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10 Russian Words Impossible to Translate Into English

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1. Poshlost

Russian-American writer Vladimir Nabokov, who lectured on Slavic Studies to students in America, admitted that he couldn’t translate this word, which every Russian easily understands.

What is poshlost (пошлость)?

Nabokov gives the following example: “Open any magazine and you’ll certainly find something like this – a family just bought a radio (a car, a refrigerator, silverware, it doesn’t matter), and the mother is clapping her hands, mad with joy, the children gathered around her with their mouths agape; the baby and the dog are leaning towards the table on which the `idol’ has been hoisted… a bit to the side victoriously stands the father, the proud breadwinner.

The intense “poshlosity” of such a scene comes not from the false exaggeration of the dignity of a particular useful object, but from the assumption that the greatest joy can be bought and that such a purchase ennobles the buyer.”

“This word includes triviality, vulgarity, sexual promiscuity and soullessness,” added the late Professor Svetlana Boym from Harvard University.

2. Nadryv

German Wikipedia has an entire article dedicated to the word nadryv (надрыв). This is a key concept in the writings of Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky.

The word describes an uncontrollable emotional outburst, when a person releases intimate, deeply hidden feelings.

Moreover, Dostoevsky’s nadryv implies a situation in which the protagonist indulges in the thought that he can find in his soul something that may not even exist.

That’s why the nadryv often expressed imaginary, excessively exaggerated and distorted feelings. One part of the novel, Brothers Karamazov, is called “Nadryvs.”

3. Khamstvo

Soviet émigré writer Sergei Dovlatov wrote about this phenomenon in the article “This Untranslatable Khamstvo,” commenting that “Khamstvo is nothing other than rudeness, arrogance and insolence multiplied by impunity.”

In Dovlatov’s view, it’s with impunity that khamstvo (хамство) outright kills us.

It’s impossible to fight it; you can only resign yourself to it. “I’ve lived in this mad, wonderful, horrifying New York for ten years and am amazed by the absence of khamstvo. Anything can happen to you here, but there’s no khamstvo. You can be robbed but no one will shut the door in your face,” added the writer.

4. Stushevatsya

Some linguists believe stushevatsya (стушеваться) was introduced by Fyodor Dostoevsky, who used it for the first time in a figurative sense in his novella, The Double. This word means to be less noticeable, go to the background, lose an important role, noticeably leave the scene, become confused in an awkward or unexpected situation, become meek.

5. Toska

This Russian word can be translated as “emotional pain,” or “melancholy,” but this does not transmit all of its depth. Vladimir Nabokov wrote that, “Not one word in English can transmit all the nuances of toska (тоска). This is a feeling of spiritual suffering without any particular reason. On a less dolorous level, it’s the indistinct pain of the soul…vague anxiety, nostalgia, amorous longing.”

6. Bytie

This word comes from the Russian byt’(to exist). In Russian-English dictionaries this philosophical concept is translated as “being.” However, bytie (бытие) is not just life or existence, it’s the existence of an objective reality that is independent of human consciousness (cosmos, nature, matter).

7. Bespredel

Eliot Borenstein, professor of Slavic Studies at New York University, explains that bespredel (беспредел) literally means “without restrictions or limits.” Translators often use “lawlessness” (bezzakonie). In Russian, however, the meaning of bespredel is much broader, and refers to the behavior of a person who violates not only the law, but also moral and social norms.

8. Avos’

It’s rather difficult to explain to people of other nationalities what this means. Interestingly, many people believe that avos’ (авось) is the main Russian national trait. Hoping for the avos’ means doing something without planning, without putting in much effort, counting on success.

9. Yurodivy

Yurodivys (юродивые) in ancient Rus’ were people who voluntarily renounced earthly pleasures in the name of Christ. Such people looked like madmen, and led a wandering lifestyle with the aim of obtaining inner peace and defeating the root of all sin – pride. They were valued and were considered close to God. Their opinions and prophecies were taken into consideration and they were even feared.

10. Podvig

This word is often translated into English as “feat” or “achievement,” but it has other meanings. Podvig (подвиг) is not just a result, or the achievement of an objective; it’s a brave and heroic act, an action performed in difficult circumstances. Russian literature often mentions military, civilian podvigs and even scientific podvigs. Moreover, this word is a synonym for selfless acts, for example, a podvig in the name of love.


Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines

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Madrid’s Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado granted World Heritage status | Culture

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Madrid’s famous Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado boulevard have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The decision, made on Sunday, brings the total number of World Heritage Sites in Spain to 49 – the third-highest in the world after Italy and China.

Up until Sunday, none of these sites were located in the Spanish capital. The Madrid region, however, was home to three: El Escorial Monastery in Alcalá de Henares, the historical center of Aranjuez and the Montejo beech forest in Montejo de la Sierra.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez celebrated the news on Twitter, saying it was a “deserved recognition of a space in the capital that enriches our historical, artistic and cultural legacy.”

Retiro Park is a green refuge of 118 hectares in the center of the city of Madrid. Paseo del Prado boulevard is another icon of the capital, featuring six museums, major fountains such as the Fuente de Cibeles as well as the famous Plaza de Cibeles square.

For the sites to be granted World Heritage status, Spain needed the support of two-thirds of the UNESCO committee – 15 votes from 21 countries. The proposal was backed by Brazil, Ethiopia, Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, among others.

Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.
Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.Víctor Sainz

Prior to the vote, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the organization that advises UNESCO, had argued against considering the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park as one site, and recommended that the latter be left out on the grounds that there were no “historic justifications” for the two to be paired.

This idea was strongly opposed by Spain’s ambassador to UNESCO, Andrés Perelló, who said: “What they are asking us to do is rip out a lung from Madrid. El Prado and El Retiro are a happy union, whose marriage is certified with a cartography more than three centuries old.” The origins of Paseo del Prado date back to 1565, while Retiro Park was first opened to the public during the Enlightenment.

Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado.
Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado. Víctor Sainz

The ICOMOS report also denounced the air pollution surrounding the site. To address these concerns, Madrid City Hall indicated it plans to reduce car traffic under its Madrid 360 initiative, which among other things is set to turn 10 kilometers of 48 streets into pedestrian areas, but is considered less ambitious than its predecessor Madrid Central.

The 44th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in the Chinese city of Fuzhou and was broadcast live at Madrid’s El Prado Museum. Perelló summed up the reasons to include Retiro Park and El Paseo de Prado in less than three minutes.

“When people say ‘from Madrid to heaven’ [the slogan of the Spanish capital] I ask myself why would you want to go to heaven when heaven is already in Madrid,” he told delegates at the event, which was scheduled to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every year, UNESCO evaluates 25 proposals for additions to the World Heritage List. In the case of the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park, the site was judged on whether it evidenced an exchange of considerable architectural influences, was a representative example of a form of construction or complex and if it was associated with traditions that are still alive today. The famous park and boulevard sought to be inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1992, but its candidacy did not reach the final stage of the process.

Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).
Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).Biblioteca Nacional de España

The effort to win recognition for the sites’ outstanding universal value began again in 2014 under former Madrid mayor Ana Botella, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), and was strengthed by her successor Manuela Carmena, of the leftist Ahora Madrid party, which was later renamed Más Madrid. An advisor from UNESCO visited the site in October 2019.

English version by Melissa Kitson.



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Ryanair reports €273m loss as passenger traffic rebounds

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Ryanair has reported a €273 million loss for its first quarter even as traffic rebounded during the period.

The carrier said it carried 8.1 million passengers in the three month period, which cover April to June. This compares to just 500,000 in the same period a year earlier.

Revenues increased 196 per cent from €125 million in the first quarter of 2020 to €371 million for the same quarter this year. Operation costs also rose however, jumping from €313 million to €675 million.

Net debt reduced by 27 per cent on the back of strong operating of €590 million.

“Covid-19 continued to wreak havoc on our business during the first quarter with most Easter flights cancelled and a slower than expected easing of EU travel restrictions into May and June,” said group chief executive Michael O’Leary.

“Based on current bookings, we expect traffic to rise from over five million in June to almost nine million in July, and over 10 million in August, as long as there are no further Covid setbacks in Europe,” he added.

Ryanair said the rollout of EU digital Covid certificates and the scrapping of quarantine for vaccinated arrivals to Britain from mid-July has led to a surge in bookings in recent week.

First quarter scheduled revenues increased 91 per cent to €192 million on the back of the rise in passenger traffic although this was offset by the cancellation of Easter traffic and a delay in the relaxation of travel restrictions.

Ancillary revenue generated approximately €22 per passenger the company said.

Mr O’Leary foresaw growth opportunities for the airline due to the collapse of many European airlines during the Covid crisis, and widespread capacity cuts at other carriers.

“We are encouraged by the high rate of vaccinations across Europe. If, as is presently predicted, most of Europe’s adult population is fully vaccinated by September., then we believe that we can look forward to a strong recovery in air travel for the second half of the fiscal year and well into 2022 – as is presently the case in domestic US air travel,” he said.

However, the airline warned the future remains challenging due to continued Covid restrictions and a lack of bookings and that this meant it was impossible to provided “meaningful” guidance at the time.

“We believe that full0year 2022 traffic has improved to a range of 90 million to 100 million (previously guided at the lower end of an 80 million to 120 million passenger range) and (cautiously) expect that the likely outcome for the year is somewhere between a small loss and breakeven. This is dependent on the continued rollout of vaccines this summer, and no adverse Covid variant developments,” said Mr O’Leary.

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Switzerland’s Credit Suisse settles with star banker over spying scandal

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CEO Tidjane Thiam was forced to resign in February 2020 after admitting the bank had hired investigators to follow Khan, head of international wealth management, because he had opted to move to arch-rival, UBS.

As well as sending shockwaves through banking circles, the case sparked a criminal probe in Switzerland.

“All parties involved have agreed to end the case,” Credit Suisse spokeswoman Simone Meier told NZZ am Sonntag, which revealed the agreement.

Meier declined to comment further when contacted by AFP.

The public prosecutor of the canton of Zurich has also ended his investigation, as the complaints have been withdrawn, NZZ am Sonntag reported.

Thiam’s resignation followed a torrid six-month scandal that began with revelations in the Swiss press that Khan had been shadowed by agents from a private detective company hired after he joined UBS. 

At one point, Khan physically confronted the people following him.

In October, chief operating officer Pierre-Olivier Bouee resigned, acknowledging at the end of an internal investigation that he “alone” had ordered the tailing without informing his superiors.

He had wanted to ensure that Khan was not trying to poach other employees, according to the internal investigation.

The case was reopened in December 2019 when the bank admitted to a second case of espionage, this time involving the former head of human resources, and then in February after media reports that the surveillance had also targeted the environmental organisation Greenpeace.



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