words 
when spelt in English look as if they had such a number 
of letters in them, simply because it takes two or three 
ordinary English letters to give something approaching 
one Russian sound. In fact, the general character of 
the Russian spelling must be defined by 'one sound = 
one letter.' 2 

On the other hand, some of the Western sounds do not 
exist in Russian; for that reason some of us cannot pro- 
nounce them, and no one can spell them correctly in 
Russian : the French oe, u, and nasal n, the English th, u (as 
in ' but,' ' under,' etc.), ing and wh, the swallowed French 
and unborn English r as these sound to us compared 
to our clear and clattering rrrrr, whether hard or soft! 

1 The 33rd and 34th are only the 'hard sign' and the 'soft 
sign,' soundless in themselves; and another two characters are 
the obsolete varieties of / and i, which represent a meaningless 
survival at the bottom of our ABC; they enter into the spelling 
of a few ecclesiastical words only, and should be neglected instead 
of augmenting the difficulties for an ordinary student. 

2 If anything, there are four Russian vowels and one con- 
sonant which contain two sounds in one sign. This will be 
explained presently. 


Nor do we have the Latin or Teutonic medium I. Natur- 
ally, therefore, when it comes to a Russian trying to write 
down in his own language the names of Underwood, or 
Thomson, or Whithcombe, their owners have every right 
to be dissatisfied. In fact, only few English words can be 
transliterated into Russian without having their genuine 
English sounds disguised. The difliculty is mutual. 

We have no letters included in the spelling which are 
not to be pronounced like the French endings for the 
plural or the aient in the imperfect tense ; or the English 
e as in the words note, rope, nose, etc. The only two 
letters which are not pronounced in Russian are not 
meant to stand for any sounds in themselves, they are 
only the * hard sign ' and the ' soft sign ' specially to 
indicate whether the preceding consonant is to be pro- 
nounced hard or soft. And even then the hard sign has 
been found superfluous, and many children are taught 
now-a-days to omit it at the end of words ending with a 
hard consonant. But the soft sign remains indispens- 
able. Its influence especially with regard to the trans- 
literation problem is so important that I must dwell on 
it with special attention : 

1. The soft sign b can be placed between two con- 
sonants: MajieHbKift (small) maVeriki ; flajibmH (distant) 
daVni; or in a number of shortened names: BacbKa (Bill), 
IleTbKa (from: Peter), Kojitna (from: Nikolay), etc. 

2. Or after a consonant which is the last letter in the 
word: 6ojib (pain) boV ; ocb (ax) os 1 ; Kopb (measles) 
kor* ; KOHb (steed) korf ; cnaib (to sleep) spat\ etc. In 
each of these cases and their name is legion the soft 
sign renders the preceding consonant soft (palatalized), 
which makes all the difference to the nature of its sound 
and thus may even alter the meaning of the whole word, 
as has been mentioned before (p. xii). Yet this is simple 
enough, and in all such cases the effect of the soft sign 


can be easily interpreted by the adoption of the little 
comma at the top corner of the corresponding consonant 
of Latin origin, as it is done throughout this book This 
little symbol is equally efficient, and should be always 
applied for pointing out a consonant palatalized by, the 
influence of the following light vowel: ne6o (sky) n'ebo; 
nijTt> (to sing) p'ef ; Tenepb (now) t'ep'er : JHOJJH (people) 
Vud'i : C'fecTb (to sit down) s'est\ etc. 

Here I want to point out that the Russian vowels dis- 
tinctly fall into two groups, each dark vowel having a 
corresponding light one: 


e or 


H or i 

o | y | being the dark ones; 
being their correspond- 


ing light ones. 

Well, everyone of the second set affects the preceding 
consonant, rendering it soft and itself mostly turning into 
its corresponding dark variety. Thus, if you pronounce the 
Russian word for ' name ' HMH but go on voicing its 
last sound you will find that it is an a ; but it has done 
its bit, having turned the hard M into a soft one (while, if 
you call out in that same way MEMB, you will notice that 
the M has remained hard. The same thing happens in 
numberless cases, such as: O^TBIH, T^TKecTL, T/WIO, 3/bJio, 
c/bJTb, B'fcc'L, MCJTL, ejiKa, nect, 6jiaro#ap70, c/o^a etc. 
The turning into the corresponding dark vowel does not 
so frequently take place in the case of e, and never with 
the H or i. But their effect on the preceding consonant 
remains just the same, so that, for instance, -the letter 

1 Many Russian words contain this variety of a light e. 
There is no difference whatever in the sound between the 
two. Grammatical rules command the choice between 1> and 
e in the spelling of terminations, but a great number of words 
contain a -fe in their stem, and in these cases can be learned 
only through practice. A witty remark runs, that ^ exists 
in order to distinguish educated people from illiterate ones ! 


T in TH (thou), ty, sounds hard, but in THXO (gently) 
t'iho, it is palatalized by the H which is the light sister of 
the dark H. Or, the Ji in Jiyna (moon) is still harder 
and deeper than a good Scotch I, while in JHO^H (people) 
Pudi, or in JiK)6jiK) (I love) Fu&Tu, it sounds, as it were, 
on the opposite side of the medium Romance I which can 
be taken as the central one in the little scale: 

ji L Jib 

(Russian) (Romance) (Russian). 

Everyone who can master these three shades of I, 
voicing them on the same continuous note and just alter- 
ing the position of his tongue (from pressing its point to 
his teeth only to pressing the whole of it close to the 
roof of his mouth), is sure to master the Russian 
pronunciation straight away ! . . . 

Well, perhaps another little practice is equally efficient 
as a test : namely, a parallel to the above scale : 


(Russian (English) (Russian 

for manners of life) for beaten) 

Only, Russian proceeds in this case to a still further 
degree of softness and winds up this scale by 6umb 


The next exercise would be to repeat the two following 
Russian words with the English one between them as a 
stepping-stone : 

JIorL Lot Jlert 

(Russian (English) (Russian 

for half-ounce.) for flight) 

Really, you can start quite bravely, if your ear and 
tongue will master these two hardest tests ! Now we can 


proceed with the soft sign, and mention the third way 
in which it can be applied. 

3. When a soft sign following a consonant is in its 
turn followed by a vowel. 

It is only the vowels of the light set that can follow it 
at all. Now, these light vowels, ivhen standing at the be- 
ginning of a word, or when preceded by another vowel, by hard 
sign or by soft sign, have the sound of an English y running 
into them. Thus, in ejib (pine tree), "the Russian e sounds 
as in yes ; the same in ?KapKoe (roast meat of any kind) 
jarkoye ; in BHHMame (attention) vnimaniye ; in oS^eflH- 
Heme (the uniting) obyed'in'eniye ; in Bapente (jam) 
varenye. But, when preceded by a consonant, that same 
letter e has no y -sound running into it at all, nor has the r fe. 
Thus RTEJIB (chalk) m'el, or in TBJIO (flesh) felo, or in TGHJIO 
(warm) t'epld, or in H'BTL (no) n'et it palatalizes the con- 
sonants M, T, and H respectively (itself turning into its 
corresponding hard- vowel-sound 9), but without getting 
the y-sound, with which it does begin under circum- 
stances just mentioned above. Exactly the same rules 
refer to the rest of the light vowels: thus, JOHOCTB (the 
time of youth), or MOIO (mine, in fern, accusat.), or nbio 
(I drink), sound: yitnosC, moyu, pyu ; but TiojibnaHt 
(tulip) has none of the ?/-sound in it which it has in 
English and the letter K) only does its business in ren- 
dering the T soft. So it does in piOMKa (wine-glass), in 
#K)?KHHa (dozen), etc. 

Only the H, amongst the light vowels, makes a slight 
exception: there are only three words beginning with it 
in which it has the ?/-sound to start it with; these are the 
genitive, dative, and ablative cases of the Russian word 
for < they' = OHH: HXT (of them), HMT> (to them), and 
HMH (by them), yih, yim, yimi. In all the rest of the 
Russian words beginning with an H the latter (against 
the nature of other light vowels) has no y-part in it: 



iirojiKa (needle) igolka ; HBa (willow) iva ; HATH (to go) 
idt'i', etc. 

All this only leads us to my eventual aim namely, 
the role of the soft sign when standing between a con- 
sonant and a soft vowel: ceMbfl (family), CGMBH (families), 
cojiOBbii (nightingales), ruiaTbe (dress). It is the joined 
effect of this little trio that causes the last vowel to 
assume its y-sound again, although there is a consonant 
before it. In other words, when the soft sign stands 
between a consonant and a vowel, the comma at the 
top corner of that consonant is not sufficient as it 
would not convey the idea of the ?/-sound running into 
the vowel; and this effect, caused by the presence of the 
soft sign, should be represented in transliteration by the 
English y, distinctly pronounced as a y too. Thus, 
words like the examples just given above should be spelt 
semya, semyi, solovyl, platye, etc. 

' This has been always done ! ' I hear the attentive 
scholar exclaim. Yes but my point goes further. 

This also has been always done where there is no soft 
sign after the consonant and therefore no ?/-sound in the 
Russian word at all and that is wherein the mistake lies, 
because it makes all the difference between genuine 
Russian pronunciation and a substitute for it. Russian 
words having no b between their consonants and light 
vowels (and therefore no ?/-sound), like 6aHfl, SanouiKa, 
HJIM, Mope, JHOAH, TeSi and so forth, are always trans- 
literated as banya, batyushka, ilyi, morye, tyebye, and so 
forth. I can't help calling this entirely wrong whether 
introduced by English or by Russian authors ! It either 
indicates a lack of good hearing, or else, merely the 
desire to save trouble. I am too keen in my desire 
to help the English students to learn good Russian, 
and therefore must draw their attention to this point, 
which is overlooked in all text-books I know. This 


omission gives no chance whatever to distinguish the 
two different sounds in the Russian original: on the one 
hand, the presence of a y-sound caused by the presence 
of a soft sign, and on the other entire absence of a y- 
sound where there is no soft sign. However difficult it 
seems at first to an English ear and tongue to catch this 
difference, it soon becomes clear (from good oral instruc- 
tion) ; because the mere grouping of a softened consonant 
with a light vowel (with no soft sign in between) repre- 
sents an absolutely close succession of the two, shoulder to 
shoulder, as it were, without any y-sound link between 
them. Therefore the above-quoted examples (copied from 
dictionaries and text-books) ought not to be spelt as they 
are i.e., in a wrong way but: ban a, bdt'ushka, ili, 
mdr'e, V ud'i, t'eb'e, and so forth. 

Most unfortunately, the y has been given the task to 
represent the darkest of all vowels H as well as H besides 
being the only means to interpret the effect of the soft 
sign. But this is not my fault, and I cannot invent an 
absolutely new letter to stand symbolically for that 
peculiarly Slavonic sound. For the same reasons no 
manner of transliterating the terminations HH, He, HH 
can be consistent. 

Perhaps it will be of some use if I give here the Russian 
alphabet as it will be transliterated in this book, and as 
its sounds can be possibly conveyed to the ear of my 
reader in the above-explained ways. Only, I shall not 
strictly keep to its original order. I can see no help in, 
and no necessity for doing so whatsoever; while a certain 
grouping of the characters may turn out to be helpful 
in memorizing them. 

But just a few lines, first, about that wilful little imp 
in the Russian language the stress, the accentuating of 
one certain syllable in every word. There is no vestige 
of a rule or uniformity about it ! It falls, Qn anv 


part of the word it will choose. There are not more 
than a score of words in which the stress is not strictly 
attached to one certain syllable and even then it is 
mostly the difference between the beautiful pure speech 
of the north and centre of Russia, and its horribly 
corrupt variety of the far south, round the shores of 
the Black Sea. (I do not mean the independent dialect 
of Little Russia, Ukrayna; the latter is altogether as 
different from Russian as Polish is.) The stress may 
fall on the stem of a word, or on its prefix, or even on 
the termination : zv uki= sounds; dfcwH= reflected sounds ; 
mctto=a, little; mcdovdto= rather too little! vodd^ water; 
vddy=wa,tQTs: > mor'e=sea; mor'a=seas. 

So it flutters about in its own obstinate manner, like 
a butterfly without leaving the foreigner much chance 
to catch it on the ground of any theories; what is more, 
we possess no nets to offer him for the purpose ! 

But once he has got hold of the stress in a certain word 
he must hold it fast; because you may slide over any 
syllables in speaking Russian except those with the 
stress falling on them: they stand out high above the 
rest, and our national dislike for monotony is distinctly 
reflected in this characteristic feature of our speech. 

One of the worst defects in the Russian as spoken by 
the foreigners is, that they don't put weight enough on the 
accentuated syllables ; whilst it is so natural and so essen- 
tial for us to do so, that I know cases when babies, in 
beginning to speak, started a somewhat extraordinary 
language of their own: they picked out just those syllables 
from the grown-up people's speech, which had the accent 
on them ! Now, the Russian language has not as many 
one-syllable words in it as the English by far less; so it 
was for several months that these babies' monologues 
could not be understood by anyone except their mothers. 
Nevertheless, all these difficulties can be conquered by 


English people who have a will to learn, a little 
capacity, and some genuine Russian person to guide 
them. But a really well-speaking Englishman who has 
lived in the centre or north of Russia is a better teacher 
than a Russian from the far south and, especially, 
better than a Russian Jew. I must be fair to my sub- 
ject and say that even amongst the well-educated, in- 
tellectual Jews in Russia there are very few who speak 
without a specific accent of their own guttural and 
nasal which is decidedly absent from the clear, open 
Russian speech. They speak Russian much worse than 
they speak English. 

The Armenians, too, can be detected by their first 
phrase spoken in Russian: their manner is to put broad, 
heavy stresses on each syllable, unheedful of any soft and 
light sounds, and turning them all into a kind of good- 
natured, deep barking ! 

The Finns produce a chain of short, dry, colourless 
syllables, as if chopping meat and giving, somehow , the 
impression as if the Russian were littered with millions of 
tt-a and pp-s ! 

As it can be seen, all these accents rob the genuine 
Russian speech of one of its characteristic ingredients: 
the extreme delicacy of sound ; the melting softness. 

The Poles have an accent of their own, of course. The 
softness and delicacy do not baffle them (except, some- 
times, with the palatalized r). But they take our hard I 
and turn it into the sound of a w (as it sounds with their 

By the way, I know a Polish girl in England who has 
no accent whatever (although she speaks with half-closed 
lips, unlike the Russians) and who gives excellent in- 
structions in Russian; well, she tells me that she almost 
begins her teaching each time by insisting that her pupil 
should grasp the difference (discussed above) between the 


sound of the soft consonants simply followed by light 
vowels, and the cases when there is a soft sign between 
the two. 

Keeping all this in mind, an English student will soon 
find out that the ' barbaric brute of a language ' is not 
unsurmountable after all ! And I am glad to repeat that 
English, or rather British, people take the lead amongst 
all Europeans in the capacity of learning it. 

A few introductory lines to our o, because this is the 
letter that gets affected by the stress falling on it. 

When there is no stress on it, the o is mostly pronounced 
as an a: Xopoino (all right, very well) sounds harasho; 
B0#a (water) vada; or6m> (fire) agon\ etc. But we think 
of it as an o all the same, which corresponds in English 
to the thinking of the presence of a g at the end of present 
participles: without the speaker's thinking about the g 
being there, the ' coming ' would turn into ' comin',' 
' writing ' into ' writin',' etc. Therefore, in transliterat- 
ing Russian words, I prefer to keep the o wherever it 
is spelt in Russian. 

When the stress does fall on it, the o sounds particu- 
larly distinct and pointed (there is never any admixture of 
the sounds h or w to a Russian o); when the stress falls 
elsewhere (maybe on another o in the same word), then 
the unaccentuated o is pronounced quickly and lightly, 
leaving the whole weight of the word, as usual, with the 
accentuated syllable. Thus, the above-mentioned xo- 
pomo carries the whole weight with the last o: the first 
two o's can be run over entirely, if you are talking quickly ! 
whilst in words like onacno (dangerously) or yjKacno 
(dreadfully), the last o is chequed at its very start. This 
rule is quite easy to follow. 

Now for the alphabet: 



Dark vowels : a, 3, LI, o, y. 


sented by 


A a 

3 a 


As in Italian. Cami (sledges) sani. 
As in Italian ; or as in English in end. 
BTO (this) eto; noaMa (poem) 



As i in bit, but much deeper and 
darker. There are no words be- 

ginning with it. Mbi (we) my; 
Bbi (you) vy; CbiHt (son) syn. 
As in Italian or as in English in on. 

y y 


OCH (wasps), osy; 66a (both), oba. 
As in Italian. Yum (ears) ushi; 
nyrb (way) put\ 

Corresponding light vowels : 
H, e or "B, H or i, e or e, 10. 

ft fl 

E e 


Or a 

Or ie 

As in English in yard, when the y- 
sound is present in the Russian 
word, fl (I) ya; flflpo (shell) 
yadro; MOH (mine, femin.), moya; 
ceMBH (family) semya. 

When the ?/-sound is absent. 

(seed) sent* a; BpeMfl (time) vr'ertfa; 
BOJIH (will) vol'a. 

As in English in yes, when the y- 
sound is present. EJIB (pine tree) 
yeT ; GCTB (is) yesf ; 'fecTb (to eat) 
yes? ; HTO Tanoe? (what?) chto 
takoyel oSteAHHeme (the uniting) 
obyedin'eniye; Bapenbe (jam) var'e- 
nye; Cffejit (ate it up) syel; 
xoponiee (nice sing, neut.) horo- 

When the English y has already just 
been used to represent the preced- 
ing bi. XpaSpbie (brave in plur.) 
hrabryie; MMJIBIG (dear in plur.) 



sented by 


Or e 

As in Italian, when the ?/-sound is 

absent. Tenjio (it is warm) t'eplo; 

Tenepb (now) tfep'er'; TBJIO (body, 

flesh) t do ; fl-fijio (business, deed) 

d'elo; irEMeirt (a German) n'em'etz; 

eecejio (gaily) v'es'elo. 

M H 


As in Italian. Hs6a (hut) izba. 


The i stands in Russian only be- 

I i 

fore the vowels, but sounds exactly 

like H. Mojinifl (lightning) mol- 

niya', AHFJIIH (England) Angliya. 

E e 


As in English in yoke, when the y- 


sound is present. EjiKa (Christ- 


mas tree) yolka\ Moe (mine in 

sing, neut.), moyo. 

Or o 

When the ?/-sound is absent. Be- 

cejiLiH (gay in sing, masc.), 

ves'oly ; A Jienia (shortened : Alexey) 

AVosJia. This sound has the stress 

falling on it always ; therefore the 

in it sounds clear and brisk. 

K) K) 


As the English word you, when the y- 

sound is present. K)jia (spin-top) 

yula; lOjiin (Julia) Yuliya-, noio (I 

sing) poyu\ MOK) (mine in fern. 

accus.) moyu; MOIO (I wash) moyu. 


When the ?/-sound is absent. JIio^n 

(people) Vudi ; JiK)6oBb (love) 
Vubov ; JJJOEJIK) (I love) VuWu. 



As in English in boy, represents an 

independent vowel. There are no 

words beginning with it. Eon 

(battle) boy ; JOMOH ! (home!) 

domoy ! Diphthongs iii and Liii 

are usual terminations with the 

adjectives (in masc. sing, nomin.). 

Being too complex for detailed 

transliteration they should be 

represented by i and y respec- 

tively. HaHKOBCKift, Chaykovski ; 

TajiaHTJiHBHii (talented) talantlivy; 

jnoSuMLiH (beloved) Vubimy. 



Consonants hard and soft (palatalized) : 

6, B, T, A, JK, 3, K, JI, M, H, H, p, C, T, <j), X, T(, H, III, 


sented by 


B 6 


As in English. JIo6i, (forehead) 

lob', pa6i> (serf) rob-, SLTTL (man- 

ner of life) byt. 


Soft: Pa6b (ripple) r'afc'; 6-EJiuii 

(white) Vdy\ 6bio (I am beating) 


B B 


As in English. 3oBt (call) zov. 


Soft: EpOBb (eyebrow) brov' ; B-tTKa 

(branch) v'etka ; COJIOBLH (night- 

ingales) solovy'i. 

T r 

9 l 

As in English in good. Fofl-B (year) 


A A 


As in English. ^OIVTB (the home, 

house) dom; pa^i, (glad in masc.) 



Soft: Jloinajjb (horse) loshad" ; 

flO?Kflb (rain) cZo^'; a^Jio (busi- 

ness, deed) d*elo. 

>K 7K 

As in French (the Russian ear di- 

vides the English j into d and ;'). 

/Kena (wife) jena ; POH^BCTBO 

(Christmas) Rojdestvo. 

3 3 Z 

As in English in zeo/. Bos-b (cart) 

voz ; s^pacTByfiTe ! (a greeting at 

any time of day or night) zdrast- 

vuyfe ! 


Soft: Bposb (apart) vroz 9 ; se-irenb 

(the green) z'eVeri; 3HTb (son-in- 

law) z'aC; siflTb (to gape) ziyaf \ 

s'eMJifl (land, earth) z'emVa? 

1 I am not dealing with the variety of this sound, because 
it is simply a bad southern pronunciation. The only word in 
which a kind of a soft r is universally adopted is FocnoflH (O 
Lord !), and then it sounds between a g and an h voiced 
as it does in a few adjectives when followed by K; therefore the 
usual way of transliterating it by a kh is quite wrong, coarse, 
and ugly. 

2 Unrecognizable in the * Nova Zembla.' 


Russian Repre- 

Characters. j sented by 


K K k As in English. RjnoHt (key) kVuch. 

JI ji I \ Much deeper than the Western I. 

JIoJKKa (spoon) loj ka ; aajTL (gave 
in masc.) dot ; 30Jn> (angry) zol; 
coJiHbniiKO (the dear sun) solnyshko. 
Soft, like in elusive, but still more 
melted: ^ajib (a far distance) 
daT; cojib (salt) sol'; Jiefli, (ice) 
I'od; JIIOAHLIH (alive through the 
presence of many people) I'udny; 
najibio (I shall pour out) nalyu. 

M M | m As in English. MHJIO (soap) mylo. 
Soft: MHJIHM (dear)w'%; CM^Tb (to 
dare) sm'et' ; epeMH (time) vr'em'a; 
ceMbfl (family) s'emya. 

H H ' n As in English. Om> (he) on. 

n Like the Italian gn, but sounding 

quite short at the end of the 
words. Soft: Konb (steed) kon'; 
ITEMOH (dumbjn'ewoi/; COHH (short- 
ened name for Sofya), Son a; RO 
CBHftaHbfl (au revoir) do svidanya. 

11 n ! p As in English. OKOITL (trench) 

okop; nyxi> (down) puh. 
p Soft: Tonb (swamp) top 9 ; Tenepb 

(now) t'ep'er'; xpana (in snoring), 
hrap'a; xjionbH (fluffs), hlopya. 

P p r As in Scotch, rolling it; short. Cbip-b 

(cheese) syr; pa66Ta (work) rabota. 
r Soft: also with a momentary rolling. 

Kopb (measles) kor'; Mope (sea) 
mor'e; B3M6pbe (strand) vzmorye. 

G c s As in JEnglish in sun. Cbim> (son) 

syn; cnacnSo (thank you) spasibo. 
Soft : GiiJia (strength) sila ; cijnb (he sat 
down) s'el; c-L-BJit (he ate up) syel. 1 

1 Just in a few cases the hard sign t is inserted in the 
middle of the word; then it acts on the following vowel as 
the soft sign does, i.e., adding to it the ?/-sound (without 
palatalizing the preceding consonant but this is too subtle a 
difference for a non-Russian ear!)."" 




sented by 


T T 

(D $ 
X x 

^ ^ 

ts or 



in in 





As the English double tt. TOTL (that 
one) tot; noTomb (deluge) potop. 

Soft: XoTb (although) ho? ; THXO 
(gently) t'iho; naTe ! (take this !) 
naCe ! njiaTbe (dress) platye. 

As in English. Oynrb (pound) funt. 

As in English in home. Chehov 
(name of the author); xaTa (hut) 

As in English. L(apb (Tsar) Tsar ; 
LJapCTBO (Tsardom) Tsarstvo; 
(the Germans) N'emtzy; 
(aim) tzeT; npnujiji'L (range, 
in shooting) pritzel. 

As in English in church. 

(man, human being) chelov'ek. 

As in English in shock. HlanKa 
(hat, cap) shapka; niJinna (lady's 
hat) shl'dpa; Kama (all sorts of 
porridge) kasha. 

As in English in Ashchurch. HjH 
(name of a national soup) shchi; 
poma (a small wood) roshcha; 
6opm'L (a name of another national 
soup) borshch. 

Soft sign: its influence being repre- 
sented by a comma at the top 
corner of the palatalized con- 
sonant. Mbicjib (thought) mysF. 

When it stands between a consonant 
and a vowel, thus producing the 
effect of a ?/-sound between them. 
KptiJibH (wings) krijlya. 

Hard sign, omitted in transliterating, 
except where it stands in the 
middle of a word, inserting a 
?/-sound; CMHCJTL (sense) smysl\ 
nojrb'fes^'B (front porch) podyezd; 
Bi/kxaTb (to drive into) vyehat\ 


Amongst the Russian words chosen here as examples, 
there are some of the most difficult ones with regard to 
pronunciation; keeping other considerations as main 
reasons in selecting the examples, I nevertheless included 
some difficult words quite consciously. Firstly, in order 
that my reader couldn't suspect me in veiling over still 
harder obstacles from his view with the purpose of luring 
him on to a treacherous road ! And secondly, because 
the whole of this Preface is intended only for those who 
have already started learning Russian: to them it may, 
perhaps, serve as a little compass. I must add, though, 
that / don't for a moment consider this particular scheme 
of transliteration as finally solving the problem. I shall 
always consider it insolvable, because oral instruction is 
the only means which can give an idea of the difference 
between the two spheres of sounds, English and Russian. 
In the case of those foreigners whose Russian is ' self- 
taught ' it is almost unrecognizable ! Common de- 
nominators are too scanty ! Instead of wondering at 
the Russian words in their Romance disguise much 
better come and investigate them in their genuine aspect 
and meaning. 

But the reader who is interested exclusively in the 
Russians themselves, as reflected in the spirit of their 
language, should begin with the book itself leaving the 
' terrible stuff ' of my Preface alone ! Because, above all, 
it is not the Russian sounds themselves that I would 
mainly like to convey to the English public through this 
little work, but the channels along which the Russian mind 
works whether I am talking about the subconsciously 
created single words, or about whole works by Russian 

I am glad to avail myself of the opportunity and to 
welcome the two books by Mr. Nevill Forbes: Russian 
Grammar and First Russian Book. They show a wonderful 


command of our language ! Obviously, the author feels 
perfectly at home in the midst of its subtlety and com- 
plexity; this is a delight to a Russian reader who is bored 
and tormented by all the other textbooks written in 
English about our Mother-tongue. 

And just because I do think of Mr. Forbes's works so 
highly (especially of the First Russian Book), I cannot 
omit one point about them which does not satisfy a 
Russian. It is this point that really has made me write 
all the preceding pages about our sounds as these are 
created and pronounced by Russian people who cherish 
their national treasure; because it surprises me that 
Mr. Nevill Forbes, knowing the structure and spirit of 
our language so brilliantly, should still repeat some items 
invented by foreigners items which really hurt a 
Russian eye and ear. His main mistake is that absence 
of difference in the transliteration of those Russian vowels 
that have the y -sound running into them, and those that 
have not got it. I shall not repeat the whole business 
over again. Those who care, can look it up above 
(pp. 18, 19). The second mistake consists in the advice 
to use the English sound w in order to pronounce our hard 
Ji. I also mentioned this before: there is no w-sound in 
the genuine Russian language; it happens only as a 
Polonism. And the third mistake is using the English 
letters /, t, a, /c, s, p and * for transliterating the Russian 
B, fl, o, r, 3, 6 and i (=v, d, o, g, z, b and e). In doing so, 
Mr. Forbes allows no difference between the sounds of 
these different letters in npafft and (Jjapjia^, roch> and 
KOWL, Jiecfa> and nojiewb, Majia and Majio, Jiyzi, and Jiy/n>, 
60 at and 6o*n>, pa3i> and pact, Jiofrt and KJICWB, B/bdb 
and eumb, etc. 

I can but repeat that it is all right for a Russian to 
put a shade of <j), T, a, K, c, u and e into his B, #, o, r, 3, 
6 and n, because we instinctively keep in our mental 


vision the correct spelling and the genuine sound of the 
words containing the characters of the last row; but for 
a foreigner who has not got this original sight and sound 
in his brain since early childhood, for him it is more than 
dangerous to learn those words as if they really had the 
characters of the first row in them ! 

I think I can make this quite clear if I say that it 
would be exactly the same thing if we were taught to 
pronounce in English: pensi/ and offensi/, instead of 
pensive and offensive; or abstract instead of abstract; or 
tolt instead of told. One can find a shade of /, p, and t in 
these examples as much as in the above-given Russian 
ones, but thinking of them in the right way makes all 
the difference to the sound. And I really cannot help 
insisting that it would be better for the English students 
of our language if they were taught to think of all the 
sounds in the right way. Again it comes to the same: 
in teaching in an oral way it is quite right and even 
excellent to point out the subtle shades of pronunciation 
in certain cases; but to fix those cases as general rules 
in print is quite different, I think. 

Otherwise, the works by Mr. Nevill Forbes are not only 
formidable, excellent and the only works written in 
English that are bound to help the students of our language 
to a very great extent but they also are works in which 
the author's pleasure in dealing with his subject is obvious ; 
and this is dear to a Russian reader, because one can't 
enjoy writing a philological textbook unless one is carried 
away by the inner spirit of the language ! Only then the 
complexity of a foreign grammar can be explained with 
such care as Mr. Forbes explains it. 

All that complexity seeming as well as real is worth 
an effort; this is the opinion of all those English people 
who have made it. Because the structure of the Russian 
language is still more interesting and beautiful than it is 


difficult. The difficulties I do not deny. But I can 
honestly say that, of all foreigners, British people alone 
are capable of overcoming them. Of this I have had 
ample experience in Russia, and I am glad to put it on 
record for the encouragement of my friends in this 




AT the beginning of the War I came across the fol- 
lowing expression somewhere in the English Press : 
' However much has been recently written about 
the Russians, they will remain to us " Russians " 
just " Russians," that is all.' I find this rather 
nice. Much better to be acknowledged as un- 
known strangers than to be misunderstood. The 
Russians have never taken the trouble to advertise 
themselves when they might command deserved 
respect. For the last two centuries they have 
always expected the light to come to them from 
the West, and in the meanwhile have developed in 
their own way, with unexpected strides and in un- 
expected directions wherever there was room to go 

It needs absence from Russia for several years 
in order to summon up sufficient courage to blow 
her trumpets for her a little ! (The Russians are 
always dissatisfied with themselves.) But she 
really deserves it on some points, and just now, 



when one constantly hears that ' Kussia is in the 
mind of all Europe,' I would like to share with 
those who care for it some thoughts derived 
from interesting studies and observations. These 
thoughts concern the spirit of our land, which 
is interwoven with its language to the highest 
imaginable extent. 

As long as national individuality remains an 
unconquerable feature (however much modified by 
the wisest cosmopolitanism), we Russians cannot 
help loving our language passionately. Russia re- 
presents a complicated interlacement of contrasts. 
We feel in it like fish in water. But the mere re- 
flection of that scale of contrasts in the very sounds 
of our language puzzles every non-Slavonic student; 
and I have tried, in my preface, to be of some help 
by throwing light on the Russian pronunciation and 
its transliteration as it appears from a Russian's 
point of view. I must repeat that there are no two 
persons who would entirely agree on these points if 
one of them is English and the other Russian. 
Therefore, I am brightly expecting any attack on 
the part of English philologists ! My personal 
conscientious effort was only intended to show that 
the original Russian spelling contains no mystery; 
on the contrary, it reflects the chief feature of the 
Slavonic nationalities : a close combination of ex- 
treme contrasts retaining most clearly the indivi- 
duality of each item. Not a softly flowing matter 


of amalgamated ingredients, but a sparkling, viva- 
cious current of most contrasting substances. Not 
a chemical compound, but a kaleidoscopic crystal- 

I have left all the technical discussions on the 
Russian sounds and on the problem of their trans- 
literation to the preface, where they can be looked 
up by the present, or intending, students of the 
Russian language. The book itself is meant for a 
broader purpose namely, to show the national 
character of the Russians as reflected in their language. 
This is my main ambition ! The secondary one is 
to show the wealth, the sparkling colouring, the 
warmth, and the flexibility of our Russian speech, 
which are due chiefly to three factors: (1) The 
youthful vigour caused by the ever-present ingress 
of the child-young Old Slavonic and Old Russian 
elements; (2) the all-powerful influence of the 
' syllables of nuances ' and terminations, the scales 
of which allow boundless subtlety in the rendering 
of various shades and half -shades of thought; 
(3) the freedom of arranging the relative order of 
words in every phrase. 

In adding these few paragraphs after the book 
itself has been finished, I also ought to say that I 
wrote it ' just as it came ' without keeping to 
any theory or system myself frequently enjoying 
the unexpected revelations, as the details and 
varieties of examples came swarming to my mind. 


Therefore, kind reader, don't be surprised at the 
following pages. You know the case when you con- 
template a journey and find that you have to pack 
so many things, that you think George, one of Mr. 
Jerome's Three Men in a Boat, was right when 
he suggested making out a list of articles they 
would not want on the river as being the shortest. 
Well, mine is just the^case. The luxuries of speech 
which we do possess and you don't are so numerous 
that they overwhelmed me for a moment when I 
was starting on my interesting task ; and the alter- 
native I involuntarily grasped at, to begin with, 
presented itself in those few points where the 
English language seems to beat ours. 

English There are some English definitions which we 

concep- - -- i 

tions not either do not possess at all, or apply in somewhat 
Russian, different circumstances. Such is, for instance, 
1 kick.' Our equivalent for it (brykdtsa) is applied 
exclusively to the manners of cattle ! Football 
was not known in Russia till the end of last 
century ; and since they have adopted it over there, 
they also had to adopt the word ' kick ' with it 
because no one would think of applying the Russian 
definition for cattle's kicking to human beings. 
But when we adopt a foreign word we treat it as 
our own i.e., like a piece of wax; therefore, the 
sound ' kick ' is treated with us as the football 
itself is --and as all foreign words are. No English 


man would recognize either his ' safe ' in the bank, 
nor his ' flirt ' in their numerous Kussian aspects 
commanded by the winding paths of the grammar. 
The same is the doom of the English word 
' shock.' But here I must add that the idea of 
calling things ' shocking ' is so far from the Russian 
mind that there exists no original equivalent to it 
at all; and when we use the English expression, 
' shocking ! ' we dt) so exclusively in a humorous 
tone, and thus apply it very emphatically indeed 
in its original form. But using it as a verb 
(although also for fun only), we treat it as we do 
our own verbs. I feel tempted to give in a foot- 
note a sample scale of the terminations which are 
similar with hundreds of genuine Russian verbs of 
a certain group. 1 No school child or peasant 
thinks them to be anything special, or, in fact, 
thinks of their being there at all; it is only the 
gerund which the working classes are apt to twist 

1 INFINITIVE : Shokirovat.' (We need no c before the k.) 

IMPERATIVE : Shokiruy (s.) shokiruyte (pi). 

PRESENT TENSE : Shokiruyu, shokiruyesh, shokiruyet, shok- 
iruyem, shokiruyete, shokiruyut. 

PAST TENSE : Shokiroval (w.), shokirovala (fern.), shokirovalo 
(neut.}, shokirovali (pi.}. 

FUTURE : The complex future tense, as with the infinitive. 
The simple future, which consists of one word only, does 
not exist with this verb, because it has not the perfective 
aspect granted to it. If it had, the following variety of 
terminations might have been greater. 

GERUND PRESENT : shokiruya. GERUND PAST : shokirovav. 


a little bit in their own way but without being in 
the least puzzled over it. ... ' He is vyshodsy ' 
is likely to be the answer of the general servant of 
your friend's when you fail to find him in; it stands 
for: ' He is vi/shedshi ' ' He is being out.' But if 
you pensively remark: ' You must not say " vy- 
shodsy," Akulina, but vi/shedshi^ she will answer, 
utterly undisturbed : ' That is just what I say 

But one mistake like this is not much amongst 
the number thirty-two, is it ? I think this should 
be rather encouraging, and not alarming. 

But what may seem, perhaps, really alarm- 
ing is the fact that we have no word for ' respect- 


Masculine. Feminine. Neuter. 

Nominative : shokiruyushi slichaya shcheye 

Genitive : shokiruyushchago slichey 

Dative : shokiruyushchemu 

Accusative : shchuyu 

Ablative : shokiruyushchim 

Prepositional : shokiruyushchem 



Nominative : 
Genitive : 
Dative : 
Accusative : 
Ablative : 
Prepositional : 

Isn't it fun ! 





The poor original '. 

English ' sh 

lost and deprived of all its withering power amongst the variety 
of the all-important and indispensable terminations. There 


ability ' and, what is worse, that we use this 
English definition (just with a Kussian ending: 
respectabel'nost') with a distinct touch of humour 
too. We don't need this characteristic, somehow ! 
The qualities which go with us to build up people's 
reputation are rather different. I shall mention 
them later. 

Nor are there any definitions in Eussian to cor- 
respond with the ' bank holiday ' and 'week-end/ 
Bank holidays are so numerous in our country 
(about a score of them or more x ) that we cannot 
help a feeling of surprise when we first see the 
national importance attached to them in England. 
There is no universal rushing from one place to 
another on the Eussian ( bank ' holidays. 

are not two amongst them that would be similar, as I left out 
all those that are duplicates. If you count them you will find 
thirty-two different endings to the English four : shock, shocks, 
shocked, and shocking. We couldn't possibly do with them 
alone, although we have only three tenses. 

But it is not at all as dreadful as it looks: for one thing, 
please note that we have one letter for each of the English com- 
binations that occur amongst these endings sh, shch, yu, ye, 
ya. Therefore, our words are much shorter than their English 
' backward-transliterations.' Besides, I am giving my reader 
a glimpse into that seemingly hopeless labyrinth of the Russian 
grammar straight away, with the conscious purpose of leading 
him out of it on to a much wider road hereafter; then the 
beauties of our language, which illustrate its inner spirit, will, 
I hope, reconcile him with this undoubtedly difficult technical 
detail. There is nothing more dreadful than this to come ! 

1 Saints' days and Royal Family birthdays and names' 
days. They are holidays for the banks as well as for everyone 


It must be for that same reason that the expres- 
sion ' week-end ' is absent as well : it would prob- 
ably not have come into being with the English 
people either if they didn't make so much of it. 
The inner cause rests, of course, with the organiza- 
tion of English life ; with us, people idle in the week- 
days as frequently as they work like niggers l on 
Saturdays and Sundays of their own accord. The 
spirit of self-organization innate with the Eussian 
masses lies not with the dividing of everyday life 
into little squares generally, but only with organ- 
izing certain public functions from the point of 
view of national need. 

We also have no ' job ' or ' business ' in Russian : 
' deed ' and ' work ' (d'elo, rabota) cover these two 
conceptions without which the English language is 
unimaginable. Therefore, the expression ' a good 
job ' translated into Russian by one who does not 
know English life closely would run ' a kind deed ' 
which is not often the same thing ! 

Neither have we ' enjoy,' as understood in Eng- 
lish. We enjoy Nature, love, work (not always !), 
art, rest, fresh air, space, freedom but we don't 
bring the idea of enjoyment down to cold mutton 
or a cup of tea. In the same way we use the word 
' happy ' very sparingly : it signifies too much with 
us to be used in reference to a comfortable chair, 
or a motor ride, or a couple of sandwiches, or the 

1 We say ' like oxen.' 


fire-side. But when we happen to see a really 
good play in England we feel astonished and hurt 
by the lukewarm reception of an English house. 
In Kussia we almost decline to go home to bed 
after having listened to a fine opera. We'll sit in 
some square (when the lights are extinguished in 
the theatre) and go on humming the captivating 
tunes till the early hours. Or we shall wake our 
cook (who is not easily surprised), have a hot 
samovar, and go on enthusiastically at our piano. 
Very funny and very unhealthy ? Quite so ! But 
who enjoys, who really enjoys life most ? . . . 
This remains an open question when it comes to An open 

. . question. 

Nature and Art. A Russian is more at one with 
Nature around him; he does not constantly find 
faults with her being now too cold, now too close, 
now too windy. 

We find that in England Nature is quite over- 
shadowed by weather. Living even in the most 
beautiful of English counties, in the country, we 
realize that it is hardly polite to begin a conversa- 
tion with anything besides weather. (It is like the 
Belgians' ' Bonjour, madame ! Bonjour, mon- 
sieur ! ' without which they won't let you off, even 
if you come to tell them a bit of splendid news about 
the war !) 

In fact, a degradation from the proper subject 
which is prescribed once for ever as a kind of greet- 
ing and an opening paragraph to every imaginable 


conversation is regarded in this country as in- 
credible. I had to come to that conclusion finally 
after my own naive departure the other day. 
A side- It was raining to that extent when even a Eussian 
would be likely to pass a remark that ' the swamps 
of heaven have given way ' -Razverzlis' Wab'i 
n'eb'esnyia! It seemed quite superfluous to tell 
everyone you met in the flooded roads that it was 
' very wet.' As I tried to distinguish through the 
waterfall coming from my umbrella who was the lady 
approaching me from the opposite direction, I made 
a mistake, and took her for quite a different and 
somewhat unpleasant person. Therefore, when she 
turned out to be her real self, I rather rejoiced at the 
revelation and, passing by her, called out cheerfully : 
' Hullo, Mrs. So-and-So ! I had not recognized 
you. Are you all right ? ' 

But, before I finished my ejaculation, she ex- 
claimed in her turn : 

' Isn't it ? Very wet indeed.' 
She would not wait to hear what I was saying, 
obviously crediting me with sufficient sense not to 
talk about anything except the deluge through 
which we were marching. Her answer was ready 
for everyone whom she might meet along the three 
miles' stretch of the road, and no frivolous flight 
was expected from anyone's imagination. 

I simply cannot understand how an English 
postman can repeat pleasantly the same remark 


about the weather literally at every door as he de- 
livers the letters ! Ours always does (I once 
followed him all along his tour round the village). 
A Russian postman would have to do so if his 
authorities had issued a circular for that end; but 
he would vehemently complain, in privacy, that, 
' Now it has come to dragging the soul out of a man 
bit by bit.' 

I don't think a single Eussian could do it leaving 
alone the fact that it would never occur to him as 
an interesting thing to do. We frequently burst 
out with something that forms an interest in 
common between us, omitting even the word of 
greeting 1 ) ; but we don't say anything at all if there 
is nothing to say. 

We had once a Polish count staying with us here 
one hot summer. After his first visit to the shops of 
the little country town the poor elegant old gentle- 
man returned quite upset and indignant. 

' What on earth makes them all tell me that it 
is very warm, when they see me almost melting 
away ? . . . And they insist on my answer, too ! 
.... I call it perfectly inconsidered brutal. 
Queer form of civilization ! . . .' 

It really does seem that there is too much 
' weather ' in England. Certainly, there is a sec- 
tion of public who almost live out of doors but 

1 Zdrastvuyt'e ! the same for all hours of day or night, 
deriving from the ancient: ' Keep well !" 


what a minority they are ! Those English people 
who have visited Kussia reproach us for having 
warm houses and no open windows in the winter 
(they seldom notice the small opening pane in the 
double winter-windows) but that is what we call 
comfort: no woollen underwear (which we can't 
stand), and yet no shivering; both of which are 
inevitable in this country. And is there one 
Englishman who would actually passionately love 
snow and frost not for the sake of sport, but 
for the sake of their own beauty ? For the sake 
of wide, wide distances snow-covered from horizon 
to horizon ? . . . To us they are full of silently - 
suggestive beauty something of the kind you get 
in a sleep when you are surrounded with distinctly- 
felt fascination without being able to tell, when you 
wake up, of what it really consisted. . . . 

And we never see English people lying on the 
grass for hours, and missing their meals for the pure 
pleasure of it. As to midnight walks, and boating, 
and bathing, they seem to be out of the question 
in this lovely green little island ! Half of its 
beauty is simply wasted. The only explanation 
may be that we do not give up our afternoons to 
enjoy Nature in a decent, organized way by means 
of out-door games, and thus crave for her in the 
evenings and nights. But in England, the moment 
the lamps are lit the curtains must be drawn, and, 
if you are a Eussian maybe choking in the at- 


mosphere of a drawing-room after late dinner 
you must not suggest to the party such a thing as 
going out into the garden at this hour ! And if 
you try to slip out on the sly, you will find all the 
doors locked and bolted. It is simply hopeless 
unless you have enough sense of humour to enjoy 
it inwardly. 

Why, there are but a few amongst the beautiful 
English gardens where there are any seats ! 

But so much for the weather. 

Perhaps I have succeeded in trying to explain 
that we are endowed with the capacity of enjoying 
what, in our conception, is worth ' enjoying '; but, 
nevertheless, we do not apply this word itself so 
lavishly and so casually as it is applied in this coun- 
try. One might think that we are spoiled by an 
overflow of happiness to the extent of not appre- 
ciating the blessings of the established everyday 
comforts ; but it is not that. The fact is, we think 
too highly of happiness and as one rarely gets the 
happiness as understood by a Russian the two 
words ' enjoyment ' and ' happiness ' (naslajd'e dye, 
schastye) are left in their glorious heights. 

For the same reason we don't use the verb ' to 
love ' in the everyday English manner : ' I would 
love to,' or, ' this is lovely.' The first of these ex- 
pressions does not exist at all, and the second is 
used (as an adverb) exclusively with reference to 
actions resulting from serious profound affection; 


whilst ' lovely hair,' ' lovely dinner,' ' lovely bit 
of fun ' would sound in Russian absurd and comical, 
and such expressions are never used. 

1 ^ or ^ we use t ^ Le worc ^ ' lvers ' indiscreetly 
tion. although, strangely enough, for quite a different 
reason. In Russia ' lovers ' means, exclusively, man 
and woman who live in intimacy out of wedlock with- 
out necessarily being tied by bonds of true affection 
or mutual moral obligations. There are many cases 
in every country where people live like that, and in 
Russia they are numerous too; but with us they 
are considered as quite different and distinct from 
the unions of beautiful, serious free love when 
man and woman, though unwedded, live openly 
and honestly together, cherishing their home and 
bringing up their children: in such cases they are 
called husband and wife, because, in our conviction 
they are husband and wife; even the servants and 
the police (!) call the woman bdryn'a, which means 
a married lady, and not baryshn'a, which means 
miss. This is done with the mere feeling of decency 
and consideration, leaving alone the higher convic- 
tions, simply because ' lovers ' is a very coarse 
word, implying mainly casual, physical and in any 
case not openly admitted relations. And again, 
even when they are casual and not open, but are 
guessed one does not apply the proper definition, 
except in privacy, for the simple reason that it is 
not the way with the Russians to interfere with, 


or to discuss, other people's private affairs, unless 
they themselves make them public. 

Then, on the other hand, Kussian boys and girls 
are not given to ' outings ' with their arms round 
each other's waists. This parading and passionless 
kissing in the streets and gateways are not in the 
Eussian taste. There is much frankness about the 
Russians, which means conscious acknowledgment 
of one's convictions but no nai'veness. What- 
ever the reader will find in this book with regard to 
the psychology of the Russians, he must not imagine 
that they are naive ! Their ' warmth of heart,' as 
we say, is much deeper than naivsness; we draw a 
line a very distinct one, too between the latter 
and the openness of mind and feeling. It is due to 
this national feature that our boys and girls who 
are in love with each other would hate to have any 
definition stuck on to them like a badge. As to 
the one of ' lovers ' well, I hope I have explained 
sufficiently clearly that this word defines exclusively 
that kind of intimacy which does not stand airing 
very well, because it is on a different scale from the 
open free unions. Therefore it should be clear that 
our young people would not dream of calling them- 
selves ' lovers ' when engaged, either. We have 
genuine Russian words for fiance and fiancee, by 
which we call them when they wish it. (But it 
also ought to be remembered, by the way, that we 
have nothing like the English showers of wedding 


presents in our country: somehow we don't think 
about the future household of those engaged. 
It is not their friends' business in Eussia.) 

Finally," I am quite ready to admit that, with us, 
the definition ' lover ' (I'ubdvnik) is somewhat an 
offence against its original meaning. But so it 
may be here: with us it is too specific with you 
too casual. We never know what to think exactly 
when people in England are called lovers (with us 
the definition is, at least, far from being vague !), 
and when this is done in an English company it 
makes us feel a little bit awkward at the expense 
of the speaker's lack of delicacy ! 

The atti- It is seldom that you meet, amongst the educated 

tudeofthe_ . . . .. 

Russian Russians, people who are interested in the details 
general, of everyday life. One goes into them as one joins 
the unavoidable current of the crowd in the street, 
but there is always, above and ahead of it, some 
eventual aim, something much more important 
which one follows consciously or instinctively, 
which makes the surroundings of practical life 
almost meaningless in comparison. This causes 
the absence in Russia of spick-and-span households ; 
it also causes, to a greater or smaller extent, dis- 
orderliness in the arrangements of one's time; and, 
what is worse, disorderliness in the home education 
of children. But one of the worst criticisms that 
can be passed by a Russian on another is the remark 


that he or she is ' trifling ' (melochnoy), which 
means attaching too much importance to a beauti- 
ful household, to etiquette, to money, to dress. 

On the other hand, devoting one's whole time 
entirely to some altruistic and absorbing activity 
(to the verge of foolishness from a practical point 
of view) is sincerely respected as a contrast to 
' triflingness.' By the way, this last word is almost 
the same as the one for small change, coppers; the 
additional syllable only conveys the conception 
that triflingness is ' coppers ' morally, as it were : 
melcch', melochnost'. 

For similar reasons, the word ' fool ' is a pro- and re- 
found insult. One does not apply it to people in fools, 
the way of a joke ! But, again, another syllable 
added to it turns it at once into a term of compassion 
for those who really are fools idiots, backward 
children, religious maniacs. Thus, durak is very 
offensive, whilst durachoJc is sympathetic. 

A broad outlook, cleverness, and initiative are and 
qualities on which a person's value is very largely ness, 
established. If some one has a reputation for being 
clever, one respects him without having seen him, 
taking it for granted that a clever person is a nice 
person, too. This last touch in the way of judging 
people is typically Russian, because with us the 
most brilliant cleverness without a good heart a 
cold, practical, mercantile kind of cleverness weigh- 
ing up the possible result of action beforehand 


gives a person the reputation of ' a cunning business 
man/ or ' a carryerist,' which calls forth the silence 
of disapproval. That is why the Germans have 
never been liked by the mass of the Russian people. 
They were spoken of with a shake of one's head, 
as ' those cunning Germans !' On the whole, the 
Russians' drawback is of a diametrically opposing 
nature : they are not sufficiently business-like. 

The highest praise one can give in Russia to 
and re- man or woman is to call them 'responsive,' 
ness. otzyvchivy* and chutki : responsive to everything; 
this means keeping one's heart and mind open to 
other people's joys, sadness, dreams, sharing them 
genuinely; and, above all, responsive to every 
social call, to every bit of initiative, every vestige 
of new thought. This is where we used to find 
England so ' heavy to lift ' (t'ajela na podyom). 
With us every new idea, plan or invention, 
every change in the old routine, is welcome 
and appreciated everywhere except the Govern- 
ment offices; and even there one notices changes 
taking place now. ... ' The New ' has always 

1 In this case the tz must be pronounced as two separate 
sounds a clear z following the t. This illustrates the draw- 
back of the English alphabet not having a sign for the sound 
if; because a tz stands with us for t and z, and not for ty- 
But we have to apply the English tz or ts in order to convey 
its sound because, again, the Latin c, which might do, stands 
in English for a &-sound (a thing unthinkable in our alphabet), 
and thus falls out from the scanty row of mediums, 


been accepted with outstretched arms in all 
branches of science, art, and literature, to say 
nothing of the individualistic development of 
social life. Even amongst peasants one never 
sees the spirit of ' our parents did it this way, so 
it must be right.' On the contrary ' to see light ' 
is their expression for learning new things. New 
always new ! Ahead and ahead ! That is why the 
Russians so closely follow the achievements of 
Western Europe, ever expecting to learn new things 
from outside, and not noticing that it is often 
themselves who first step into the unexplored paths. 
This is very notable with the Russian women. 
They were the first amongst European women 
to flock to Universities, to become scientists 
and social leaders. And it is a Russian woman 
who is the first aviator for * war reconnaissance ' 
in the official service of the Russian Government. 
Now it looks as if all Intelligentzia were out equip- 
ping and working the network of most efficient 
private hospitals throughout the country and the 
' Flying Detachments of Medical Aid and Nour- 
ishment at the front.' Men and women of science, 
late revolutionaries, aristocratic ladies, peasant- 
students, clergy, artists, and atheists, all side by 
side, as near the firing line as possible, whilst 
several young girls have been given the Order of 
St. George for their heroism in actual fighting, as 
they joined the rank and file. Their presence on 


the battlefield depends exclusively on the views 
of their nearest chiefs, and these hardly ever send 
them back when the secret of their sex is disclosed, 
and a nursing sister, who has deliberately taken the 
command of a battalion when she saw all its officers 
fall in the course of an attack, was rewarded by a 
St. George Cross. All this we call ' responsiveness ' : 
' otzyvchivost' . 
Quality Chutkost' deriving from the above-mentioned 


respon- adjective chuiki is a very Russian word; it means 

siveness, 1111 r 

an extremely developed sense ot what a scientist 
would call a flair for discovering the mood and 
position of others; an extreme tact alive not merely 
with diplomacy, but with genuine refinement of 
feeling: not only thinking for, but feeling with. 
It is reflected in the saying, ' One does not mention 
ropes in the house of a man who has been hanged.' 
The difference between chutkost' and the English 
word consideration, by which it is usually trans- 
lated, should be clear from the fact that ' con- 
sideration ' refers to a mental attitude only, 
whereas the root of this Russian definition is 
chutyo, implying the instinctive capacity of 
' scenting things.' 

mustra- I have once seen a fine instance of chutkost' at 

instance at an English school. . . . The staff and the elder 

school. children (men and women, boys and girls) staged 

for a school entertainment, ' H.M.S. Pinafore. 9 

Everyone belonging to and connected with the 


school- world including the villagers, who worked 
in the school grounds was present at the 
performance. In the scene on the deck when the 
Captain, Josephine, and Sir Joseph Porter, ' the 
ruler of the Queen's navy ' are dancing, in turns, 
to the sounds of their exciting strains, the master 
who played the captain's part slipped and fell. 
He was very nimble, although not young, and, 
in another moment, continued his solo-dance as 
gaily as before. But, beloved as he was by the 
audience, there escaped loud laughter from the 
younger boys and girls, who are used and free at 
that school to express many things born of frank- 
ness and naturalness which are not allowed at 
many other places. In another few minutes, when 
dancing solo in his turn, ' Sir Joseph ' fell too ! 
On the very same spot where the captain had 
slipped, only much worse ! . . . The ' ruler of 
the Queen's navy ' was a much younger master 
than the ' captain,' and, besides, one who was the 
children's usual comrade in all sorts of fun, so their 
laughter burst forth this time with particular 
vigour exactly what the little manoeuvre of the 
' ruler ' was intended to produce. 

Wasn't that manoeuvre prompted by true chut- 
kost', both of a friend and of a master ? He 
certainly never breathed to anyone about it; 
but all amongst the children who possessed 
some chutkost' in their turn guessed the little 


trick, and it taught them something for the 

It is a great pity that it is impossible to call in 
English this master by what is such a nice term of 
appreciation in Eussian. 

TOO much With the Russians this chutkost' is sometimes 
carried too far. The other day a Russian friend 
of mine, descending from a taxi in London, looked 
at the taximeter, and saw that it showed one-and- 
tenpence. Nevertheless, he politely asked the 
driver how much the fare was. The man looked 
at the apparatus and said, ' Half-a-crown.' The 
Russian pretended that he never noticed the 
swindling, gave the man two-and-eightpence, and 
silently went his way. He did so instinctively, 
not wanting to make the man feel uncomfort- 
able ! 

To sum up the Russian epithets of appreciation 
I must say that the whole row of those that build 
up in our mind the most charming characteriza- 
tion of a person is exclusively nationally-Russian. 
Here it is: otzyvchivy, cliiitki, privetlivy, laskovy. 
The first two of these adjectives have been just 
explained; the third is derived from the definition 
of kind greeting and means the spontaneous gift 
of friendliness and sociability; a verbal translation 
in English would be derived from salute: but this 
word has no warmth emanating from it; again, 
laskovy means ( caressive,' as applied to the nature 
and ways of a person; it is our national variety of 


the English ' goodness,' as it emphatically implies 
not only being good inwardly, but letting other 
people benefit by the visible and ' feel-able ' qual- 
ities of a good heart. The Eussian language 
would cease to be Russian without these four 
adjectives. All of them rolled into one in English 
(kind) does not satisfy us ! 

As far as we can judge from some new touches 
now finding their way into the English life, it seems 
that war is adding some Idskovost' and chutkost' to 
the English kindness. If I may pass a Russian's 
opinion on this evolution it is a beautiful one. 
England is swarming with kind people, but they 
sometimes fail to satisfy us. So many of the kind 
English people are not at all interesting ! while 
with us this is another quality essential as an in- 
gredient of attractiveness. No one who is chutki 
pan fail in being interesting, because a chutki person 
has refined feelers in his mind and heart for every- 
thing, near or far, as it were, and you cannot fail 
being interesting in your turn if you take interest 
in other people's interests. Whereas one can be 
' very kind ' without emerging from one's own 
castle and without listening to the vibrations of 
the world around. ' Many-sided ' is a term of 
great appreciation with us (versus the English 
' specialist '), and always is understood to go along- 
side with the definition ' chutki/ 

I knew an English lady shop-keeper of seventy- 
five who used to tell me with immense satisfaction : 


( I was born in this house, married in it, and 
lived in it always, and hope to die in it ' (she did). 
' We were so happy ! Neither my dear husband 
nor myself ever wanted to go anywhere else, and 
I have scarcely been on any other road in this 
place than that between our gate and the church. 
We had no children, you see, so there was no need 
to bustle about, and I never had any trouble with 
our servants, because we were always kind to them. 
I feel so thankful for my happy life !' she would 
add in perfect sincerity. 

Well, that woman was always called ' Dear, 
kind old soul P But I wonder whether this war 
would have given her a beneficial shock, if she had 
lived now. Certainly, her example is an extreme 
one, but extremes very often are the best means 
of explaining an idea, and I would just like to show 
the difference between the English conception of 
kindness, or good heart, and our conception of 
laskovost' (caressiveness), jrbzyvchivost' (respons- 
iveness), and chutkost' (?! . . .) all of them being 
absolutely essential features of a good heart, as 
we understand it. A fine violin-string answers not 
only to the touch of its master's fingers, but to a 
breeze sending its whisper through the open 
window, to the light step of a butterfly that rests 
on it for a second, and to every mellow voice 
ringing in the house. . . . 

Another very Russian word, a noun, is prostor The be- 

loved Rus- 

(thereis another one, mzdolye, for the same idea), sian con- 

ception ; 

It breathes of the distinctively Slavonic passion Prostor. 
for yet another aspect of freedom. It bursts from 
Russian lips at the sight of space, far vistas, broad 
rivers, blue seas, steppes, golden corn-fields waving 
from horizon to horizon. . . . Beautiful scenery 
which has no prostor about it is certainly admired 
and enjoyed, but after a while one longs for places 
where one can see wide, wide distances even if 
these are but flat valleys with ' a few birch-trees, 
a few pines, some moss, some sand, some clay, 
some marshes . . . .' I knew of an ordinary 
priest from the district of Kaluga, in the centre 
of Russia, who was once sent with the staff of a 
Grand Duke to Abass-Tuman a place of almost 
fantastic beauty in the heart of the Caucasian 
mountains. Being somewhat plump and simple, 
the man did not trouble to make any excursions. 
He stayed the whole summer in the magnificent 
glen where the palace was situated, and he very 
nearly pined away. 

' Well, Father Vasili, did you like the Caucasus ? ' 
people asked him on his return. 

1 Couldn't see any of it,' he answered indiffer- 
ently : ' Mountains on your right, mountains on 
your left. Nothing to be seen at all. What a 
difference here, in our Kalujskaya Gruberniya !' 
and he stroked his large beard with profound relief. 


The Kalujskaya district is as flat as a pan- 

This typical incident came home to me when I 
was showing an excursion party of Russians the 
beauties of Oxford. They enthusiastically went 
into all the details of historical architecture, but 
an afternoon on the winding tree-sheltered Cher- 
well failed to impress them, and seemed to rob them 
of all their vitality. So next morning I took them 
to the riverside, beyond Port Meadow. 

' A-ah !' they breathed deeply, many of them 
throwing out their arms, ' here is a bit of prostor /' 

The word vastness exists in English, but it does 
not convey anything like so much to the English 
mind as prostor conveys to a Russian one. The 
longing for prostor is ingrained in the Russian 
heart. That is why our smallest towns are leisurely 
spread over ground which might hold ten times 
more houses; and that is why no one would think 
of building a house more than one story high 
which is intended for one family only: one likes 
to feel room, space all around one, before anything 
else. That is also why our ceilings are built con- 
siderably higher than those in the English houses 
of corresponding size. 

Prostor suggests to us endless possibilities; it is 
the seed-bed of creative impulse; it pours into 
Russian art its power of witching charm, and fills 
the Russian heart to overflowing with the power 


of love. The sense of size and space impels a Rus- 
sian to throw out his arms e to embrace Nature, 
brothers, foes and friends. . . .' These are the 
words of a wonderful poem by Count Alexey 
Tolstoy. . . . 

At this time embracing foes does not particu- 
larly appeal to the Russian mind, but it needed 
much appalling cruelty to weaken this character- 
istic of all-forgiveness. Besides, prostor is a call 
for free-thought, for activity, for throwing one- 
self open, not merely physically, but spiritually, 
developing the mental receptivity. That is why 
every new idea, social or religious, is absorbed so 
speedily all over the immense land. 

I understand that, coming out on a fine morn- 
ing, feeling ' full of beans,' an Englishman some- 
what approaches the feeling which a Russian 
experiences when his mood is blending with the 
surrounding prostor. If I am right, then the 
following simple verses by a modern poet, which 
are translatable almost literally, must carry the 
atmosphere with them : 

' The day of spring is hot and golden, 
The town is blinded by the sun. 
I am myself again ! I'm merry, 
I'm young, and happy, and in love ! 
My soul will sing, will fly to meadows, 
All strangers look akin to me ! 
What a prostor ! What boundless freedom ! 
What songs to sing ! What flow'rs to see ! 


Swing noisily, Springly-daring forest ! 
Grow quickly, grass ! Come, lilac, bloom ! 
Evil is dead, all worship justice 
On a halcyon day that's come so soon ! ' 

There is no Kussian writer, warrior, Tsar', priest, 
or peasant who has not used the word prostor over 
and over again in his life lovingly. Why, even 
hopeless bureaucrats and police are sure to love 
the prostor physically, at least, if their spiritual 
longing for it has been atrophied ! 

# # # # # 

Mr. Pearsall Smith, in his book, The English 
Language, says: 

* The progress in English is due, not to the pros- 
perity of the nation, but to the national disasters 
the Danish invasion and the Norman Conquest.' 
Foreign Now, we had no such beneficent invasions ! 
the' Vus- Russia was coming into existence through her own 
" turmoil. Peter the Great brought the first series 
of Latin-rooted and Teutonic words with his 
organization of the States-machinery and intro- 
duction of scientific technique into the land. A 
good many of these Western words are still in 
constant use, and some of them have no equivalent 
in the original Russian. And here the Russians 
ought to be blamed for their ever-present passion 
for ' the new light from the West ' ; for in most cases 
pure Russian words could be brought in by merely 
thinking of them, owing to the creative elasticity 


of the Slavonic roots. It is a perfect shame that 
numbers of Latinisms are used by some modern Rus- 
sian journalists as a kind of literary chique; while the 
French ' merci ' is used by nearly all the town popu- 
lation (particularly so by the half -educated ones), 
though we have two genuine expressions for ' thank 
you ' : the latter in Russian, once upon a time, meant 
' I give you the gift of good ' (blago-dar'u) ; and there 
is also another word, just as Russian, although it has 
lost its ancient form by having dropped the last 
letter: this word for ' thank you ' used to mean: 
' God save you ' (Spassl Bog. Now it is spasslbo). 

The logical analytical subtlety of the Russian 
grammar is boundless. I know two ardent English 
philologists who say that it beats both Greek and 
Latin, and needs a knowledge of several Western 
languages to follow its precise but winding paths 
and its creative power. 

For one thing, the syllables of nuances have in 
Russian a magic power. Those few that exist in Syllables 
English (-unlimited, bespeak, speeches, trespass, Nuances, 
overcome) will explain to the reader what I mean 
by this denomination. But with us the nuances 
are ever so much more numerous and various: 
they include all prepositions (to beat through, to 
come out, to come in), which are, for the purpose, 
inseparably attached to the beginning of the word; 
and, besides, there are many syllables of nuances 
which mean nothing in themselves, but make all 


the difference to the verbs. One of them, for 
instance, consists of two consonants vz or vs 
and is never used as a preposition separately, but, 
joined to the beginning of a verb, it gives it a dis- 
tinct idea of suddenness. Thus the verb br'esti 
means to wander about; razbr'estl means to come 
across something; but vzbr'esti is used exclusively 
in connection with a thought which has sprung up 
in the brain unaccountably; while t'zobr'esti means 
to invent : rather a subtle derivation ! 

Or, ' to fly ' is altered by the addition of vz into 
' spurt up ' (I 9 et 9 et 9 vzZ'et'et'). Speaking of a 
bird we use mostly the first of these two varie- 
ties of the verb amongst a few others, I must 
say. But speaking of rockets and fireworks, we 
always apply the second. We say rvat' about 
tearing paper or cloths; but vzorv&t 9 means to 

The verb used for indicating the winding of a 
brook, or of a path, is transformed by the same two 
letters into one that pictures the spiral masses of 
smoke and flames suddenly bursting from a burning 
building (vitsa, pzyitsa). More means sea; but 
vzmorye means strand i.e., a kind of place which 
runs right up to the sea. 

A beautiful new word has been recently intro- 
duced by the young writer, Count Alexey Tolstoy, 
for indicating a hilly district : he called it a vsliolm- 
lennaya district: holm meaning hill, he makes it, 


as it were, a ' vs-hillied ' district. It makes one's 
thoughts fly back for a moment to the days when 
the crust of the globe was undergoing the stage of 
being vs-hillied ! 

Bif means to beat, but dbit' means to kill; 
there is an in-between meaning, too, created by a 
different syllable of nuance >obit': it means to 
give an extra vigorous beating; w/bit' means to 
fight someone to the effect of driving him out 
of his position, and therefore is also (quite logi- 
cally) applied to knocking and beating moths 
out of old furs or blankets. But rabbit' has an 
opposite meaning: it is a verb applied to filling 
a pipe with tobacco, or stuffing one's head with 

A quaint transformation happens to the word 
stol : it means table, but in the ancient days prob- 
ably meant stool as well, because, with the addi- 
tion of one little nuance prestol it turns into a 
' throne ' : this particular syllable conveying here 
the idea of ' What a table ! Such a table ! A 
super-table !' 

Again '^.vrat 9 means to tell lies vigorously (Igat* 
stands for doing the same moderately); pnvrat' 
means just to add a dose of fiction to cold truth 
with the longing for effect, maybe ! Again, 
trus means coward ; and tiMsovat means not quite a 
coward, but one who does not like to expose him- 
self to ' unnecessary unpleasantness.' 


The syllable na often adds to a verb a nuance 
of great gentleness : thus, the verb ' to press '- 
with na preceding the root means that sort of 
pressure which a doctor would put into his fingers 
when examining the aching body of an invalid; 
(jat\ najat'). ' To sing/ with that same adjoining 
syllable, means to sing as gently as one sings a 
lullaby, or to hum unconsciously while working 
(p'ef , wap'evat'). The verb ' to feel ' (slichu- 
pat') with one's fingers is quite a different one 
with us from the verb conveying the idea of feeling 
with one's heart (chuvstvcvat')} well, the syllable 
na added to the first one, meaning to feel with one's 
fingers, makes a verb which is now used in the 
description of searchlights moving in the dark 
(nashchupaf). ... On other occasions the syl- 
lable na adds a decisive touch to the action: Zvat 9 
= to call someone; ra&zvat'=to call someone a 
certain name. Brat' =to take; ra&brat' =to take 
a lot of something. L'et'et' =to fly; wal'et'et' = 
to fly against something, etc. 

What transformations various syllables of nu- 
ances can do when preceding the same verb can be 
seen from the column below : the top word consists 
of the one-syllable root only; each of the following 
ones has a different nuance joining on to it which 
changes the meaning of that one-syllable root 


To become 
To come into 
To get up 
To get tired 
To stop 
To stick to 
To find (some- 
one) in 

Stat*. Or: 



To give 
To sell 
To publish 
To distribute 
To pass on 
To give a task 
To deal (cards, 
or to pass ex- 
To add 
To envelop 




Or, here is one of the cases of a transformation 
of a noun; the root of this particular one meaning 
' go ' in any manner except on foot. 

$yezd A conference in general. Also the time 
when people have begun to assemble for a certain 

Razyezd The time when people are dispersing 
after some meeting. 

Podyezd The front porch (the place which one 
drives up to). 

Fyezd A drive leading into some place. Also 
the moment of the arrival of some prominent 
person or party. 

Priyezd The arrival of ordinary mortals ! 

Fyiezd A drive leading out, or the moment of 
departure both on ordinary and special occasions. 

06yezd A drive round a place, or ' being on a 
round of - 

Proyezd A drive through a place. N'et 'pro- 
yezda /=No thoroughfare ! 


Nayezdy (plur.) Casual visits from time to 
The char- The one syllable that makes the verb ' to be' 

andflexi- (but') is transformed by different preceding syl- 
biiity of : y ' J * y 

the verb lables of nuances into : 

to be.' 

To be By?. 

To stay at or in Probyt'. 

To get rid of Sbyi'. 

To do one's part of Ozbyt'. 
To decrease 
To fall out (of the ranks, 

of a list) 

To arrive Pnbyt'. 

To forget Zabyt'. 

The example, by the way, is^the case when a 
whole English expression is necessary to convey 
the meaning of the two-syllable word for each 
conception. But this is not often the case. We 
could not write stories of one-syllable words like 
those written for little children in English. 

The last transformation of the verb t r > be is very 
quaint: the syllable of nuance za which does it, 
means, originally, behind, or beyond. Therefore, 
to forget really means in Kussian ' to be beyond 
being.' ... A certain termination turns it into 
forgetfulness (zabyvchivosf), and another into 
unconsciousness (zabytye). This is rather fine, I 
think. Corresponding with this, the Russian for 
' faint ' (obmorok) carries the ancient idea of being 
made a fool by means of witchcraft. 

Some unique points about the verb to be in 


Russian are worth mentioning. For one thing it 
is never, never used in the ordinary way i.e., in 
the present tense as it is in all other European 
languages. We never say, ' I am ill,' ' we are here/ 
'you are kind,' ' the children are in the house,' 'they 
are in the garden,' 'he is in town,' etc. The verb 
is omitted entirely. 

' How do you say, then, " I am " ? ' the English 
people ask me. 

But we don't find any need to say ' I am ' ! Not 
just by itself. When we want to say, ' I am 
hungry,' ' I am glad,' ' I am here,' ' I am at home,' 
etc., we simply say, ' I hungry,' ' I glad,' ' I here,' 
' I at home ' ; the special short termination of the 
adjective expresses in itself a state of the object, 
and stands as a predicate, whilst a long termination 
expresses only a quality. It is only when a special 
emphasis is needed that ' is ' is used but only ' is ' 
in the third person singular never in any of the 
others: 'There is money in my purse,' 'there is 
time to do it,' ' there is a chance of winning the 
war, ' etc. It is also used in questions : ' Is there time 
to do it ?' ' Is there a chance of winning the war V 
But even here this third person singular (is=yest') 
is applied to convey exclusively the idea of posses- 
sion : I have time=w men' a yest' mem' a. This is 
done because the verb ' to have ' is hardly ever 
used either, as the idea of something or other being 
there replaces in Russian the idea of possession. 


We don't use the verbs to have or to be as 
auxiliary verbs, either, because we need no auxili- 
aries, having no complex tenses (except one, for 
the Imperfective future). 

Thus the verb byt' (to be) is altogether in a very 
unique position ; it is not at all needed in the ordin- 
ary way; but its importance comes in where it is 
non-existent in other languages: namely, it is rich 
in suggestion, and certain definitions are derived 
from it which are exclusively Kussian. For in- 
stance, there is the verbal noun byloye which stands 
for ' things which really happened long ago.' 
There is a touch of poetry in it, of thoughtful 
reminiscences. Or here is another definition (a 
pure noun) byl\ which is used in direct opposition 
to fiction. To some one's query, ( Is this a fib ?' 
you answer, ' No ! it is byl' \'=N 9 &t, byl' ! It is a 
thing which really has been, has taken place. 

The future tense in the Old Slavonic of this verb 
is bud'e ; well, quaintly enough, added to the 
beginning of a phrase it means ' in case if ' ; whilst 
the past tense, bylo, added to the end of the same 
phrase, means ' was about to.' 

Or here is still another noun from the same verb : 
the byt. (The only difference in the spelling of 
this word, from the same three letters representing 
the infinitive, consists in the letter t being hard 
instead of soft.) We use this noun to define, en 
masse, the manners of life, the code of existence 


of any class of people. We say the byt of pro- 
vincial actors, the byt of courtiers, the byt of a 
farmer, of a peasant, of students, of the soldiers 
in the trenches the general routine of their life, 
as it were. This definition leads, in its turn, to 
the adjective bytovoy, which is applied to char- 
acter roles, to character sketches, to national 
features. Again, the future is called, in Russian, 
budushcheye, an adjective participle of the verb to 
be. Thus the latter is interwoven in the Russian 
speech closely enough, but in quite a different way to 
the purely grammatical and even the auxiliary one 
in which it runs through the Western languages. 

Or here are a few columns of words built round 
the same root, as it were, through the addition of 
various terminations and different syllables c 
nuances. They make some remarkable series of mations 01 
conceptions, all of them threaded together quite 
logically : 

Spirit, breath Duh. 1 (Root: duh or doh.) 

Ghosts Duhi. 

Perfumes Duhi. 

Air Vozduh. 

Closeness (of air) Duhota. 

Soul Dusha. 

Waft Dunoveriiye. 

Rest Otdyh. 

To rest Otdyhat'. 

Fragrance Dushistost'. 

Unanimity Yedinodushiye. 

1 The substitute in this root of an o or a y for the u in 
some of the words makes no difference, being commanded by 
sound only. 


Generosity Velikodiishiye. 

Simplicity of mind Prostodushiye. 

Good nature Dobrodushiye. 

Clergy Duhovenstvo. 

Sigh Vzdoh. 

Darling Dushechka. 

Last will Duhovnaya. 

Oven Duhovaya. 

Ventilator Otdushina. 

There is a verb belonging to this set of deriva- 
tions which is applied to the dying of animals 
izdyhdt' or izdohnut'. It conveys the idea of a very 
solitary, painful death, just 'letting out breath/ 
and is applied to human death only in the way of 
a curse. (There is yet another definition for the 
animals' dying, but it has nothing to do with our 
present case.) The translators never know what 
to do with this izdohnut'. Sometimes they put 
e choking ' for it, which is not very far from it 
grammatically, but gives none of its rudeness. In 
one of Gor'ki's passages, the whole power of the 
gloomy situation is lost, as the author uses two 
verbs of the same root. ... It occurs in the 
bitter reminiscences of a Volga-burlak, who is 
telling of his youth, when he was towing heavily- 
laden, huge barges up the current of the river, 
month in and month out: ' One suddenly tumbles 
down with one's face buried in the sand. . . . Even 
this comes as a relief. . . . The strength has 
whizzed out, and only two things remain possible 
at all: either otdyhat or izdyhat. . . .' Glancing 
at the column above, my reader will see the differ- 


ence which the little syllable ot makes in this case, 
and will realize the bitterness of the Russian sen- 
tence which means that the only alternative to 
resting would be dying like a homeless beast. 

Here are some other examples of what I would 
call ' logical twisting ' : 








Crossing (of a river) 








To lead 

To wind up 

Belt (of an engine) 


Code (of laws) 


Company (of a battalion) 



Formation (in army) 

Mode (in music) 






Pravda. (Root: prav.) 















Vodit'. (Root: vod.) 




Svod (zakonov). 





Stroy. (Root: stroy.) 



Postroyka, Stroyeniye. 




I hope it is also clear from these groups of words 
that they are quite different from casual likeness, 


such as in cab and cabbage, or pen and penguin, 
or pot and potato, etc. In English, a parallel 
to the logically-threaded sets of Kussian nouns 
would be, for instance : 

Pedal. Point. 

Pedlar. Or Appointment. 

Expedition. Disappointment. 

Some interesting examples like these do exist, 
but not so many and not so rich as in Kussian, 
because the syllables of nuances in English are 
considerably fewer in themselves, and, what is 
more, not applicable to so many nouns and 
verbs, 1 while the eloquent terminations are quite 

Altogether, we could not do without a choice of 
terminations. They make a world of difference. 
We like a word to obey the minutest vibration of 
our thought. This flexibility is quite different to 
the English manner of stringing different nouns 
like beads on a string as in: War Office Harvest 
Women; or, Lake Asphalt Pavement Company; 
Red Cross Subscription List, etc., etc. 
The power For instance, different terminations added to 

of term- 
inations, the root which means ' old ' give the noun, at your 

desire, any of the following meanings : 

1 For instance, in the second of the groups given above only 
three of the English definitions, correctness, correction, and 
direction (one could add director), are derived from the root 
rect, the equivalent to which in Russian prav goes for build- 
ing up a much greater variety of conceptions. 


The times of yore Starina. 

Old age Starost'. 

Old man Starik. 

A fine old man Staretz. 

A dear old man Starichok. 
A miserable, shrivelled, 

haggard, little old man Starikashka. 
A nasty, disgusting, little 

old man Starichishka. 

Rubbish Stary6. 

Or, similar metamorphoses happen as most 
ordinary things to the words ' boy ' and ' girl/ 
which, like nearly all Eussian nouns, are beauti- 
fully soft wax under the powerful chisel of the 
language : 

Boy (derivation from the 

adjective ' small ' (maly) Mal'chik. 
A rough boy Mal'chishka. 

A nice, regular boyish boy Mal'chngan. 

A dear little boy Mal'chonka, Mal'chugashka, 

Mal'chuganchik, Mal'chinka. 

A little girl D'evochka. 

A nice little girl D'evchdnochka. 

A young girl D'evushka. 

A rude, nasty girl D'evchonka. 

An unmarried lady D'evitza. 

A spinster, a virgin D'eva. 

A wench D'evka. 


Son Syn. 

Young son Synok. 

Dear little son Synochek. 

Nice great big son Synishche. 


Daughter Doch', Dochka. 

Dear young daughter Doch'en'ka, Dochurka. 


The root which means small and rests with all 
the ' boys' words ' (mal) changes its one vowel 
(mol) to serve the formation of the word youth, 
and of other conceptions akin to it. Molodost* 
means youth. Molod'etz is the heartiest homely 
word of praise for both sexes, at all times and on 
all occasions. It is distinctly national, and used 
in all classes of the population. It conveys the 
idea that the person has achieved, as it were, all 
that youth can achieve. It is often translated as 
' brick,' but this word has not a breath of the heroic 
folk-lore about it which the Russian has. 

One of the prettiest sayings imbued with the 
old Russian heroic spirit, both in sound and mean- 
ing, translated literally runs thus : ' The past must 
not be thrown as a reproach at a molodetz.' This 
is conveyed in Russian by the four words: ' ByV 
molodtzu ne ukbr' The definition of byl' has 
already been given (page 36) as ' things which 
happened long ago ' ; the remaining nouns also 
belong to the Old Russian, and the whole phrase is 
buoyantly alive with intense dislike of hurling 
reproach at a young fellow for the wild oats of his 
past, now that he is really a molod'etz ! 

There is one more popular word coming from 
the same nucleus, which is constantly applied in 
Russia: it is molod'oj, a noun used only in the 
singular a general definition of the younger genera- 
tion, but never applied otherwise than in a nice 


sense. Here is an expression from a recent news- 
paper article which describes, in a few words, the 
masses of the younger generation ' just behind the 
lines ' : 'All this molod'oj, with lovable, bright 
faces, longing to breathe, to work and to love. . . .' 
# # # # # 

A new word has now entered into the vistas of A new 
the Russian language. Politically and historic- the Qer- 
ally, the Germans are called in Russian Germantzy. 
Yet there has always existed another name for 
them which has absolutely acquired ' all social 
rights,' and has been very widely used even in 
official nomenclature: this name is N'emtzy (in 
plural). Absolutely independent of any ethno- 
logical or philological sources, this word must have 
come solely from its own root, which means dumb, 
and nothing else but dumb n'emoy. In the olden 
days the Germans must have been thus christened 
by a simple Slavonic population to whom they 
were just as good as dumb. (There exists an 
idea, though, that the name of the river N'eman 
has helped to foster it.) This theory is backed up 
by another, which states that the definition of the 
Germans as of ' dumb ' people came as a natural 
contrast to the definition Slavs = Slav' an' e, the 
root of the latter being derived from slovo=woid. 

But now, when a mass of Germans have risen as 
an obstinate power of greater importance than 
ever before, the instinctive wit of the soldat'ik 


(soldier) has promptly accommodated itself to 
trie demands of the moment: the official word for 
a German, Germartetz, is taken, its last syllable is 
altered in a way never before known, and a new 
definition is ready ! Its nuance is absolutely dis- 
tinct, and makes everyone smile who knows the 
riches of the language: the name is germanchuk. 
As can be easily seen, the biggest part of it fully 
acknowledges the German birthright, so to speak. 
But that ending chuk well ! I wish it were pos- 
sible to interpret the seeming elegance of the word, 
the humour of its condescension ! 

But there existed, even before now, a special 
twist to the word n'emetz, which distinctly con- 
veyed an attitude of neglect: it sounds n'emchura. 
It is a word that needs pulling up one's upper lip 
in order to pronounce it in its intended tone: it 
alludes to ' those Germans !' whose greatest power 
does not surpass making sausages. ... It is very 
likely, therefore, that this shape of the word is not 
used any more now, unless it has acquired a nuance 
of hatred. 
A new The word soldat'ik itself was not used at the time 

reading of 

an old when regiments were ordered to shoot at revolu- 


tionary crowds, and when soldiers were, therefore, 
regarded with bitter reproach and painful astonish- 
ment. No ! The creative power of the language 
gives an absolutely different aspect to the soldier 
as a man, as compared to the soldier as a weapon 


in the hands of a reactionary government, simply 
through applying to him now this slightly altered 
name, which has lost all its Western flavour, 
although coming from ' soldat.' The quiet hero, 
the soldat'ik, now no more made unnaturally 
brutal, has his name on everyone's lips and 
in everyone's heart throughout the vast land 
while he is fighting the n'emetz, who, according 
to a mockingly-respectful saying, has invented the 

monkey ! 


It may be of interest, perhaps, to say a few words T . h ^ s 
about the manner in which the Eussians address th <>d of 


each other. Many times I have heard English 
people say that it seems as if we had ever so 
many names, and that one could not make out 
in the translations who was who, for each person 
was addressed in at least three different ways. 
The explanation can be made quite easy by a 
parallel. Suppose English people had, like our- 
selves, only one name given to them in baptism; 
and added to it the father's name which in 
former times was of the nature of a genitive and 
placed after that the surname, the result would 
be, for an English brother and sister: Kichard 
Edwardovich Hodgkin and Dorothy Edwardovna 
Hodgkina. Well, they would still retain their 
personalities if they were called Dick and Dora by 
those who addressed them with a ' thou,' or Richard 


Edwardovich and Dorothy Edwardovna in the 
customary social manner of all classes, or simply 
Hodgkin or Hodgkina in the third person. In the 
same way, the Kussian APosha, or Alexey Feo- 
dorovich, or Karamazov, all stand for the same 
person in Dostoyevski's great novel. And so it 
is always. If people have titles you call them: 
Prince Nikolay Vasilyevich, or Count Pavel Petro- 
vich, or Princess Ol'ga Alexeyevna, or whatever 
they are. Old servants, without waiting for any 
permission, often address their masters as: Barin 
(master) Vladimir Sergeyevich, or bat'ushka (father) 
Sergey Vladlmirovich, or baryn'a (mistress) Ol'ga 
Ivanovna, or matushka (mother) Vera Vasilyevna, 
or whatever their case may be. 

On attaining, with the growth of love or friend- 
ship, the intimate state of addressing each other 
with a ' thou ' in the place of ' you,' we drop the 
full Christian name and father's name, and call 
people by their shortened names, which, it is true, 
have no end of varieties. The richness in the 
numerous shades of meaning which the choice of 
terminations adds to the language is brilliantly 
illustrated by these various shortened names. 
You only have to select this or that ending from 
all those which a certain shortened name possesses, 
and your feelings, your attitude at the given 
moment towards the addressed person is sun-clear ! 
Thus, if you usually call a boy (whose Christian 


name in full is Dmitri) Mit'usha, Mit'ushka, Mlt'ik, 
Mit'en'ka, Mit'unchik, Mit'un'a (or something else 
in that line, all of it conveying much love and 
' caressiveness ' through the mere forms of the 
endings, while simply Mit'a is indifferent) and 
then he suddenly hears you calling him Mit'ka, 
he knows that something is wrong ! Mit'ka, as 
well as Kol'ka, Van'ka, Sashka, etc. (instead of 
the corresponding affectionate forms Kol'usha, 
Vanichka, Sashurka, etc.), carry in themselves 
your vexation, even anger, without any further 
explanation. Only one certain very Russian in- 
tonation of the voice gives them a humorously- 
tolerant aspect : between country boys this aspect is 
very popular, and the touch of rudeness disappears 
from those brisk endings; but, when given to girls' 
names (Natashka, Mashka, Matr'oshka), they in- 
variably convey disrespect. The peasants' various 
forms of addressing altogether present a feast of 
colours ! 

But when we are first introduced to each other, 
and commence to talk, we immediately ask each 
other, ' What is your name ?' and, on learning 
the Christian name and father's name, we proceed 
to address each other by them. It takes away the 
formality of Mister and Madame So-and-So which we 
dislike (gospod'in, gospojd), and which we use only 
in business or at formal introductions (very often 
employing for it the French ' monsieur ' and 


' madame '). The essentially Kussian manner is uni- 
versally employed as the most sociable one; there- 
fore the name is often given in full at the first intro- 
duction, e.g., Nikolay Petrovich Kolosov, or Elena 
Nikolay evna Kolosova. A homely, respectful way 
of addressing each other amongst the peasants is to 
use the father's name only: Petrovich, or Stepa- 
novna, or Alexeich, or whatever the case may be. 

Peter the Great used to call his statesmen in 
this super-homely way ; but all the Tsars' rescripts, 
whether bringing to the man favour or disgrace, 
always begin with an address in the universal 
way: ' Much esteemed Nikolay Ivanovich,' or 
6 Ivan Nikolay evich,' or whatever the man's name 
may be. 


We are quite unable to appreciate the English 
expressions of intimacy : ( Lucky dog ! You lucky 
devil! Dear old duck!' We can hardly discern 
any sign of friendliness in them. Not because 
they are slang : some English slang is magnificently 
expressive, and we regard it with amused admira- 
tion; but our sense of humour fails us here, and 
we should look upon these forms of address as very 
impolite in fact, quite offensive ! 

Our favourite birds, whose names make very 
poetic Old Eussian terms of admiration and friend- 
liness, are less placid and useful than a duck. They 
are the * steel- winged eagle,' ' falcon-bright ' and 


pigeon. The last has entirely lost its connection 
with the idea of a pigeon, but it still remains the 
most popular and national term of sociability in 
Kussia. (Pigeon is golub'; and this favourite 
term is golubchik.) I am purposely calling it a term An ordin- 
of sociability because that is where its main char- sociability, 
acter lies. It is not by a long way a term of en- 
dearment used exclusively by lovers. It comes 
into any lively conversation, and is used by, and 
for, man or woman, prince or beggar; what is 
more, it enters our everyday speech not only as a 
kindly form of address, but also as a humorous one 
or one of sympathetic condescension. It is seldom 
translated correctly, simply because it has so many 
shades, and because it needs all those numerous 
intonations with which the Eussian speech is per- 
meated. Sweetheart or pigeon, which are mostly 
used in translations as its equivalent in English, 
are both of them far too sentimental. 

The gravest statesman, discussing and arguing 
over most serious matters, will now and again put 
in the ' golubchik,' unless the discussion is very 
formal. Drivers will encouragingly call out, * Hey, 
vy (you) golubchiki!' to their horses, when starting 
them on a quick, long run. A nice, simple old 
woman will address every gentleman in a respect- 
fully-familiar way as ' golubchik barin ' practically 
equivalent to ' darling sir ' even if he has merely 
stopped her to inquire his way. A devoted old 



servant, as a matter of course, calls her master or 
mistress golubchik-barin or golubushka-baryn'a. 
A fair-minded official, when hurriedly dismissing a 
petitioner whose request he could not grant, would 
say: ' Well, golubchik, what is to be done ? Such 
is the law !' 

It is also very often used in a friendly reproof : 
1 But, golubchik !' 

What is more, it is used without hesitation even 
in unusual circumstances: when Dmitri Karama- 
zov is being cross-examined, the old colonel of the 
police, who does not believe that he has killed his 
father, addresses him with the golubchik in the very 
midst of the official inquiry. 

It is an essentially Eussian word. 

Misunder- The way of addressing people as father, brother, 
terms of and even mother, is another very Kussian feature. 
It is high time to explain that the famous ' Little 
father ' does not mean ' little ' father at all ! The 
Old Kussian word for father, bdt'ushka, does not 
suggest an atom cf the tone in which ' little father,' 
or the German Vaterchen, is pronounced. This way of 
translating it is sickly- sentimental ! No, bat'ushka 
is used either in a grave, deferential way and that 
is how it came first to be applied in the olden days 
to the Princes and later to the Tsars, and is still 
the habitual form of addressing the priests; or else 
it is used in a very argumentative tone, essentially 
Russian, called up in quick discussion, which one 


never hears in English society, and therefore is 
hardly explicable : it carries some familiarity, some 
respect, some rebuke, some humour, some surprise 
very often all of them at the same time ! 

For instance, the simple-minded small land- 
owner Korobochka (' little box ') in Gogol's Dead 
fcouls, admitting the hero into her cottage on a 
wretched, stormy night, and seeing him smothered 
with mud the result of his having been just over- 
turned with his vehicle in a ploughed field asks 
him, a perfect stranger to her: ' But where didst 
thou be-filth thyself like a boar, bat'ushka ?' 

When the investigation lawyer most artfully 
sounds Raskol'nikov (Crime and Punishment) 
throughout his Machiavellian diatribe, he con- 
stantly addresses him as bat'ushka, or golubchik, 
although he is sure of his listener's guilt from the 

' Mother ' is used in a similar manner, with a 
similar twist to the word matushka ; and, what is 
very quaint indeed, men sometimes use it in address- 
ing each other, when the tone of the argument 
gets somewhat hot : ' Well, matushka, that's a bit 
of that!' which stands for, 'Well, sir, that's a 
bit far-fetched !' 

But here I should add that it would be altogether 
impossible to converse in Russian, using so few 
forms of address as are used by the English. On 
coming to live here, we sometimes, feel quite awk- 


ward in being spoken to as if we were nonentities, 
without any names or personalities. With us, the 
usual form of address is the one just discussed 
above (see p. 43), or a shortened Christian name 
in one of its numerous shapes, or golubchik, or 
brother, or father, in one of their previous applica- 
tions something or other is always there, be- 
sprinkling the speech, so that you feel sure that it 
is you whom the speaker keeps in his mind and not 
the general public. 

' Ladies and gentlemen ' is used on occasions 
similar to those in English; only literally it runs 
' gracious sovereigns and gracious sovereignesses '- 
which sounds still more quaint in English than it 
does in Eussian. It is that same word, sovereign 
Gosudar' which is a homely-loyal manner of 
speaking of and to the Tsars, a very ancient word, 
too, coming from the times when a prince would 
be regarded as the chief of his land, just as every 
man was the chief of his household. Therefore, 
the old expression Gosudar'-bat'ushka (sovereign- 
father) would be applied in the olden days equally 
to a monarch as to a master of any house, convey- 
ing an equal amount of respect and of homeliness. 
Nowadays, of course, it has lost its popularity 
with the Tsars as well as with ordinary mortals, 
the equipoise having become less balanced in both 
cases: the Tsars being now less accessible than 
the ancient princes, and the modern householder 


less lord of all he surveys than his ancient proto- 

But ' gracious sovereigns ' (mllostivyie gosudari 
i mllostivyia gosudaryni) still is the proper 
customary official way of addressing a society 
of men and women, though only at the com- 
mencement of a meeting. When the meeting is 
in full swing, or unofficial, the speaker addresses 

* able Rus- 

it with ' q svoda /' This is a word which formerly sian form 

of address. 

was only a plural form of ' master,' but now in- 
cludes anyone in any company. It means ' gentry,' 
as used by domestic servants about their masters; 
but it is also the most natural and sociable manner 
of addressing a company of one's equals, without 
which we could not live in Kussia one single day 
(unless one was a hermit). With us the conversa- 
tion is usually a general one, shared by most 
persons in the room, and one constantly addresses 
a whole group of people. The only time when 
one must not address them as ' gospoda ' is when 
all around you are officially of a much higher rank 
than yourself, which is rather a contrast to the 
handling of the same word by servants. But if 
you regard your audience as ordinary mortals like 
yourself, you cannot avoid this form of address. 
Thus, even Dmitri Karamazov, facing the authori- 
ties who came to arrest him at his orgy (suspecting 
him of the murder of his father), adds to every few 
words of his : ' Come, gospoda, it is a terrible accu- 


sation. . . . What a pity, gospoda !' because lie 
speaks sincerely, and the usual way of address- 
ing these people as equals comes naturally to 

' Gospoda ' is not exactly ' gentlemen,' because 
students of both sexes, school children, ladies, 
girls, are all addressed as gospoda in speaking. 
Al'osha Karamazov uses it even when speaking to 
small school boys. A girl stretcher-bearer carry- 
ing in on her shoulders still another wounded 
soldier into an already over-filled dressing-station, 
will call out to the doctors: 'Gospoda, gospoda, 
one more; we must make room for him !' 

But the wounded men would feel more at home 
with her if she addressed them as ' bratzy. 9 This 
word is translated usually in that same sentimental 
manner as ( little brothers.' I cannot help putting 
it in this way, because these English expressions 
(little father, little brothers, little mother) sup- 
posed to be equivalent to the Kussian expressions 
really make us turn up our noses ! There is no 
littleness whatever about bat'ushka, bratzy, or 
matushka. Big boys do not address their little 
brothers as bratzy in a patronizing way; on the 
contrary, it is the small, business-like boys, who 
will address older fellows as bratzy, when talking 
in the grave way the Kussian mujlk has about him 
Another from the age of six or seven. By the way, one of 
mos t striking contrasts between the English 


and the Russian peasant children is this: an English 
boy seems to me to try and be as funny and rowdy 
as possible from the age of six up to sixteen, 
whereas his little Russian confrere of seven or 
eight presents quite a different picture: he puts 
on his grandfather's top-boots and old, huge 
fur gloves, his own sheepskin tulupchik, and walks 
for days on end at the side of a sledge-load of wood, 
leading the horse between the house and the forest 
his sole ambition being to express all the dignity 
of labour in his mien and gait. 

Bratzy, applied by the nurses and officers 
talking to their men, conveys sociable apprecia- 
tion. All peasants and workmen address their 
crowds as bratzy (which is nice and simple) and 
not bratya (which is biblical and puritan unless 
it stands for real brother). There is warmth, 
caress, and respectful comradeship in the expres- 
sion bratzy. Mrs. Constance Garnett translates 
bratzy as boys, fellows, or gentlemen. This is 
better than ' little ' brothers. It should be made 
clear that there is no vestige of belittling in these 
Russian nouns of affinity, despite their seemingly 
diminutive terminations. 

The 'little father,' 'little mother,' and 'little 
brothers ' ought to be banished from the English 
translations by fire and sword ! They are un- 
bearably sentimental. There are no parallel 
forms in English to the Russian shades of these 


nouns, so let them, at least, remain simply ' father ' 
and ' brothers.' 

As it is, all the varieties of the words son, 
daughter, and even children, remain necessarily 
untranslatable. You cannot say anything differ- 
ent in English except adding to them that old, 
monotonous epithet ' little, 5 while in Eussian 
there is a variety of terminations meaning neither 
this adjective nor ' brat ' nor ' kid.' For instance, 
symshche means a big, nice syn (son), with a touch 
of humour in it; while synlshka is exclusively 
Russian caressive. There is a selection of varieties for 
words for < c hildren': fftj (the plain, original form of the 
word), d'etki, d'etishki, d'etochki, and d'etvora, the 
last being a very appreciative collective definition, 
implying the idea of the little folks with all their 
own interests included as it were a parallel to 
molod'oj (see p. 42). 

Not that we object to ' kids ' or ' brats.' The 
Eussian slang applied to children is equally unique, 
only we use it with more condescending humour, 
I think. We call them ' bubbles,' or by a special 
humorously-caressive word, ' karapuz ', which 
means a round, solid, comically-grave little figure. 
' Bubble ' puzi/r' is also very pretty, conveying 
much love, and should not be translated as e kid.' I 
think English readers would appreciate the parallel 
of a nice, full-cheeked fatty to a bright soap bubble. 


It would be only fair to say a few words about* rich- 
the Russian expression n'ichevo, which has acquired 
much misleading fame abroad. This is about 
the only Russian word which is widely known 
and it is misunderstood. It is always quoted with 
a smile, as it means ' never mind, this is nothing !' 
and is supposed to be the main characteristic of a 
nonchalant people. But one should thoroughly 
know the Russians to estimate this expression of 
theirs fairly. True, with us it is ' n'ichevo ' when 
people walk into the room without knocking; or 
come without invitation at any time for the simple 
reason that they wish to see you; or men don't 
walk on the outside of the pavement (which they 
have never been told to do), or get up from 
their seats and pace the room up and down, 
in the heat of a discussion during the course of 
a meal; all this is certainly 'n'ichevo,' because 
these points are but trifles to a Russian mind, 
and the Westerner may smile with disgust or 
condescension at the thought of such manners ! 
It is certainly ' n'ichevo ' for a young girl of 
good family and the best education to go about 
with one or many male friends wherever she 
wants to because no one hurries to suspect 
immorality hidden by social interests, nor to build 
up a scaffolding of inevitable matrimony around 
them. It is a universally adopted custom result- 
ing from a sensible, interesting, natural, and useful 


equality of the sexes. With the French and Eng- 
lish this is rather far from ' n'ichevo !' and they 
smile, unless they are actually shocked. 

But one should be far from smiling at a Eussian 
man who says seriously and whole-heartedly, 
' n'ichevo !' as he marries a girl with a tragic past 
who is left with a child. Nor is it improper when a 
young lady utters a sincere, gentle, encouraging 

n'ichevo !' whilst doing unpleasant work in assist- 
ing a shy and helpless man whom she sees, perhaps, 
for the first time in her life. Nor is a ' n'ichevo ' 
funny when uttered with a smile by a solddt'iJc, 
who is creeping towards the dressing- station 
wounded in his shoulder, side, and leg. 

There are indeed very different occasions on 
which the Russians will say ' n'ichevo.' 

True, again, a Russian will fly down a long, 
steep hill in his sledge, cart, or brougham, and will 
say ' n'ichevo !' if the vehicle happens to go into 
the ditch at the bottom of the hill. But in ninety- 
nine cases out of a hundred it would not do so, 
because rushing down a hill is a universally beloved 
thing, to which generations of horses have been 
used since the time when the Russian land 
first ' began to be.' And if a driver did not rise 
in his seat, and let all the reins loose, and shout 
words of love and encouragement to them, at the 
sight of a steep road downwards, the horses would 
think that something had gone unmistakably wrong. 

There is, amongst many others, one certain A very 

J Russian 

series of nouns, which have all of them grown out word for 


of the same root. However quaint it may look at 
the first glance, we can easily find that they are 
threaded together by the idea lurking in that root. 
The latter is rod, which means kin, kind. The 
other nouns are: nature, relationship, people, har- 
vest, birth, homeland, Christmas (priroda, rodstvo, 
narod, urojay, rojdeniye, rodina, rojdestvo). 
Amongst the numerous adjectives which, in their 
turn, have grown out of these nouns, there is one 
which I cannot omit. It is impossible to speak of 
the Eussian language without mentioning the 
word rodnoy. Mr. Eothay Reynolds, in his book, 
My Russian Year, says that he found the Russian 
language one to make love in; and an American, 
who has stayed in Russia during sixteen months 
of the war, wrote the other day that the Russians 
' love to love.' This is very true but, please, in- 
clude all rays of love ! All her numerous, wonder- 
ful rays ! And then you will understand, perhaps, 
why the most caressive and beautiful of all Russian 
love-words is derived from that root. You call 
rodnoy your beloved one (only mind the gender !) ; 
you call rodndya your mother, and your land 
(which is feminine); you apply the same adjective 
to your really beloved friends ; you say that a song 
is rodndya to you, and then it means that it brings 
home to you everything that makes your heart 
beat warmly; whilst to a South-Russian ' a pond, 


a cherry-garden, and a windmill/ on the face of the 
step' make a rodnaya picture. A poor peasant 
woman, with large tears standing in her eyes as 
she hands a pot of milk to the wounded in a passing 
train, calls them rodnyie under her breath, for 
each of them is as much rodnoy to her heart as the 
one boy who is righting somewhere far, far away. 

The nearest to it in English is ' kindred,' but it 
is not used in the same homely way for expressing 
the warmth of the purest love and tenderness. 

The order I must point out yet another important feature 

of words. 

of the Russian language. In English it IP neces- 
sary to keep the nouns in their exact places, in 
order not to confuse the object with the subject. 
' The English beat the Germans,' is one thing, 
whilst ' the Germans beat the English ' would be 
quite another ! Now, in Russian we purposely 
group the words in various orders because each 
order usually gives a different shade to the tone. 
We are free to avail ourselves of this richness of 
choice because we can leave the primary distinction 
between object and subject to the obvious indi- 
cation of the inflections (one of the nominative, 
the other of the accusative case). Thus the most 
enthusiastic phrase to be repeated one day all over 
Russia, I hope, may be ' Beat the Germans the 
English !' using the past tense of the exclusively 
Russian perfective aspect of an infinitive. 

In English this sounds rather alarming. Yet 


it is the result merely of the lack of inflection (in 
this case of an accusative for ' the Germans '), 
and of the trespass on the formal arrangement of 
words. We can also say ' the English beat the 
Germans,' of course, but this sounds only formal. 
For the same reason, another order in wording 
would sound in English absurd, but does not in 
Russian, because exact terminations in declension 
make all the difference: ' The Germans the English 
beat; Wilhelm the Allies exiled; the Americans 
the truth showed.' This, if put in the required 
cases (nomin, and accus.) would mean in Russian 
a very intensively expressed state of things for 
which we all of us wish. Again, we can easily say 
it in the other way : ' The English beat the Germans, 
the Allies exiled Wilhelm, and the Americans were 
shown the truth.' But that would not sound nearly 
so victorious. 1 

The optional way of placing the verbs at the 
beginning of the sentence makes a great difference 
to the graphic power of a phrase ; it raises it several 
degrees higher. Our writers do it constantly, as 
we do it in ordinary speech as a matter of course, 
without any preconceived idea of being at all 
flowery. The music of the Russian speech is as free 
as a composer when he arranges his little black 

1 Here are the two varieties of the phrase : N'emtzev Angli- 
chan'e pobili ; Vilhelma soyuzn'iki izgnal'i; Am'erikantzam 
pravdu pokazal'i. Or (the same meaning but far less vic- 
torious): Anglichan'e pobil'i N'emtzev; soyuzn'iki izgnal'i 
Vilhelma; pokazal'i pravdu Am'erikantzam. 


words, hooked and tailed, in this or that special 

Nothing can give more vivid motion to a descrip- 
tive paragraph than placing the verbs at the be- 
ginning of each short phrase. Here is one from a 
story by the young writer, Al'exey Tolstoy, giving 
a picture of the breaking-up of the winter in the 
st'ep' district. I must mention that this author 
takes Old Russian roots and makes new words 
of them with the majestic liberty of the beating 
of an eagle's wings : 

' Stirred the winter roads; lay dirty crusts of 
snow; made naked themselves the hills showing 
last year's thistles. Bustle the sparrows, coo the 
honey- voiced doves; scent the walls of the huts 
perspiring with golden tar; do not rush the officials 
tinkling the bells of their sledges: soon will the 
spring floods break away from their leash.' 

Here is another nice example from the new 
pearl in Russian literature, Gor'ki's Childhood : 

1 Square, broad-chested, he would come in, trim 
in his golden x silk shirt, velvet trousers, and con- 
certina boots. 2 Glittered his hair; shone his gay, 

1 In Russian it is ' goldeny,' like silvery. 

2 Smart top-boots are made in Russia, with a number of 
horizontal crisp pleats meeting each other under even angles 
right around and up the upper part of the boot. They are 
known as sapogi garmon'ikoy, or harmonica-boots = concertina- 
boots, while the plain top-boots are called sapogi butylkam'i, 
which means bottle-boots. 


somewhat squinting, eyes under tlieir thick eye- 
brows ; sparkled his teeth under the black stripe of 
his young moustache; glowed his silk shirt, softly 
reflecting the light of the ever-burning lampadka.' l 

It seems almost incredible to a Eussian ear that 
this order of words could fail to draw a vivid 
picture as on a film, even in its English garb, but 
then, perhaps, it does need the additional help 
which a Russian reader gets from his knowledge 
of the rest of the scene. In reading Gor'ki's lines, 
we also see the dim interior of a solid, warm log 
hut, the cosy light ' twinkling warmly ' before the 
lampadki lit in front of the ikon-corner where they 
are suspended on thin chains, their flickering light 
dancing on the gilt settings of the ikons. . . . The 
huge white-washed bread-stove, the wooden benches 
along the walls, mostly suggestive of a night rest 
for any casual wanderers. . . . 

Few of us belonging to the Intelligenzia keep A 

. , C6nC6. 

ikons in the rooms of our flats or houses, as was 
still usual some fifty or sixty years ago; but also 
very few of us have not known the enjoyable, quiet 
moments in the nursery where our old nurse keeps 
her own set of ikons. In those days of wonders, 
one likes to watch her lighting her lampadka on a 

1 The lamps that are made for the purpose of burning before 
the ikons are little bowls in glass or china in a metal setting. 
They are called lampadka or lampdda, as distinguished from 
ordinary Idmpa. There is a special verb applied to them, 
t'eplitsa, which means, approximately, ' twinkle warmly.' 


Saturday night. She takes out of a small box 
several tiny little wicks drawn through weeny 
little coloured paper stars, lets them float on the 
oil, and lights one of them. . . . You stand on 
tiptoe and hold your face so close to it that you 
smell the sunflower oil and it leaves its impression 
in your nostrils for ever afterwards. . . . You 
watch the little paper stars float slowly, slowly, 
on the oil till they stop. These simple proceedings 
have the magic power of toning down your exu- 
berant energy, and you gently ask your friend, the 
nurse, to present you with a gift of several little 
wicks from her box of treasure-trove (price three 
kopeks = three farthings). She does so, and you 
play quietly, placing the precious weeny stars on 
your blanket in front of your nose till your eyelids 
fall as a screen between them and the still more 
wonderful world you enter. 

* * * * * 

There are numberless ordinary cases where the 
verb beginning a phrase comes as a natural demand 
of the Russian speech while it would sound ridicu- 
lous in English. For instance, the whole meaning 
of the phrase is emphasized in the following ex- 
amples through having the verbs in the first place : 

1 Stilled everything. Sleep the mountains. Sleeps 
the green sky. Died the air. Am dying I. Love 
I this willingness of yours, prince ! Frightened 
thou me. (To) Arrest you (is) too early.' 


This twist gives a different touch to the phrases 
than the one which is acquired by the English 
' there ' placed at the head of a sentence, and could 
not always be conveyed through the latter. You 
couldn't add ' there ' to any of the above lines 
taken at random from Turgenev's Poems in 
Prcse and from Dostoyevski. Any part of speech 
placed first in a Russian sentence draws the reader's 
attention to it. 

For instance, if you want to lay stress on the 
word ' money,' where you would have to say in 
English, ' it is money that is wanted,' we simply 
exchange the places of the two words which make 
this phrase, instead of adding any more: Nddo 
d'en'eg means simply ' money is wanted ' (nado 
= wanted); but d'en'eg 'nado means: 'It is money 
that is wanted not anything else.' If you go with 
a friend to a shop merely to accompany her, and 
the assistant asks you what you would like, you 
would say: Mn'c n'ichevo n'e nado (I want nothing), 
the first word being the personal pronoun, thus 
indicating that you, yourself, want nothing; but 
if the assistant bothers you and begins to 
show you goods with the obiect of tempting 
you, you would be quite justified in ejaculating: 
N'ichevo mn'e n'e nado ! meaning : I don't want 
anything as much as to say : Leave me alone ! 
Yet it is only the special succession of the same few 

words that makes all the difference. 



Dmitri Karamazov, writing his last letter to the 
girl whom he had adored, but to whom he became 
false through his passion for another woman, 
writes: Nogi tvoyi tzeluyu = Feet thine (I) kiss. 
These three words arranged the other way round 
might be banal, and could be found in many love 
letters. But placing Nogi (feet) at the head of 
the sentence conveys the idea that Dmitri would 
not dare to kiss the woman on her lips, but mentally 
kisses her feet only; all his self-humiliation is re- 
flected in the order of this wording alone. 

There are some other reasons which make a per- 
fect translation of many Russian authors an impos- 
sible task. There is no wonder that Gogol's genius 
is very little known and understood abroad ! He is 
almost untranslatable; his essentially Russian speech, 
especially in his passionate, uplifting enthusiasm 
blended with poetical feeling, is a feature which 
cannot be conveyed through any other language. 
He is as exclusively Russian in these as Dosto- 
yevski and Nekrasov are Russian in suffering, and 
Shchedrin in dissecting the evils of Russian social 
life. Turgenev and Tolstoy, with all their Russian 
mind, were nevertheless generally human, super- 
national, as it were: the first one chiefly an artist, 
the second a thinker. This is reflected in their 
speech which is the most translatable and there- 
fore more often translated. But already in Dosto- 


yevski, Chehov, and Gor'ki there are those gaps 
in translations which cannot be filled, or which 
are sometimes filled with unrecognizable material ! x 
whilst at least one-half of the poet Nekrasov, 
the satirist Shchedrin, and the colossal suflerer- 
humorist Gogol' will lose in translation a world 
of their national beauty and character. 

In the midst of that brilliant bitterness with 

the natio* 1 - 

which Gogol' has slated Kussia for her shortcomings aiist. 
he has written the most inspired pages that love 
for country has ever called forth. He has suffered 
persecution from censorship, misery, and deadly 
illness, whilst being a nationalist in his genius, a 
nationalist more honest and more enthusiastic than 
a writer has ever been. 

By the way, it was the prostor that has made 
some of his pages like living creatures that breathe 
of Russian passion for immensity. . . . 

Just as the Russians themselves do not withhold 
their enthusiasm for fear of ridicule, so does their 
language remain fearless and spontaneous, freely 
using all that can graphically carry depth and power A term of 
of feeling. There is with us even a second, a more mentor 
ancient form for the very name of Russia, which ' Russia/ 
we use when we feel particularly in love with her ! 

1 It is a relief to see whole pages omitted in the English 
translation of G6r'ki's Childhood. If ' translated,' they would 
unavoidably be a painful disappointment to every Russian. 
It is sufficient to see mistakes here and there in the English 


The ordinary, less enthusiastic, name is Rossiya ; 
but it has come into being only since Peter the 
Great, who invented it in his zeal to do away with 
all the past of his country. But in this case he 
failed (as in some others more sensible ones !). 
The original name, Rus\ still breathes of something 
beloved and beautiful, more genuine and more 
crystal-like than * Rossiya ' does. 

The name Rus' consists of an R, a Russian u, 
and a soft s a very, very soft one. ' Thou, Rus' ' 
sounds lovable ! . . . Rus', vastness, troyka, 
speed, prostor, we address them all with a ' thou,' 
ty, for they are such intimate conceptions that 
they verge on personification almost like the old 
Olympians were to the Greek. 

I feel bound to commit a sacrilege and to ' trans- 
late " into English some parts of those paragraphs 
in which Gogol' reflects our passionate love for 

Gbgor on ' Rus', Rus', I can see thee from my beautiful 
Far. 1 ... All seems poor and scattered and 
bare about thee. No bold marvels of nature 
startle one's eye. ... No wealth of wild roses, 
ivy-covered rocks, no grapes, no silvery moun- 
tains lifting their summits to the skies. All is 
open and empty. Thy towns are like small dots 

1 This was written in Italy. (We have a beautiful noun 
which is akin to the adverb far, and which does not exist in 
English; it means, as it were, the far end of a distance: dal\) 


which fail to charm the eye. But what is that 
unaccountable, mysterious power that draws me 
to thee ? Why doth thy melancholy song, soaring 
from seas to seas, ring constantly in my ears ? 
What is in that song ? What calls me, what seizes 
my heart ? What are these sounds that kiss so 
painfully and wind themselves around my heart 
and into my soul ? Rus' ! What desirest thou 
from me ? Why dost thou gaze at me with eyes 
full of expectation ? In awe I stand before thy 
vastness while the clouds over thee are heavy with 
coming rain. . . . What is the prophecy of this 
unembraceable prostor ? Is it not in its arms that 
limitless thought should be born, in thy arms, 
Rus', which embrace all ? Is not this the place 
for thy folk-hero here, where there is prostor for 
him to unfold himself ? The power of vastness 
embraces me and reflects itself in my innermost 
depth. . . . A-ah ! . . . What a sparkling, 
glorious infinity. . . . Rus' ! . . .' 

May it be, I wonder, this very sense of size that 
endows the Russian mind with that fearlessness of 
individual action which is typical of the Russians ? 

This reminds me of another set of words which Concep- 
are absolutely untranslatable and yet are so without 

. . ... which a 

essentially Russian that we simply could not live Russian 
without them ! Our land has given them birth live, 
and our self-expression commands our making 
use of them constantly, daily. They all commence 


with the syllable of nuance raz (pas) whether nouns 
or verbs. Now that my reader has got, I hope, 
the conception of prostor clear in his mind, it will 
be helpful to introduce this other typical Eussian 
idea via the word razdolye: it is almost a synonym 
to prostor. Its root (doF) comes from doVa, which 
means one's part of something; in this case it is 
one's part in this world that is suggested and the 
syllable raz distinctly attaches to it the nuance of 
having that part lavishly spread, thrown out wide 
and far ! 

This raz is no preposition, no conjunction; it 
is nothing in itself, 1 and yet it contains a world 
of meaning. When asked by foreigners ' What is it 
then ? ' all that a Russian usually does is to throw 
out his arms vigorously to his right and left, to smile 
as if he suddenly visionized something loveable and 
to callup: ' It is this ! . . . Just this ! . . .' 

I cannot help this primitive manner of explana- 
tion either being the only possible one and am 
delighted to see that it does make English people 
grasp what we mean by it. One of my delightfully 
impressionable English friends proved this to me 
by remarking instantly and gaily : ' Then it is 
not equivalent to the French elan, because elan 

1 Except when it makes a whole separate word (past) 
a noun, with a hard sign at the end, which stands for ' one ' 
(besides the proper number odin), or for ' once ' ; it is 
always used for marking time : raz-dva ! raz-dva ! (and not 
odin-dva) or raz-dva-tri (one, two, three) ! 


is this! 9 and he made a movement forward, 
lifting his arms up. Just so ! This is an exact 
illustration of the difference. If you want to feel 
the meaning of the nuance raz vigorously throw 
your arms out horizontally, as wide as you can ! 
Now attach this feeling of raz to the conception of 
space as if there were, say, prairies all around you 
and you get the synonym to prostor: razdolye. 
It is a definition of an abstract idea. 

Then attach it to the idea of No ! Here I am 
caught again because you haven't got that idea 
either, so I must explain its Russian meaning. 
The root m.ali suggests a vigorous physical move- 
ment of one's arms not a waving like the gentle 
waving with one's wrist, which is practised in 
England from babyhood, but one broad gesture, 
a swing. Now try to attach the nuance of the 
raz to the meaning of the mah and you get the 
razmah without which no Russian could find a 
way for expressing another beloved abstract con- 
ception. Razmah of one's spiritual power is a 
fine thing, and it comes into Russian prose, poetry 
and ordinary speech constantly. 

Razsv'et means the morning dawn, the break of 
day; and this will perhaps make things clearer to 
my reader if I tell him that sv'et means light: thus 
the word conveys a picture of the ' light throwing 
itself out.' 

There is no wonder that the word razgul dees 


not exist in English: its second syllable, the root 
gul, refers to ' walking out ' (gul'anye = a walk, 
an outing, an entertainment out of doors; guVat'= 
to have a walk); well, with the nuance of raz 
attached to it, it conveys such a kind of ' outing ' 
as is not tolerated in England ! Razgul does not 
imply a certain limited time given up to a casual 
debauch, but one's whole mode of life saturated 
with it. An excellent illustration is Dmitri Kara- 
mazov : his life was all of it a razgul. 

In the form of a verb, razgul'atsa, it is much 
milder and carries the idea of a wholehearted 
sparkling gaiety by which a Kussian is swept away 
whenever it inflames him. 

The raz attached to such verbs as to speak, to 
make merry, to walk, to sleep, conveys the idea 
expressed in English by ' To let oneself go ' : if you 
let yourself go in speaking, merry-making, walking, 
or sleeping to such an extent that it becomes 
difficult to prevent you from going on with it 
you fall under the Russian definitions razgovoritsa, 
razv'es'elitsa, razoytls\ razospatsa, etc. There are 
dozens of them. One can do anything to the 
extent of raz-doing it ! Only, English people 
seldom allow themselves such luxuries, so there 
exist no definitions for them. 
Aa im- 1 must take my chance on this occasion to make 

portant . . 

digres- an important digression. I am bound to fire some 
shots at ' The English ' throughout this book 


due to the lack of definitions in the English lan- 
guage, corresponding to the blank spaces in English 
life. With us, instead of those blank spaces, are 
the most breezy, passionate, natural, warm, cares- 
sive things (and definitions for them). But I 
always remember the remark of a young Russian 
fellow who had received his school and university 
education in England : 

' Take care, don't mix them all up together: the 
present younger generation in England has mostly 
got the gift of spontaneity and uvlecheniye ' (we 
were speaking in Russian) ' They are not afraid 
of showing what they really feel. They hate the 
old stodginess, and dryness, and artificial reserve 
of the Victorian era.' 

Now, asking my reader to remember this too, 
I feel justified in continuing my investigations in 
our two languages: after all, it is the younger 
English generation that has got the new sap- 
resembling the Russian one flowing through it, 
but not the English language yet. 

They say that a Dutch tourist, after having 
stayed in Russia for some sime, was asked by his 
host how he liked our country. 

' I like it very much,' said the Dutchman. ' The 
only thing which strikes me is why do you throw 
out your arms so often ? One does not see this 
gesture in our land at all. We don't do it.' 

' I should like to know how could you possibly 


do it over there ? ' tlie Russian remarked with 
a humorous smile. 

To the sense of size should be added the sense 
of motion. . . . True, a few years ago Eussia 
had been thrown by force of reaction into a state 
of marasme. There was almost a stagnant stand- 
still in the one-time keenness for social interests. 
Russian society (compared to the one in the be- 
ginning of the century) seemed to be dozing off, 
tired to the verge of indifference with regard to 
our place in the world in the future. . . . But 
here comes the war, and all is awake and throbbing 
with genuine, intense love: for homeland, to be 
freed from the at last realized German yoke, for the 
people represented by the soldatik, that wonderful 
grey hero, for the prostor of Russia that gives 
the chance to the unsophisticated heroism of old 
folk-lore to ' unfold ' itself (razvernutsa) again 
for a great cause. . . . And, instinctively, one's 
mind returns to Gogol' : who but he, in the thirties 
of the last century, spoke about Russia in those 
allegorical pages which everyone of us has learned 
almost by heart for their beauty, but to which 
no one has ever attached any prophetic mean- 
ing ? If anything, one felt somewhat ashamed of 
those lines where he boasts of Russia with the 
daring frankness of a genius ! I have already 
mentioned that self -advertising is not a Russian 
feature; and in our private life it has always been 


sufficient for any ordinary person to express any- 
thing approaching Gogol' 's admiration for Eussia 
to be suspected of chauvinism. The now almost 
extinct, but formerly aggressive, ' Union of True 
Russians/ has taught us to be over-conscientious, 
and we thought it almost a crime against our own 
country to express our love for her openly. 

But this is changing now ! And, speaking 
here chiefly of the Russians as reflected in their 
language, I cannot omit those pearls in the realm 
of that language which have become the expression 
of the idea growing nowadays in many European 
minds (with the exception of those of German 
origin!) . . . I have never seen a translation of the 
pages I am thinking of, and I would not follow one 
if I had met one. I stand breathless before my 
task, like every Russian would. And yet I must try 
and ' translate ' these pages as I did those above- 
not into classical English, no ! but keeping to the 
original as literally as possible : because my purpose 
is to try and show to a literally inclined reader 
how the mind of a Russian genius works (if this 
can be called ' work '), what are its national ways 
of self-expression. 

These inspired pages are addressed to a troyka, Tr6yka. 
which Gogol' compares, in his heart, to Russia 
herself. Perhaps it would be better to explain to 
some of my readers what a troyka means: it is 
the national Russian team, three horses abreast. 


The middle one is a powerful ' trotter ' who steadily 
keeps to his action, while the two horses at his 
sides are trained to bend their necks away from 
him, so that the persons in the vehicle (which may 
be of any kind, just as any kind of vehicle may be 
drawn by horses driven tandem) can see their pro- 
riles all the time. The part of these two pri- 
st'ajnyia (' attached ones ') is not the pulling itself; 
they are attached very lightly; their business in 
forming two-thirds of a troyka is the so-called 
playing : the element of beauty, the graceful, flying 
motion, the elegance, the gaiety. . . . Try to 
imagine the musical chord of the little bells tink- 
ling under the duga (bent wood high over the neck 
of the middle horse), the power of the broad- 
chested trotter (korennoy), throwing his legs out 
far, in that ' rare ' Eussian trot, try to imagine the 
vitality and beauty, and especially the elegant, com- 
plex rhythm of the troyka flying along the broad 
roads in the open country and down every hill. . . . 
' Eh, Troyka ! Troyka-the-bird ! Who has in- 
vented thee ? Thou must have been born with a 
quick-thinking people, in that land which means 
no joke, but which has flung itself out, 1 vast and 
smooth, half over the world. . . . Go, count the 
mile-stones till they dance in your eyes ! It would 
seem there is nothing complicated about thee, 

1 The Russian verb is razm'etnulas'. The adverb following 
it (pOBHeMt-rjiaflHeM'L) is absolutely unattainable in English . 


troyka: just a few strokes of the axe and chisel in 
the hands of a quick peasant and there thou art ! 
No German leggings about the driver just beard 
and gloves and the devil knows what he is sitting 
on ! But there he leans forward, and swings his 
knut, and starts his song and the steeds are like 
a hurricane, the spokes in the wheels are one 
smooth circle, and the road gives a shudder, and 
an involuntary shout escapes the startled passer- 
by. ... And there she flies, she flies the troyka ! 
Already one but sees in the distance something 
swirling and dust eddying in the air. 

' Art thou not, Rus', flying like a lightning-swift 
troyka, too ? The road is a whirlwind of dust 
under thee, the bridges tremble, and all remains 
behind. . . . What is this awe-inspiring motion, 
like a bolt thrown down from the skies ? What 
unknown power is there in these unseen horses ? 
. . . Eh, horses, horses ! What horses ! . . . Is 
there a storm hidden in your manes ? Is every 
little vein of yours throbbing with responsiveness ? 
. . . There comes the song you know and 
hardly touching the ground with your hoofs you 
are like arrows flying through the air. . . . 

' And there she soars, inspired by God ! . . . 
Rus', whither fliest thou? G ive thine answer ! . . . 
There is no answer. Bewitchingly goes the little 
bell, the air torn into fragments rings in your ears 
and becomes wind. . . . All flies by and remains 


behind. . . . And, looking askance, other peoples 
and countries stand aside and give way to thee. . . .' 

This sounds awful ! (I don't mean Gogol' 's pre- 
mature vision, but his speech in the English attire.) 
It is robbed of all its winding, throbbing beauty. 
It is like a photograph as compared to the photo- 
graphed landscape itself: no colours, no breeze, no 
vivifying warmth ! only the skeleton. Because the 
genuine colours and breeze and warmth of the 
philosophy and of the syntax itself of the Kussian 
speech reaching their climax in these pages have no 
equivalents whatever. 

Perhaps this statement will become clearer if I 
say that one can easily translate this English 
Gogol' back into the Eussian, but if one closely 
follows the English ' original ' it will not be the 
Russian Gogol' ! Very far from the genuine one 
indeed. Because there are many ways to say a 
fine Eussian sentence within the limits of a given 
idea, but giving it each time different half- 
shades, whilst there will be but one certain correct 
way to say that sentence in English, or in any other 
language. 1 The very exclamation by which Gogol' 
hails Eussia as represented by troyka (and which 

1 Since these lines were written I have made a special study 
of the English translations of the Dead Souls and Inspector 
General on their republication ; and I find my suppositions 
fully realized. Gogol' 's quiet humour in Dead Souls can 
more or less find its expression in using a rich English style 
(with the exception, of course, of the killing names he gives 


is usually wrongly spelt in English with a k Ekh) 
always carries with us a certain attitude in itself; 
in ejaculating 9x-B! = M/ we mean: 'Here is a 
thing (or situation) about which one could say a 
lot! ... But I am unable to. . . .' There is 
a touch of longing in it. 

I cannot omit at this convenient occasion that 
putting the artificial kh for a Russian h not only 
makes this word look like a caricature and takes 
away its long sound, but it even alters its mean- 
ing: because there is another exclamation, BKB ! 
consisting of the same deep e and a k (in the place of 
an h), but it conveys quite a different atmosphere: 
it carries astonishment and reproach with it and 
stands for the quintessence of, ' Just look at it ! 
Did you ever !' Thus, transliterating both BX-L 
and BKT, as ekh, the translators kill the meaning 
of both substituting for it something like an old 

man's cough. 

* * * * * 

Now, my patient or impatient reader, allow me The pos- 
to dwell for a moment on the idea itself of these fulfilment 
lines of Gogol' 's, leaving form alone. vision. 

to his characters, in place of which we see blank spaces or 
meaningless substitutes, to which we shall return later); but 
as a passionate lover of his country, he will remain untranslat- 
able for ever. The unknown translator of Dead Sauls must 
excuse my saying that he has approached the original beauty 
of the Troyka-pages no nearer than I have myself. We are 
both equally tied by the entire absence of an equivalent mode 
of speech in English. 


This idea should not frighten any Englishman. 
The fear one still meets amongst the British public 
with regard to Russia as the foe to be fought 
next is due only to the lack of thorough acquaint- 
ance with the country. I have mentioned already 
that the educated Kussians have always expected 
the light to come to them from the West. An 
obvious proof of this was the encouragement, both 
private and official, but always spontaneous, with 
which the German colonist and the German accur- 
ate official used to be met all over the Russian 
land. It was only the peasantry and the working 
classes that permitted themselves the attitude of 
frank, although inactive and humorous distrust, 
whilst the most advanced Intelligentziya was 
naively trying her best to sow the Western Culture 
on the Russian soil wherever the seeds could be 
got from. Even our revolutionaries were fre- 
quently too Western in their whole-hearted efforts 
to raise our village population from its ' un-Euro- 
pean ' darkness. The war has brought the sudden 
revelation that there exists Western culture and 
Western culture ! And England should rest as- 
sured that now our educated society will be most 
keen and conscientious to rectify its mistake. 
The psychological attitude from the very beginning 
of the struggle has acquired a serious, steady form. 
There is no hysteria, no rushing and dashing about 
it; none, even, of the old nonchalance expressed 


in the narrowly-patriotic saying: ' We can bury 
the foe under our caps r=Shapkami zaJciddyem! 
Every person and every written page that now 
comes from Kussia is full of something new. The 
nation is awakening to the consciousness of her 
serious, quiet power. She will presently find her- 
self within herself. In that new coming era there 
will be room enough for Western influence and for 
Western aspirations only inasmuch as these will 
entirely correspond with the Slavonic ones. The 
element with which will probably rest the approach- The new 
ing shaping of Kussia will be a perfectly new one : national- 
radical nationalism. Because, formerly our nation- ism< 
alists were the reactionaries, and our radicals were 
thus opposed to them voluntarily and involun- 
tarily. But the new type of a true Eussian cul- 
turist will come forward in masses, and will present 
the accounts to all debtors. These will have to be 
traced everywhere. 

There is room for hoping that, next, Eussia will 
make her greatest stride ahead. 

Therefore England should not for a moment No danger 
doubt the good of helping her : she is helping the 
new Eussia, that Eussia which is becoming con- 
scious of all that is best in her, and who means to 
foster that best. One ingredient of the latter is 
love for peace. And as long as there is plenty of 
prostor for us to unfold ourselves (razvernutsa) 

physically and spiritually in our immense land, 



there is no vestige of danger for anyone. Our 
Shchedrin, satirist as he was, said : ' Prostor calls 
forth a limitless, unconquerable thirst for love.' 
Aggressiveness has never been a feature of the 
Slavs, and one could not repeat this too much to 
those who hesitate: Kussia will now find means 
to develop within herself; she will find ample room, 
ample raw material, and ample spiritual power to 
do so without troubling anyone. 

Atypical In returning to the Kussian language I would 

Russian . i i r i 

word for like to mention now a typical word ot a less grave 

quick wit. ,, ,, T. T . . 

nature than the preceding pages. It is a noun, 
sounding, approximately, sm'otka ; it means the 
capacity of thinking very quickly on the spur of 
the moment, or, initiative plus speed. For in- 
stance, sm'otka is priceless in this war against the 
Germans to upset their splendidly-planned theories. 
It has been proved now that they are helpless 
before the Unexpected. It blinds them. Here is 
an example of sm'otka. 

Three Russian infantry soldiers managed to 
penetrate in their reconnaissance expedition so 
far that they suddenly found themselves right 
amongst the enemy: there they were, in a large 
field, almost enclosed by Germans within earshot. 
Of course, the first thing they did on realizing this 
circumstance was to scratch the back of their heads 
(no Russian in perplexity can do without this ges- 


ture !) ; after which, obedient to Fate, they re- 
marked quietly that ' their hour has evidently 
come.' At that moment there came a noise of a 
propeller, and a German aeroplane, gracefully and 
in full confidence, landed quite near them. 

' Look here, brothers,' said one of the soldatiki, 
smiling, ' we are lost all the same, so let us try a 
joke. Come along and take them prisoners.' 
Said done ! as they say in Russian. 1 Up walk 
the three fellows to the aeroplane, and approach 
face to face the slightly-surprised airman and his 
pilot, before these have time to stretch their 
limbs. A bullet in the temple finishes the pilot 
on the spot, after which the soldatiki quietly but 
clearly explain to the officer, by means of ges- 
ticulation, that he is to pull the machine along the 
field. That German officer had certainly no atom 
of sm'otka in him, for he obediently did so; partly 
screened by the aeroplane the three men led their 
prey through the perilously narrow space between 
the lines of the enemy to the Russian lines, whilst 
the Germans must have been looking on with that 
same slow - working surprise (the opposite to 
sm'otka !) at that airman of theirs, who was 
steadily pushing his machine towards the Russian 
side ! 

Another case of sm'otka is no less historical, 
though peaceful. When Catherine II. was erect- 

1 CKaaano cfl'fejiaHO ! 


ing the monument to Peter the Great, she was dis- 
pleased with the solid rock of granite which had 
been brought as a foundation for it, with immense 
difficulties, from Finland. 

' I will not have it,' she said, glancing at it from 
her carriage. ' It is ugly in shape.' 

This time it was many men in the enormous 
crowd in the vast Winter Square who scratched 
their heads : To take the huge thing away ? 
After all the trouble . . . ? 

Several courtiers dared to approach the Empress, 
explaining that the task of removing the rock 
would be as enormous as fetching it. 

' Dig out a hole close by and push it down !' 
came a voice from the crowd. 

The peasant was richly rewarded for his sm'otka; 
and the granite rock, which did not pass the in- 
spection of an artistic taste, lies buried close to the 
fine monument. 

Of course, that capacity for quick-thought takes 
at times comical forms. A Eussian general who 
was very keen on broadening the outlook of his 
men, told me about his experience at the Soldiers' 
School of which he was in command when a young 
officer of nineteen. The chief characteristic of his 
men all of them country fellows was that they 
were never given to doubt or hesitation: their 
brains worked as fast as possible, in some direc- 
tion or other ! One day the general in command 


of the district came to inspect the school at work. 
Taking some pride in the advanced nature of his 
teaching, the youthful ardent officer suggested to 
his chief that he might put his pupils some ques- 
tions in ancient history. 

' Oh, indeed ?' Pleasantly surprised, the general 
addressed one of the keen -looking fellows : ( Dost 
thou know anything about Socrates V 

' Yes, sir !' 

'Well? What about him?' 

' He is the left forward horse in the second 
troyka with the sixth gun in the third battery 
who wants shoeing, sir !' came as quick as 

The young scholar forgot for the moment who 
Socrates was, but he would not be non-plussed, 
and quickly thought of the ' Socrates ' of his battery 
called so by the men in honour of the interesting 


* * * H * 

There are some rather interesting points about ' Man '' 


the conceptions concerning man and marriage. a .nd * mar 
In the olden days man was called muj, and the same 
word stood for husband. Nowadays muj means 
husband only, whilst the new word defining man 
has grown out of the same root through the addi- 
tion of the sound china : muj china. This addition 
is not meaningless; already, in those days when 
muj meant man, the word chin meant rank: thus 


the newer word, muj china, means really a creature 
having the rank of a man. 

Similar promotion has been granted to woman. 
The old word jena meant both woman and wife, 
whereas now jena means wife only, and the newer 
word jenshchina has come into being for defining 
woman a creature having the rank of a woman ! 

The English expression ' to marry ' is strictly 
divided in Russian according to facts. Speaking 
about a girl who is going to marry we say ond 
vyhodit zdmuj ; note the last two-syllabled word, 
which means ' behind man,' and you will get the 
original meaning: ' she is going out, or leaving her 
parental home, to place herself behind a man ' ; 
isn't this an exact definition of what marriage 
meant for a girl even not so very long ago ? Whilst 
speaking of a man about to wed, we say on jenitsa 
which means, as it were, ' he be-wifes himself.' 
This/a0'2 de parler indicates much more independ- 
ence in comparison with the meaning of marriage 
for a girl : it is just the same grammatical form as 
' soaping oneself ' (mylitsa) or ' steaming oneself ' 
in a bath-house (pdritsa) ! 

The words fiance and fiancee are with us defined 
thus: jenlh stands for the man who obviously 
has involved himself in some way with a jena 
(wife), as the stem of the word clearly indicates; 
whereas the word for fiancee is derived from the 
Old Slavonic ' not know ' (n'e v'edat' ; n'ev'esta), 


which suggests the state of mind of a young girl 
who is about to be married. Both frank and 

To return to the old word chin (rank) : besides ' Chin ' 

' chmov- 

the definitions for man and woman it has formed nik ' and 

Peter the 

a nucleus for rather a curious set of conceptions. Great. 
Obviously, in times of yore, chin conveyed the idea 
of a dignified, imposing personality, because the 
old word bezc/mistvo meant every scandalous or 
rowdy scene : its meaning is quite plain, as its first 
syllable, bez, stands for ( without ' ; thus things 
' without chin ' were things deprived of dignity, 
as it were deprived of the atmosphere which 
should go with rank. It is a word which is still 
often applied to disorderly crowds or drunken 

Again, since Peter the Great's effort at putting 
Russia in order there has appeared the word 
chinovnik, deliberately created from the same root; 
that is to say, a man of a certain rank in Govern- 
ment service, as opposed to a private individual. 
Unfortunately, the word chinovnik soon acquired 
the additional characteristic of callousness and 
greediness, and thus turned into a distinct defini- 
tion of a type opposed to all big-hearted, generous 
altruistic work for the people. There exist 
Memoirs of a French aristocrat who visited 
Russia in the times of Alexander III.; in them 
he wrote: 


' II y a en Eussie un espece de canaille qu'on 
appelle chinovnik.' 

Apropos of the word chinovnik, one's thoughts 
involuntarily approach the question which the 
Eussians are often asked in this country: 'How 
is it that your charming nation produces such 
horrible creatures as your bureaucrats ?' 

This problem has always been instinctively felt 
even in Eussia herself, although we do not actually 
call ' charming ' everyone who is not a chinovnik 
(bureaucrat). Looking backwards now, at this 
hour of re-valuations, one can attempt an historical 
solution of the question. Ever since Peter the 
Great undertook the enlightening of Old Eussia 
by means of wholesale import of Germans into the 
land, there began a continuous inoculation of 
utterly un-Eussian aspirations, alongside with the 
technical machinery of State life. The Tsars and 
Tsaritsas after Peter, right up to Alexander I. 
(1725-1800), were of German flesh, blood, and edu- 
cation. They and their helpers took great care 
to fill up all the ruling Eussian institutions with 
Germans. The only exception was Catherine II., 
who did not exclude Eussians as a matter of prin- 
ciple. Well, is it not logical to suppose that, with 
the adaptability and flexibility of the Eussian 
nature, those of the Eussians who did form the 
minor proportion of the officialdom, were gradually 
influenced and saturated with a hitherto unknown 


spiritual narrowness and dryness ? Would they 
not, having the pompousness and greediness 
grafted on to them from generation to generation, 
gradually degenerate into that type which indeed 
stands apart from the rest of the Kussian nation 
and which even now is trying to stop the wheels 
of a national spiritual upheaval ? Now it seems 
to be a likely conclusion that Peter the Great, 
however wise his eventual ideals were, has made 
the usual mistake of a self-made man (which 
he was) in using without discrimination those 
means on a large scale which impressed him most. 

' Kussia is large and abundant, but there is no 
order in her.' These words are attributed in the 
earliest Russian legend to the North Russians, who 
went (about the eighth century) to seek for rulers 
abroad and brought with them three wandering 
warriors from Scandinavia. Nevertheless, no order 
resulted from it, and Peter the Great, in trying 
to introduce it himself, almost repeated the mistake 
of the aboriginal Russians ! Worse still, he overdid 
it. If he could return again, he would certainly 
rise to the full height of his seven odd feet, and 
deliberately apply to the German backs his famous 
Russian dubmka (" the dear cudgel "), which he 
invariably carried about with him two centuries 
ago in his busy work of Germanizing the Russians ! 

Such are the jokes of the old dame History. 


An ex- The Eussians find that toothache is different 
of trans- from all other pains, and they indicate this differ- 
ideas. ence by a special word which means the pain of a 
recurrent, grinding nature, entirely different from 
the pain of a burn or a cut. The verb indicating 
that sort of pain consists of three letters : first, n ; 
then the exclusively Eussian hard vowel which 
has got to be defined in some way or other, and for 
which the English y has been adopted; and a soft 
t : nyt\ The conception of toothache conveyed by 
this verb includes a subtle idea of a monotonous, 
incessant sound. . . . Well, the Eussian mind 
has transferred this word to indicate those persons 
who possess the unfortunate capacity for getting 
on your nerves by constantly airing their own 
grievances as well as finding that ' the times 
are out of joint ' altogether. For instance, if a 
friend visits you evening after evening and goes 
on till midnight with the same old grumblings 
and complaints, you exclaim at last, if you are 
Eussian: 'Stop your nyt-mg !' (Da brcs't'e vy 

We make this little phrase very intense without 
possessing the auxiliary verb do. One of the 
numerous ways of intensifying the meaning of any 
sentence consists in applying the conjunction yes 
(da) in one of its various shades : thus the above 
exclamation literally runs in Eussian, ' Da stop 
you nyt' !' (We need no preposition to before our 


infinitives.) Thus being addressed, the most annoy- 
ing melancholic will mostly become silent. 

Kecently, on hearing this, a bright English girl 
asked: ' But isn't silence the normal state of 
melancholies ?' This remark brought home to me 
an additional point of difference in national indivi- 
duality. A Kussian melancholic even a melan- 
cholic ! is apt to go on pouring his melancholy 
out, so to speak; and that is just what is called 
' nyt '-ing (nytyo). Undoubtedly the English 
variety of a melancholic is more attractive. Here 
the tendency of locking up one's thoughts and feel- 
ings from other people certainly greatly adds to 
their comfort. 

There is one more Kussian word of the same class A very 

. Russian 

which makes every good translator stop short : it concep- 
is toskd. They usually end by giving for it the 
English words depression or despondency but it 
is not the same thing. Toska is a very poetical 
term, used throughout the folk-lore; and in its 
form of a verb, toskovdt', it is equally popular. 
We even apply this verb speaking separately of 
our thought, heart, or blood: for instance: My 
heart toskuyet ; my thought toskuyet ; my blood 

But the most popular way is to use it quite alone. 
Therefore the English ' yearning,' as well as ' de- 
pression ' and ' despondency,' cannot compete 
with the independent power of the to ska, either. 


If a chum walks gloomily into your study, throws 
himself on to your couch, and remains motionless, 
his eyebrows and lips alone expressive of pain, 
and you ask (if you are not chutki enough !) : 
' What's the matter ?' he is sure to say the one 
word: ' Toska !' Then you will remember that he 
had lost someone he loved, or simply that lately 
the man ' couldn't find a place for himself on earth.' 
Or you may overlook, by chance, a young girl 
painfully clasping her arms in some lonely wood or 
garden, and overhear her repeating to herself the 
only v/ord, ' Toska, toska !' and you will know 
what she feels like. ... ' Eh, toska has gnawed 
me up r = Eh, toska zayelaf is a very Russian ex- 
pression; and none of the suggested English words 
can be used with that same independence and all- 
explaining power. Such English expressions as 
hump, spike, needle, or being in the blues, don't let 
the tragic and poetical element of the situation ap- 
pear, thus being no good either. Could the English 
mind be so severe as not to permit any tragedy or 
poetry into the feelings of a person who is pining 
away with the longing for his homeland, or his 
beloved one, or for the spring and sunshine ? 
' Homesick ' is no good either, as it serves one 
purpose only; ' longing ' requires a definition of 
what one is longing for, whilst the Russians are 
apt to experience the toska without any strictly 
defined cause ; ' yearning ' cannot stand as an 


independent, all-explaining ejaculation. We often 
are overtaken by toska under circumstances when 
a well-balanced Englishman would simply refresh 
himself by giving way to a strong expression. 
Therefore, perhaps, the hump, the spike, etc., 
are just the right sort of definitions for the 
English. But even then, they are labelled by 
the literati as slang and are not admitted into 
high-class literature, whereas toska is a classical 
Eussian word. There is not one Russian poet who 
wouldn't have used it in a number of his works ! 

The Russian word for ' weary ' (tomit') has a form 
of an active verb with us which suggests the idea 
of exhaustion, like the one caused by a long waiting 
for something, or by anxiety, or even by the 
' singing ' of a solitary gnat in your bedroom in 
the heat of a summer night. But a Russian mind 
finds a poetic element even in weariness. A 
modern poet, Feodor Sologub, amongst a quantity 
of very complicated matter, drops a few very simple 
little triolets which speak direct to every Russian 
heart. They are exactly the kind which draws 
for every lover of the north a rodnaya picture : 

' My heart doth leap with former joy: The ' sad- 

North once more, and rain once more ! gives i ' 

Once more the moss is thin and tender. 
Once more the sadness that gives joy, 
And weariness that is so sweet, 
And once again the dreamy woods. 
Beloved North ! Beloved rain !' 


' The moss is sighing under foot, 
The silver birches tremble sweetly, 
The forest hid his face in fog 
There is but forest, moss and fog, 
A song that's moan, a word that's sigh, 
Mirage of earth and dark of sky. . . . 
Ye loved forest, tender moss, 
Ye silver birches trembling sweetly !' 

I had to use the adjectives ' loved ' and ' be- 
loved/ as being nearer to the original mlly than 
the ordinarily given translation ' dear.' Mily has 
more meaning in it: it indicates not only your 
attitude towards someone or something, but also 
that he (or she, or it) is nice in himself although 
it has nothing to do with the idea of value, as 
6 dear ' (dorogoy) has. One applies this term to a 
nice person, or a nice deed, whereas one does not 
say in Kussian, ' a dear person.' At the same time 
it is a word which one wants to whisper hundreds 
of times into the ear of the loved one. 

The lines above, in which the North is called 
' mlly,' and the rain too, only show what a power 
of loving there is granted to the Slav. Nature's 
weariness itself fills him with ' sadness that gives 
joy,' and he is one with her in whatever mood she 
is: for doesn't she suggest that she too enjoys in 
a special kind of way her autumn with its trist- 
ful, grey, poor-looking, monotonous attire ? . . . A 
Russian seldom gets the hump through bad weather. 
If he is responsive he attunes himself to it without 
getting upset. 


This attitude of responsiveness, of oneness with Tfa e one- 
ness with 

Nature's moods, is reflected in a number of poems Nature, 
by various authors. Some clumsy English, but 
one closely interpreting the Kussian flow of thoughts 
may be, perhaps, allowed here for the sake of 
pointing out this very Russian feature of which 
a little has been already shown in the autumnal 
triolets. The Russians are not contented with 
flowers for table-decorations (in fact, there is no 
such item in the Russian life), not even with a nice 
little flower garden (we hardly do any gardening 
for ourselves, which is a great pity). It is again 
the atmosphere of prostor, a mood on a large scale 
that draws them. . . . The beautiful poet, Al'exey 
Tolstoy, expresses it for us : 

' The sea is not foaming, the waves do not splash, 
No stir in the fir-trees' dark branches. 
Reflecting the world in itself as a glass 
Pellucid the sea lies quiescent. 

' I'm sitting on a rock. O'er me fleecy clouds 
Hang motionless high in the azure. . . . 
My soul is at peace with itself and profound 
The still sea and I are at one.' 

' Breaking and splashing the wave throws its tear-drops of 

salt in my eyelids. 
Spellbound I sit on a rock while new courage flows into my 

Endlessly forwards and backwards the surges are beating my 


Foam on their crests rolling snow-white and gleaming. 
' Whom shall I challenge to fight, mighty sea ? 
On whom shall I try coming power ? 


My heart now has learned the beauty of life, 
Oh, waves, ye have washed out sorrow ! 
Your roar and your splash have awakened my soul 
The turmoil and I are at one.' 

The folk-lore expresses this strong bond with 
Nature in a slightly different, but, if anything, 
still more poetic way. Numbers of folk-songs 
begin with a statement about some apparition of 
Nature and then simply pass on to the corres- 
ponding mood of the singer, placing the two as 
obvious parallels. For instance : 

' Why growest thou misty, lucid dawn, now covering earth with 


Why growest thou pensive, stately girl, tears rising to thine 
eyes ?' 


' The green blade of grass was growing in the field. 
But they have cut me down and have laid me to dry in the 

Oh, thou bitter, bitter lot of mine !' 


' The white fog is rolling heavily over the lake, 
Grief and toska have overpowered the young fellow,' etc. 

All Russian poets follow this national manner 
of self-expressing as a matter of course. But the 
quaintest of such parallels comes in one of the latest 
short poems by Igor' S'ev'er'anin: 

" A gnat is circling above the duck -weed of a pool, fascinated 

and unable to penetrate it. 

I cannot take my eyes off thine, unable to penetrate their 


I hear our postman, the man I mentioned before Looking 
(see p. 11), knock at the door as I am writing this. 
... I wonder what lie would think of such 
things ? ! 


To return to the point of the f lack ' of spiritual 
fire with the Kussians: one must be just, and say 
that only our exacting poets, upset by the sight 
of a few men in the state of an objectless toska, 
could generalize this accusation ! 

Chehov, the profound national psychologist, said 
(also in the eighties) in the words of one of his 
everyday heroes: 

... If a Eussian does not believe in God it A main- 
spring of 
means that he believes in something else, and this the 

he does not inactively, not like a German doctor character, 
of philosophy, but so that every one of his beliefs 
makes a duga of him ' (which means that each 
leading ideal bends or sways his every action). 
... ' As a small boy I was told that soup was 
the main thing in life, and I stuffed myself with 
it to the state of stupefaction ! When a schoolboy 
I devoured books and believed in every one of them. 
I ran away to America and lured other boys into 
joining me. . . . Then came Science. . . . Eeve- 
lation ! I thought that I had grasped the solution 
of existence from its first pages ! I gave myself 
up to Science passionately, headlong, as one gives 
oneself up to a beloved woman. Afterwards I 


found out that the beginning of each science does 
this with every man. ... I went ' back to the 
land ' and ' to the people ' . . . I toiled with the 
burlaki' on the Volga. ... I came to love the 
Eussian folk, their speech, their creative spirit I 
loved them to the verge of suffering. . . . Then 
came the abdication of property. . . . Then the 
non-resistance to evil. . . .' 

The man does not say what is his worship at 
the moment of his telling the story of his life to 
the author, but the latter easily finds out that 
his latest faith is the faith in Woman. These 
lines are typical of the Kussians, very typical 
Difference Here I want to point out that there exists in 


the English Eussian only one word for the two English ones 

and the . 

Russian ' belief ' and ' faith.' This is a case where, appar- 
tions ently, Eussian is poorer than English, but I think 
that it has its explanation. The English believe 
with their minds and have faith with their hearts. 
But the much more emotional Eussian tempera- 
ment is satisfied with what comes from the heart, 
often without subjecting it to the criticism of the 
intellect. Now, in English, ' belief ' implies en- 
tirely an intellectual attitude, and therefore gives 
a touch to that conception which is strange to a 
Eussian mind. Therefore, again, Chehov's sketch 
of a typical ' believer ' (briefly given above) shows 
the most national Slavonic feature of putting one's 


heart and soul into whatever one believes to 
be right. 

Believing in the sense of thinking only is incon- 
ceivable to him. That is why religious faith with 
the Russians is either passionate to the degree of 
an almost aboriginal fatalism, or it is absent alto- 

But then, we have two words for truth : prdvda Two words 

1 for ' truth.' 

implies truth as applied to facts themselves, where- 
as Istina rather expresses the existence of truth as 
of an abstract idea. For instance, the English for 
Pontius Pilate's query, ' What is Truth ?' is given 
in Russian not by means of the word prdvda, but 
runs, ' What is Istina ? 

In brief, it is Istina who inhabits the bottom of 
the well, and not pravda. Therefore, the English 
expression, 'God's Truth' runs in Russian Istin- 
naya pravda, the first of the nouns being tuined 
into an adjective; but one could not possibly say 
it the other way round (pravdlraya islina) no more 
than you would say ' truthful God.' * 

My mind wanders to one more definition which ' 
is lovable to a Russian mind, but which would be ness. 

1 Mrs. Edward Garnet t, whose translations approach the 
Russian originals nearer than any one else's, translates istina 
now ' truth,' now ' justice ' and it is not her fault that 
the subtle, deep distinction between these English words and. 
the istina cannot be conveyed. 


ridiculous in translation because the conception 
itself is strange to the English. The word means 
' one behind the soul ' (zadushevpy) or a quality 
which dwells in the deepest recesses of one's spirit. 
Thus, the man who is endowed with ' behind-the- 
soul '-ness is very deep and sympathetic, and at the 
same time very straightforward, so that one feels 
that one can talk to such a man as one would talk 
to oneself. A beautiful example of this nature is 
' The Stranger ' in Mr. Jerome K. Jerome's Passing 
of the Third Floor Back. A conversation in itself 
between fellow-thinkers can be a ' behind-the-soul ' 
one; also a voice, or a manner of reciting and of 
acting. The last two must be of the ' behind-the- 
soul ' quality to reach a Russian listener's heart. 
That is why, again, Mr. Forbes Robertson's manner 
of speaking in itself appeals to us, whilst the one 
of the late Sir Henry Irving seemed to us painfully 
artificial in its almost intoned monotony. 

We call our best-beloved friend a ' behind-the- 
soul ' one. . . . 

But I understand that the best friends amongst 
the English people seldom like to share between 
them what is ' behind their souls,' so there is no 
wonder that the English speech lacks the described 

Yet Mr. Garstin very sympathetically describes, 
in his little book The Friendly Russia, how often 
we make thorough acquaintance in the course of 


the first conversation with a stranger who appeals 
to us, telling and asking each other with equal 
straightforwardness dozens of things of a personal 
nature. The lovable personalities of Dostoyevski's 
Idiot and Al'osha are the best illustrations of a 
behind-the-soul nature, and I am glad to notice 
that they appeal to the most interesting and edu- 
cated type of the English people. The General 
gladly calls the Idiot ' a behind-the-soul ' man in 
the course of their first meeting, when the young 
man, not at all reluctant, tells him of his cherished 
principles. (Mr. Jerome's Stranger doesn't but 
he is an English variety!) 

This reminds me of a case in this country when 
a young English fellow made the whole of a dainty 
party at dinner roar with laughter simply by telling 
them how a casual Irish fellow-traveller told him on 
the route between Liverpool and Manchester how 
many children he had, what sort of children they 
were, how splendid his wife was, how much he made 
of his farm and what were the items of that par- 
ticular year, what he thought of life in general, etc. 
I must say that, although the vital, outspoken 
Irishman was somewhat simple as compared to the 
1 Idiot ' or Al'osha, my Russian sympathies on that 
occasion were entirely with him who was neither 
shy of the society youngster, nor so proud as to 
keep to himself what was to him the whole meaning 
of existence, when there was a chance of conversa 


tion with a human soul instead of an alien silence 
in the course of a whole hour. 

The soul has altogether a prominent place in a 
Kussian conversation. It is one of our terms as a 
friendly form of address (dusha moyd). Also, if any- 
thing suits our tastes and principles exceptionally 
well, we say that it is po duslie i.e., ' alongside 
our soul ' ; whereas everything that is ' against the 
grain ' in English is ne po dushe, ' not alongside 
our soul ' in Eussian. 

some BUS- The above-mentioned Irishman was just the 
ings. " opposite type of a man to the one which is suggested 
by the graphic Russian saying s'eb'e na um'e : it 
gives the idea of a miniature of Mr. So-and-So 
sitting on the edge of the actual Mr. So-and-So's 
brain, listening to it attentively, and granting or 
not granting egress to the teeming thoughts. . . . 
Many sayings are fine in that rich suggestiveness. 
One of them I heard recently from a Russian who 
applied it to the manners of German warfare: ' If 
not by washing, then by mangling !' Rather good 
is the one stating that ' There is enough stupidity 
to be got in the world to go round for all sage.' 1 

Most graphic is the saying used by the peasantry 
TOO indicate a state of absolute safety : to convey its 
meaning I must first say that our peasants and 
workmen very often keep their money, or a thick 
slice of bread (krayuha) for the next meal, or alto- 

1 See list of Russian words and phrases. 


gether something of value, next to their skin, 
under their shirt. This place of safety is called 
' za pazuhoy,' which, in itself, is untranslatable. 
Well, then, when anyone finds himself in a state 
where there is no grief or worry, one says about 
him: ' He is like za pazuhoy with the Christ !' i.e., 
as if Christ kept him next to His skin ! . . . 

We have no word for 'slang'; we simply sayNosian?' 

J in Russian. 

' the speech of the labourers,' ' the speech of 
peasants,' ' of fishermen,' ' of tramps,' ' of old- 
believers,' etc. All of these are acknowledged 
and admitted by the writers, because the ' slang ' 
of our peasantry is often most wonderful, both in 
its poignant definitions and poetical vein. Some 
of it is rude, but this doesn't make us discard it 
altogether. One can learn beautiful expressions 
from our simple folk who create them on the spur 
of the moment. 

' Pardon,' says Gogol', suddenly breaking up one 
of his humorous descriptions : ' words seem to have 
escaped our hero which are heard only in the streets. 
But such is the position of a writer in Russia: he 
is bound to reflect the life in which there are things 
not tolerated by higher society. . . .' Happily, such 
is the position of a Russian writer as established 
by Gogol' three-quarters of a century ago ! Whole 
stories by Gogol', by Shchedrin and L'eskov, whole 
pages by Ostrovski (our Moliere), by Nekrasov, 


Maxim Gor'ki and Chehov, whole paragraphs by 
Tolstoy and Dostoyevski will never be interpreted, 
even if they are seemingly ' translated ' : they will be 
like an even, silvery moonshine as compared with 
a crackling bonfire fragrant with burning twigs and 
sending cascades of sparks into the pitch dark quiet 
of a night. The same can be applied to national 
wit of every language as soon as it has a local 
character: Dickens, Bret Harte, Kipling, Jacobs 
have no more chances to have their local collo- 
quialism interpreted irreproachably into another 
tongue than have in parallel circumstances L'eskov 
or Gogol' ; although I must add that almost every 
expression the sense of which does not depend on 
some local topic easily finds its equivalents with us, 
due to the pliancy and freedom of our language. 

For instance, the bewitching, subtle humour of 
The Cricket o)i the Hecvrth sounds beautiful 
when rendered in Kussian. All the warmth in it 
remains intact, yet wholly conveys the English 
atmosphere. Very few expressions in it are un- 
translatable. This applies to the whole of 
Dickens's works (even his Pickwick Papers), to 
Shakespeare, Meredith, Arnold Bennett, Jerome K. 
Jerome, Birmingham, or Oscar Wilde. This does 
not mean that all Russian translations from the 
English are excellent: unfortunately, with the 
absence of literary convention between our coun- 
tries, too many Russians who do not possess a 


perfect knowledge of the intricacies of English 
translate and publish English works. But what I 
mean is that the atmosphere, the style of English 
speech with the rare exception of unique col- 
loquialisms finds its equivalent in Russian and 
can be translated beautifully. Whereas it is just 
the style, that something essentially Russian, which 
cannot be expressed in any other tongue owing to 
the lack of technical mediums. 

Can it be that the local English atmosphere is 
conveyed more readily to our minds, and that the 
colloquial English is more easily translated into 
Russian than vice versa because we know England 
better than the English people know Russia ? 
We have studied English literature so long (at 
school and ad libitum) that English characters are 
not strangers to us, and therefore even their typical 
expressions can be translated literally when they 
happen to have no equivalents in our character- 
speech; they do not baffle or alarm us, but, on the 
contrary, make the English types stand out the 
more clearly. Whereas it is quite improbable that 
an average English reader could vividly imagine 
the surroundings and the types of Gogol' 's In- 
spector General or Gor'ki's Childhood ! How, then, 
could he stand a close translation of their 
speech as a natural, human thing ? In giving to 
my English friends the exact meaning of various 
Russian manners of speech throbbing with poign- 


ancy and humour, I constantly hear the intolerant 
remark: ' Oh ! but you mustn't say that in 
English F 

S?lbie S ~ I am tnan kfril to see that the anonymous trans- 
names. i a tor has tried all ' permittable ' English to convey 
Gogol' 's humorous style in Dead Souls ; but in 
the I/ispect^r General his most conscientious en- 
deavours were bound to fail. The names alone, 
for instance, of the Governor and of the Judge are 
to every Russian mind inseparable from their 
owners who have been living characters to us ever 
since they were created. Yet, naturally there are 
blank places corresponding to them in the English 
version. The chief aim of my book is an attempt 
to show that the Russian brain works along differ- 
ent channels from the English one and its manner 
of doing so therefore I will try and explain the 
present instance technically, as it were. For that 
purpose my patient reader will have to return to 
that Russian root of many conceptions which 
means breath, spirit duk (see page 37). Well, 
with a consonant slipped into it, this noun acquires 
a comical character: dmuh sounds as funny as duh 
sounds serious ! Gogol' takes this dmuh and turns 
it into a kind of adjectival name: Dmuhanovski. 
But that is not all: he brings forward the wicked 
stupidity of the big, fat old Governor by doubling 
this surname : he makes it Skvoznik-Dmuhanovski, 
which means ' A draught of a Dmuhanovski ' or 


' a - draught - of - an - empty - headed - pooh - poohing - 

No wonder, a footnote in the English edition 
says that ' in order to simplify for the English 
readers the somewhat formidable caste, the sur- 
names of the first eight characters are omitted.' 
But that footnote should not run on as it does, 
explaining ' as they would not be used in familiar 
intercourse.' They are not in real life, that is true, 
but Gogol' 's characters are such vivid, living per- 
sonifications that the beloved classical comedy, In- 
spector General, when shorn of them, is unimagin- 
able and ridiculous ! The translator ought to try 
and explain them, I think. But anyhow, as he 
has not done so, I must try my best. Therefore, 
a few more lines about Gogol' 's names : 

The Judge is in Kussian Z'dpkin-T'dpkin; the 
first syllables of the two words through their very 
sound convey to the Russian mind a rude, clumsy 
gesture of snapping something greedily. Isn't 
this, then, a splendid name for a provincial Russian 
Judge of seventy years ago who swears that 
he takes no bribes except in the form of borzoy- 
puppies ! 

Hl'estakov himself (the young and silly rascal 
taken, from fright, for the official Inspector) means 
a slashing, swaggering strut. The Warden of the 
Charity Institutions is ' Strawberry ' pure and 
simple. The primitive brute of a policeman is 


Eerjimorda, wliicli conveys the idea of ' Catch hold 
of his dial ' (face) ! and indicates the simple way in 
which the representatives of public order used to 
follow out their duties. Again, the simple-minded 
old land - proprietress in Dead Souls, who has 
upset the hero's knavish plans entirely through 
her simplicity, is called by Gogol' merely Koro- 
bochka which means nothing more nor less than 
' a little box ' ; and there was no logical need to 
turn her in the English version into a ' Koroboch- 
kina.' The humour vanishes like a puit of smoke 
with this ' improvement ' on the original name. 

The most characteristic current English expres- 
sions often lack the half-shades of colouring neces- 
sary to meet the demands of the Russian language. 
It is not only the speech of the lower classes that 
is acknowledged by our literature to its fullest 
extent; the same thing has been done by the above- 
named English writers when speaking through 
their characters; the difference between their 
writings and those of the Russian authors lies in 
the fact that ours enjoy the perfect freedom of 
Croatin? applying and creating expressions when speaking 
for themselves. Hundreds of these would not pass 
in England as ' good style,' because, although 
Tennyson and Carroll, amongst others, have actu- 
ally invented special words to meet emergencies, 
nevertheless it does not follow from this that 


special twists of expressions of the Eussian language 
which is teeming with them in humour, grief, 
poetic feeling, and enthusiasm, would all find their 
equivalents in English; nor would the English 
translators be permitted to invent any equivalents 
on the spur of the moment. 

With us the power of graphic rendering is an 
essential quality of art. Turgenev managed to 
command it without being exclusively Russian in 
his style, but all the rest of our writers could not 
help being so, in various degrees. They are given 
with us a carte blanche for creating, as it were. 
Every kind of definition, every new word is allowed 
as long as it is born of the atmosphere of the dis- 
cussed subject and is, therefore, natural before 
everything else. It is the natural that goes home 
deepest, after all. Recently this carte blanche has 
acquired enormous proportions. Some of the new 
words and expressions startle one who has been 
brought up on L'ermontov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, 
and even on the extra -richly-coloured Gogol', 
L'eskov, and Shchedrln. Some of these new words 
and twists of expressions will fall out; but many 
are throbbing with real new power for they are 
natural outcome of a free and creative Slavonic 
mind working through a most flexible medium. 

It is not considered essential that each new word 
or expression should be of a sufficiently universal 
importance to stand the test of time. Any amount 


of words have been created by Gogol', Tolstoy, 
L'eskov, Chehov, Dostoyevski, Gor'ki, and several 
writers of the younger generation, for a special 
purpose and some of them will, perhaps, never 
be used again; but they are just splendid in their 
own places for which they are invented ! They 
are, naturally, absent from the dictionaries, and 
the translators will vainly struggle to find out 
their meaning and to see their essential beauty. 

Since 1914 there has been published in Petro- 
grad a formidable periodical. Each volume con- 
tains nothing but the newest prose and poetry 
distinctly reflecting the searching for truth (for 
istina, in this case). Bart Kennedy would have 
had a chance in it to find by and by his bit of 
Truth, instead of being bovcotted by means of 
mockery and laughter. 

The periodical is called S'ir'in, the Kussian 
equivalent for Bird of Wisdom. It welcomes to 
its pages the most gloomy satire as well as the most 
mystic, or fantastic, or realistic poetry. As to its 
nationalism, it allows the quaintest examples of 
verses that ever existed being, as it were, cries of 
the old Eussian land, frank to the degree of primi- 
tiveness and uncanny in the nature of their 
poetry. I hope I will not give a start to my reader 
by giving one of them (by a well-known mystic 
woman-poet, Zinaida Gippius) in closely follow- 
ing both form and meaning: 


Russia speaking to her Singer. A charac- 

I have pleased thee with my meadows green, poem. 

With my herbs, and tall, white hemlock, 

With my waving corn spreading far and wide, 

With the golden hearts of my daisies ; 
Thou mak'st poems of them, thou sing'st joyfully 

Of my playful self as thou lovest me : 

But who will love my ugly wounds ? 

Who will look at my sins ail-forgivingly ? 
Come ! Love also the evil fogs 

That rise from my poisonous stagnant pools, 

Love the huge weeds alongside my walls, 

Love my poor, drunken peasant. . . . 
But if fear and contempt are all thou find'st 

In thy heart for my evils so painful 

Then go ! Lose thy way in my forests' mists ! 

Get burnt with my stinging-nettles ! 
I shall not lift the veil from my face 

For those who seek me the beautiful one, 

Who can not love me to bitter end, 

Cannot stand me the ugly one, cannot bear me the 
dirty one. . . . 

The name alone of this periodical indicates the 
idea that the most ancient in the artistic tempera- 
ment is not a hindrance, but a help in the search 
for the New. The name of the bird S'ir'in is equiva- 
lent to an Old Slavonic adjective by which it is 
often replaced and which means ' the one knowing 
and giving out the Truth.' 

The Old Slavonic, which is the cradle of the T , he * 

played by 

Eussian language, continues to exist in all its 01 ? Slav - 
purity and is absolutely independent as our lan- 
guage of the Church. Every Kussian can under- 


stand it, nevertheless, even without learning. 
The Bible is usually printed in two columns, Old 
Slavonic and Russian, and one gets to know the 
first of them quite well, even without being a 
church-goer. One says one's prayers in it in early 
childhood without being told that it is not Russian : 
one does not think of it, somehow, as being a 
language in itself, and it is a great mistake to state, 
as it has been stated in the English Press, that the 
Russians don't understand the language of their 
Church. The roots of the words are in an over- 
whelming majority the same. Just in the same 
way as Modern Russian, the Old Slavonic has no 
grammatical articles whatever, neither the nor a. 
This degree of simplicity does not exist in any 
other modern European language. Slavonic is also 
free of auxiliary verbs, as there exists the same 
three tenses as in Russian, and the only gram- 
matical difference is, that the verb 'to be ' is used 
in the Slavonic in its present tense. All these 
similar features between the fountain-spring of 
the Russian language and its modern form also 
serve as links of close kinship, besides the simil- 
arity of roots. Altogether, the likeness is so great 
that simple-minded church-goers and devoted 
Bible-readers are quite unconscious of knowing, 
after all, two languages. To them the ancient 
manner of speech appears to be simply a more 
' heavenly ' one than the modern ! In my child- 


hood I knew a very old great-granny who used to 
shed touching tears of delight when the boys 
would purposely read to her: ' And Judas begat 
Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat 
Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; and Aram begat 
Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and 
Naasson begat Salmon. . . .' ' Why are you cry- 
ing, granny ?' they would ask mischievously. 
' It is so heavenly !' she would answer with 
profound joy. The Kussian word bojestvenno ! 
is all that is wanted for this English answer and 
means, literally godly ! The highest praise. 

A great many genuine Slavonic words are in 
constant use, interwoven with the Kussian speech 
to such an extent that they only intensify the 
' very Russian ' colouring of the conversation and 
literature. 1 This obviously forms an additional 
difficulty for the translators I mean for those who 
know our language sufficiently to realize the fact. 
This fact is that there exists but one French, or 
English, or any other word now in use in the foreign 
languages where we often have the choice between 
the two definitions for the same conception: 
Modern Russian and Old Russian (or Slavonic) 
being equally familiar to us. And of these 

1 For instance, we often use the Old Slavonic instead of the 
Modern Russian without thinking of its being Old Slavonic 
even for the following conceptions having absolutely different 
roots from their modern equivalents: the eyes, the future, because, 
call, strength, confession, good, fate, wounds, if, depth, shame, 



two it is the second that carries the essentially 
Russian spirit with it, without being out of date. 

How, then, could one possibly interpret the dif- 
ference between a purely Modern Kussian speech 
and the one which is intensified by the use of the 
familiar Slavonic equivalents, when using the 
current Modern English only, as even the best of 

now. to rest, grief, this, lips, kiss, temptation, other, ceaseless, 
the thought, etc., etc. 

Here are the parallel columns of these definitions, in order to 
show the difference between their aspect in the modern Russian 
and the ancient: 


Modern Russian. 


The eyes. 



The future. 

































To rest. 





















The thought. 










translators do ? The choice which is at our disposal 
seems not to be at theirs ! Meanwhile, remove 
just that very Eussian i uance de genre from the 
pages of Dostoyevski, Gogol', L'eskov, Chehov, 
Sl'eptzov, Gor'ki, Pushkin, Tolstoy, where the 
tone of the speaker is to any extent elated, or 
religiously-poetical, or sarcastic, or humorous 
and the characterization will vanish. 

It is rather a puzzle to me why those translators 
who can see this characterization in the Russian 
originals do not use the beautiful Old English ex- 
pressions. Quite a quantity of them serve the 
purpose. There seem to be ample equivalents 
amongst them to that Old Russian style of speech 
which we instinctively continue using when we feel 
' very Russian,' and fondly describe something very 
Russian. It surprises us that those features of 
the Old English speech which should be a parallel 
with the Old Russian, and should serve for parallel 
purposes, seem to be effete in modern English life; 
and this in spite of the English insularity and self- 
respect ! Do the translators not care even for 
those equivalents that could be found in the Old 
English ? Why ? Wouldn't their readers under- 
stand them ? Or is it because they cannot them- 
selves see the difference these expressions make in 
the Russian original ? 

Of course, I mean those cases where an essentially 
English old word could be found as a parallel. In 


most cases, I am afraid, they would not correspond 
exactly; but perhaps a masterly admixture of 
Chaucer's, Spenser's, or Shakespeare's expressions 
might at least in some cases suggest the beautiful 
old element in the current Eussian language. I 
even heard a remark from a well-educated English 
person that the Old English expressions would 
make the speech pedantic. This is very strange. 
With us, everything Old Russian brings with it 
the atmosphere of warmth and humour and caress, 
as well as of dignified homeliness, or of the national 
heroic spirit reflected in the folk-lore. We have no 
The keys to need to dream any ' Dreams of John Ball ' in order to 
talc, child- enjoy the beauties of the olden speech. The fountain- 

head of our language is blended with its steadily- 
increasing modern forms in perfect harmony. The 
language, a k ove _ men t;ioned passion for the searching of the 
new in the realm of the language is a proof of this 
in itself: every newly-introduced Russian word is 
essentially Russian, i.e., always founded on a 
familiar old root. Thus one can force an endless 
growth of the Russian language, a growth by expan- 
sion, without necessarily breaking up and casting 
away its original individuality. The genuine age-old 
element is just the one which in a fairy-tale way- 
keeps the artistic Russian nationalism child-young. 

There is an English volume of translations 
of our wonder-tales. The translator, Mr. Post 
Wheeler, has rightly called them wonder-tales: 


there exist no fairies in the mind of the folk who 
created them, and all the wonderful achievements 
narrated in those tales are accomplished by human 
heroes, peasants or princes sometimes aided by a 
fire-bird or a frog (transformed ' Tsar-girls '). 
iiut the translator never mentions in his preface 
what difficulties he has been forced to contend 
with ! Mr. Kasso, the late Kussian Minister of 
Education, sent him a letter of congratulation on 
this volume, but the Russian Ministers of Educa- 
tion have seldom taken a keen interest in Russian 
enlightenment, especially in the Russian peasant's 
unique speech, and Mr. Kasso least of all ! His 
letter, published next to the preface, carries more 
weight as a diplomatic than a literary document, 
for Mr. Post Wheeler's signature is followed by, 
' Secretary of the American Embassy at St. Peters- 
burg.' This letter does anything but minimize 
the deplorable fact that the ancient, genuine 
facon dc parler of the Russian tales is entirely 
lost and unrecognizable in the English version. 
This is inevitable, and could not be helped. But 
what I wish to point out is the obvious indifference 
of the translator towards the most precious part 
of those folk-lore creations: their unique, superb, 
Old Russian style ! He seems to be quite uncon- 
scious of it; otherwise he should have made it 
clear in some form or other. 

If the paintings of our Vasnetzov, Surikov, 


An ex- Vrubel, and Nesterev had been known in England, 
via other my reader would be able to understand me better 
from a parallel: because these artists give in their 
colours and in their compositions that same un- 
translatable element of the Slavonic with which 
the characteristically-Russian literary style is teem- 
ing. Their paintings are not supernationul, not 
generally-human. Most probably their meaning 
would remain hidden from the mass of the English 
public. Yet everyone could feel in them that some- 
thing which is their spirit. Bobbed of that touch of 
their very own lines and colours, the greatest paint- 
ings of Vasnetzov would turn into nothingness. 

Being unable to show them to my reader, I 
would like to point out to him the Eussian peasants' 
carved wood and toys as the next typical examples. 
These are rather well known in England by this 
time. Well, would they remain ' Russian ' if you 
washed away from the woodwork the golden 
cupolas, the heads of hermits, the ancient palaces 
built of logs, the rich Byzantian ornamentation, 
the design of stars, the immense hedges and weeny 
windows, the ancient head-wear, imposing boyars, 
the troyki, the folk-lore subjects ? No. The whole 
industry, so rich in artistic imagination and char- 
acter, would vanish if anyone had the power to 
check the springs of its inspiration. The genre 
would disappear, even if the fir-trees and village 
roofs half buried in snow and the modern village- 


types were left to it. Because it is, again, that 
age-old element which is an inseparable part of 
the Russian art and which lives on alongside with 
the newest and most daring in it. Those who had 
the chance of seeing the Russian ballet and opera 
at the Drury Lane, in 1914, will clearly follow the 
current of my thoughts. The striking blend in 
both colour and sounds of their ancient nature 
with the most daring New is the keynote of that 
child-young sincerity and is its fascination. It is 
obvious to those who have seen the chords of colour 
and heard the harmony of sound. But neither of 
these could be ' translated ' ! The Russian speech 
deprived of its fundamental and essentially Russian 
element, would sound the same as ' Boris Godunov ' 
or ' Petrushka,' if these were rendered in C major 
from beginning to end ! 

A simpler illustration would be an Irishman's 
English shorn of its national character. Well, the 
rich colouring of the Russian literature (not sub- 
divided into little squares of ' slang ' and good 
style) is further away from the correct English 
than from Pat's. Thus a typical Irish story would 
lose less by its translation into the Russian than 
by being retold in pure English. 


Here are a few examples of interesting deriva- Some sim- 

,. i i ,, , . , Pie deriva- 

tions which are at the same time very simple. tions. 

' Work ' in English is an independent definition, 


so to speak, and why it is just so, and nothing else, 
no one can explain as one cannot explain the 
origin of thousands of words in any language. 
But in Russian work is rabota, the first three letters 
of which mean serf. This does not point to a 
specially industrious spirit in our ancestors ! But 
most likely they were poetical lovers of Nature 
before everything else; and when, in the course of 
their development, a definition for work had to 
be created, it appeared in this strikingly frank 
form. ( Rob = serf ; rabota = work ; rabstvo = serfdom.) 
The Russian word for excitement comes from the 
noun wave (vo?nd=wave; volneniye = excitement). 
It is applied to the high seas as appropriately as 
to the state of a person whose voice, expressions, 
looks are ' waving ' like the surface of a rough sea. 
This noun, volneniye, has, of course, a correspond- 
ing verb, which literally means ' to wave oneself ' 
(tioJnov&tsa). Thus when we want to say, ' Don't 
get excited !' we say ' Don't wave yourself !' 
This is an everyday, simple expression, but we 
use it without the mocking, humorous touch of 
voice which so often goes with the English dis- 
approval of excitement. If anything, volneniye is 
a state of mind which attracts sympathy. And we 
never think of excitement, either, as the cause of a 
child's ' liver ' three or four days after a Christmas 
party ! It is we who smile here. 


There are two ways of saying in Russian, ' I 
want to.' One of them conveys the idea of con- ^fleeted in 
scious will and decision, yd hochu = l will (which 
has nothing to do with the formation of the future 
tense, as it is not wanted for that purpose); 
while the other, with the personal noun in the 
dative (mn'e in the place of ya) is expressed by the 
impersonal form of the verb: mn'e hochetsa. The 
latter form of saying ' I will ' conveys a vague 
desire for something, as if commanded by some 
power from without, and even the dative of the 
personal pronoun is usually omitted: Ne hochetsa 
rabotat' /=! don't want to work. Hochetsa otdoh- 
niit' f=I want to rest. Spat' hochetsa != to sleep I 
want. Hochetsa molodost *i ! = one wants to be youn g ! 
(p. 42). All these are amongst the numerous 
everyday expressions when we subconsciously 
acknowledge an involuntary desire, as it were. 
Hochetsa Vybv'i one longs for love often comes 
into poems and songs. 

It does not matter which of the two aspects 
(personal or impersonal) of this expression you use 
about wanting or not wanting a cup of tea, or 
about going to bed. But it makes a difference 
whether you say about yourself, Ya hochu jenitsa, 
or Mn'e hochetsa jenitsa! Both mean in English 
that you want to be married, but the first suggests 
that the choice of a girl has already been settled, 
and you have finally decided to see the business 


through; while hochetsa jenitsa means generally 
that you are tired of a bachelor life and you would 
like to settle down. In olden days, a young Rus 
sian girl living in strict seclusion and seeing no 
alternative to her endless embroidery would 
wearily murmur, half -abashed at her temerity: 
' Zdmuj * hochetsa /' 

The author of the Idiot says about his man of 
society, Totzki, that he wanted to marry well; in 
this case the impersonal form (in the past tense: 
hot'elos') is applied as the only logical one, because 
the man's desire was a general, vague idea which 
took hold of him. 

Altogether, the impersonal form of the verbs 
winds its way throughout the language and pre- 
sents one of the characteristic points of the Kussian 
manner of thinking ; a whole volume could be written 
about our verbs alone ; and the all-important subtlety 
of their two ' aspects ' of the infinitive greatly 
accounts for the deficiency of most translations. 
NO com- But then we have no exact expressions for the 
ever-present English verbs ' to like ' and ' to mind.' 
I must acknowledge that here the palm for subtle 
differences in the definition of degrees of feelings 
belongs to the English language. I can offer only 
one explanation of this, namely, that we either 
love a person or a thing, or we don't. There isn't 
much room for compromise in the Russian heart, 

1 Pages 85 and 86. 


and the only alternative is ' this pleases me,' as in 
French, which is rather a different thing. The 
English language can claim the verb ' to like ' in 
its entirety. 

A very good example of no compromise in the 
Russian taste is the absence in our language of the 
eternal English answer, ' I don't mind.' To mind 
is in itself a very English, a very mild and civilized 
way of remonstrating; and the not minding is 
essentially so in consenting to something. There 
is no vivid wholeheartedness about it, and we very 
often stop and think after such an answer: * But 
does he (or she) really approve of it ? ' A few months 
of life in England are necessary to put a stamp of 
English manners upon us, and then we say a hun- 
dred times a day, in quite an English intonation: 
' I don't mind.' 

Only I reserve to myself the right of doubting 
whether many of us really begin to feel in this half 
and half way. In expressions and intonations we 
get acclimatized very quickly, that's very true; but 
in our innermost, inherent attitude towards things 
it is not so easy to have one's nature rolled out 
smoothly. There is a risk of being impolite ? . . . 
Oh, yes, very often so. Lack of politeness is the 
natural result of feeling wholly one way or the 
other. That is why there is such a lot of arguing 
and debating going on in Russia. If I may touch 
on the seriousness of to-day, there were very few 


advanced people hitherto in our country who 
' didn't mind ' things as they were and there 
are none now. The not minding and not caring 
has never existed before, nor has this indifferent 
state so far appeared. But people of enlightened 
views and Opposition parties have, for the time 
being, left behind their opinions, habits, and 
fashions, as soon as they realized that by retain- 
ing them they would impede the nation's achieve- 

No, the polite and lukewarm indifference will 
never become a national Mature of the land of the 
Eussians. They do mind and they do care very 
much so, although they appear to be able to put 
their personal feelings on one side while their 
country's freedom is at stake. 

An every- With this Slavonic capacity of yielding oneself 

day capa- 
city, wholly to one's ideas and emotions, it is not sur- 
prising to find an everyday Russian definition very 
seldom used in England; here people are more con- 
servative and refuse to be swept off their feet 
which, at times, must be more effective in the long 
run than a hearty yielding to that fascinating sensa- 
tion I This definition is uvlecheniye, 1 and it means 
' the state of being carried or swept away ' ; the 
verb is uvlekatsa, and means the action of carrying 
oneself away. Living amongst Russians one per- 

1 Mentioned before, p. 73. 


petually hears that someone is being carried away, 
and you would see proofs of this with your own 
eyes. You would see people glued to their work, 
which they are not in the least bound to do not 
merely for hours, but day and night for many 
months on end. That is why Kussians wear 
themselves out physically much sooner than the 
British. It is as though the sap of life were with- 
drawn from the Russian body to feed the emotions, 
whereas with the British the reverse is often the 
case. With us there are no persons of fifty and 
upwards presenting that healthy, glowing, youth- 
ful appearance which one constantly meets in 
people of a corresponding age in these isles. Dos- 
toyevski and Gogol' used to work in that exhaust- 
ing Russian manner. It results in great, inspired 
work, but it certainly also mows down and carries 
those people away too far and too early ! 

You would hear that someone is carried away 
by this or that philosophy or system and you 
would have to endure the result of it each time he 
meets you ; another by his passion for enlightening 
the masses, and then you may be sure that that 
person will not leave alone any servant, or work- 
man, or peasant he comes across for the first time. 
Yet another is carried away with the arts the 
drama above all and these number legion. Again 
you will constantly hear a good-natured statement 
that So-and-So is carried away by So-and-So, 


which, needless to say, no one regards as humili- 
ating. It is a tribute to any artist, musician, or 
social worker to say that he or she is painting, 
playing, singing, or working with uvlecheniye; be- 
cause everyone who is spontaneously swept away 
by his work is sure to sweep others along with him. 
The nearest to it in English is abandonment, 
but the Russian uvlecheniye does not include any 
suggestion of the unpleasant side of abandon- 

If you feel that you are being carried away by a 
marriageable person of the opposite sex, you can 
safely tell him or her, ' You are carrying me 
away!' Vy m'en'd uvlelcayefe! This will sound 
lovable if you are sincere, but it will not give 
the other party an opportunity of beginning to 
weave a network of matrimonial schemes. We 
possess no Breach of Promise Act, and we would 
never think of passing such a law. It makes 
Russian people roar with laughter, or thunder 
with indignation, when they read instances of it 
in English books or daily press. 

* * * # * 

Baba' There is a Russian word baba, which is usually 

RSn translated into English as countrywoman. This 

cjmcep- j g p ar ^ a n;y right, but not altogether. Every 

countrywoman is a baba, it is true, and is called 

so without the least disrespect, in spite of the 

touch of contempt it originally implied, and which 


can be revived when occasion requires. Now- 
adays, the peasant says in highest praise: 
' Molodetz 1 baba ! Boy baba !' ' boy ' literally 
meaning a fight, a battle which is an obvious 
proof that the Eussian peasant rather admires 
vigour and strength in his mate. But the original 
shade of contempt is distinctly conveyed by the 
same word, baba, if you choose to apply it to that 
special purpose. Both men and women of the 
educated classes will use it when mentioning some 
gossiping woman or a company of plain females 
exclusively absorbed in the sex attraction; and 
then the denomination baba fully implies con- 
tempt for the hackneyed prerogative of woman. 
Probably due to the English horror of slang in 
literature, even this tone, when suggesting first 
and foremost the sexual element, is invariably 
neglected and replaced by the respectable defini- 
tion ' countrywoman,' whereas female would be 
very often nearer the mark. ' Countrywoman ' 
emphasizes class distinction rather than sex, where- 
as, in the original, the word baba embraces both 
at will. I want to point it out again that in speak- 
ing about countrywomen, the word baba suggests 
nothing but a natural wholesome idea of the sex 
as the word grandmother in Eussian, babushka 
(derived direct from baba), shows. No one says in 
Eussian ' mujiki and countrywomen,' but ' mujikl 

1 See p. 42. 


and baby ?1 Yet baba directly suggests the idea of 
sex in a more pointed way than jenshchina (woman) 
does, when the distinction is all-important. Thus, 
trying to guess the sex of the dirty, stingy old person 
wrapped up in rags, the hero of Gogol "s Dead 
Souls repeats to himself, ' Oy, mujik ! Oy, baba !' 
the exclamation oy conveying much wonder. 
An An historical anecdote will further illustrate the 


anecdote, word baba when it means accentuating the dis- 
tinction of sex. When Catherine II. usurped her 
husband's throne on the momentous night in 1762, 
the men in one of the regiments stationed in Peters- 
burg declared that they would not swear allegiance. 
Their officers vainly tried to persuade them. 

' We won't we shan't !' they shouted. 

' But why ?' 

' Because she is a baba !' 

A very energetic colonel appeared quickly to 
put the matter straight. 

' You won't swear allegiance to our Mother- 
Empress ?' 

' No-o !' 

' Why ?' 

' Because she is a baba ! We won't serve a 
baba !' 

1 In plural. Please don't for a second imagine that this 
word sounds as an English ' baby ' does ! Eemember the 
Italian a and the dark Eussian vowel for which y stands only 
as a symbol. (See Introduction.) 


' Won't you ?' and the energetic man of the hour 
briskly walked up to the men and proceeded to 
box the ears of each man. As he continued this 
steadily, the men gradually fell in, the noise 
stopped, and the hands went up to salute; but 
he continued until he was tired. 

' Well ?' his panting voice thundered again, 
' won't you swear allegiance to our Empress now T 
' We shall we will !' 

' Why, you fools, 1 then why didn't you want 
to before ?' 

' Because,' they cried unanimously, ' no one had 
explained it to us properly !' 

Certainly the expression 'to explain properly' 
would not be applied in this sense by any soldier 
nowadays; but the word baba certainly would. 
Obviously it was not used in order to call Catherine 
a countrywoman but with the distinct intention 
of expressing contempt for her sex. 

This characteristic of the word baba is clearly 
reflected in the critical saying, ' Quite po-babyi /' 
Men use it at the sight of women's wiles to which 
they (men) 'would never resort' themselves: 
tears, coaxing, proverbial cunning, etc. 

Altogether it seems to me that the word baby 
for the Russian peasant women deserves exactly 
the same popularity as the word mujikl has already 

1 In this case the word for fools, duraki, was surely applied 
in its intensified form, durachyo, which conveys boundless 
contempt. 9 


won. This would, perhaps, also help in sketching 
the mental picture of a Russian peasant woman as 
being so different from an English one: she does 
not possess or dust a mantelpiece; she does not 
make dainty little cakes with baking-powder at 
five minutes' notice, for there is no baking-powder 
in Russia and she kneads her yeast-made black 
bread thrice the night before; she does not 
' change ' in the afternoon, and does not walk 
about till then with paper curlers sticking from 
her head like a porcupine in utter ignorance of her 
ugliness. (If a Russian baba should encounter 
such an apparition, she would be likely to stop 
short in amazement and to cross herself for safety.) 
She often lives through her life without knowing of 
a hat or a corset, or even of other underwear; very 
often goes about barefooted. But she vigorously 
cleanses herself with boiling-hot water and steam 
each week in the village public bdn'a, as every 
moujlk does; 1 neither of them would call an 
English bedroom-bath anything but a saucer; she 
makes her own linen chemises from the home- 
grown flax; she embroiders all her table-cloths and 

' A-ah ! Nice ! . . . Now we feel Russia heart and soul 
with us ! . . .' say the Russian soldiers as they emerge from 
the bath-trains behind the trenches. An hour weekly in the 
hot steam of a ban'a (Turkish bath-house) is the same as daily 
bread to a Russian moujik. ... ' We now feel Russia behind 
us !' . . . By the way, the ban'a is an ancient genuine 
Russian institution, not at all introduced by the Turks, 


towels, to say nothing of chemises and shirts; and 
she looks after the cattle and works in the fields 
with the strength and vigour of an unsophisticated 
aboriginal. This work is a matter of course to 
her, side by side with man. 

That is what a baba is versus the probably 
wrong vision of an English reader who is likely 
to imagine a Russian countrywoman wearing a 
' best hat ' and corsets. On a Sunday she looks 
very trim and bright without possessing these, 
and spends, if possible, her Sunday afternoon and 
evening in sociable merry-making, often with a 
touch of art in her uvlecheniye. 

Each of the two types, if they met, would 
mutually regard each other with compassionate 

* * * * 4 

The English reader will be surprised to learn TWO im- 
that the universally-known expression, ' Ivan the finitions 
Terrible,' for Ivan Grozny, is not correct. Being translated, 
an epithet meant for a special definition of a Tsar's 
personality and one of Ivan's nature, too ! it 
would be surely translated correctly if there existed 
an equivalent for it. But grozny is just one of 
those Old Russian terms which seem to have no 
equivalents in the West. There is a different 
word which stands exactly for ' terrible ' with us 
(ujasny). But grozny is an adjective derived 
directly from the nouns ' thunder-storm ' (gr^za) 


and 'thunder' (grom)\ not simply 'storm,' for 
which we have several other nouns, but exactly 
thunder-storm. Thus grozny carries a more pic- 
turesque idea with it than ' terrible.' We apply 
the term grozny for everything that is silently 
dark and menacing and frowning, like the advance 
of a thunder-storm when you don't know whether 
it will leave you alive or not. If William the 
Silent were a Kussian Tsar' he would be probably 
called Grozny. With the additional syllable of 
nuance po which gives a touch of finish to the idea, 
the same root makes the world-renowned word 
pogrom ; another twist and it is transformed into 
' fulminating mercury,' one of the most terrible 
explosive substances known (gremuchaya rtut'). 

Equally untranslated by the historians and 
grammarians remains the term applied by us to 
the times of Dmitri and his few successors. In 
English this period of the Russian history is mostly 
called ' The Stormy Times.' But with us it is not 
' stormy ': the idea of our adjective in this case is 
the same which we apply to the state of water 
when something has rendered it turbid; or to the 
outlines of a landscape made undistinguishable by 
mist; or to an unaccountable feeling of foreboding. 
. . . There is an element of heavily-weighing 
unaccountability in that adjective (smutny) which 
is absent in its translations. 

In Russian a special twist is given to some nouns special 

twists to 

through the addition of the termination shchina. the nouns. 
It implies the whole atmosphere of ideas, feelings, 
and actions which have grown around a certain 
person, or a set of people, which forms its original 
centre, as it were. It is parallel to the Western 
1 ism/ e.g., Sheridanism, Voltairianism, Bismarck- 
ism, etc. So Biionovshchina stands for the most 
cruel officialdom, such as Biron, the German 
favourite of the Tsaritsa Anna (1730-1740), first 
introduced in Russia ; Hovanshchina is more or less 
known in England as the title of the beautiful 
opera given in Drury Lane in 1914, in which the 
whole world surrounding the Prince Hovanski 
forms the plot of the drama. Dostoyevshchina 
would be easily understood by every Russian, 
although it has just occurred to me on the spur of 
the moment: every student of Russian literature 
will realize that I mean the everlasting exaltation 
of suffering or of love, and the eternally throbbing 
nerves of Dostoyevski himself and of all his char- 
acters, with which they intensify the weight of 
every moment, of every passing word or thought. . . . 
Sometimes the all-embracing quality of the end- 
ing shchina is attached not to a person, yet keeps 
its power of giving a bold character sketch and 
that is where it is particularly popular and 
graphic : so, Dostoyevski himself constantly uses in 
the Brothers Karamdzov the word ugolovslicliina : 


Mrs. Constance Garnett translates it by ' crime '- 
the only way it can be translated approaching the 
original; but, being an excellent student of both 
languages, she is sure to know what I am going to 
say here, namely: that crime in Eussian is quite 
another word, prestupleniye ; but that Dostoyev- 
ski uses ugolovshchina purposely, as a word con- 
veying a much stronger flavour of something gross 
about it. Every crime is prestuplenie, whereas 
ugolovnoye prestupleniye means specially a crime of 
homicide, and the courts dealing with it are called 
ugolovny sud (the root of the word, gol ,va, means 
head). Now this adjective, ugolovny, is twisted 
by Dostoyevski into a noun by the special termin- 
ation, \igo\ovshchina, on purpose to suggest the 
whole gross atmosphere of Karamazov's crime. 
' . . . There is the scent of ugolovshchina about 
it ' is an expression used not only by Dostoyevski' s 
characters, but often heard in the practice of the 
judicial circles when a guess at some appalling 
criminal affair is made. 

A quite familiar, everyday word with us is 
kaz'onshchina, which conveys our scorn of official 
routine. The root of this word is kazna, and means 
Government funds; the adjective from it, ka- 
z'onny, means everything belonging to the Govern- 
ment, and is applied to service in civil or military 
circles, to schools and institutions, to buildings and 
all sorts of property belonging to the Government; 


officials live in a kaz'onnaya kvartlra; there is a 
whole ocean of kaz'onnoye ink and paper used in 
the offices; a soldier wears kaz'onnyie boots and 
clothes, etc. But, due to Russia's past history, 
this adjective has acquired a distinct meaning of 
dryness and stiffness, and therefore is used with 
irony or sarcasm as an epithet directly defining 
these qualities. Thus, a Russian peasant speaking 
of some official who refused to listen to his requests 
or explanations, will wave his hand and say: 
' Kaz'onnaya dusha !' thus implying that he gives 
up hope, because what can be expected from a man 
whose soul (dusha) is not his own, as it were, but 
merely an appendage of the Government ? . . . Or, 
a style of writing devoid of vivacity and freedom is 
universally called kaz'onny stiF. Again, Russian 
schoolboys people possessing the strongest diges- 
tion in the world ! are often laughingly spoken of 
amongst themselves and by their elders as having 
' kaz'onnyie ' stomachs: nothing can possibly upset 

This characteristic of immovable stiffness is 
still further accentuated by the ending discussed 
above, which turns it into a noun kaz'on- 
shchina. This is the word which the old cynic 
Karamazov uses in speaking of the monastic life, 
and which is translated merely as routine or con- 
vention. The poignant, flippant flavour is all gone 
from the original word. I repeat, this is not the 


fault of the translator in this and similar cases, 
but the impossibility in other languages of making 
all these telling, all-important twists. 

Very interesting is the fact that various term- 
inations used ad libitum for nouns, adjectives, and 
even other parts of speech, not only carry very dis- 
tinctly different shades of meaning, but suggest 
the attitude of the speaker, indicating the various 
tones of voice in which all these definitions would 
be uttered. For instance : 

The expression of old Karamazov, ' Jidy, Jidkl, 
Jid'lshki, and Jid'en'ata,' does not mean ' Jews, 
Jewesses, and Jewkins,' as it is translated: they 
convey, through this assortment of terminations, 
nothing but the speaker's contemptuous attitude 
to the Jews, whilst their wives and children are not 
implied at all. It would be nearer the tone of the 
original to translate it ' all sorts of dirty, wretched 
Jews.' True, Jiden'ata is often used for defining 
Jewish youngsters; but, along with the other 
diminutives, this word stands here solely to under- 
line Karamazov's tone of contempt, and this is 
clear from the next phrase in the original, in which 
Karamazov says, as an antithesis : ' but I ended 
by being received by Hebrews.' Mrs. Constance 
Garnett translates this : ' received by Jews high 
and low alike.' But in this paragraph she has 
not understood the original (an exceptional case). 
May I explain that it carries distinctly all the differ- 


ence which, in Kussia, rests with the choice be- 
tween the words Jew and Hebrew. Strangely 
enough, in other languages, even in Yiddish itself, 
the people of that race are called Jews, and they 
accept it as a matter of course; but in Russia the 
Jews are bitterly offended when they are so called 
(Jidy). In fact, no one does it, except with in- 
tentional insult. One takes great care not even 
to pronounce this name (even in the form of an 
adjective) in the presence of Jews at all: it must 
be Hebrew (Yevrey). Thus, saying that his busi- 
ness ended by his acquaintance with Hebrews, 
whilst it began with Jidlshki and Jid'en'ata, old 
Karamazov obviously uses the selection of con- 
temptuous terminations with the purpose of dis- 
tinguishing the Jidki from Hebrews, whom he 
thus classifies as a better type and is prepared to 

That same attitude of the speaker towards the 
object winds its way throughout the numberless 
endings expressing, ad libitum, love, contempt, 
fear, respect, etc. The old cynic Karamazov him- 
self is called by his philosophical son Ivan a 
1 st&iishishka ' a twist of the word for old man 
which breathes of nothing but disgust; while 
starch is used by everybody as a term of profound 
respect for the other old man in the book, Zoslma, 
although both forms of the word come from, and 
mean, old man. 


In the Western world one does not meet with 
characters like Al'osha, Zoslma, ' Idiot/ Platon 
Karavayev, Tsar' Feodor loanovich, Gor'ki's 
' Granny,' Son 'a Marmeladova, and other such 
outstanding characters in Kussian literature and 
Tender- history. Naturally enough, the style of language 
love wind- surrounding these types can be nothing else but 
way essentially Russian. They are living embodi- 

ments of utterly selfless love, and therefore the 
language. ^^ wor ^ o f their language and of the lan- 
guage surrounding them the Russian language 
of love is unimaginable and non-existent in any 
other language. It is essentially Russian in many 
features. To begin with its terms of endear- 
ment, for instance: my falcon bright, my bright 
light, my red sun, my rodnoy (see p. 59), etc. 
But this is far from being all; the order of 
the words itself commands various degrees of 
' caressiveness ' the latter in itself being a char- 
acteristic feature, without which the Russians 
could not live. To return to the order of the 
words, ' my dear boy ' in Russian carries with it 
considerably less ' caressiveness ' than ' boy thou 
mine dear '! It sounds ugly in English, but beau- 
tiful in Russian. It is placed by Dostoyevski in 
the mouth of Zosima when addressing Al'osha, 
and is inevitably translated in the only one correct 
English way. 
There is a passionate love for the soul of Nature 


and soul of Man which radiates human warmth 
and sympathy winding its way throughout the 
whole of Russian literature : through Tolstoy's and 
Dostoyevski's classical characters in prose, through 
Nekrasov's poetry, Ostrovski's drama and comedy, 
through the modest types of Chehov and Gor'ki. 
In one of his brief sketches, Chehov brings out a 
vivid figure of a quiet monk who takes people 
across a ferry to his monastery for the Easter 
midnight service: he is in an ecstasy of love and 
worship. Being also a born literary artist, he 
speaks of the subtle beauties of expression to be 
found in the Old Slavonic psalms ; he mentions the 
Akaphist to the Virgin, and says : ' The shortest 
line addressed to her should breathe of sunshine 
and wind, of the beauty of God's thunder-storms 
and of the little field flowers. . . .' 

Diminutive forms more than often do not mean 
' little ' at all, but suggest something else charac- 
teristic of the moment. 1 For instance, when 
Dmitri Karamazov observes a responsive spark in 
the eyes of his brother Al'osha, he calls them 
' cjlaz'onld ' : neither simply glazd nor glaz/a, both 

1 There is an excellent example given in Mr. Nevill Forbes's 
Russian grammar: lie says that when a guard on a Russian 
train, asking you to show your ticket, uses the word bU'rt'ik 
instead of saying it in its original form, bil'et, it means that he 
will not decline a tip ! This is perfectly right, and beautifully 
illustrates the attitude of the speaker, expressed in one little 
additional syllable ! 


meaning eyes, but gl&z'onki : this is because Dosto- 
yevski wanted to convey to his reader the exact 
manner in which Dmitri Karamazov was struck by 
the responsive flash in his brother's gaze. It needs 
a whole paragraph to carry it in English; the ter- 
mination chosen by Dmitri (glaz'owH) conveys 
approximately this : ' Ah ! those dear, serious eyes 
of yours; they, too, can sparkle with the ecstasy 
of passion ! . . . You understand me I can see 
it in their gleam, and I love you the more for it. . . .' 
Dmitri's discovery of a weak spot in his pure- 
minded brother, and of loving him the more for 
it, is all expressed in that ending of the word which 
he has chosen from amongst several other ter- 

One of the latter, for example, is glaz'ishche, used 
on fantastically uncanny occasions; thus, in speak- 
ing of the meeting of a child with a witch, the 
story-teller will describe her eyes, in a voice of 
horror, as ' green gl&zishche glittering with a bane- 
ful light.' Or, the vacant gaze of a half-witted 
street-corner philosopher would inspire his com- 
rades with the desire to shake him and say: ' Gey, 
wake up ! Why are thy gl&zlshche coming out of 
thine head ?' 

That same termination goes beautifully with the 
boots (ordinarily, sapogl) of a man who steps into 
your house from a muddy road without having 
wiped them; we dislike dirty boots intensely, and 


the first thing you will call out on this occasion 
(instead of remarking politely that ' it is very wet 
indeed ') will be : 

' Vytri (wipe) s&ipojishchi-to ! Ish, natoptal !' 
Well, in this short phrase the termination added 
to the ordinary word for boots makes one instantly 
visualize the glance of disgust which the speaker 
has cast on those clumsy boots, heavy with mud 
sticking on to them; to is one of the eloquent par- 
ticles that form no part of speech at all, but are 
bits of various words; it stands here for further 
intensifying your demand to see those boots wiped 
first of all ! Ish is another of those particles, and 
stands for ' There, just look at him !' While 
natoptal (the past tense, in singular, masculine, 
from the verb toptdt' = to tread, with the addi- 
tional syllable of nuance no) means : ' Hasn't he 
made a mess on the floor !' 

Total: Sixteen English words necessary to con- 
vey the meaning of the three words and two 
' particles ' of the Russian original. 

Sometimes a diminutive ending conveys bound- 
less mockery. For instance, the piskdr'iki (in the 
scene of the scandal at the monastery, Brothers 
Karamdz v) is translated by Mrs. Constance Garnett 
as ' gudgeons ' and couldn't be translated as any- 
thing else, because piskar'fe' are gudgeons as well 
as piskar'i ; but there is a world of difference in the 
tone of the speaker, who is using the first one in- 


stead of the second : Karamazov selects it to express 
a world of scorn and most emphatic defiance. 1 
various There are caressive terminations given even to 


tions con- adjectives and adverbs. For instance, Dostoyevski, 

veying the 

exact atti- in describing the grey hair of the elder Zoslma, calls 

tude of the . 

speaker, it not simply s'edyie (grey) hair, but a'&d'e 

which every Kussian would also do, because the 
old man whose appearance is described is good and 
attractive and sweet and small. One could not pos- 
sibly say s'ed'en'kiye about the hair of a man if 
one hated him ! Yet in another language it can be 
nothing else but simply ' grey ' (s'edyie) unless it 
is ' greyish,' which is a different thing; and thus the 
lovable attitude of the speaker is not conveyed here 
any more than it is in hundreds of similar cases. 
(By the way: s'edyie stands for grey hair only: 
grey mice, or donkeys, or coats, etc., are s'eryie.) 

If you speak of a far distance without specially 
objecting to its being far, you make the adverb 
daTeko (far) into a daVokon'Tco ! Or, in trying to 
persuade your friend to come with you to your 
destination, you say it is Uiz'ohon'ko, in a coaxing 
tone of voice, instead of saying simply Uizkc, 
although both mean ' near ' in English a word 
which could not possibly be distorted. Or ' early ' 
is in Eussian rdno. To express unpleasant antici- 
pation at the thought of compulsory early rising 

1 I allude so frequently to this special book, being under the 
impression that it is the one Russian novel which has really 
attracted attention amongst the English public. 


you would say ranavdtof Whereas, speaking of 
rising to enjoy the beauties of the dawn, you would 
say, with keen appreciation, ' It was so beautiful 
this morning that I got up mn'ohon'ko /' This 
latter twist to the adverb is also used in a tone of 
childish complaint, as in the opera ' Rusalka ' 
(Mermaid) when the forsaken heroine complains 
that her husband wakes her up very early for the 
sole purpose of telling her that he will be absent for 
the day as usual ! 

Even some conjunctions carry different degrees 
of the same meaning with a partial alteration of 
the word; thus, otchevo means ' Why ?' but if the 
question is asked in a rude tone, it is expressed by 
the absence of the first syllable. Thus, you would 
affectionately reproach your friend: ' Otchevo did 
you not come and see me when I expected you !' 
But, if an old comrade thrusts himself into your 
private den at an inconvenient moment, you are 
sure to exclaim with irritation: ' Chevo hast thou 
come at this hour ?' Or, in a crowd in which every- 
one is eager to get to the front, you will not infre- 
quently see a fellow who is elbowing his way 
through, stopped by the none too polite query: 
' Chevo dost thou push ? 51 The Russian crowd is 

1 It is this sort of ' why ' that would be used in the above- 
quoted remark addressed to a street-corner philosopher. 

It should be noted that it is a different word to the genitive 
of the pronoun ' what ' (chto, chevo, etc.). The rude half of the 
conjunction ' why ' goes exclusively with verbs, not nouns. 


rougher than an English one, and the same people 
who will show great depth of feeling in matters of 
importance remain insensitive where mere polite- 
ness is concerned. To us politeness does not neces- 
sarily indicate goodness of heart. 

Numerous adjectives defining shapes, colours, or 
any other qualities are given that twist of caressive- 
ness if the speaker is in a gentle, appreciative mood. 
So, b'ely means white; but b'&'ea'it means nice and 
white. Speaking of a pretty white kitten or puppy 
you are most likely to apply the caressive form of 
the adjective, b'ePen'ii; but a snow-covered land- 
scape or a white elephant could not be possibly 
called otherwise than b'ely! Well perhaps with 
one exception : if you did wash and scrub a white 
elephant or a white hippopotamus with your own 
hands, and took rather a pride in it, you might 
say, in admiration : ' Look at him ! Isn't he 
VeVertki now V 

Likewise, you would call a blue sky golubdye n'ebo ; 
but a baby's blue blanket would be more likely to 
be called goluben'koye. (Again, these examples do 
not mean whitish or bluish at all: in that case they 
would acquire stiJl different terminations.) 

Don Quixote was thin, huddy ; whereas a frail, 
meek boy is Imd'en'ki in the conception of his 
mother, and simply hud in the definition of a 
business-like doctor. 

Sancho Panza was a jirny fellow, fat ; but when 


the Kussian Easter markets are teeming with nice, 
fat, pink poros'dta, sucking pigs, their owners, 
the shopkeepers, in inviting the crowds of buyers 
each to his stall, call out in an appetizing manner 
twisting both the name of the tasty subjects and 
their desired quality in an admiring way: Poro- 
s'atH iim'en'kiye! Poios'onochki prejirnyie ! . . . 
Pojaluyt'e (be welcome) gospoda, pojaluyt'e ! . . .' 
Only the adjectives depicting qualities of power, 
beauty, alertness, as well as those dealing with 
abstract and wider conceptions, or those defining 
unattractive qualities, keep their original forms 
always quite logically, too: because they com- 
mand respect, admiration, serious thought, or dis- 
pleasure, and not a merry, lovable or humorous 
attitude. Such are, for instance, moguchi=powei- 
ful, pr'ekrasny= beautiful, bystry= quick, lovki= 
alert, v'echny = eternal, sm'ertny = mortal, po- 
b 'edny victorious, mlrny= peaceful, etc. 

Effectively balancing the caressiveness of the Poignancy 

T> i J.-L -A. A A. of ex P res - 

Russian language there is its poignancy. A great sions. 

deal of poignancy has been lost (or perhaps purposely 
omitted ?) in the Russian works by the translators' 
dropping almost all the graphic, pointed expressions 
which are labelled ' slang ' in English. I have 
already mentioned that our authors do not hesi- 
tate for a moment to use slang, not only in the 

mouths of their characters, but in speaking for 



themselves. For instance, the words quoted in 
the footnote below 1 and taken at random from a 
standard English translation are incomparably less 
cutting, less sarcastic than they are in the Russian 
original. And again, greatly trusting and admiring 
Mrs. Constance Garnett's knowledge of the Russian 
language, I can only suggest that she must feel 
cramped and limited by the non-existence of many 
equivalents in English as well as by the ostracism 
exercised by English literature over everything not 
comme ilfaut, even when it is the very expression 
which would put the spark of life into a bookish 
phrase. There certainly exists some splendid Eng- 
lish slang which cannot be translated even into the 
Russian ; but we feel it a very provoking and very 
disappointing thing to be at a loss on these rare 
occasions ! We would never think of improving an 
author by polishing his language. And it would be 
exceedingly interesting to know what makes the 
translators deprive Gor'ki and Dostoyevski of the 

1 For instance: Puny weakling, fantastical fellows, to 
attach himself to a good family, on the slightest encouragement, 
greediness, orgies of drunkenness, had thrown herself into, he 
gets rid, father, not over scrupulously, blackguard, telling lies, 
run at your father with a knife, the piano, uttered his foolish 
tirade, it was a nonsensical idea of mine, I want to pass for a 
man, that is what pulls him through, they don't smell it, un- 
clean, get up ! thou liest, thrashing, girls, drunk, emasculate, 
dirt, regular fright, quite, what is this to do with, nice looking, 
etc. These phrases and expressions are not at all slang in 
English, which they ought to be if they were meant to convey 
the author's tone in his narrative. 


colours which should remain inseparable from their 
palettes: is it their entire absence from amongst 
the English paints ? Or have they no passports 
into English literature ? 

# * * # * 

Talking about slang, I would like to mention Some 
something about Russian swear-words and expres- swear- 
sions of anger in general. We are not goody- 
goodies. There seems to be room for everything 
in the Russian nature and Russian speech. A 
very popular manner of swearing in Russia is the 
one summed up in wishing all sorts of uncomfort- 
able things for the victim : 

1 Mayest thou feel empty !' (suggesting both 
material and spiritual emptiness, hunger and lone 

' May crayfish trample thee flat !' 

' May It blow thee up as large as a mountain !' 

' Mayest thou have no top or bottom P 

' This is enough to carry the Saints (the ikons) 
out!' Or : ' Carry away my grief !' . . . These 
two exclamations escape us when we hear giftless 
singing, or playing, or some utter nonsense. 

There must be a kind of instinctive competition 
in imagination in this case in every language, I am 
sure. The more boundless the imagination the 
better ! I don't mean that there exists no swear- 
ing or cursing in Russia which is not fit to be ac- 
knowledged by any language. Gor'ki calls it 
' idiotically mean,' and says that it remains dark 


even to the minds of those beasts who utter it. 
But I would like to say, by the way, that there are 
many curses centring round dogs, which would cut 
to the heart those English ladies who call themselves 
the ' mothers ' of their pet dogs. . . . This, in its 
turn, jars upon us ! There exist no households in 
Russia where the dog's outing or food would form 
a recurring topic of conversation even at meals. 

The old English expression ' Scratch a Russian, 
find a Tartar ' ought to be forgotten for more than 
one reason. Firstly, because a Russian does not 
need any scratching in order to get at his inner- 
most self. Really, of our two nationalities it is 
not the Russian that does need it ! ... It is 
the best part of a Russian that you always know 
where you are when you have to deal with him. 
Secondly or rather consequently it is not the 
Tartar at all that comes out with (unnecessary !) 
scratching, but the true, real Russian himself. 
Because his next best quality is many-sidedness: 
he allows himself to be openly angry when he feels 
angry, just as he allows his heart to go out to 
people when they do appeal to him. We are not 
capable of concealed fermenting, whether with 
wrath or exaltation. Therefore the expressions 
chort voz'mi! (devil take it!) and chort znayet! 
(devil knows) are much more homely with us than 
they are in this country, especially as we have 
two words for devil: b'e<$ is a sinister, right-down 


wrathful personality, while chirt is a spirit of mis- 
chief unpleasant, but understandable ! When 
angry, a Russian does not search in his pocket for 
words, as we say, but he has no need, either, to 
search for them when he is delighted with you. 

The things that make a Russian angry most are : 
injustice, stupidity, cruelty, narrowness, and gift- 
less rendering of art's creations. 

Just another few lines before I close this topic. A unique 

. term to 

There exists one very quaint and very Russian depict 
word not exactly a swear- word, but an expression 
of neglect and of distaste for someone. Please 
remember the respect with which intellect is re- 
garded in Russia ; but if I succeeded in making that 
point clear at the beginning of the book (pp. 17, 
18), you will not feel surprised for more than one 
moment that the term of contempt I am about to 
explain is derived from the noun meaning brains ! 
Yes, mozgl is brains, and is often used for intellect, 
just as in the English phrase ' he has got brains ' ; 
but the adjective mozgl'dvy, or, still worse, moz- 
gl'aven'ki is a most unpleasant characteristic. Its 
nature is very subtle, though, and I wonder whether 
I shall be able to explain clearly. Again I must 
look for help in Dostoyevski: the old father Kara- 
mazov was a mozgl'avy starichlshka the last word 
meaning in itself a nasty, objectionable, little old 
man. He had brains, yes : but he had brains only, 
and the other characters in the book call him moz- 


gl'avy with disgust. The word carries an idea of 
dry-as-dust brains, of a large skull over a shrivelled 
body, of a leering smile ; on the whole, of an intellect 
not supported by the blood of the heart, nor even 
by a healthy physique. Thus the Eussian defini- 
tion is as unique as it is poignant. We do not use 
the adjective ' brainy ' with respect, as it is used 
in English; we do possess it (mozgovoy), but it 
goes only with medical and anatomical definitions. 
We do say ' this business needs brains ' ; but the 
moment the noun is turned into the adjective 
mozgl'avy it goes with people's characters only 
and means brainy in a wretched, withered, blood- 
less, warmthless way. 

* # * * # 

I wonder whether the word nadryv contains its 
exact meaning in its English aspect, ' laceration.' 
This is one of the beloved words of Dostoyevski, 
simply because it conveys the atmosphere of that 
typical Eussian spiritual suffering. Laceration, in 
English, means not only tearing something which 
still remains intact as a whole, but also a rending 
into two distinct parts. Now, nadryv means ex- 
clusively a rough, but not final rent whether in a 
substance or a situation: the syllable nod being 
there distinctly for the purpose of conveying this 
nuance; because a complete laceration is razryv, 
and not nadiyv. Both of these words are applied 
in Eussian to concrete as well as to abstract sub- 


jects. A nadryv in one's faith, or love, or friend- 
ship, is a universally acknowledged pain. It causes 
efforts to mend things where a final blow (laceration 
=raziyv) would be more logical and more bearable. 

Dostoyevski's ultra-Kussian characters torture 
themselves with their ultra-noble efforts to do 
things which are superhuman, but which they 
regard as essential, highest and purest. Therefore 
they do not attempt to attain the relief which a 
final laceration (raziyv) would give them, but go 
on painfully enjoying a nadryv: i.e., that half-rent 
which makes them continually try and persuade 
themselves that their superhuman efforts are not 
only just and beautiful, but attainable as well. 1 

So, Katerina Ivanovna is trying with all her might 
to love the reckless Dmitri when she loves Ivan. 
Or, to take a modern example, if a girl engaged to a 
soldier at the front tried to continue loving him if 
he lost both his arms and legs, this would be a 
typical love with nadryv as Dostoyevski means it. 
Nadryv may also mean a ' breaking- point ' in 
people's relations; but this English definition would 
not convey any more than ' laceration ' does that 

1 Parallel to the nouns nadryv and razryv, in connection 
with tearing, there are: 

Nadl6rn and raslom in breaking; 
Nadr'ez and razr'ez in cutting. 

In each case the first definition conveys the incomplete 
action; whereas the second means that things are completely 
rent, finally broken and divided. 


particular painful effort moral effort in one's 
own heart which, is typical of the Kussian nature 
as illustrated by Dostoyevski. I wonder whether 
there is a perfect absence of that supernatural 
effort in the English nature ? Or what is it else 
that accounts for the absence in the English 
language of a definition for this subtle human 

I must make haste and reassure my reader 
that not all Russians live at such a red-hot pace ! 
But Dostoyevski himself did, and therefore instinct- 
ively made his heroes do likewise. Bits of their 
personalities are scattered all over the land, if I 
may say so ; but they do not appear very frequently 
in their entirety. It was Dostoyevski's vocation 
to pick them out and to show them to humanity, 
enveloped in his great love. And the Russians 
recognized their weak brethren, those great suf- 
ferers, and made them live in their hearts for ever. 

But my English friends, after they have read 
Dostoyevski, ask me with a sincere, guileless smile : 
' Do Russian men cry ?' 

I hope Englishmen would cry, too, if they ever 
lived in their inner lives at the rate Dostoyevski's 
men do. They would be unhuman if they didn't. 
But I cannot very well imagine Englishmen con- 
fessing even to their most cherished friends, and 
in moments of superlative excitement, anything 
resembling Dmitri Karamazov's frank avowal: 


'. . . When I do leap into the pit, I go headlong 
with my heels up, and am pleased to be falling in 
that degrading attitude, and pride myself upon it, 
and think it to be beautiful and in that very 
depth of degradation I begin a hymn of praise. Let 
me be cursed, and vile, and base, but I too kiss the 
hem of the veil in which my God is shrouded. 
Though I may be following the devil, I am Thy son, 
Lord, and I love Thee, and I feel throughout me 
that joy without which the world could not be 
there. . . .' 

Or like Ivan Karamazov : 

'. . . Though I may not believe in the order of the 
universe, yet I cherish the sticky little leaves in 
spring. ... I know that I am going to a grave- 
yard, but it is a most precious graveyard : precious 
are the dead that lie there, every stone over them 
speaks of such burning life in the past, of such pas- 
sionate faith in their work, their truth, their 
struggle, and their science, that I know I shall fall 
on the ground and kiss those stones and weep over 
them; though I am convinced in my heart that it's 
long been nothing but a graveyard. And I shall 
not weep from despair, but simply because I shall 
be happy in my tears, I shall steep my soul in 
emotion. . . .' 

The graveyard thus alluded to by Ivan is the 
world of his education abroad. The Romance 
' precious dead J might be surprised with such a 


passionate attitude towards them of a man of 
twenty-three ! He is not shy to express it. 

A few lines further on, Ivan adds : 

' I love the sticky leaves in spring, I love the blue 
sky. ... It isn't a matter of intellect or logic 
one loves nutrom, chrevom. . . .' 

These last two words are translated : ' With one's 
inside, with one's stomach. . . .' 

I cannot let this pass. Chrevo is not the 
Modern Eussian, but the Old Slavonic, for 
stomach, which makes all the difference to the 
colouring of this sentence in the original. The 
first of the two words, nutrom, is not an every- 
day definition for inside, either. I understand 
that the English of the Authorized Bible pre- 
sents some luxurious choice of beautiful ancient 
expressions; and, in the given instance, the Old 
Russian expression corresponds to the lines ap- 
pearing in the old version of the English Bible 
twice (1 Kings iii. 26 and Genesis xliii. 30) : ' For 
her bowels yearned upon her son,' ' For his 
bowels yearned upon his brother.' The only subtle 
difference being that ' yearning ' is nearer to the 
Russian conception toska (p. 91) than to the 
overpowering thirst for loving which Dostoyevski 
saw in Ivan's heart. Nevertheless, the quoted 
biblical expression does convey the idea of the 
immense difference it would make if adopted in 
translating, and the justice it would do in that 


way to the original. As it stands now, how an 
English reader must laugh at the way of ' loving 
with one's inside, with one's stomach !' How 
common it sounds in modern, everyday English ! 
Yet, we apply the definition nutrom not only to 
loving in an intense, instinctive way, but even to 
acting in a beautiful manner. The most beloved 
of our greatest actors and actresses are always 
those who create their parts, not merely with the 
help of refined mentality, but also by living in them 
with every fibre of their bodies and all the inner- 
most particles of their egos. That is called playing 
nutrom. Certainly not one genius of the Kussian 
stage would be able to understand how to follow 
the minute instructions which English dramatists 
shower on English actors. It would be utterly 
impossible to him to play nutrom, i.e., actually 
living through every moment of the play with the 
highest intensity of which a human creature is 
capable, while handicapped by the author in every 
step and gesture. 

Thus the expression to love with one's inside, 
with one's stomach, must look to the English eye 
' funny;' it does no justice to the feeling which in 
this country is usually well screened by decorum. 
Here is again the same old difficulty the differ- 
ence in national characteristics. The dislike of 
the English for mentioning their feelings leaves 
them unable to invent words to define these 


feelings. As to actually experiencing them, I 
cling to the bright hope that ' perhaps a hundred, 
perhaps ten, perhaps one . . .' amongst refined 
Englishmen has cried for once in his life with exalt- 
ation, or with the complexity of his spiritual 
suffering ! 

..." I am vile, and I am pleased with myself. 
Yet I suffer with being pleased with myself ' . . . 
says Dmitri. 

' One lives in his books; Dostoyevski makes one,' 
writes one of my brilliant English friends; ' but I 
feel physically exhausted after having been for an 
hour or two in company with the Karamazovs. Is 
it the even tenor of my English mind rural and 
philosophic which refuses to be disturbed by the 
intensity of their emotions ?' 

It is inevitable that a great writer like Dosto- 
yevski should arouse a sense of disturbance in all 
equable philosophic minds, and although I feel 
sorry to see my beloved friends exhausted, yet 
... I think Dostoyevski may do them a little 
good ! 

As it is, I have been pleasantly surprised to hear 
many a time another English remark on the same 
author : ' It is most extraordinary : he shows you 
the vilest situations, describes the darkest crimes, 
and yet you don't feel indignant with his char- 
acters. You feel just sorry for them.' 

This leads to the gist of Dostoyevski's command- 


ment: . . . ' We are all the same. . . . We may 
be better where we are, but we would have been 
just the same in their places. . . .' 

I met one Englishman (just one, labelled by his 
friends as ' quite mad ') who said : 

' I realize that Dostoyevski is undeniably right 
in stating this.' 

I have been obliged to use the word command- 
ment just now because this is the nearest to the gjj which 
Kussian meaning. There is a blank space in English Russian 
for the exact conception which every Russian would woui a 
apply here. Commandment in Russian is zapov'ed* ; Russian. 
but there is a word somewhat akin to it, yet im- 
plying less of the authority of the law and more of 
the wholehearted willingness to obey: it is zav'et. 
We apply it to a dying person's last words in which 
a wish is expressed for something to be carried out 
after his death; we call a parting wish of our be- 
loved one a zav'et ; a wish of our mother, or dearest 
friend, is also a zav'et to us: in fact, everything the 
fulfilment of which we regard as our cherished, 
sacred duty. Literature and art especially 
dramatic art have also the fascination of their 
zavety l to us. The theatre is regarded in Russia 
not merely as a pleasant pastime, but as an edu- 
cational factor in our lives, from which we expect 
material for profound thought; the stage is our 

1 In plural. 


beloved school of life. Therefore, the word zavety 
is constantly applied to our stage, poetry, and even 
music to art in all its branches. The zavety of 
Tolstoy, Dostoyevski, Shchedrin, Ostrovski, Gogol', 
Pushkin, Chaykovski, Vasn'etzov, Nest'erev, Be- 
1'lnski, are concrete, vivid conceptions to us, per- 
fectly clear and beloved commandments : Tolstoy's 
zavet is spiritual peace; Turgen'ev's virgin love; 
Pushkin's nationalism ; Dostoyevski' s all-for- 
giveness; Shchedrln's, Ostrovski's enlightenment; 
G6gol"s, Chaykovski's love for Kussia's vein of 
art and sadness; Vasn'etzov's and Nest'erev's 
love for Russia's mysticism; Chehov's and Gor'ki's 
present problems of her social life; and so on. 
Therefore I have instinctively tried to define Dosto- 
yevski's leading idea as his zav'et to us. It is one 
of those definitions without which the Russian 
language would cease to be Russian. 

The nearest English parallel is ' watchword/ but 
one never hears it applied so often and so lovingly 
as the zav'et is applied with us; here the same old 
national difference in the hue of the definitions 
stands out clearly: In pronouncing ' watchword ' 
you imagine a strict, strong, unyielding fighter 
defending his ideas, almost a warrior; in pronounc- 
ing ' zav'et ' we imagine a grave idealist repeating 
his dreams on his death-bed, his very eyes asking 
those who remain after him to continue the message 
to the world, for which he has already travailed. 


The adjective zav'etny is a dear one, and is applied 
to a cherished memory, to a sacred longing, even 
to some certain little nook in the world, which, for 
some personal reason, has become secretly precious 

to you. 


The latest pearl in Russian literature is decidedly A new 

J pearl of 

Gor'ki's Childhood. In it he describes his early Russian 

J literature. 

experiences in a dark corner of Russian life, amongst 
the industrial artisans at Nljniy Novgorod some 
forty years ago. That corner was full of ' leaden 
viles,' as he calls them. 

' It was that virile, mean truth which is not yet 
dead. That truth which should be exposed down 
to its roots in order to be pulled, with its roots, 
out of our memory, out of Man's soul, out of the 
whole of our hard and shameful life. . . . 
Although these viles are disgusting, and have 
crushed a number of beautiful hearts to death, 
yet the Russian is still so healthy and youthful 
in his spirit that he is overpowering them, and will 
finally overpower them. It is not only this which 
is extraordinary in our life that the layer of 
beastly viles is so rich and so fertile but also the 
fact that through this layer the Light, the Healthy 
and the Creative, still victoriously force their way 
and grow, good and humane.' 

Even in this very corner of drunken cruelty, a 
whole world of the people's beautiful speech is 


again revealed to us. Gor'ki's own masterful chisel 
creates genuine Eussian words at the need of the 
moment, and they correspond to the similar 
genuine art of his characters in beautiful harmony. 
Even before, Gor'ki wrote in a style which was a 
fascination in itself even to those who were not 
carried away with his subjects. But his Child- 
hood is acknowledged as his chef-d'osuvre. It is 
no wonder that The English Review hastened to 
produce some of it for the English public 1 ; and 
also, it is by no means wonderful that the trans- 
lator was obliged to leave out whole pages ! As 
I have already mentioned, one feels grateful for this 
consideration on the part of the English translator 
towards Gor'ki. If Gor'ki does not know English, 
he must be surprised at these abbreviations; but 
if he does, he is sure to be thankful in his heart. 
Even comparatively small alterations hurt the eye 
and ear of a Russian who reads this translation. . . . 

With the very first phrase of the book Gor'ki 
plunges into the present tense, which obviously 
' wouldn't do ' in English (as it is replaced by the 
imperfect tense throughout) : 

' In a half-dark, shut-in room, on the floor near 
the window, lies my father, dressed in something 
white and extraordinarily long. The toes of his 
bare feet are strangely erect, the fingers of his 
caressive hands are folded on his chest, and are also 

1 It has been since published in book form. 


crooked; his gay eyes are tightly covered with 
copper coins; the kind face is dark and frightens 
me with its uncanny grin.' 

And so on. Gor'ki keeps to the present tense for 
several pages, and they lose half of their graphic 
power in the quiet English past tense. 

Here is one of the differences between our The 


two languages : the present tense is decidedly our Russian 
favourite. So much so that we sacrifice to this 
weakness even our grammar ! If you want to 
give a vivid picture of what you have seen or heard, 
you invariably say it in this way : 

' Yesterday I walk along the street and I sud- 
denly see 

' Last week I meet So-and-So and I hear 

' Three years ago I am crossing Europe on my 

way to England when I suddenly come across 

etc., etc. 

We cannot help this form of narrative. It dis- 
tinctly vivifies our speech. Of course, this theoreti- 
cally-absurd combination of the past times with 
the present tense is not so striking when those 
times are not defined: thus, although the picture 
of Gor'ki's dead father lying on the floor refers to 
some fifty years ago, the narrative runs smoothly, 
without mentioning the time at all as if it were 
all happening now beneath the eyes of the reader 
which is the purpose of the author and which 

makes him instinctively apply the national style 



of telling a story. All our heroic epos, whether 
repeated or written, is given in the present tense. 
You can drop into it at any place of any of your 
narratives, too. A very popular modern novel is 
written in the present tense throughout its nine 
volumes and the author makes you live in it. So 
here is already a big though seemingly inevitable 
drawback in the English version of Gor'ki's Child- 

Another The rays of love shining through the pages of 
Russian this wonderful book are different from those of 
of love. Dostoyevski's. They are equally Kussian, but they 
emanate from types less complex. The wicked 
passions in the atmosphere of this book are un- 
bridled and cruel in a more primitive way; but so 
are the joys. Everything is haul-relief without 
having the arabesques of refined complexity worked 
in their surface. And in the place of painful love 
' with nadryv ' (p. 150), like Kat'erina Ivanovna's, 
or Grushen'ka's (for the Pole who left her), we find 
here those rays of love which bring warmth and 
sunshine unmolested. Such is also the love of 
Dostoyevski's Al'osha, Idiot, and Zosima; but then 
they are far from being simple natures, whereas 
Gor'ki's Granny stands out as a nugget of gold in 
her joyful readiness for self-sacrifice and forgive- 
ness, without a trace of nadryv in her heart: they 
are born in it as a matter of course. Her large, 
plump, round-backed figure, with an extraordinary 


mass of jet-black hair falling down to her knees, 
and her shining black eyes enwrapping you with 
an almost physical sensation of pulsating, boundless 
love, will, from now on, remain like another symbol 
of that only true joy the joy of loving given to 
humanity. Her funny appearance does not stand 
in the way. Her powerful spirit emanating it 
shines from every page of Gor'ki's Childhood ; and 
one likes to leave oneself exposed to those warmth- 
giving rays of Granny's, whether she is inspiring 
her grandchild with the beauties of ancient folk- 
lore, or abating the quarrels between her drunken 
sons, or ' swimming out ' in a spontaneous dance. . . . 

' Lord, Lord ! . . . How beautiful everything 
is ! ... Just look round thee how beautiful !' 

' This was the cry of her heart,' says Gor'ki ' the 
motto of all her life,' although even the boy himself 
was wondering what there was so beautiful in the 
appalling surroundings of their home ? 

An artistic vein was one of Granny's charms, 
which filled people's hearts with exaltation; and 
Gor'ki's description of her spontaneous dancing in 
the hut at the dye-works will give perhaps a 
glimpse of her outstanding personality. 

' Granny seemed to be not dancing, but telling 
a story. There she was, moving slowly, as if deep 
in thought, looking round from under her lifted 
elbow, her big body swaying hesitatingly, her feet 
cautiously feeling their way. Then she stopped, 


as if frightened by something. A momentary wave 
of anxiety, of discontent, flashed across her features 
and suddenly they were lit up again by her good, 
friendly 1 smile, as if she were greeting someone. 
She swayed to the side, seemingly making room 
for someone, bent her head, became quite still, as 
if listening to something, her smile growing brighter 
and brighter. . . . And suddenly as if some 
power swept her of! her feet she plunged into wild 
dancing, like a hurricane ! In an instant she be- 
came taller, slimmer, and it was quite impossible 
to take one's eyes off her.' 

Granny To judge by the simple manner in which Granny 
God. spoke to her little grandson, God seemed to be 
quite near to her life. Telling him about the 
cunning of her sons (each of whom was going to 
establish dye-works of their own and therefore 
wanted to lure the best workers from their father's 
establishment), she explained their tricks with 
perfect simplicity and chuckling gently: 
' They only make God laugh at them !' 
On another occasion, she tells her little friend 
and admirer, Gor'ki, that she had had eighteen 
children born to her: 

' Eighteen !' she repeated joyfully; ' they would 
have occupied a whole street full of houses if they 
had lived ! I was married before I was fourteen, 

1 Caressive ' smile is the usual Russian definition for a 
good smile, which stands in the original. 


you see, and I bore the first child a year later. 
But God came to like my blood and kept taking 
my babies to join his angels. It was a pity, 
but it was joyful. . . . He took the best ones for 
Himself, and left me the worst ones. So I was very 
happy to adopt a foundling. I love you so, you 
little ones !' 

Her mind found a connection between God and 
her favourite horse, the mischievous, spoilt Sharap, 
who would pretend to bite her shoulders with his 
white teeth, would drag the silk shawl off her 
head, and would look at her slyly, shaking the rime 
off his eyelashes, expecting to be treated by her to 
something which would please his sweet tooth. 

1 What, my child ? What, kitten V Granny 
would say to him, unharnessing him after his long 
run in the sledges ' up to mischief, art thou ? 
Well, well, come on, God's toy !' 

She would speak of her God even to cats and 
birds and trees and flowers ; and believed that when 
' wandering to see the sufferings,' 1 God's Mother 
visited all Russian provinces her native E'azan', 

The nightly prayers of this Granny are exquisite ! 
Gor'ki says that, as a little boy of ten, he found it 
most interesting to listen to them. She would 

1 There is an akapliist in the Greek Church under this title, 
a poetic allegorical description of human sufferings and of how 
the Virgin wandered all over the world to see them and pleaded 
for the sufferers before God. 


detail to God everything that had happened in the 
house during the day: 

' Thou knowest this Thyself, Lord, that everyone 
wants to get the best of everything. Well, that's 
why Michael wants to remain at his father's dye- 
works. Going over to the other side of the river 
to the new works he considers unfair to himself; 
the business over there is untested, the place is 
new. Meanwhile, his father l prefers Jacob to stay 
with him. Well, is it a nice thing to like one child 
more than another ? The old man is obstinate 
that's what it is. Wouldst Thou not explain all 
that to him, Lord ? Send him a dream such a 
one as he may understand how he should decide 
the business between his children.' 

' She bows to the earth,' continues Gor'ki, ' knocks 
her brow against the bare floor, then, raising herself, 
again speaks in a persuasive tone full of meaning : 

' Wilt Thou not send some joy to Barbara ? In 
what way has she made Thee angry ? Why is she 
a greater sinner than the others ? It won't do : she 
is young, strong, yet has got to live in sadness. 
And, Lord, remember Gregory : his eyes are getting 
worse and worse. Why, if he goes finally blind, 
he will have to go a-begging quite a wrong thing ! 
He has wasted all his strength on grandfather, but 
grandfather won't help, will he ? ... Lord, 
Lord. . . .' 

1 Granny's husband. 


' She remains silent for a while, obediently bending 
down, looking as if she were asleep or frozen, then 

'What else?' And she tries to think, knitting 
her enormous brows : ' Have mercy, Lord, and save 
all orthodox people me, too, the wretched fool 
that I am. Thou knowest, I sin not with wicked- 
ness, but because of my stupid brain !' Finally 
she adds lovingly, with perfect satisfaction : ' All 
is known to Thee, rodnoy. . . . Thou knowest 
everything, Bat'ushka !' 

By the way, the reader will see here that this 
special twist to the word ' father ' (bat'ushka) is 
applied by simple-minded people even in address- 
ing God, as well as the favourite caressive adjective 
rodnoy (see p. 59) 

Really and truly there exist no intonations in 
the English speech for such a prayer. It needs 
the nuances of a Russian voice, and then it may be 
appreciated even by a foreigner's ear. 

Nearly every morning Granny would find new 
words of touching admiration for the Virgin. . . . 
' Thou pure beauty, source of joy, heart of the 
heavens, dear golden Sun, blossoming apple-tree !' 

No wonder a powerful creative impulse of speech 
was implanted in the young brain of her grandson, 
who grew up at her side during the impressionable 
years of his boyhood. 

Grandfather's God seemed to be of a different 
nature. Sometimes the old man used to come into 


Granny's bedroom before she had finished her 
morning prayer. He would listen for a while, and, 
later on, grumble sarcastically : 

' Haven't I taught you over and over again, 
you oak-head, how you should pray ? But you 
keep to your own silly way like a heretic ! I am 
astonished God can stand you.' 

6 He will understand,' Granny answered, with 
perfect, smiling conviction. ' He will make it out, 
whatever we tell Him.' 

God was so near and human to her mind that 
once or twice, as the constant quarrelling between 
her old husband and his sons grew to an appalling 
extent, she even asked Him : 

' Lord, Lord, has Thy clear mind failed Thee in 
the case of my children ?' 

And, in her usual talks with her grandson, she 
once thoughtfully remarked, helping herself from 
her snuff-box : ' Methinks, there may be cases when 
even He can't make out whose fault it is. He 
must be looking and looking down at the earth, 
watching us all, and at some odd moments He is 
sure to burst into sobs: "Men, men! My dear, 
beloved men ! . . . How sorry I feel for you !" . . .' 
And she would shed tears, making that God of hers 
still nearer to the future author. 

But that same dear old funny fat Granny was 
the same person who stopped the great disaster of 
the fire which broke out at the dye-works. Being 


interrupted in the midst of her night prayers, she, 
nevertheless, never lost her presence of mind, and 
instinctively took charge of the whole business. 
She, herself, brought out of the flames a bottle of 
copper-sulphate with her own hands, and made 
everyone work likewise, at the same high pressure. 
When the fire was finally extinguished her husband 
was for once proud of her, and, stroking her big, 
round shoulder, said: ' Sometimes God is merci- 
ful to thee, and gives thee a great understanding 
for an hour or so.' 

Kecent letters from Russia describing the excel- * i3Q for 
lent work of the nimble, strong peasant women Russian 
in our cornfields and hayfields which they take as 
a matter of course remind me of the praise on the 
part of this coarse man two generations ago. The 
attitude of the peasant men towards their women 
has entirely altered. Their efficiency is heartily 
appreciated, and men praise them nowadays in a 
way which is crisp and snappy : 

Molod etzbaba ! l (See p. 42). 

Or'eh baba ! Nut of a baba ! 

Pul'a baba ! Bullet of a baba ! 

Ogon' baba ! Fire of a baba ! 

Bogatyr' baba ! (Bogatyr' being the Old Russian word for 
a hero, and meaning one ' rich of,' i.e., 
endowed with wonderful qualities. 
Nowadays the expression ' grey bo- 
gatyri,' meaning modest bogatyri, is 
frequently and lovingly applied to the 
Russian soldiers. 

1 In the case of an unmarried girl the word baba is replaced 
by d'evka (p. 41). 


This point takes me back for a moment to 
Gor'ki's Granny it is very difficult to part with 
her ! the only thing she was afraid of in the 
veritable hell of her husband's home was black 
beetles. She could discern the approach of one 
even at a distance, in the dark; and many a time 
her grandson had to get out of their bed at her 
ardent request, and creep about the floor on all 
fours, whilst she was waiting breathlessly with the 
blanket right over her head. 

' Why art thou afraid of black beetles ?' the boy 
would ask her. 

And she would give the clear answer : 

' Why, because I can't understand what they are 
made for. All they do is to creep, creep, creep 
all over the place ! Good God has given every 
moth its task; wood-louse is there to indicate that 
the place is damp; the bug to show that the walls 
are unclean ; if lice attacks someone it means that 
he is going to be ill. Everything is clear, but these 
beasts tarakany who can explain what kind 
of power there is within them, and what do they 
come for !' 

In concluding my pages about Gor'ki's speech 
and that of his characters, I must give the literal 
translation of some extracts from a book of his, so 
bold and natural in their definition. I wonder if 
they will find their way to the innermost hearing 
of my reader. . . . 


' The stillness of the night stroked (my) heart 
with her warm, hairy hand. Somewhere flared up a 
human voice. Everything was lovingly intensified 
by the responsive silence. ... A drunken shriek 
boiled up in the street.' 

Or: ' The Works became sick of chewed people, 
and they flowed in a black stream through the 
opened black mouth (of the Works). 1 A white 
dishevelled wind (of a snow-storm) was flaring up 
and down the streets, driving the people into their 

Or: ' Grandfather bristled with his golden hair 
and beard.' 

And here is a paragraph in the words of the 
grandfather of Gor'ki's, who was in his youth a 
burldk on the Volga, towing with other harnessed 
men immense barges for thousands of miles against 
the current: 

' One of the fellows would let his song come The 
soaring out of his heart. The others would join speech as 
in with him and one suddenly felt as (one does 
when) the frost gives thee a good slap on the back 
and the whole river seemed to flow faster and faster, 
as if it were going to rear and rise on its hind legs 
right up to the clouds !' 

' What nonsense !' is very likely the impression 
of a literary English mind, but our peasant has 

1 The explanatory English words which are not needed in 
Russian are given in brackets. 


boundless imagination, our writer a carte blanche 
for depicting it, and our reader the capacity for 
enjoying it. 


The evoiu- Dostoyevski finally moulded his zav'et (p. 157) 
Dostoyev- as he neared the end of his literary career which 

ski's out- 
look, was really an incessant torment of inward searching. 

At its beginning, when his life was granted to him 
at the last moment on the scaffold platform, 1 and 
he was sent to the Siberian mines, his attitude 
towards life was a sweeping revolt against humanity 
and its destiny, as he then saw them. He lived 
through that period of spiritual despondency 
(toska), which branched off into Karamazov- 
shchina (see p. 133): 

1 Man loves destruction and chaos to the verge 
of passion. . . . Man needs exclusively the free- 
dom of his own willing. . . . He will curse the 
whole world which is his only prerogative amongst 
living creatures and, doing so, he may perhaps 
achieve the consciousness of being more than a 
piano-key. . . . Life is pain, life is fear. . . . 
There can be no solving of problems, no final 
achievements for humanity, because these would 
mean the end of pain and of struggle which are 
man's only reason for existence. Achievement 
would be like two and two makes four, and two 

1 He gives a marvellous description of these moments by 
the mouth of the ' Idiot.' 


and two makes four is certainly the beginning of 
death, gospoda, and is not life !' 

But the years in ' The House of the Dead ' 
(Siberian miners' prison) and further insight into 
life have gradually brought the torture of Dosto- 
yevski's searching spirit to the conclusion that 
' Man can love not welfare alone : he can equally 
love suffering.' ... ' All that is left to man is to 
love his pain and his suffering.' Here is the gist of 
Dostoyevski's religious mysticism on the waves of 
which he has finally launched his soul on its way 
to Eternity : the joy of suffering. Hence his char- 
acters throbbing with the reality of such joy: the 
Idiot, Son'a Marmeladova the Queen of Suffering 
Father Zoslma, Al'osha, Shatov. In them Dos- 
toyevski is essentially Eussian. 

In the first phase of his evolution the one of 
burning revolt against the gloom of everything 
he may be called the forerunner of Nietzsche. 
Nietzsche's ideas can be seen as though at the 
farther end of a telescope through the conviction 
of Ivan Karamazov that ' everything is permitted.' 

Also through the striking pages of Ivan's 
trying to explain to the idealist Al'osha that no 
one has the right of being beautiful when all the 
world is drowned in filth. But in Nietzsche there 
are no traces of the extremely Eussian childlike 
faith of Dmitri Karamazov, expressed in the lines : 
' There (in prison) we shall rise up to joy, without 


which neither man nor God can exist, because 
God gives joy, it is His prerogative. . . . We 
underground creatures, we shall sing glorious 
hymns to God from the bowels of the earth.' 

Wholesale repudiation is as utterly Kussian as 
this capacity for wholehearted mystic joy. Both 
result from passionate ' searching for Christ ' and 
from the Russian incapacity for compromise. 
Even Smerd'akov, a type of concentrated mean- 
ness, cunning and vulgarity, says : ' No one in our 
day can shove mountains into the sea except 
perhaps some one man in the world or, at the most, 
two, and these most likely are saving their souls in 
secret somewhere in Egyptian desert.' 

At this the old cynic Karamazov cries in delight : 
' Stay ! so you do suppose that there are two who 
can move mountains ? Ivan, make a note of it: 
there you have the Russian all over.' 

Again, Dostoyevski's aristocratic atheist and 
individualist to the marrow of his bones declares: 
' If Truth 1 existed outside Christ and not within 
Him, I would stand up by Christ and not by 

All this Russian mystical philosophizing, from 
the singing of hymns by the ' underground crea- 
tures ' to the ' contemplating of precipices,' has 
been instinctively laid down by Dostoyevski as 
the foundation-stone for all modern Russian phi- 

1 The Old Russian istina in this case not prdvda. 


losophy, poetry and religious aspirations. His 
titanic creative power is calling forth the inner- 
most voices of revolt, of nadryv (see p. 150), and 
of religious individualism. All three are essenti- 
ally national, and that is why the zav'ety of Dos- 
toyevski's go deeper with us than even Turgenev's 
and Tolstoy's. The literature of this century is 
throbbing with them. It is often called the litera- A dreary 


ture of podpolye which is Dostoyevski's title for tion. 
one of his gloomiest creations saturated with 
despair. It has been translated as Notes from the 
Underworld and Notes from the Cellarage. Neither 
is quite correct. Both cellarage and underworld 
allow the conception of some sort of animal or 
vegetable life in them ; but podpolye literally mean- 
ing under the floor stands for depicting the state 
of mind and of breath, as it were, which would be 
the only possible one between the two layers of 
the floor, as floors are built in Eussia. One can 
well imagine that state. Breathing in it would 
be unbearable torment physically; thinking 
spiritually. Well, the works by the latest Eussian Dosto- 
authors really are unconscious seedlings of Dos- influence 
toyevski's first phase of evolution, when he felt Russian 
himself in a podpolye before arriving at an outlet 
by way of the joy of suffering. But what these 
modern authors write they write with the blood 
of their hearts. To quote a very lucky expression 
' There is no bourgeoisie about the Eussians' reli- 


gious aspirations. ' The whole of Andreyev's literary 
Self clings to the question once laid down by Dos- 
toyevski : ' Is it possible that I am created as I am, 
with the only aim of leading me to the conclusion 
that creating me was but a cheat ? ' 

Andreyev has come to the conclusion that there 
is no way out nothing but a dead wall placed 
before him and the rest of humanity. 

' Andreyev ought not to be a writer,' says a promi- 
nent modern critic. ' A writer is a priest of art, 
and art's aim is to retouch, to paint, to screen life's 
cheating in most artful ways. That is why art is 
eternal: it will go on striving for its aim for ever 
without being able to attain it.' 

From this point of view a group of the latest 
Kussian writers are not artists at all ! The idea 
which took even Dostoyevski many pages of throb- 
bing sentences is flung into the face of the content- 
and-sleek humanity in the one phrase of Andreyev's 
prostitute : 

' It is a shame to be good !' 

Her life is an eternal mental agony which bars 
the whole world from her sight- and Andreyev 
comes with her to the maddening conclusion that 
being pure, clean and good is a prerogative of only a 
few, and therefore they should not allow them- 
selves that luxury. All must go to the fatal wall 
and be crushed against it. 

' If there is no Paradise for every one, then I 


reject it for myself. It would not be a paradise, 
but merely piggishness. . . . Come, relief and bliss 
of realized helplessness ! Welcome, inevitable 
darkness, which will come to replace the deceit of 
life ! Let us drink for the extinction of all lights ! 
. . . Drink, Dark People, 1 drink for the Dark- 
ness to come to all alive ! . . .' 

Nothing could have a greater extinguishing 
power than such ideas, but the balance between 
them and ' the sleek majority ' still rests: the world 
rolls on ! And even the vehement Kussians are 
not driven to wholesale self-extermination by the 
fire of a genius of despair ! One suffers for him, 
one admires his power of frankness and the spon- 
taneity of his spiritual searchings but they do not 
kill the second ingredient of a typical Eussian 
mind: idealism. These two extremes must needs 
go together because they replace the balance of 

It seems a relief to dwell for a while on the power 
of Andreyev's speech alone. He is another eagle 
creating definitions with the beating of his wings. 
To quote a few lines of his : 

' A whisper of silence penetrated to his brain. . . . 
Delighted Sleep grinned happily, placed his hairy 
cheek against his, gently put one arm round him 
and tickled his knees with his warm hand, then 

1 In the original ' dark people ' are addressed as Darkness, 
which adds to the power of the phrase. 



put Ms fluffy head on his breast. . . . Hairy 
Sleep gave a victorious whoop, embraced him in a 
hot embrace and, in deep silence, with abated 
breath, they floated out into the bottomless, trans- 
parent depths. . . . There was the emptiness of 

Dostoyevski's love of suffering is absent from the 

minds of younger writers, and therefore they do 

not conquer our hearts altogether. They are 

priests only of the dark altar of Seeking. 

Feodor Feodor Sologub finds his religion in Death. 


the She stands sweet before him as the only clear goal 

of death, and solution, the only entity that can be achieved 
and the only knowledge. This religion permeates 
the whole of Sologub 's creations. He makes 
Death the only beauty and succeeds in giving her 
a fascination. The sweet triolettes about ' beloved 
north, beloved rain !' given in this book (p. 93) 
are his. It suffices a Kussian to repeat these lines 
to himself, giving him a chance to visualize them 
and he begins to feel as if the sighing moss, the rain 
and the dripping, trembling birches were really 
the most loveable of all Nature's charms. 

But Sologub goes much further than Gogol' and 
Chehov in his love of sadness. There is a sweeping 
gloom about Sologub's philosophy: 

' The imperfection of human nature has caused 
the mixing in one goblet of the sweetest joys of 
love with the base fascination of lust and thus has 


poisoned the drink of life with shame and pain 
and with the longing for shame and pain.' 
He cuts the knot by worshipping death, but this 
philosophy is not typically Kussian. It is only his 
freedom of deciding for himself on an individual- 
istic religion which is Russian indeed. 
As compared to the rejection of everything, a A typical 

T .11. T sacrament. 

much more universal and instinctively beloved 
sacrament of the Russian soul is confession: 
pokayaniye. We don't necessarily mean by this 
definition a confession of one certain crime, but 
the readiness to admit all one's faults and evil 
thoughts altogether the absence of shame in 
doing so and the willingness to be scrutinized and 
judged by others. The best illustration of this 
psychological point is the Russian word for good- 
bye. It literally means forgive me, and nothing The fc 5 ue 
else but forgive me. In one of the aspects of the 
verb it is prost'i or prost'lt'e (singular or plural), 
and in the other proshchdy or proshchdyt'e (singular 
or plural). The so-called lower classes invariably 
use this expression for good-bye when parting from 
their beloved ones, from their parents or masters, 
or even from their helpers. It sounds grave and 
elating, in spite of its seemingly humiliating nature. 
Russians put quite a different note into their voices 
compared to the English when they say good-bye 
whether it is prost'it'e or proshcJiayt'e. It is much 
more serious; and people involuntarily use the first, 


being the gravest of the two forms, when the cir- 
cumstances are in the least grave. The departing 
cook or nurse, whether she feels herself in the 
wrong or not, will usually say to her mistress, 
'prost'it'e, baryn'a.' The ' prost'l, bat'ushka 
barin ' l is altogether devoid of its nature in 'Good- 
bye, sir': in Russian it is extremely natural in 
its affectionate patriarchal tone. 2 To this is very 
often added between equals, too another typical 
expression: N'e pomindyt'e llhom ! which means 
' Don't remember me by the wrong I have done 
you.' Man and woman at the moment of parting 
after years of mutually painful intimacy and mis- 
understandings are sure to tell each other with a 
feeling of gratitude for what there had been beautiful 
between them and with a feeling of sorrow for having 
hurt each other: ' Prost'l ! N'e pominay lihom !" 
The youngest of Alexander II. 's assassins, a 
fellow of nineteen, when being driven to the place 
of execution, stood up on the dreary and clattering 
high vehicle and, moving along the streets of Petro- 
grad, bowed low to the crowds many a time, re- 
peating: ' Prost'it'e !' It instinctively combines a 
final good-bye with a pleading for forgiveness. 
That is why we more often say at an ordinary 
parting, do-svidanya, au revoir, than proshchdyt'e. 
The distinction here is still more acute than between 

1 See p. 50. 

2 Literally: Forgive, mistress. Forgive, father -master. 


the French au revoir and adieu : there is little hope 
of seeing each other again in the word proshchayt'e. 

The usual reply amongst the peasantry (and on 
grave occasions amongst all classes of Russians) 
to the prost'l said at parting is Bog prost'ti=God 
will forgive you ! Here again is the typical 
abstinence from passing judgment on other people. 
Even when asked for forgiveness the Russian 
doesn't consider himself in the right to judge 
another at all; and this truly national answer 
means: God will forgive you: it is not my busi- 
ness to judge even in the case of your having done 
me harm. 

I wonder whether I have made it clear that there 
is no humiliation in all this, but rather a quiet 
courage of admitting one's unavoidable demerits 
and mistakes. There is something characteristi- 
cally breezy about the Russian psychology ; along- 
side with this modest demand prosfife there exists A praise 

for one 's 

a definition which is perhaps the most striking foes, 
of all : it is lihoy (adjective), and llho (adverb), which 
are never conveyed in the translations by any- 
thing approaching them: nothing under a whole 
explanatory sentence could convey the distinct, 
sharp outlines of this most Russian definition. 
In South-Russian the noun llho means wrong or 
misfortune ; in Russian proper it is not in use now, 
although originally it also must have stood for 
' wrong ' pure and simple. But the point is, that 


at some time in the depth of the ages the adjective 
deriving from that noun, lihoy, has acquired an 
additional meaning: the latter stands for the 
acknowledgment of elegance and smartness in 
inflicting wrong of a courageous way of doing 
harm ! It is really a praise for those who are 
doing cruel things brilliantly, although with the 
intention of harming you. . . . There the foreign 
writers who like to speak of Russia with their 
hands clasped piously are bound to shut their eyes 
and ears: there is much in the Russians beyond 
their mysticism and even beyond the human 
warmth of heart; it is just this complexity that 
makes them interesting, because the complexity 
itself comes from the gift of seeing things from ever 
so many points of view. To those who really 
know them, the Russians are much more interesting 
than they appear in Mr. Stephen Graham's de- 
scriptions. He profoundly admires them, but his 
point of view is growing narrower and narrower 
with each of his books. I have heard many 
Russians who have read them apply to him, with 
good-natured condescension, our adjective pr'a- 
molineyny which means ' running along as 
straight as a straight line ' ; it does not imply the 
idea of deep, many-sided observation. 

Yes, lihoy is an essentially Russian epithet, and 
a most breezy one too ! It makes you visualize 
a foe whose art commands involuntary admiration 


lihoy vrag (vrag=foe). With the kazaki ( = Cos- 
sacks), it is a fine praise : it is the ambition of every 
one of them to be a lilwy kazdk ; and the combina- 
tion of these two words instantly draws a picture 
of a slim, wiry figure on horseback, as if chiselled 
with his animal out of one piece of steel one who 
will not be moved either in warfare nor in less 
dignified forms of struggle (the latter of which, 
we hope, will never take place again ! . . .). But 
there is a distinct touch of something aboriginally- 
poetical, aboriginally-handsome in this praise for 
a war-like attitude, and probably this is the reason 
why I have not once come across the epithet lihoy 
attached to ' a German ' (n'emetz) as yet, in spite 
of the very richly coloured, very local and very 
national Russian war-literature: somehow the 
Germans, as a foe, do not call forth ancient poetical 
conceptions even in inflicting wrong ! 

With a shade of bitterness added to it, the same 
adjective is applied to merciless Fate lihaya 
svd'ba (fern.) ; or to a brilliantly executed (!) cruel 
act lihoye d'elo : again there must be the element 
of aboriginal daring in it, pure and simple, to 
make that brilliancy fall under this definition; 
for instance a murder or a pillage, when no traces 
of the criminals can be found. This reminds me, 
by the way, of another expression defining the 
art in crime, however horrible that sounds ! It 
refers solely to those wicked deeds, the authors of 


which cannot be found out, despite any research 
and investigation; in such instances one says: 
tut komdr vosa n'e podtochit I It means ' there 
is nothing here on which a gnat could sharpen his 
nose !' i.e., not even a weeniest thing that would 
show itself on the beautifully-smooth surface. 

The adverb liho goes mainly with the ' diable- 
m'emporte ' kind of manners, conveying the idea 
of a smart dash-and-go before anything else; for 
instance, to sing liho means to sing so that every- 
one is bound to listen whether one wants it or 
not; liho sMchet troyka means a troyka is flying 
headlong in a magnificent way . . . and the foot- 
goers should look out sharp ! 

The same adverb is gaily applied in homely 
matters: a bright Eussian fellow, brimming over 
with un-used strength and ready to challenge 
laughingly the whole of the world, is very much 
apt to shift his cap to the back of his head, side- 
ways : this, combined with his mood reflected on his 
young face, and with the front tufts of his hair 
sticking out from under the cap with that same 
roguish challenge, sends for a second through the 
mind of those who meet him, the expression: 
shdpka liho na-b'ekr'en' ! There is no verb in it, 
only the noun shapka ( = cap), and two adverbs 
which must need go together on this occasion, 
because the liho means the very spirit with which 
a fellow would shift his cap na-b'ekr'en' ( = hat 


a-cock): you wouldn't do it unless you felt liho, 
would you ? 

We meet lots of them who do, in our town and 


* * * * * 

Before finishing with the dark colours in the The mystic 

writings of our youngest authors, I must mention poet. 

Zinaida Gippius. This woman certainly has a 
more marked stamp of a genius on her brow than 
any of the other modern writers. Despite her un- 
Kussian name, she was born for that Kussian 
vehemence which brings her, alas, nothing but pain. 
The brightest of all her poems is the one previously 
mentioned (p. Ill), ' Kussia speaking to her Singer.' 
It is not only quaintly poetic in its form, but 
typical in its spirit, akin to Dostoyevski's spirit: 

* Who will love my sins ail-forgivingly ? . . . 
Love the tall weeds alongside my walls, 
Love my poor drunken peasant !" 

But it is her uncanny nationalism which makes 
her speak thus; here she yields herself wholly to 
her love of country, almost uncanny in its inten- 
sity; because her general attitude towards human- 
ity's existence in this planet is all-round helpless- 
ness and condemnation itself. 

I feel inclined to startle my reader straight away 
by a literal translation of the most extraordinary 
of her poems ' Reality ' ; in other verses of hers 
he will undoubtedly trace what is called a poetic 


vein, while ' Keality,' I think, would be called a poem 
nowhere on earth except in Russia ! It needs the 
Russian passion for exploring the new; and fear 
of novelty is the last thing that could be expected 
from Zinaida Gippius. 

An extra- REALITY. 


poem. Sticky and filthy, fraudulent, horrible, 

Densely-stupid, ghastly, terrible, 
Slowly-cruel, void of honesty, 
Shameless, slippery, mean and stifling, 
Shamming happiness, hiding misery, 
Vulgar, hollow, sensual, cowardly, 
Sodden and stagnant, slimy and obstinate, 
Death or life undeserving equally, 
Slavish, contemptible, dreary, decaying, 
Glutinous, selfish, infernal, monotonous, 
Still in its impudence, dismal in quietness, 
Sleepily-heavy, wickedly artful, 
Cold like a corpse, worse than nonentity, 
Worse than unbearable false false deceitful ! 

With an impressionable mind it may bring one 
to the verge of wiping cold perspiration oil one's 
brow ! And it does now and again with the Rus- 
sians. But I am not anxious about my English 
reader. He will either laugh or pucker his nose. 

I here feel tempted to ask a solution to the prob- 
lem Why do the English find a ' charm ' in the 
Russians ? Our ever-searching, ever-analyzing 
national character, ' sadness which is joy,' joy 
which is exaltation, burning the candle at both 
ends and melting it in the middle, ever longing 


for prostor, headlong plunging into Karamazov- 
shchina including both torment through God and 
torment through no God all this must be per- 
fectly strange to the well-balanced British mind. 
But it is possible that while you outwardly apply 
the epithet ' charming ' you inwardly substitute 
for it ' amusing ' ? .... 

N'ichevo ! This does not hurt us. We make 
sincere friends all the same, wherever we meet 
something rodnoye (p. 59) in the English. 

I wonder whether a picture of the slowly-falling 
masses of snow, and its impression on Zinaida 
Glppius, will attract those who are used to the ever- 
lasting green grass of this snug little island : 

SNOW. Snow-the- 


Again it falls, miraculous and silent, 
Soaring, circling, settling gently down. . . . 
Its painless fall delights my thirsting spirit, 
It comes reborn of nothing, to exist awhile. 

It re-appears, a stranger sweet as ever, 
Oblivious and tempting in its cold. 
I always wait for it expecting miracles, 
I feel it near to me, akin in unity. 

It will depart, entrancing, soundless, stealthy; 
Its loss does not depress me : as before 
I'll wait. ... I love thy touch, my gentle one, 
My only one, my longed-for ! 

And still it falls soft, powerful, unhurried, 

Its conquest filling me with boundless pride. 

Of all the mysteries of earth, thou, Snow the wonderful, 

It's thee I love, thou Master of my mind ! 


There are not many people who are disturbed by 
the stillness of a moonlit night, but it invariably 
upsets our woman poet. My object being to convey 
as clearly as possible the psychological keys of the 
Eussian speech, I hope the English reader will allow 
me another one or two close translations of her 
poems in spite of their lack of classical English ; I 
can follow only the sense and the rhythm the lilt. 

What is What is lacking in the moonlight, 

thfmoon- In that dim-blue midnight secret ? 

light ?' In the stringless, silent music, 

In the sparkling shine of desert ? 

Gazing at it leaves me longing, 

Love in moonlight does not soothe me, 

Beams of moonlight sting acutely, 

Hurt so coldly, ever wronging. 

'Midst the rays of shining power 

I am powerless and dying. . . . 

Oh, if wings could grow from moonlight 

That I could go flying flying ! . . . 

The Eussian language allows a repetition of the 
words freely. The English reader must have 
noticed it in the everyday speech of Dostoyevski's 
characters. True, with him they repeat more than 
a Eussian under ordinary circumstances does. 
But then, you cannot meet whole families composed 
of or whole drawing-rooms filled with Dosto- 
yevski's people. In the Eussian original, they 
speak still more intensely than even the repetition 
^ English words and sentences can convey: be- 
cause W e have several conjunctions quite unknown 


in the English speech, which carry half shades of 
meaning (for instance, a, which is exactly half-way 
between the meaning of the ' and ' and of the 
'but'; also vprochem, v'ed', odndko, razv'e which 
do not exist in English at all, and are always trans- 
lated as the same old ' but '! Also a number of 
what we call particles, one-syllable little bits of 
words, which serve the same purpose. 1 They all 
come in with the repetition of words constantly, 
and the difference they make can be here explained 
only graphically. When the English translator 
is reduced to repeating, ' But you thought so ? 
You thought so ?' the Russians, and especially 
Dostoyevski's and Andreyev's Russians, say: 
' But you thought so ? V'ed' you thought je so 
odnako ?' 

All these je, da, to, li, by, v'ed', a, d'e, an, chay, 
znay give whole chords of colour in Russian, sug- 
gesting doubt, obstinacy, sarcasm, conviction, etc., 
on the part of the speaker which are not depicted 
in any other words and therefore, meeting no 
equivalents in English, inevitably remain untrans- 

Without dwelling on this additional technical 
difference, I just want to point out the manner of 
mere repetition of words, which does not actually 
emphasize or twist their meaning, but adds quaint 

1 They exist to some extent in Greek, as well as some 
parallels to our syllables of nuances. 


music to the poetry. The prolific poets of the last 
two decades, Bal'mont and Val'eri Br'ussov, drop 
into that manner frequently; but I shall try and 
translate another little poem by Zinaida Gippius 
in which she does the same. In Russian it sounds 
transparent, lucid, and delicately, daintily tristful: 

My window is high above the ground, 

Above the ground, 
I see but the setting sun large and round, 

So large and round. 
The sky looks vast and indifferent, 

So indifferent, 
It takes no pity on my heart, 

On my poor heart. 
Alas, I'm dying with sadness that's gnawing me, 

Gnawing me, 
Longing for things unknown to me, 

Unknown to me. 
Where has it come from ? I cannot grasp it. ... 

Cannot grasp it. 
I am drawn by things which have not passed yet, 

Not passed yet. 
My heart is praying for miracles, 

High above earthly pinnacles, 

Pinnacles ! . . . 

A It is easy to notice that with all her Russian 


longing, vehement mentality, Zinaida Gippius knows not 
the other end of Russian nature: she is not 
given the joy of prostor, the delight of razmah 
and razdolye all those glorious qualities which 
make a Russian one with the land and which 
find for him a way out from his toska through 


this very responsiveness and exuberance of vitality. 
Even Dostoyevski's love for the ' underground 
creatures ' and an atheist's tenderness for ' the 
sticky little leaves in the spring,' as well as Son'a's 
ardent desire that the man whom she loves should 
go out on a crossing and kneel and kiss the earth 
which he had insulted by his crime and confess 
about it aloud even these sad passions result from 
breadth of spirit. It is this breadth which has 
created the expressions prostor, razdolye, razmah, 
udal' ! (pp. 25, 70, 71) ... Openness! Freedom! 
Not in the name of narrow personal comfort, but in 
the name of acknowledging each of one's aspirations 
without shrinking, without shirking, without fear of 
ridicule, without false shame. The mind of Zinaida 
Gippius and her contemporaries finds its way only 
into the darkest corners of reality. They are blind 
to the rays of light. Their chutkost' is used up 
exclusively in one direction sharing people's 
sorrows. After speaking about them an average 
Russian feels inclined to take a deep breath of 
fresh air, to stretch out his arms and to call up 
in his memory the visions of G6gol"s Troyka, 
Gor'ki's Granny, Al'osha's and the Idiot's lovable 
personalities, Chehov's Monk, Tolstoy's Pet'a and 
Natasha and the soldier Platon Karavayev, Alexey 
Tolstoy's foaming sea, Igor' Sever'anin's ' halcyon 
day of spring ' well, even the folk-lore heroes 
standing out in the fascinating vigour of their 


primitive ' dear strength ' (the absolutely un- 
translatable sllushJca bogattyrsJcaya), etc., etc. 
some It is all these which keep unwavering one's 

thoughts, trust in Eussia's future: not Andreyev's kind of 
dead- wall future, but the future in which there 
will be room for sadness and even for joy or 
suffering because the effects of a sad history 
cannot be finally effaced but which will throw 
open wider than ever Kussia's gates to the innate 
power of loving, the freedom of thinking and the 
sense of art. These have come up intact from the 
depth of aboriginal national spirit. The sense of 
art is a plant that has been growing uninter- 
ruptedly from the heart of the Kussian soil. Its 
bloom is rich. And amongst its daintiest flowers is 
the one which seldom stands plucking and cannot 
live in any atmosphere except its own without 
losing its fragrance: and this is the Russian 



A The other day we were discussing the Russian 

parallel, language with Mr. Nevill Forbes, who knows it 
wonderfully well the only Englishman, in my 
knowledge, who is actually able to appreciate ' the 
flavour and luxury of the Old Slavonicisms in 
it,' to use his own expression. 

' It is certainly more magnificent than English,' 
said he, and added : ' I should say, the difference 
between the two is like that between the robes 


of a Russian Bishop and those of an English 
Bishop !' 

This is a witty remark. But, being Russian, I 
feel inclined, for justice sake, to dwell for a 
moment on that lucky comparison. 

It is not only the robes of our Bishops. . . . 
However agnostic or atheistic we may feel, the 
scene surrounding the Bishop, or even the look of 
a small log-built church in the course of a service, 
makes a quaint impression on us. I am not 
talking of any religious elan or of the moral 
influence of our clergy ! Far from that. . . . 
But, once that the outer appearance of a Russian 
Bishop (as compared to an English one) is taken 
as an item to convey the idea of Russian language 
(as compared to the English) graphically, I want 
to be fair and to include in the comparison the 
surrounding atmosphere as well. In every church, 
at every service (except in Lent) the Russian 
clergy's robes are of that same gorgeous style as 
those of a Bishop's, only on a smaller scale. Very 
well they stand for the ' flavour and luxury ' of 
our language. But the long-haired and golden- 
robed priest is surrounded by a crowd of naive, 
childlike believers, who do not all sit down or 
all kneel at the same time (in fact, they never 
sit because there are no seats in the Russian 
churches at all), or all read from the same prayer- 
books (because prayer-books are not brought to 



church in Kussia), or all sing (because there is 
always a choir of nice voices only), but who repre- 
sent a rare picture of frank individualism and 
absence of self-consciousness. Everyone prays 
as his own heart dictates him at the moment 
some kneeling a long, long time, some remaining 
standing, with their look fixed on the golden gate 
shielding the altar and, probably, unaware of 
anything around them; others, again, involun- 
tarily yawning with (perhaps permittable) fatigue 
but hastening to cross themselves vigorously and 
to make several ' earth-bows ' (touching the 
ground with their foreheads) to make up for their 
weakness ! . . . And on various occasions hun- 
dreds of little wax-tapers flickering in the hands 
of the people in that motley crowd where everyone 
finds various ways for self-expression including a 
frank knock on a neighbour's back, with a one- 
farthing-taper and a message finding its way from 
the back of the crowd to light it at the altar's 
gate ' To Nicholas the Wonderworker who pleases 
God.' The Saint gets it duly, together with the 
firm belief of those present that their little lights 
will eventually lead them to the gates of Heaven. 
Well, if they don't, they certainly envelop the 
crowd in a warm glow. And, to my mind, the 
distinct touch of this warm, picturesque light 
enwrapping the scene forms the other half of the 
graphic parallel : the warmth and ' caressiveness ' 


of the Russian speech, (it is impossible to do with- 
out this word when speaking about Russia !) is 
not one atom less characteristic of it than its 
magnificence. And, gladly accepting the graphic 
comparison of the two Bishops' robes, I only want 
to add the comparison of the above-described 
scene in a Russian church to the one of an English 
congregation. However great and deep the re- 
ligious mood of the latter may be, there is no visible 
medium for individual self-expression about it: 
everyone is doing exactly what everyone else does, 
beginning and ending at the same time whether 
it is kneeling, sitting, singing or saying a prayer. 

' When is the time for them to say their own 
prayers ?' seriously asked me once a simple, 
religious Russian woman, obviously finding that 
there was no chance to pray ' in freedom, inwardly,' 
as her own heart was longing to. A religious 
Russian needs the atmosphere of the church, but 
he prays in it independently. 

Well, in my picture of comparison (not so far- 
fetched as it may seem at the first glance) the 
individual self-expression with a Russian crowd 
at prayer stands for the freedom with which thou- 
sands of Russian words adopt various forms 
according to the speaker's mood at the given 
moment; while the thousands of little lights 
glowing everywhere in the hands of that crowd 
correspond to those innumerable words of appre- 


elation, encouragement, sympathy, forgiveness, 
spiritual caress, love and tenderness with which 
the Kussian language is lit up so warmly, so 
beautifully . . . and so untranslatably ! 

When English people say in a tone of modest 
dignity that they ' do not wear their hearts on 
their sleeves,' it always strikes us for a second 
that we are horrid people who do so ! ... But 
another moment and the real point reveals itself 
to our mind: a conscientious effort of self -analysis 
brings with it the revelation that we don't wear 
our hearts on our sleeves either ! But, that some 
power, without asking our permission, has concealed 
little X-ray cameras just against our hearts. . . . 
NO senti- This reminds me of a review of Mr. Stephen 


-either in Graham's book The Way of Martha and the Way 


or love, of Mary. The critic * finds that ' Mr. Stephen 
Graham in recent years has taken himself over- 
seriously as an interpreter of Eussia to Western 
Europe ' ; and says that ' the Eussians we find in 
Mr. Stephen Graham's book are absolutely unlike 
the Eussians that we find in Chehov, Turgenev, 
Tolstoy and Dostoyevski. . . . They are senti- 
mentalized out of all life-likeness.' 

I can only back up the critic. He sees the Eus- 
sians better than Mr. Stephen Graham does 
because the latter hardly allows us any sense of 

1 Daily News, January 3. 


humour. It would be a quaint revelation to him 
if he realized some day that the Russians ... do 
not seem to appreciate his love for them. Even 
his call ( Love Russia !' makes them smile. Both 
in private correspondence and in the best liberal 
Press coming from Russia I can see this ungrate- 
fulness leaking out. 1 The overwhelming majority 
of Russians are unable to appreciate Mr. Graham's 
somewhat strange though sincere manner of 
burning incense to their goodness. After all we 
are but ordinary mortals ! However different 
national characters may be, we have not grown 
more than other nationalities out of the natural 
human habit of being human just human; and 
being ' sentimentalized out of all life-likeness ' 
calls forth our sense of humour. If we are per- 
mitted to know ourselves a little better than the 
most ardent foreign admirer of Russia does, I 
would like to point out that the ' warmth ' taking 
such a large part in Russian life and speech does 
not kill the sense of humour at all ! I would like 
to speak up just for that sense of humour rather 
innate in the Russians, in the place of senti- 
mentality with which Mr. Graham perhaps un- 
consciously endows us. 

However much warmth there is in a Russian and 
in his speech, this warmth is ever so far from the 
superficial, shallow nature of sentimentality. The 

1 See The Times Literary Supplement, March 16, 1916. 


absence of the latter ought to be clear from that 
word bat'ushka alone, which, perhaps, Mr. Graham 
also understands as * little father ' (at least I never 
heard of an explanation of this common mis- 
understanding from his pen). I tried my best to 
show in due place how detestably-sickly this 
manner of translating the fine Old Eussian grave 
and serious manner of addressing sounds to us. 
Only those Eussians who have no * sense of lan- 
guages ' at all and don't trouble about the exact 
meaning of words (there are some Eussians of this 
kind too !) can light-heartedly consent to this 
interpretation so unfortunately established. 

One cannot even imagine the two Eussian 
words for ' little father ' ever pronounced in our 
land at all ! They would be ' mal'en'ki ot'etz ' or 
' mal'enki bat'ushka ' and would sound absurd ! 
The combining of this particular noun with this 
particular adjective is absolutely unthinkable; it 
could not be borne by a Eussian mind. 

What is more, shoulder to shoulder with 
* bat'ushka ' stands its variety ' bat'ka ' and 
everyone who has lived in Eussia ought to know 
what a delightful couple these two make ! In 
order to be short and clear I will invite my reader 
for a moment back again to the little village church . 
... It is not unlikely that the wretched old 
priest had a little too much just before the service. 
Well, in that case more than one amongst his 


congregation will smile to himself and say : ' Olio ! 
Bat'ka is a bit tovo (a bit of that) F Not for a 
second would the usual manner of addressing a 
priest (bat'ushka) come into a Kussian's mind on 
such an occasion: it would be bat'ka unless it is 
merely pop ! 

I think, that bat'ushka and bat'ka, coming from 
one root, are excellent in depicting the contrasting 
proximity of seriousness and humour. But both 
of them are miles away from sentimentality. A 
little peasant fellow who had just had a spanking 
from his father (which is not common amongst 
the peasantry and quite absent with the educated 
classes) will explain the richness of his complexion 
to a sympathetically-inquisitive comrade in two 
words: ' Bat'ka pr'ib'il.' 1 Calling his father by 
this word bat'ka instead of ot'etz, or bat'ushka, 
or t'at'ka (all standing for ' father ' in a nice way), 
he will thus express his attitude at the given 
moment: namely, one of criticism, but at the 
same time one which it is not worth while dwelling 
upon. The peasant's criticism passed on his 
spiritual father's weakness is of the same nature: 
the next moment he will be deep in his mood of 
devotional worship far from being formal or 
perfunctory, but in free accord with what he feels 
moved to do and not thinking of the priest's 
lack of dignity at all. There is no decorum in 

1 has beaten me. 


the attitude of our peasantry towards their priest- 
hood: if there were any, the funny everyday word 
pop (for priest) would never have come into being. 
Both in pop and in bat'ka there is a world of 
humour. What is more, a demure, funny little 
priest would be called popik, which is the quint- 
essence of fun ! 

That is just the case : we laugh on many occasions 
where Mr. Graham probably does not want to see 
us laughing; consequently he ignores certain 
points of Eussian life. The comic element when 
observed in the sphere of orthodoxy and ' holiness ' 
is with us a perfectly natural target for fun. 

If you only could read in original the untrans- 
latable Sobor'an'e (The Cathedral-ians) by L'eskov 
what a wealth of that very Eussian humour which 
goes hand in hand with good-natured forgiveness ! 
Again, Chehov's tenderness for the failures of 
mankind: isn't it interwoven with humour now 
subtle, now farcically -naked which means a fear- 
less openness of good heart ? Is it anywhere near 
sentimentality ? 

Why, even the vague English definition ' lovers ' 
could be sooner related to sentimentality than 
our most decisive denomination (I'ubovniki) which 
draws a circle round the word for lovers (see 
pp. 15, 16) leaving no room for the question 
what sort of lovers they may be. Passion is 
certainly understood by this term; but no senti- 
mental parading. If there is any ' display ' about 


it say, in a man's going with his secret lover to 
the stalls of the Opera House pretending to be her 
ordinary acquaintance or a stranger then there 
is challenge and humour in it, but no desire to 
be sweetly called ' lovers ' by grannies and school- 
girls. His friends who know about his uvlecheniye 
(see p. 124) will express their understanding with- 
out words and will enjoy the situation as one of 
buoyant humour, feeling themselves a kind of con- 
spirators. This touch is not comparable with the 
atmosphere of the English morals, visible or con- 
cealed, just as ' popik ' and ' bat'ka ' are not com- 
parable with ' our vicar ' and as the two languages 
are not really comparable in their whole. The lack 
of common denominator in each of these spheres is 

So it is with regard to cases of profound emotions. 
The times, when Yronski's appearance in a theatre 
box with Anna Kar'enina whom he regarded as his 
wife was taken as impudence, are gone now. Russia 
has been developing since then in every way A little 
but one. . . . Only the sphere of home politics sion. 
in Russian life is rather unlike the others, and the 
road along it is somewhat barricaded in spite of the 
progress on its right and left. But we, true to our 
cherished dreams, still hope that the war will 
automatically overthrow this striking inconsis- 

But this one particular sphere of our dreams can 
hardly be called sentimental: there is an element 


of tragedy in it; and the absence of humour in this 
case is rather pardonable. 

Elsewhere, deepest emotions don't exclude a 
smile with the Russians. An old, essentially 
Russian exclamation in the form of an address is 
a typical illustration: ' Eh, thou, gor'e-bogatyr' !' 
. . . Bogatyr is a folk-lore definition for a hero 
richly endowed with victorious spiritual and 
physical power; while gore means grief, disaster; 
combining the two seemingly incommensurable 
conceptions and throwing them at a fellow without 
any further comment carries with it a world of 
sympathy (for some reckless, fruitless effort) 
combined with a smile. Don Quixote was a real 
gor'e-bogatyr' ! 

Russia would not have produced the genius 
of Gogol' and of Ostrovski if this laughter through 
tears were not innate in her very blood. 
The A ' snap- jack ' is to a sunlit room what humour 

of a snap- is to Russian tenderness. (I vainly asked a number 
Russian f m y friends what is the English word for the 
little patch of brilliant light which one sends 
fluttering about the room in one's childhood by 
means of reflecting sun-rays on a piece of broken 
looking-glass; no one could tell me. At last I got 
the ' snap-jack,' without a moment's hesitation, 
from a dear village landlady who commands an 
extraordinary vocabulary. It sounds most appro- 
priate !) That is why we do not quite recognize 


ourselves in the paintings by Mr. Stephen Graham : 
there is much colour in them, but the room is too 
hot and there is no ' snap-jack ' in it ! 

Therefore I am very anxious that the reader of 
this book educated on such representations should 
not draw a final vision of the Eussians exclusively 
with the help of their lovable and caressive terms 
discussed in its pages. They are not ' pretty ' 
these terms ! You must not call them so. For 
one thing, we have no word for ' prettiness.' 
The adjective ' pretty ' we have (horoshen'ki), and 
we apply it to pretty women's faces, their frocks 
and hats, to knick-knacks, to jewellery, to small 
gardens, small houses, small animals. But we have 
no word for prettiness. And it would never occur 
to us to call the words bogatyr', chutki, laskovost', 
rodnoy, prostor, razdolye, prost'lt'e, bat'ushka, 
etc. 1 ' pretty ' words. They are beautiful, because 
their meaning is deep. Nor are pop, or bat'ka, 
or baba, or sapojlshche, or mozgl'aven'ki 2 pretty, 
either ! If I add just one more word to the 
last set, my idea can be conveyed in a charac- 
teristic saying: this word is popadyd, and means 
the pop's wife 3 ; and the saying (applied when 
one is talking about the variety of tastes in 
this world) runs: ' Some like the pop, some 

1 See pp. 18, 23, 25, 50, 168, 179. 

2 See pp. 126, 141, 149, 199. 

3 I expect my reader knows that a man cannot take holy 
orders in Russia without being married. 


popadya, and some the tail of piggy !' Or, here 
is a variety: ' Some like a melon, some water- 
melon, and some the pop's daughter !' 1 

Those Kussian hearts can also be bursting with 
' naughty ' fun; we have no word for ' naughty,' 
but I think we understand its English shades of 
meaning; we find it too much rubbed into the 
astonishingly well-trained babies of this country, 
while the facial expression usually accompanying 
this blame when it is addressed to ' grown-ups '- 
makes us smile ! They can be very furious, those 
Russian hearts ; very indignant, burning with 
hatred, wicked, wilful, nonchalant; even cruel 
on the one cumbered road. . . . But the X-rays 
go on doing their work on all these occasions just 
the same ! And this is the most characteristic 
feature about the Russians. 


Final dig I would not like my reader to run away with 

' the idea that I am unaware of all the scientific 

arguments which philologists can hurl at me. 

I think I know most of them, and I would like 

my reader to know what I think of them. 

The main argument will be, that all this flexi- 
bility of words which we enjoy so much is merely 
an evidence of the primitive stage in the develop- 
ment of our language ; that other languages had it 

1 KTO non, KTO nonaflbio, a KTO CBHHOH XBOCTHKT. ! 
KTO jHoSurt fltiHio, KTO ap6y3i>, a KTO nonoBy 


once upon a time all these eloquent terminations 
and twists to the words but have dropped 
them as an unnecessary ballast. Then they will 
say that it is easier to learn the English, freed 
from that ballast, than any other language; and 
that this is, after all, the all-important advantage- 
making the English speech attractive to a number 
of nations on this globe. 

Well, I quite agree that the purely grammatical 
terminations can be called a ballast; and perhaps 
we would not notice or mind if they withered 
gradually and fell of? one by one leaving four out 
of the thirty-two terminations to a verb's stem. 
But when my English critics tell me that a selec- 
tion of precise adjective epithets works just as 
well as a special twist given to the noun itself in 
order to illustrate the speaker's attitude, I find 
it a little inconsequent: it is not in accord with 
the general English power through brevity. When 
people complain ' I have no time !' and a wonder- 
ful friend of mine answers simply and inspiringly 
'Make time, make time!' as if this were as easy 
as making crumbs out of bread and does so him- 
self this fills me with admiration. But, stringing 
a row of adjectives, as in ' dirty, nasty, objec- 
tionable, wretched, little old man,' instead of our 
simple way of merely adding two certain syllables 
to the noun meaning old man, does not look like 
making time to me ! The other alternative in 


English for such cases (as I equally gather from 
my friends) is to make faces ! Instead of saying 
something like ' Wipe your }>oot-ishche !' as would 
be the ominous twist to the Russian word for 
clumsy big boots heavy with mud the English 
people are supposed to convey their attitude of 
disapproval by a facial expression and tone of 
voice accompanying ' those boots !' This would 
be all right if they did; but they don't. Such 
things are always asked in the politest and kindest 
manner imaginable (if they are asked at all !) and 
we never see ' faces ' on our English friends' faces. 
The perfectly justifiable tend of their real thoughts 
on such occasions remains deep below. 

It is like an enchanted circle of mutual influence : 
innate reticence does not allow the English people 
sufficient colouring in their speech for fear of 
making it ' flowery ' and ' ridiculous ' (reasons which 
equally account for the lack of expression in the 
general English manner of reading aloud or re- 
citing) while their speech thus having been pruned 
close to its stem in its turn does no more send 
out shoots of tender green filled with springly 1 sap. 

1 I know that there is in English no adjective ' springly ' 
deriving of the soun spring (the season of the year, and 
not a spring in the mattress), but I am unable to manage 
without it. In Russian we have it in two forms, ancient and 
modern: v'eshn'i, v'es'enn'i. While the mattress-spring has 
nothing to do with it: it is npy>KHHa, with its own adjective 
prujinny ; and the third English spring for leap is with us 
different again : 


So we could not possibly accept this argument 
as carrying the point in favour of the English 
language for its being freed of ' unnecessary ballast.' 
To our mind, this part of the ' ballast ' is the very 
sun-colour of our speech. 

The last argument, about English being ever so 
much easier than Eussian, is beyond debating, of 
course. But if the Kussians had the choice 
offered to them either to have their language 
preserved as it is and have it spoken only by a 
limited number of foreigners, or to have it pruned 
like the Modern English and to hear it spoken 
by other peoples all round the world they would 
prefer the first, the unpractical alternative ! They 
wouldn't be Russians if they didn't. 



English conceptions not existing in Russian - 4 

An open question - - 9 

A side-light - 10 

A clash in a definition - 1 4 

The attitude of the Russian mind in general - 16 

and regarding fools and cleverness - 17 

and responsiveness - 18 
Quality causing responsiveness - 20 

illustrated by an instance at an English school - - 20 
Too much of it 22 
The beloved Russian conception: Prostor - - 25 
Foreign words in the Russian language - 28 
The all-powerful syllables or nuances - 29 
The characteristics and flexibility of the verb ' to be ' - 34 
Further transformations of words - - 37 
The power of terminations - - 40 
A new word for the Germans - 43 
A new reading of an old word - 44 
The Russian method of address - 45 
An ordinary term of sociability - 49 
Misunderstood terms of affinity - 50 
Indispensable Russian form of address - 53 
Another side-light - - 54 
N'ichev6 - 57 
A very Russian word for affection - - - ^59 
The order of words - 60 
A reminiscence - 63 
G6gol' the nationalist - - - - - 67 
A term of endearment for Russia - - - 67 




G6gol' on prost6r - - 68 

Conceptions without which a Russian could not live - - 69 

An important digression - 72 

Tr6yka - 75 

The possibility of G6gol's vision - 79 

The new idea of nationalism - 81 

No danger for England - 81 

A typical Russian word for quick wit - 82 

' Man,' ' woman,' and ' marriage ' - 85 

* Chin,' ' chin6vnik,' and Peter the Great - - 87 

An example of transference of ideas - - 90 

A very Russian conception - 91 

The ' sadness that gives joy ' -93 

The oneness with Nature - - 95 

Looking backward - -97 

A mainspring of Russian character - - 97 

Difference between the English and the Russian conceptions 

of belief - - 98 

Two words for ' Truth ' - 99 

' Behind-the-soul-ness ' - 99 

Some Russian sayings - 102 

No * slang ' in Russian - 103 

Untranslatable names - 106 

Creating new words - - 108 

A characteristic poem - m 

The part played by Old Slavonic - - in 

A query . n 5 

The keys to the fairy-tale, child-young nature of the Russian 

Language n 7 

An explanation via other channels - - 118 

Some simple derivations . n 9 

Subconscious will reflected in verbs - - 121 

No compromise - 122 

An everyday capacity . 124 

Baba a very Russian conception - - 126 

An historical anecdote - 128 

Two historical definitions wrongly translated - 131 

A special twist to the nouns - 133 




Tenderness and Love winding their way throughout the 

language - 138 

Various terminations conveying the exact attitude of the 

speaker - - 142 

Poignancy of expressions - - - 145 

Some Russian curses - 147 

A unique term to depict a dismerit - -149 

' Nadryv' - - 150 

Another word without which the Russian language would cease 

to be Russian - 157 

A new pearl of Russian literature - - 159 

The favourite Russian tense - - 161 

Another very Russian aspect of love - - 162 

Granny and her God - - 164 

Praise for the Russian baba - - 169 

The people's speech as presented by Gor'ki - - 171 

The evolution of Dostoyevski's outlook - 172 

A dreary conception - - 175 

Dostoyevski's influence on latest Russian literature - - 175 

Feodor Sollogub the admirer of death - 178 

A typical sacrament - - 179 

The true meaning of good-bye - 179 

A praise for one's foes - 181 

The mystic woman-poet - 185 

An extraordinary poem - 186 

Snow-the-Wonderful - - 187 

' What is lacking in the moonlight ?' - 188 

Abundance of conjunctions - - 188 

A Russian's longing - - 191 

Some hopeful thoughts - 192 

A suggestive parallel - 192 

No sentimentality either in religion or love - 196 

A little digression - - 201 

The presence of a ' snap- jack ' in Russian life - 202 

Final dig at English - - 204 



Razv'erzl'is' hl'ab'i 

n'eb'esnyia ! 
Zdrastvuyt'e - 
Naslajd'eniye - 

Baryn'a, baryshn'a - 
L'ubovnik (-ki, plur.) 
M'eloch, m'elochnost' 
Durak, durachdk 
Chtitki - 

T'ajela na podyom - 
Chtitkoat, chutki - 
Chuty6 - 
Pr'iv'&tl'ivy - 
Prostor - 
Spasibo - 
Br'esti - 

L'et'et' - 

Rvat' - 

Vitsa - 

M6r'e - 

Holm - 







Hyxbe - 



ITpocTop-b - 

CnacnSo - 

BpecTH, HaSpecTH, BaGpecxH, 
HaoSpecTH - 



!- 10 

1 1 

- 13 

- 13 

- 16 

- 17 


- 17 




- /-) ^ 

- 2 3 

- 25 

, BaopsaTb - 


Mope, BsMopbe - 







Pr'estdl - 

Vrat' - 










Da vat' - 

Sy&zd, razy^zd, pody6zd, 
vydzd, priyezd, vyiezd, 
obyezd, proy&zd, nay&- 
zdy - 





Yest' - 

U m&n'a yest' vr&m'a 

Byl6ye - 

Btid'e - 




Bfcdushscheye - 


Dtihi - 

Duhl - 

V6zduh - 

Duhota - 

Dusha - 

Dunov&niye - 

Otdyh - 

no6nTb, Bbi(5nTb, 

Grojrb - 


JlraTb - 

Tpyc-b, Tpycoearb 

, nan-BBaTb 
Ilfynaxb, namynaxb 

BpaTb, H 

GxaTb, nacTaxb, BCiaTb, ycxaTb, 

nepecTaxb, npHCTarb, aacTaxb 


, 061,- 
npo'fea.n'b, H-BT-b npo- 

, npo6biTb, c6biTb, 
y6biTb, BbiCbiTb, npuSbiTb, aa- 
6biTb - - 


EcTb - 

y MGHH ecTb BpeMH 

BbiJioe, CbiJib - 

BbiJio - 
BUTT, - 

.OjxoTa - 
Ayuia - 

3 i 

3 2 












Velikodiishiye - 

Prostodfrshiye - 

Dobrodtishiye - 

Duhovenstvo - 

Vzdoh - 






Pravda - 

Pravilo - 


Pravil'nost' - 



Pravitel'stvo - 





Napravleniye - 


Pravoslaviye - 

Vodit' - 

Zavodit' - 

Privod - 

Zavod - 


Nevod - 

Vzvod - 



Str6y - 





Nastroyeniye - 


.IJoGpoAyiiiie - 

B3flOXT> - 


npaso - 


VnpaBJieme - 



Hanpasjieme - 

Cxpott - 

CTpOttHOCTb - 


YcTpOfiCTBO - 

HacxpoeHie - 






Starina - 

- Ciapima 


Starost' - 

- GxapocTb 


Starik - 

- CTapnKT> 


Staretz - 

- CTapeijt 



- GxapHHOKT, 


Starikashka - 

- CTapuKaiima - 


Starichishka - 

- CTapHqiiuiKa - 


Staryo - 

- Orapbe - 



- MajibmiK-b 


Mal'chishka - 

- MajibHHUina - 



- Majib i iyraH-b - 


Mal'chonka - 

- MajibqoHKa, MajibHyraiiJKa, 

MajibHyraH t iHK'B, Ma:ib4HHbKa 


D'evochka - 

- .H'BBOHKa 


D' evch6nochka 






D'evchonka - 

- ^'BBHOHKa - 



- JJ-EBima 





D'evka - 

- 3'BBKa - 



- GbIHT> 


Synok - 

- CblHOKT, 



- CblHOieKT, 



- CbiHume 


Doctf - 

- J^OHb 


Dochka - 

- ^OHKa - 



- ^oqeHbKa - 



- JJoiypKa 

4 1 





- MojiOAeirt 


Byl' molodzu n'e ukor 

- BbiJib MOJio^uy ne yKopT> - 



- MojioAemt 



- FepMaHi;bi 



- H-feMI^bl - 


N'emdy - 

- HfiMOfi - 


Slav' an' e 

- GjiaBHHe - . 



- Coji,n;aTHKT> 



- repMaHeu,T> 


Germanchuk - 

- FepMaHHyK-L - 



- Hi>Meivi> 



- H^M^ypa 



- FocnoAHHi. 


Gospoja - 

- FocnojKa 



Golubchik barin 
Hey, vy, goltibchiki ! 
Bat 1 ushka 

Gosudar' - bat' ushka 
Mllostivyie gosudar'i 

Milostivyia gosudaryn'i 

Brafczy - 
D'et'l, d'dtki, d'et'lshki, 

d'etochki, d'etvora 
Puzyr' - 

Pr'irdda - 
Rodstvo - 
Narod - 
Urojay - 
Rodina - 

Rodnoy, rodnaya, rodnyie 
Pobil'i - 
Izgnal'i - 
Pravdu - 

Sapogi gannon'ikoy - 
Sapogi butylkam'i - 
Larapadka, lampada 
Nadod'en'eg - 
N'ichev6 mn'e n'e nado - 

Fati, BH, 

MiiJiocTHBbie rocy^apn 


- BpaTijLi 

T0 1 IKH, 








MITE ne 



S 1 





N6gi tvoyi tzeluyu 
Rosslya, Rus* 




D61'a - 



Razmah - 


Sv'et - 

Razgtd - 

Gul' anye 

Gul'at' - 

Razgul'atsa - 

Razgovoritsa - 

Razv'es'elltsa - 



Uvrechdniye - 

Razverndtsa - 

Troyka - 






Eh ! Ek ! 

Skazano-sd'elano ! 

Muj, muj china 


Jena, jenshchina 

On& vyhodit zamuj 

On j enitsa 

Mylitsa - 

Paritsa - 

Jen'lh - 

N'e v'Mat' - 


Bezchinstvo - 



Horn TBOH 
Poccifl, Pycb - 

- Pa3Maxi> 

CB-BTT> - 

PasryjiHTbCH - 


PasocnaxbCH - 



Bxt ! 9KT, ! 
CiweTKa - 

! - 










7 1 
7 1 










HblTb - 


Da bros't'e vy nyt' ! 

,ZJa SpocbTe Bbi HbiTb ! 


Nytyd - 

HbiTbe - 


Toska - 

Tocna - 


Toskovat', toskuyet 



Eh, toska zayela ! - 

BXT>, Tocna aa-fejia ! - 


Tom' it' - 



M'ily - 



Dorog6y - 



Burlakl - 



Pravda - 





Istinnaya pravda 

HcTHHHan npaBfla - 



3a,nyiiieBHbift - 


Dusha moya - 

JJyiiia MOH 


Po dushd 

Ho flynrB 


N'e po dushe - 

He no j^yui'h - 


S'eb'e na um'd 

CeS'fe na ywfe - 


N'e mytyom tak katanyem 

He MbrrbCM-b TaKi> KaTaHbeivn> - 


Na vs'akago mudretza 

Ha BCHKaro MyApei^a ^OBOJibno 

dovol'no prostoty 






Za pazuhoy 

3a nasyxott - 


Bo jest venn o ! - 


I 13 

Glaza - 

Tjiasa - 



Oqn - 


Budushcheye - 






Potomuchto - 






Klich .... 

Kjin^-b - 





Moshch - 

Momb - 





Dobr6 - 

Ro6p6 - 


Blago - 

Bjiaro - 


Sud'ba - 

CyAi>6a ----- 


Rock - 



Rany - 



Yazvy - 



Yesli - 



K6H .... 

KOJIH ----- 


Cpawb - 
Tenepb - 

HblHG - 


Glub'ina - TjiySima 

Puchina - nyqiraa 

Styd - 
T'ep'er' - 



Gor'e - - Tope 

Skorb' - - Cnopl 

Eto - BTO 

S'iye - - Cie 

Guby - - Fy6bi 

Usta - - y CT a 


Lobzaniye - - JIoGaame 

Iskusheniye - - IIcKyuieme 

Soblazn - 

Drugoy - 





Mysl' - - Mbicjib 

T'eio - - T-BJIO - 

Plot' - - HjIOTb - 

S-hodstvo - CxoflCTBO 


Rab, rabota, rabstvo 

Volna, voln'eniye volno- 

Ya hochu 
Mn'e, Ya 
Mn'e hochetsa 
Ne hochetsa rabotat' 
Hdchetsa otdohnut' - 
Spat' hochetsa ! 
Hochetsa molodost'i ! 
Hochetsa 1'ubv'l 
Ya hochu jenltsa 
Mn'e hochetsa jenltsa 
Zamuj h6chetsa ! 
Hot'elos' - - - Xorfcjiocb 


., paSoTa, paSciBO 
Bojina, BOJineme, 

H xony 

MH-B, H 

MH-B xo i ieTCH 


XoneTCH oTfloxnyTb 





MH-B xo'ieTCH 

i _ 


I 2O 



Uvlechdniye - 


Vy m'en'a uvlekayet'e 

Baba - 

Molod'dtz baba ! 

Boy baba ! 


Duraki, durachyo - 


Ban' a 

Gr6zny - 

Ujasny - 

Groza - 


Pogr6m - 

Gremuchaya rtut' - 

Sinutny - 


Prestupldniye - 


Golova - 


Kazna - 


Kaz'onnaya, kaz'onnoye - 


Kaz'onnaya dusha - 

Jidy, jidki, jidishki, 


Yevrey, yevreyi (plur.) 
Bil'et'ik, bil'et 
Glaz'onki, glaza 
Glazki - 
Sapogi - 
Vytri sapojishchi-to, 

natoptal ! 
Top tat' - 
Piskariki, piskari 
S'edyie, s'ed'en'kiye 
S'eryie - 

Daleko, dal'okon'ko 
Blizko, bliz'ohon'ko 


BM MGHH yBJienaexe 
Ba6a - 
Mojiofle^, 6a6a ! 
Bott 6a6a ! - 


- Fposa - 





Kaana - 

, Kasennoe 





- 124 

- 124 

- 126 

- 126 

- 127 

- 127 

- 12 7 

- I2g 

- 129 

- 130 


, 3KH- 

Espett, espen 

, rjiaaa 


BbiTpw cano>KHinH-To, iiuib na 



G-fepwe - 







Ranovato, ran'ohon'ko - 

Otchevd, chev6 

B'ely, b'el'en'ki 

Golubdye, golfcben'koye - 

Hud6y, hud'en'ki, hud 


Poros'ata, poros'atki, po- 


Jirn'en'kiye, prejirnyie 
Pojaluyt e, gospoda ! 
Bystry - 
Lovki - 

Chort vos'mi ! 
Chort znayet ! 

Mozgi, Mozgl'avy 
Nadryv - 
Razryv - 
Nadlom - 
Razldm - 
Nadr'ez - 
Razr'ez - 
Nutr6m, nutro 
Chr'evom, chrevo 
Zav'et, zav'ety 
Or' eh baba ! - 
PM'a baba ! - 
Ogon' baba ! - 
Bogatyr' baba ! 
Burlak - 


PanoBaTo, panexoHbKo 



FIopocHTa, nopocHTKH, nopoce 


npe>KnpHbie - 
, rocnoaa ! - - 



B03bMH ! 

Hoprb snaerb ! 
B-fec-b - 


HyxpOM-b, nyxpo 

3aB-feTHbitt - 
Optx-b 6a6a ! 
IlyjiH 6a6a ! - 
OroHb 6a6a ! - 
BoraTbipb 6a6a ! 
Tapananbi - 




- 145 

- 14'' 

- 14 5 

- i45 

- 145 

- 145 

- i45 

- 145 

- 145 

- 145 

- 148 

- 148 

- 148 

- U9 

- 149 

- 15 

- 15 

- 15 

- is 1 

- 1 5 l 

- is 1 

- 1 5 l 

- 1 54 

- 1 54 

- J 57 

- 157 

- i59 

- 169 

- 169 

- 169 

- 169 

- 170 

- i/ 1 

- 175 


Prost'i, prost'it'e - 

Proshchay, proshchayt'e - 

Prost'it'e, baryn'a - 

Prost'i, bat'ushka barin - 

N'e pominayt'e 1'ihom 

Do sv'idanya - 

Bog prost'it - 

Lih6y, liho 

Lihoy vrag 

Kazaki - 

Lih6y kazak - 

Lihaya sud'ba 

Lihdye d'elo - 

Tut komar n6sa n'e podt6- 


Liho skachet trdyka 
Shapka liho na b'ekr'en' - 
Udal' - 

Silushka bogatyrskaya 
Bat'ka - 

Bat'ka prib'll - 
Ot'etz - 
T'at'ka - 
Pdpik - 

Eh, ty, g6r'e-bogat^r' ! - 
Hor6shen'ki - 
Kto popa, kto popadyu, 

a kto svin6y hvost'ik ! - 
Kto 1'ub'it dyn'u, kto 

arbuz, a kto pop6vu 

ddchku ! 
V'eshni, v'es'enn'i - - BeuiHitt, 



IlpOCTH, 6aTK)UIKa 6apHHT> - 

He noMHHattTe JIHXOMT> - - 

J\0 CBHj;aHbH - 

Bon> npocTHTt - - 

JlHXOtt, JIHXO - - 

JlHXoft Bpan> - 

KaaaKH - 

Jliixott KaaaKt - 

Jlnxan cya6a - 

Jlwxoe fl-fejio - - 
Ty-FL KOMapt Hoca ne noflTOHH-n, 

JInxo cKaueTt TpottKa 
IIIanKa JIHXO Ha 6eKpem> 


BaTbKa npH6Hjn> 

3xi>, TLI, rope-Goraxbipb ! 

KTO nona, KTO nona^bio, a KTO 


KTO JiioSHTb AbiHio, KTO ap6y3T>, 
a KTO nonoBy AOHKy ! - - 






1 80 

1 80 

1 80 

1 8 1 



1 84 

1 84 
1 99 

1 99 






- 204 


Mjflo - - MLIJIO 

Pyl' - HbiJib - 

Myl'ny puzyr' - - MbiJibHtift nyatipb - 

Dal'ni put' - - JJajibHift nyTb 

Byt' v ssylke - - BbiTb BT> CCMJIK-B 

Vys' - - - Bbicb 



R^b'i jir 

- Pu6itt ttttipT. 


Lazit' - 

- JlaawTb 



- BblTb 


Ubyl' - 

- vsbuib - 


B'ely lob 

- B'fejiLitt Jio6i> 


M'ily - 

- Mnjibiti - 


Myt' - 

- MblTb 


Zyb' - 

- 3bi6b - 


Unylayajizn' - 

- VHUJiaH >KH3Hb 

Zlost' - 

- 3jIOCTb - 


T'ep'er' - 

- Tenepb - 


D'et'i - 

- fl-BTH - 


Z'el'en' - 

- 3ejienb - 


R'ab' - 

- PH(5b 

- . 


- TeMGHb - 


Vz'at' - 

- B3HTb - 



- Helium - 


Zd'es' - 

- 3,n; r BCb - 


St'ep' - 

- Grenb - 


L'ubov' - 

- JIioGoBb- 



- Ocb 


L'ud'i - 

- JlroflH - 


T'ech' - 

- TeHb - 



- IIpejiecTb 


D'en'gi - 

- UenbrH - 


D'es'at' - 

- JJeCHTb - 


P'er'el'et'et' - 

- IlepejierfeTb 


Dr'an' - 

- JJpHHb - 



- IIoAJiei^'b 



- Bpan> - 



- Bpaxb - 


Von! - 

- BOHT> ! - 



- BoHb 






- Mojib 


Krov - 

- KpOBT, - 


Krov' - 

- KpOBb - 





Pyl' - - 



The rest of the Russian words occurring in the Introduction 
given in Russian type wherever they come in. 











































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