Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A Look at the Word of the Year

00 Vera Mukhina. Worker and Kolkhoz Woman. fireworks. 10.02.13


Make some popcorn, pull out a six-pack, put on your team scarves, and settle in for the exciting countdown to the competition. That’s right; it’s time for the annual Слово Года 2013 (Word of the Year, 2013) contest. Well, I’m excited. It’s always a good opportunity to learn some new words and check out the Russian linguistic zeitgeist. Whilst Russia’s still voting for its word of the year, the Oxford dictionary already announced its winner… “selfie”, a photo taken of oneself and posted on a social network. This was widely reported in the Russian media, where I learned that in Russian, a “selfie” is “лук”. This was presumably from the English word “look” and not the native Russian word for an onion.

Russian also has the sub-category of лифтолук… a photo of oneself taken in an elevator, preferably, with lots of mirrors. One advocate of the лифтолук explains helpfully… Чем еще заниматься в лифте, оставшись наедине с собой? Можно, конечно, просто накрасить губы или смотреть в потолок, слушая музыку, но гораздо же веселее сделать лифтолук (What else are you going to do in an elevator by yourself? Of course, you could put on lipstick or look at the ceiling while you listen to music, but it’s much more fun to take a selfie). Whilst I continue to ponder how much this woman can do in an elevator, I’ve been following the voting for one website’s Russian word of the year. As usual, the country’s political life heavily bulks in the nominated words. For example, among the nominations is the verb размандатить, which means to strip an RF Gosduma deputy of his seat… to “undeputise” him, as it were. This verb even has an adjectival form… Размандаченный депутат Гудков может стать помощником Миронова (Gudkov, expelled from the Duma, might become an aide to Mironov).

The list of nominated words also reflects the political and social mudslinging in 2013 and offers new ways to insult your opponents. The right-wing coined the word креакл from the first letters of the phrase креативный класс (creative class), the phrase most commonly used to describe the white-collar liberal middle class. However, креакл is decidedly pejorative, and became downright insulting after a blogger described креакл in the style of the Animal Kingdom… Из интернета креаклы выползают редко (The “kreakl” rarely crawls out of its internet burrow). The creative class retaliated, in a way, with the insult православнутый, a term that describes fanatical Orthodox Christians whose religious zeal far exceeds their real knowledge of Orthodox dogma or history. The suffix –утый is associated with other words like тронутый (touched in the head) or чокнутый (nutty). О репрессиях, которым Сталин подвергал верующих, православнутые предпочитают не знать (Pseudo-Orthodox fanatics prefer not to know about the Stalinist repression of churchgoers). Another adjective with the same ending, майданутый, made a roaring comeback from its first appearance in 2004. It’s from майдан (square) and means democratic pro-Western Ukrainian demonstrators who came out of the square during the Orange Revolution. As far as I can tell, connotation depends on the speaker.

My reaction to all this is another nominated word of the year… печалька, which describes a minor cause for dismay, often with humour. Я не успела проголосовать за слово года. Какая печалька! (I didn’t get a chance to vote for the word of the year. What a bummer!)

13 December 2013

Michele Berdy

Moscow Times




Hagia Sophia: A Wonder of the World is in Middle of Religious Controversy

00 Hagia Sophia Cathedral of the Holy Wisdom. 17.12.13


Editor’s Note:

Yes, I know that Soros finances EurasiaNet, which means that it’s pro-corporatist and pro-Western. However, the lamestream media  (both “progressive” and “conservative”) isn’t covering this, and it’s of interest to Orthodox Christians. As you read it, do consider the source… and who pays for it.



Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç’s call to turn Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia from a museum back into a mosque is stoking a dispute between Turkey’s Islamist-rooted government and Orthodox Christians in Turkey. Metropolitan Genadios Lymouris of Sasima, a senior official in the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople New Rome, one of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Churches, warned, “We do hope that the Turkish government will reconsider and have to think very seriously”.

For over 900 years, Hagia Sophia (“Holy Wisdom” in Greek), built in 537, was Christendom’s most important church, but when Constantinople (as Istanbul was then called) fell to the Ottomans in 1453, it became a mosque, and for nearly 500 years, it ranked among the Ottoman Empire’s grandest places of worship. In 1935, the founders of Turkey’s secular republic transformed Hagia Sophia into a museum. The iconic building continues to carry important political significance. İştar Gözaydin, a professor of law and politics at Doğuş University, an expert on the relationship between the state and religion, noted, “The Islamists always aspired for it to be a mosque”, whilst Turkish secularists want it to remain “a neutral place”, and Christians see it as a church,.

Until Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2003, the chances of Hagia Sophia reverting to a mosque were slim to none. However, with the country’s Islamic heritage now experiencing revival after decades of government-imposed secularism, the prospect isn’t entirely unlikely. On a 16 November trip to Hagia Sophia, Arınç, who oversees policy toward historical buildings that once belonged to religious minorities, declared to television reporters, “The days of a mosque being a museum are over”. With Turkey heading into an 18-month election-cycle in 2014, most believe that politics motivated Arınc’s statements. In campaign speeches for next March’s municipal elections, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan draws heavily on the country’s Ottoman past. He aims the message at both religious and nationalist voters, key AKP constituencies. The strategy could well prove a vote-winner. Recently, one teenager leaving Hagia Sophia said, “God willing, it’ll be a mosque. Fatih Sultan Mehmet wanted this. When he conquered Istanbul, the first thing he did was to convert it into a mosque. That’s why it should be a mosque again”.

Arınç has the reputation of a political maverick, a man prone to making incendiary statements that the government doesn’t always followed up. Nevertheless, the fact that Arınç has links to the mosque-makeover of two other church-museums also named Hagia Sophia (in İznik and Trabzon) means that even the mention of a similar fate for Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia sparked alarm among the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul. Metropolitan Genadios, referring to Arınc’s comments, said, “We’re surprised, but not surprised, with this statement. I don’t want to believe our Turkish authorities said this in a concrete way or that they realised the consequences of this decision to open Hagia Sophia as a place of worship [for Muslims]. Hagia Sophia, for Christians and Orthodox… it represents, for us, a monument of Christianity”. The Orthodox Church has powerful international allies, and a visit to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Archontonis often features on the itineraries of visiting foreign leaders and ministers.

In the coming months and years, some observers believe the status of Hagia Sophia would become part of a wider controversy between Greece and Turkey over religious freedom. Increasingly, the Turkish government challenges Athens over what it sees as restrictions put on the religious practises of Greece’s tiny Turkish minority, believed to make up most of the country’s miniscule Muslim minority of roughly 100,000 people. Ankara retaliated by refusing to reopen Halki, a Greek Orthodox seminary near Istanbul, which many expected to reopen as part of a broad democratisation package announced in October. Greece, which sees Byzantium (sic) as part of its cultural heritage, declared last month that statements “about converting Byzantine (sic) Christian churches into mosques offend the religious feelings of millions of Christians”. Officials in Ankara scoff at such statements as hypocritical. Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Levent Gümrükçü said, “Athens is in no position to question us, considering Athens is the only capital in Europe that doesn’t have a mosque, even though there are many Muslims there”. Amidst diplomatic rancour and Turkey’s own charged political atmosphere, Hagia Sophia’s fate is far from clear. Metropolitan Genadios sighed, “We now live in unpredictable times”.

5 December 2013

Dorian Jones



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