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Talking Smack About Ukrainians and Russians

Maxim Stulov / Vedomosti

? ?°?????° ?? ?????…?»?°????????: Russia and Ukraine, derogatory slang

Here at The Moscow Times language desk, I've been trawling the interwebs, looking for new Russian words and phrases. My latest haul comes largely from the comments sections of online media where folks "discuss" the Ukrainian and Russian conflict by flinging insults at each other. I got interested in the insults.

Chauvinistic Russians call Ukraine ?????…?»?°????????, which comes from ?…???…???», the topknot of hair traditionally worn by Ukrainian men and a slang word for Ukrainians. This is literally the Land of Topknots, which would sound rather lyrical if it wasn't appallingly derogatory. In one "discussion" of who shot down MH17, someone writes: ?????…?»?????????? ???µ ?·?°???€?°?????†?° — ?????° ?????µ?????° ?±?‹?»?° ?‡?°???‚???? ? ??????????. (Topknotland is not a foreign country — it was always a part of Russia).

Other insulting names include ?????€???????? (Dill-land), from ?????€?????‹ (Dills). Here is a comment on the Ukrainian orphans taken into Russia: ?????€???????? ?????????‚. ?????€?????‹ ?…???‚???‚ ?????????… ?????€???‚ ???±?€?°?‚????. (Dill-land is making a ruckus. The Dills want their orphans back).

Ukrainians are also called the insulting ?????€?‹ and their country — ????? ???????‹ (a play on Ukraine and ruins.) ????? ???????‹? ???°?? ???‚?? ???µ ???‚?€?°???°, ?° ???‹???????°?????°?? ?±???»?????µ???????°???? ?‚?µ?€?€???‚???€????, ???°?…???????‰?°?????? ???°?? ?€?°???????°?? ???????…???»??, ?? ?‚?µ?€???????°?»???????? ???‚?°?????? ?€?°?·?»???¶?µ?????? (Ukruins? Come on, it's not a country. It's a territory invented by the Bolsheviks that is like a cancer in its terminal stage of decomposition).

Ukrainians might call Russians the derogatory term ?????????°?»??, which originally meant Muscovites, or ???°?†?°???‹, a word with an interesting and somewhat ambiguous history. Many sources say it comes from "???°?? ?†?°??" (like a goat) and was used by clean-shaven Ukrainians to refer to the bearded Russians. But other sources assert that it came from the Turkic word ???°?????°?± or ???°???°??, which originally meant a butcher. It was most famously used by Nikolai Gogol: ???€?????»???‚?‹?µ ???°?†?°???‹ … ?µ?????‚ ???°?¶?µ ?‰?? ?? ?‚?°?€?°???°???°???? (Damned northerners … they even eat cabbage soup with cockroaches).

Today Ukrainians might call the invading Russians ?????»???€?°???‹ (Colorados). This is a reference to the striped St. George ribbons that Russian patriots wear, which are reminiscent of the destructive striped Colorado beetles. ???‡?µ???? ?¶?°?»??, ?‡?‚?? ???±?€?°?· ???°?‚?µ?€?? ?‘???¶???µ?? ?????????µ?€???‘?? ?€?????°???? ?????»???€?°??????. (It's such a shame that the image of the Mother of God was defiled by the hands of Colorados).

The military men with no identifying insignias who appeared in Crimea and elsewhere are called ?·?µ?»?‘???‹?µ ?‡?µ?»?????µ?‡???? (little green men) by Ukrainians and ???µ?¶?»?????‹?µ ?»?????? (polite people) by many Russians. This term comes from their description by the Russian leadership, for example President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov: … ?±?µ?·?????°?????????‚?? ?€?µ?„?µ?€?µ?????????° ???±?µ?????µ?‡?????°?»?? ?????µ?†???°?»?????‹?µ ?»??????. ?’?µ?¶?»?????‹?µ ?»??????. ( …the referendum was secured by special people. Polite people).

Ukrainians also sneeringly call Russians ???°?‚???????? (literally "quilted jackets"), but this term was coined in Russia. ?’?°?‚???????? are dim-witted, hard-drinking, unquestioning patriots, unshaven and stereotypically heavy-set — ?????°???€?°?‚???‹?µ (square) — men. They are blindly obedient citizens of ? ?°?????° (Rusha), a term used to disparage the country's current regime and population. In this world, people who hate Russia are ?€?°?????°?„???±?‹ (Rusha-phobes) and people who love the country are ?€?°?????°?„???»?‹ (Rusha-philes). ?’?°?‚???????? call Russia ? ???????????????° (something like "sweet Russia").

My recommendation? Call them ? ?????????? and ?????€?°?????°.

Michele A. Berdy, a Moscow-based translator and interpreter, is author of "The Russian Word's Worth" (Glas), a collection of her columns.

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