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Articles by Michele A. Berdy



Russia's Long Romance with Patriotism

Love of one's land, people and way of life has certainly existed in Russia for as long as there have been Russians. Patriotism, however, is a relatively new word.

All the Russian Words You Need to Talk About Icy Roads

The official Russian response to the report on the Litvinenko inquiry released last week was, predictably, offhand and dismissive, referring to it as "некое расследование" (so-called investigation ).

All the Russian Words You Need to Discuss the Litvinenko Inquiry

The official Russian response to the report on the Litvinenko inquiry released last week was, predictably, offhand and dismissive, referring to it as "некое расследование" (so-called investigation ).

Rush for Moscow Exhibition Sparks Serov Jokes

This Saturday in frigid weather, lines to an exhibition of paintings by Russian artist Valentin Serov in Moscow were several kilometers long and people were literally breaking down the doors to get in.

Shifting Gears, Russian-Style

Last week German Gref, the head of Sberbank, created a sensation at the Gaidar Economic Forum — and not by scaring the pants off everyone in the audience with his scathing picture of the state of the Russian economy.

What to Call Russia's Last Man Standing

The holidays are over, and you are hoping that the price of vegetables has fallen from their are-you-out-of-your-flipping-mind peak on Dec. 31, when eggplants hovered around the 1000-ruble per kilo mark and cucumbers cost as much as platinum. You stop in a grocery shop.

Russia's Winning Words Of the Year 2015

Every year linguists, academics and lovers of language vote on several categories of words of the year: слово года.

Russia's Law and Language on ISIS and Daesh

In Russia, there are Good Organizations and Bad Organizations. Of course, that's true of every country on earth, but recently the words used to describe some Bad Organizations are changing in Russia, perhaps to the confusion of readers.

Russian Media Hysteria Yields New Turkey-Related Vocabulary

The last few weeks have been extremely fraught here in Russia, and fraught means media hysteria, and media hysteria means a rich harvest of newly coined words — horrible, ridiculous, and unbelievable.

Remembering Eldar Ryazanov – in His Own Words

This week in Russia has been colored by sorrow: Eldar Ryazanov, one of the country's most famous and beloved film directors, died at the age of 88.

Every Creeping Thing of the Earth

Here's a new bit of folk etymology going around: Way back in some undefined olden days of Russia, executions were performed in the winter by tying someone to a pole and pouring water over him until he was covered with a thick layer of ice and froze to death.

When the Cure is Worse Than the Disease

There you are in the office, sniffing, sneezing, blowing your nose and coughing. Your nose is red, your eyes are dripping and you can barely talk.

Figuring Out Russian Riddles

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across a newspaper article that led, eventually, to an astonishing discovery. It was like finding out that the Russian alphabet had a letter I'd never heard of.

We're Talking a Big Difference

Рознь (discord, division) is my Russian Word of the Week. Not because it's a word with happy associations.

Hanging Around on Facebook

There is nothing quite so humiliating for an adult as stumbling badly in a foreign language.

A Cookbook to Rehabilitate Soviet Cuisine

If you think of the Soviet period in Russia as a culinary desert, a new book in English by the country's most prominent food historians, Olga and Pavel Syutkin, may change your mind.

Nothing Worth Knowing Can Be Taught

One of my favorite pastimes — well, other than eating, drinking and talking — is to find the key words of Russian culture — those special words that capture the essence of the culture, values, or habits of the country.

All the Russian Words You Need to Whine About Work

The other day I was reading an article about Russian words and expressions for working. The author pointed out that almost all the words and expressions for working hard in Russian have to do with physical labor.

The Artistic Triumph of Svetlana Alexievich

Svetlana Alexievich, the Belorussian author who just won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature, might be the greatest writer people don't want to read.

Taking a Walk on the Wild Side

If there is one thing I love about the Russian language, it's word formation — that magical process whereby you take a root word, add a prefix, and suddenly you aren't talking about doing the laundry (стирать), you're talking about getting a stain out (отстирывать).

Getting a Slice of the Pie

Выгодно is a simple word in Russian. Everyone knows what it means — profitable, either literally or figuratively. Right?

What's in a Name?

In my mailbag I found a question about Russian surnames — a simple query about the prevalence of "directional" last names, like West and North in English.

Letting Them Have It in Russian

Russian, like all other languages, has its share of obscenities and naughty expressions.

Russian Language Gets 'Import Substitution'

Just when you think you've seen it all, you come across a video of a Russian schoolteacher telling her students that there was a great civilization in Russia 3,000 years ago called Святая Русь (Holy Rus) inhabited by godlike men called богатыри (bogatyrs, mythic warriors and heroes).

Moscow City Day: Party All Weekend Long

This year Moscow is celebrating its 868th anniversary with an extravaganza of over 500 events, including 300 concerts, almost 250 tours and excursions, activities in 100 city parks, and another hundred or so workshops, pageants and other things to do, buy, eat, watch, listen to, or dance to.

Dealing With the Tough Stuff

A couple of weeks ago I saw a query on a translators' forum, and it has been buzzing around my head ever since. It pops into my head in the shower, or when I'm sitting in traffic, or when I'm trying to go to sleep.

Last Blast of Summer: Festival Weekend

If you were planning on hitting the mall this weekend to buy your kids new school shoes and notebooks — don't. The crowds will be horrendous. Instead, keep the kids in sandals and sample one or more of the city's weekend festivals.

Let's Get Spiritual

This week in Russia the WTF-o-meter has been going off the charts. First, Yevgenia Vasilyeva, sentenced to five years in prison for embezzling millions from the state budget, was released on parole after spending less than a month in jail, presumably because she just couldn't get a good mani-pedi in the joint.

Fruit, Jam and a Rite of Initiation for Foreigners in Russia

Visitors to Moscow this week could be forgiven for thinking they'd arrived not in a city, but into a large, outdoor food storage facility.

An Exhibition of Sculptures That Should Be Seen

The show at the Manezh exhibition space that opened on Friday may go down in art history as the subject of an attack, but it should be remembered as the first time in nearly 60 years that the works of three legendary Soviet artists were shown together.