Voices from Russia

Sunday, 13 January 2013

13 January 2013. Sergei Yolkin’s World. Vigilantes Against Smoking

00 Sergei Yolkin. Vigilantes Against Smoking. 2013

Vigilantes Against Smoking

Sergei Yolkin



In Russian, Народное ополчение (Narodnoe Opolcheniye: People’s Militia or Muster) brings up visions of Minin and Pozharsky during the Smuta, of the First Patriotic War against Napoleon, and the desperate defence of Moscow, Leningrad, and Sevastopol in the VOV. This caricature also has overtones of the Sov era Добровольная Народная Дружина/ДНД (Dobrovolnaya Narodnaya Druzhina/DND: Volunteer People’s Posse) and of Soviet anti-drunkenness posters. To use the word ополчение as he did, Yolkin’s taking a sly dig at the current anti-smoking campaign. He’s hinting that it’s overblown and more than a little self-serving. Again, a Russian would be au fait about many of these things, and would grasp Yolkin’s point immediately, but a Westerner needs a heads-up on it all to see the thrust of the jab.

I chose “vigilante” as the rendering of ополчение because “militia” would be too formal… and the picture makes it clear that Yolkin finds the whole thing too ludicrous for words. It’d also give it a military colouring that Yolkin’s not trying to convey.



On Friday, the newspaper Izvestiya reported that RF Gosduma deputies proposed a ban on smoking rooms in buildings, smoking onscreen in TV and movies, and for the new anti-smoking law to enter into effect immediately, not in phases, on 1 January 2014.

11 January 2013

Sergei Yolkin





Sunday, 13 May 2012

13 May 2012. A Point to Ponder…

Fr Ioann Krestiankin (1910-2006) with President Vladimir Putin (1952- ) in 2000… the konvertsy Republicans don’t show you this picture, do they? Fr Ioann is one of the major dramatis personæ in Fr Tikhon Shevkunov‘s Несвятые святые и другие рассказы (Unholy Saints and Other Tales).


Fr Ioann Krestiankin said that, nowadays, fervent Christians work out their salvation in the world, and feeble ones do so in monasteries. When you hear confessions and mingle with believers, you see just what kind of remarkable strugglers (подвижники) there are amongst ordinary people; we, who fancy ourselves monastics, need to learn from them.

In connection with this, I recall an incident from the mid-80s. I was strolling about the grounds at the Pskovo-Pechersky Monastery with Fr Ioann. Suddenly, an anxious young man, “pale with a piercing gaze” {a quote from the Symbolist poet Valery Bryusov: editor} ran up to Batiushka and started to whine loudly, “Batiushka, Moscow’s such a dreadful town! It’s a new Babylon full of godless people! It’s just frightful!” All of a sudden, Fr Ioann placed his hand tightly over the young man’s mouth, and he spoke sternly to him, “Why are you talking like that? Every day, the clergy serve 40 Divine Liturgies in as many churches in Moscow! Remarkable strugglers (подвижники) live there, unnoticed in the urban sprawl, hidden on the eighth or twelfth floor of faceless apartment blocks! There are true saints there, of a sort that you couldn’t even conceive of”.

Back then, his words surprised me because I thought that all the strugglers (подвижники) lived in remote monasteries somewhere on Solovki or in the Egyptian desert. Today, truth be told, I see incredible strugglers (подвижников) who’re just simple believers. Their humility teaches and saves me; they show how it’s possible for contemporary people to embrace a heroic (подвижнически) and Christian life.

Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov

Superior of the Sretensky Monastery

Moscow (Federal City of Moscow) RF



The Battle of Prince Pozharsky with Hetman Chodkiewicz Near Moscow



Niva magazine


Pozharsky was a “struggler” (подвижник); his action was a “подвиг”… these words are NOT exclusively religious.



“Подвижник” is NOT “ascetic struggler”… it merely means “a struggler”, “one who does great deeds”, “an extraordinary hero”. For instance, “подвиг” simply is the strongest-possible Russian word for “heroic act”… its full panoply of meaning is lost in English translation (there’s simply no equivalent for the strength and depth of emphasis in this word). I’ve seen these two words used in connection with the VOV and the First Great Patriotic War of 1812 (as in, “The Podvig of General Raevsky”)… they’re not exclusively-religious words. Indeed, for a Russian, the full import is so much more meaningful. Beware translations done by konvertsy… they often lack the grounding and background necessary to discern a correct word-choice to bring across the full impact of this-or-that Russian idiom. Not only that, what’s worse, they’re either “hyper-correct” (such as their goofy ungrounded practise of putting a cross in front of a bishop’s name or putting it in all caps) or they give a “merely-religious” meaning to words, concepts, and phrases that are broader in scope.

One last thing… this year is the 200th anniversary of the First Great Patriotic War of 1812… and the 400th anniversary of the Liberation of Moscow from the Poles by Minin and Pozharsky in 1612. These were two “podvigs”, and Minin and Pozharsky were two “podvizhniki”. Beware all konvertsy renderings… there be cow pats in that field… do mind your step…


Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.