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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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Germany’s flood zones spared severe storms on Saturday

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In the west of the country, the fire brigade reported a quiet night in the flood areas in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine Westphalia.

The situation remains tense, however, with local thunderstorms forecast in some parts of Germany from midday on Sunday — most likely south of the Danube.

Further heavy rain and hail were also possible again, according to the German Weather Service (DWD), which publishes storm warnings.

READ ALSO: WEATHER: German flood zones at risk of further storms

The latest storms came just days after parts of the country were hit by devastating floods after torrential rains that ravaged entire villages and left 180 people dead, hundreds injured and with many still missing.

The flooding also caused damage in Belgium, where 37 people died, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.



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Prosecutors allege R Kelly had sexual contact with under-age boy

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US prosecutors in R Kelly’s sex trafficking case say he had sexual contact with an under-age boy in addition to girls, and the government wants jurors in his upcoming sex-trafficking trial to hear those claims.

Federal prosecutors aired a wide-ranging raft of additional allegations – but not new charges – against the R&B singer in a court filing on Friday.

Jury selection is due to start August 9th in a New York federal court for Kelly, who denies ever abusing anyone.

The Grammy Award-winning singer is charged with leading what prosecutors call a criminal enterprise of managers, bodyguards and other employees who allegedly helped him to recruit women and girls for sex and pornography and to exercise control over them.

The charges involve six different women and girls, who are not named in court filings.

Now, prosecutors would also like jurors to hear about more than a dozen other people whom the government alleges that Kelly sexually or physically abused, threatened or otherwise mistreated.

Among them, the government says, was a 17-year-old boy and aspiring musician whom Kelly met at a McDonald’s in December 2006 and later invited to his Chicago studio.

According to the prosecutors’ court filing, after asking the boy what he would do to make it in the music business, Kelly propositioned and had sexual contact with him while he was still under-age.

And when Kelly was about to go on trial on child pornography charges in Chicago in 2008, the same youth told the singer he had access to a juror, and Kelly asked him to contact the juror and vouch he was a “good guy”, prosecutors wrote.

The filing does not say whether the youth did so. Kelly was acquitted in that case.

The boy also introduced Kelly to a 16- or 17-year-old male friend, with whom prosecutors say the singer began a sexual relationship several years later.

Kelly also filmed the two youths in sexual encounters with other people, including some of Kelly’s girlfriends, according to the filing.

Prosecutors wrote that the accounts of the boys and others would help show that the actual charges “were not isolated events and were part of a larger pattern”.

The multiplatinum-selling singer, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, is known for work including the 1996 hit I Believe I Can Fly and the cult classic Trapped In The Closet, a multi-part tale of sexual betrayal and intrigue.

Kelly’s private life has drawn scrutiny since the 1990s, and he currently is also facing sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota. He has pleaded not guilty.– AP

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Fears mount in western Germany as fresh rain falls

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For some areas, the German Weather Service has forecast heavy showers or storms, bringing between 30 and 40 litres per square metre.

Amid further rainfall on Saturday afternoon, evacuation services to emergency accommodation were offered to communities in Rheinland-Palatinate who had been particularly badly affected by the flooding, German news site Merkur reported.

“The people will have to make the decision themselves,” said Begona Hermann, head of the relief teams in the west German state, explaining that the forecast rainfall was not expected to be as severe as that which devastated parts of Germany last week.  

READ ALSO: German floods death toll hits 180, with 150 still missing

However, even lower levels of rainfall could still be a problem because sewage and drainage systems were not working properly because of the flooding.

Earlier on Saturday, police requested all volunteers working on the clean-up operation in the Ahr area to leave as quickly as possible for their own safety because of the difficult conditions.

This came after the police and the crisis management team asked the public not to travel to Rhineland-Palatinate to help out because there were too many people there.

“The population’s willingness to help continues to be undiminished and overwhelming,” read a Kassel police statement on Saturday. Due to the large number of volunteers who came to help out, however, roads in the area are now congested, it said.

Heavy machinery required for road and bridge construction, and for the restoration of the area’s water supply, was getting stuck in traffic jams, the press release said.

Vehicles for removing rubbish and construction debris, as well as emergency and rescue vehicles, were also unable to get through.



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