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Russian MiniLessons
for intermediate and advanced students
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Below is an archive of the Russian MiniLessons featured in the SRAS newsletter over the 2007-2008 school years. Please see our full table of contents above for a list of all lessons, arranged by subject. To subscribe to the newsletter, and recieve a free Mini-Lesson each month, simply sign up

Православные похороны - Orthodox Funerals

With the recent death of Patriarch Alexei II, we've heard western newscasters on CNN and BBC refer to Russian traditional funeral practices as "involved," "strict," and "very, very long." Of course, to most Russians, the practices are none of these things, but rather "normal," "reverential," and, of course, "Orthodox." This month's Russian Mini-Lesson explores these traditional practices and the vocabulary related to them.

Православная церковь (the Orthodox Church), much like the Католическая церковь (the Catholic Church) says that умирающий (a dying person) should, if possible, исповедать (confess his sins), причаститься (receive communion), and собороваться (receive the last rites). If you have a relative or friend who is gravely sick, you should попросить прощения (ask for forgiveness [for any offense you may have caused that person in their life]) and простить (forgive) that person of any offense they may have caused you. 

According to традиция православных похорон (the tradition of Orthodox funerals), умерший (the dead person) should be обмывать (washed) and переодевать (dressed) in clean and preferably new clothes in order to предстать перед Богом (appear before God) in purity. Покойник (the deceased) is placed in красный угол (the red corner), a corner of a Russian home traditionally reserved for icons. The deceased's head should point to the icons. Покойник is covered with white саван (shroud), with eyes and mouth closed, arms folded on the chest with the right arm on the top of the left, and a white handkerchief placed into the right hand. The arms and legs of покойник are tied together. They are untied during a later part of the funeral, the последнее прощание (last farewell).

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Погребальный крест (the funeral cross) is placed into the left hand, and икона (an icon) is put on the chest. For men, the Icon of Christ is used and for women, the Icon of the Mother of God. Венчик (a funeral headband) is a paper strip with the picture of God, the Mother of God, and John the Baptist and is placed on the forehead of покойник to symbolize that покойник observed the canons of the faith during his/her life.

Before placing усопший (another word for "the deceased") in гроб (the coffin), тело (body) and гроб should be окроплять святой водой (sprinkled with holy water). Under the head of усопший, a pillow is put. Four свечи (candles) are placed around покойник – one at the head, one at the feet and two on the sides at the level of the folded arms, symbolizing a cross.  

Psalms should be continually read over the тело покойного (body of the deceased) until погребение (the burial). If священник (priest) is invited, he conducts панихида (Service for the Dead).

When гроб с покойным (the coffin with the deceased) is at home, relatives and friends come to прощаться с усопшим (part with the deceased). The most appropriate ritual of parting is перекреститься (crossing oneself) and прочитать краткую молитву (say a brief prayer). If one did not have a chance to do so while the deceased was living, one should also попросить прощения and простить покойника.

Похороны (funeral) takes place on the third day after the death.

Гроб с покойным is taken from the house ногами вперед (with the feet first). According to the Orthodox Church traditions, родственники и друзья (relatives and friends) should carry the coffin.

First, покойник is taken to the church for отпевание (requiem service). After that, покойник is taken to кладбище (the cemetery).  

Покойника хоронят (is buried) головой на запад (with the head pointed to the West), in accordance with the Christian belief that the body of Christ was buried with his head pointed to the West and the face – to the East.  All people in attendance бросают горсть земли (throw a handful of soil) в могилу (into the grave). Надгробный крест (burial cross) is set at the feet of покойник.

The funeral ends with поминки (a wake), where special dishes are offered, such as кутья (boiled rice with raisins) and блины (Russian crepes). According to the Orthodox tradition, поминальный обед (the funeral feast) should not involve alcohol. Prayer at this time is considered especially important, and prayer and alcohol are considered incompatible by the Orthodox Church. 

Усопший should be поминать (prayed for) on the third, ninth, and fortieth day after смерть (the death). Поминки (wakes) are also arranged on the third, ninth, and fortieth days, and people can visit these поминки without being invited. On all other days, поминки may be held and only relatives and close friends invited. One should arrange church prayers for the dead immediately after the death. For example, the Сорокоуст (Forty Days' Requiem) is especially important.

The prayer schedule corresponds with Orthodox beliefs about the path the soul takes in the after life. For the first two days, душа (the soul) of the dead person has relative freedom. It stays near the deceased's body and can visit its favorite earthly places. On the third day, душа must make its way to heaven, but is blocked by evil spirits that accuse it of various sins. After the third day, душа is shown рай (Heaven) for 6 days. On the ninth day, душа возносится (the soul is carried up) by angels to worship God. Душа is also shown Hell and moves between Heaven and Hell for 37 days. On the fortieth day, it is given a place to be until воскресение из мертвых (the Resurrection) and Страшный Суд (Judgment Day, Doomsday). Prayers for the dead help it on its course.

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Death in Russian Folklore and Culture

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Russians are often superstitious and regard discussions of death or illness as unpleasant or even dangerous. However, as with all cultures, death does play a significant part in Russian folklore and modern Russian culture. The following mini-lesson is designed to very briefly introduce students to this and the vocabulary that surrounds it. 

Смерть (death) is a central theme of many Russian myths and fairy-tales. There are many приметы (signs) in Russian folklore show that a person might умереть (die soon – note the use of the perfective tense). For example, if a person dreams of white clothing, a white horse, a house without windows, an egg, or is met in a dream by a deceased relative who invites the dreamer to follow him/her someplace. Death sometimes follows certain events such as a dog howls for a long time, a hen's crow, a bird beating against a window pane, the walls and the floor of a house producing cracking sounds, or falling stars.

Many social historians argue that Russians of 100 years ago were not afraid of cмерть and perceived it as a wholly natural phenomenon. There was a popular proverb «Двум смертям не бывать, а одной не миновать» (Two deaths cannot happen, but the one death cannot be avoided). Russians held the folk belief that if a person died как подобает (as befits [a man or woman]), he/she will go to «тот свет» ("that light," or "another world"). «Тот свет» resembles our world: there are fields and meadows, houses where the souls of the dead reside. They live with their families and do their daily work – but surrounded by gold and silver palaces and rivers that flow with milk.

Покойники or мертвецы (the deceased) can bother living people if the покойник was a колдун (sorcerer) or  ведьма (witch) or if he/she умер без покаяния (died without penance or confession). There are many Russian fairy tales that center on the покойник выходит из гроба (the dead leaving their graves) at night and going to village to kill the living. Often in these cases a smart военный (soldier - also "солдат" is used) or a лесник (woodsman) will happen to be nearby and will оживить (bring back to life) the unfortunate victims after forcing the deceased to tell him how this can be done. 

Russians divide deaths into two groups: естественная смерть (natural death) and преждевременная смерть (premature death) which can also be скоропостижная (sudden death). Преждевременная смерть can happen из-за несчастного случая (due to accident) or it can be насильственная смерть (due to a violent crime). People present their condolences to the deceased person’s relatives by saying: «Приношу свои соболезнования» ("I bring/offer my condolences"). They will attend похороны (funeral ceremony) and поминки (funeral banquet) to honor the deceased. 

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Фондовый рынок - The Stock Market


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Акции (stocks or shares) are the documents which выпускаются (are issued) in the process of forming an акционерное общество – АО (joint-stock company). And акция grants the акционер (stockholder) право собственности на долю в уставном капитале (the right of ownership to a share in the authorized capital – or basically a piece of the company) and право на получение дивидендов (the right to receive dividends). The procedure of выпуск акций (issuing shares) is called эмиссия (issuance). The officially named price of a share is called its номиналная стоимость (nominal value). 

Before эмиссия, a company must undergo an аудит (audit) for the purpose of performing due diligence (which in Russian is often referred to with a more general term "экспертиза" or by the more specific term "должная проверка" and increasingly as simply "due diligence" - written in English letters even in Russian documents). Due diligence is done to prove that the information provided by the company about its finances, is достоверна (true or reliable).

Фондовый рынок (the stock market – also referred to as "фондовая биржа") is a рынок (market) for торговля акции компаний (trading in company stock). It is here that инвесторы (investors) can приобрести акции (purchase shares) in order to получить дивиденды (receive dividends) or if they hope to продать акцию дороже (sell the share at a more expensive price).

Any stock can упасть в цене (drop in price), this risk is impossible to avoid. On Monday September 29, Russian stocks резко понизились (fell sharply). The РТС (RTS or Russian Trading System, which is Russia's best known stock market) биржевой индекс (stock index) снизился (dropped – sometimes the term "понизился" will be used here) by 7%, in part because of reactions to the global financial crisis, but also due to internal political and economic factors.

According to Russian media, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that Vnesheconombank (a state-owned bank) would disburse up to $50 billion to Russian banks and financial institutions in order to поддержать ликвидность и платежеспособность (support the liquidity and solvency) of крупные корпорации (big corporations). In addition, Putin also said that the Russian government decided to разместить на банковских депозитах (place in banks’ deposit accounts) around $10 billion in бюджетные средства (state funds) to support the Russian stock market.

In addition to global and local social, economic, and political factors, sometimes sharp rises or drops in the stock market are caused by maneuverings of wealthy brokers. Some брокеры (stockbrokers) играют на повышение (speculate that prices will rise) by purchasing large volumes of ценные бумаги (securities, which include stocks) по ценам выше рыночных (at the prices above those of the market's). They are called "быки" (bulls – from the same origin as "bull market" in English) and create the impression of rapid growth of the indexes among less professional market participants. "Быки" will then start selling back their shares at higher prices to gain profit when others start following their lead in buying a certain stock.

"Медведи" (bears) do the opposite. They sell securities in order to обваливать цены (bring down prices) quickly so that they can purchase those the same securities at cheaper prices later.

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Южная Осетия - South Ossetia

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Оn August 28, Russia признала независимость (recognized the independence) of South Ossetia. Непризнанное государство (The unrecognized state) входит в состав (is a part of) Georgia, but only officially, since in fact it became отколовшаяся республика (a breakaway republic) in 1992 and has effectively ruled itself ever since.

Political differences between South Ossetia and Georgia, as they attempted to negotiate the South Ossetia's place in the new Georgian state, deteriorated to вооруженные столкновения (military clashes) in 1991, after which South Ossetia объявила независимость (declared independence). However, the international community did not recognize the new state. South Ossetia turned to Russia for protection during the peace negotiations with Georgia in 1992. Under a Смешанной контрольной комиссии (Joint Control Commission), South Ossetia, Georgia, and Russia agreed that a peacekeeping force made up of soldiers from all three countries would ensure peace in the region until a more permanent solution could be found. The region then became what is often referred to as a "замороженный конфликт" (frozen conflict).

The major military confrontation between Georgian troops, on one side, and South Ossetia's and Russian military, on the other side, which took place in August, 2008, was called "война" (war) by some Russian media. Other media called it only "боевые действия" (military actions). Whatever it is called, although it is officially over, there is still no peace in the region, despite the mediation of French President Nicolas Sarkozy on behalf of the European Union. One of the reasons is that the стороны ("parties" – or people who signed the document) interpret the мирное соглашение (peace agreement) in different ways.

Nicolas Sarkozy supports Georgia in its call for a Russia to immediately вывести войска (withdraw troops) from Georgia. Point five of the peace agreement does state that Russia must withdraw its troops. However, this point also states that Russia has the right to принять дополнительные меры безопасности (take additional security measures) until the international community can agree on a mechanism to ensure the security of the region. Thus, Russia argues, its continued presence and actions in Georgia are justified.

In official statements, the Russian Foreign Ministry has argued that all Russian military units were returned to Russia, except for those which are in South Ossetia by the request of the South Ossetian leadership for поддержание мира (peacekeeping) and that Russian миротворческие силы (peacekeeping forces) have сформировали зону безопасности (created a security zone) around South Ossetia, in accordance with point five of the peace agreement. This security zone contains посты (observation stations) staffed by a total of 500 Russian миротворцы (peacekeepers).

The six points are listed in Russian and English below:

Шесть принципов мирного урегулирования 

  1. Не прибегать к использованию силы.
  2. Окончательно прекратить все военные действия.
  3. Свободный доступ к гуманитарной помощи.
  4. Вооружённые силы Грузии возвращаются в места их постоянной дислокации.
  5. Вооружённые Силы Российской Федерации выводятся на линию, предшествующую началу боевых действий. До создания международных механизмов российские миротворческие силы принимают дополнительные меры безопасности.
  6. Начало международного обсуждения вопросов будущего статуса Южной Осетии и Абхазии и путей обеспечения их прочной безопасности.

Six Point Peace Plan (translation as used by the Associated Press)

  1. No recourse to the use of force.
  2. A lasting cessation of hostilities.
  3. Unfettered access for humanitarian aid providers.
  4. Georgian forces must withdraw to their usual barracks.
  5. Russian forces must go back to positions they held prior to the outbreak of hostilities. Pending an international peace monitoring mechanism, Russian peacekeepers will take additional security measures.
  6. Launch of international discussions on security and stability arrangements for Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

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Скороговорки - Russian Tongue Twisters

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    На горке горько ревет Егорка.
  2. На дворе трава, на траве дрова. Не руби дрова на траве двора.
  3. Проворонила ворона вороненка.
  4. Корабли лавировали, лавировали да не вылавировали.
  5. Карл у Клары украл кораллы. Клара у Карла украла кларнет.
  6. Щипцы да клещи – вот наши вещи.
  7. Цапля чахла, цапля сохла, цапля сдохла наконец.
  8. Пол мыла Лара, мила Ларе помогала.
  9. Ехал Грека через реку, видит Грека в реке рак, сунул Грека руку в реку, рак за руку Греку цап.
  10. Щетинка у чушки, чешуйка у щучки.
  11. Жук жужжит и встать не может. Ждет он, кто ему поможет.
  12. Волки рыщут, пищу ищут.
  13. Мишка шапкой шишки сшиб.
  14. Маша дала Ромаше сыворотку из-под простокваши.
  15. Если руки мыли вы, если руки мыли мы, если руки вымыл ты, значит руки вымыты.

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Баллотироваться - To Run for Office

Every four years, президентские выборы (presidential elections) and парламентские выборы (parliamentary elections) take place in Russia. Legally, any Russian citizen older than thirty-five and who has lived in Russia for a minimum of ten years, can быть избран (be elected) Президент Российской Федерации (President of the Russian Federation).

There are два исключения (two exceptions) to the above rule. First, anyone who has been осужденный за преступление (convicted for a crime) may not run. Second, any person who has already served второй срок подряд (two consecutive terms) may not run for a third (though one person may serve three or more terms non-consecutively). Because of this second exception, President Putin, even though polls showed that we would have likely been elected if he ran for the office - despite the law - не имел права (was ineligible) баллотироваться на должность президента (to run for the office of president).

Кандидаты на должность президента (candidates for the office of president) can be nominated via several methods. First, they can be nominated by any political party that holds seats in the Russian Duma. Candidates can also be nominated by a party not holding seats or can be nominated via самовыдвижение (self-nomination) if they can gather два миллиона подписей (two million signatures) - and prove that no more than 5% of those signatures are forged or faked.

Вновь избранный президент (the president-elect) вступает в должность (takes office) after принесения присяги (taking an oath). The oath is short and actually written directly into the constitution. It runs as follows:

"While executing the authority of the President of the Russian Federation, I swear to respect and protect the rights and freedoms of the individual and citizen, honor and defend the Constitution of the Russian Federation, defend the sovereignty and independence, and security and integrity of the state, and loyally serve the people." «Клянусь при осуществлении полномочий Президента Российской Федерации уважать и охранять права и свободы человека и гражданина, соблюдать и защищать Конституцию Российской Федерации, защищать суверенитет и независимость, безопасность и целостность государства, верно служить народу».
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As for выборы в Государственную Думу (elections for the State Duma), any Russian citizen who is 21 years of age on день голосования (voting day - "день выборов" is also often used in this context), may run for a Duma seat. Кандидаты (candidates) for State Duma выдвигаются (are nominated) via федеральные списки кандидатов (federal ballots). The lists are made by политические партии (political parties). In order to попасть в избирательный список (to get on he ballot), the candidate should be an important figure in his/her party. However, as the United Russia Party showed when they placed Vladimir Putin, who is not a member of any political party, at the top of their candidate list for the 2007 Duma elections, this suggestion is not a legal requirement.

The president and deputies are elected by всеобщее прямое голосование (universal direct vote). This means that Russia has only a popular vote and no electoral vote. Russians also do not have primaries. Most Russians are very confused by both "extra" additions to the American process.

Политическая оппозиция (The political opposition) has complained about a number of нарушений (violations) at most recent elections in Russia. Most frequently, the opposition points to the missuse of government resources during the election process, which in Russian legislation is known as использование административного ресурса, and is illegal. Currently, almost all the winners of presidential and parliamentary elections in Russia were in power prior to and during the election process. They received favorable media coverage by state TV channels and were supported by officials from regional governments. Some opposition figures have gone further and said that вброс бюллетеней (ballot stuffing). Others have accused the избирательные комиссии (electoral commissions - responsible for counting the ballots) with фальсификация результатов выборов (vote rigging).

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Crime and Punishment - Преступление и наказание

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In Russia, кража (theft) is the most widespread type of преступление (crime), accounting for 44% percent of all crimes in 2007, according to Russia's Ministry of the Interior. If a person совершает преступление (commits a crime) such as мелкая кража (petty theft) and попался (gets caught) he/she be will be задержан (arrested/detained). Petty theft often goes unpunished, because if the criminal does not get пойман с поличным (caught red handed), rarely is there an in-depth расследование (investigation). In Russia, as in most countries, investigations take time and money and are often not pursued for minor crimes.

After he/she is arrested, the criminal is then held in ИВС (Изолятор временного содержания - a temporary detention center for those arrested but not yet tried for crimes) or СИЗО (Следственный изолятор – a detention center that can be used to temporarily hold both those not yet convicted and those recently convicted of crimes, but not yet transported to a correctional facility).

Most criminal cases are рассматривается в суде (tried in court) with a single judge deciding the guilt of and наказание (sentence, punishment) for the accused. Cуд присяжных (trial by jury) has been officially used in Russia since 2007 (a pilot program began before that), but only a limited number of serious crimes fall under their отправление правосудия (jurisdiction). These serious crimes include убийство (murder), изнасилование (rape), large scale растрата (embezzlement), измена (treason), and подстрекательство (sedition).

In either case, if the court decides that a person is виновен (guilty), he/she may be приговорен к лишению свободы (imprisoned – the Russian literally translates to "sentenced to deprivation of freedom"). Especially in cases where the criminal is a minor, he/she may be sentenced to условное освобождение преступника на поруки (probation). There may also be штрафы (fines) levied on the criminal.

The process of transporting заключенный (a convict) to исправительная колония (penal colony) is called этап. These "colonies" are where the majority of first time criminals and those convicted of minor crimes will serve their time. Тюрьмы (prisons) in Russia are generally reserved for serious or repeat offenders. Этап starts by loading the prisoner into an автозак – a truck which looks like those used for transporting bread. However, a trip in автозак cannot legally last longer than four hours. For long distances, convicts are transported by train, in so-called "вагон-зак" ("prisoner-cars"). This train car looks like those used for transporting mail or baggage, and is attached to long-distance passenger trains, at the end or beginning of the train. As a rule, train passengers never guess that convicts are transported with them on the same train.

Once the заключённый arrives at his/her place of incarceration, they may learn to "болтать по фене" (to gab in prison slang – this slang term literally translates to "to speak the language of hair-driers," and may have come from the fact that the Russian word for "to dry" – сушить, is the source for many offensive Russian terms. Some less-offensive terms from other sources (which should still be used with extreme caution) of this slang include щенок (policemen – literally the term means "puppy" and sounds much like "сынок," an affectionate term for a son which is sometimes used condescendingly in Russian in much the same context as the English term "boy"). Other slang terms include: лавэ, бабки (money); зэк (prisoner), кабак (tavern or mess hall), академия (prison), and залететь (to get caught).

Much research has been done in Russia on prison slang and subculture, and you can read more prison words and expressions in online dictionaries at, for example.

Неоднократность преступлений (repeat offenses) are currently a problem in the Russian criminal justice system. Activists blame this on the fact that often criminals are transported to prisons or colonies that are far from their home towns and освобождали (released) with no money or support. There is also some discrimination against those with судимость (criminal records) in applying for jobs. Therefore, life is generally hard for бывшие заключённые (ex-convicts), who often congregate in towns near prisons and return to lives of crime after their release.

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On the Train - На поезде

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Russian Far East

Trains are the most popular form of travel in Russia. Due to Russia's harsh weather, railways are much better developed than the roads, which are more difficult to maintain. While air travel is quickly becoming more developed in Russia, and now competes effectively with train travel in terms of prices, trains are a part of Russian culture and will be for a long time.

If you decide to take the train, the first thing you need is покупать билет (to buy a ticket). If you will be taking a multi-stop journey, you might look at purchasing your tickets from an online service such as this one. However, it's generally easiest and cheapest to buy a ticket in person at the train station. To do so, first find the train station you need. In Moscow, for instance, there are девять вокзалов (nine train stations). Once inside the train station, find the касса (ticket office). Keep in mind that there are two sets of ticket offices in every station: one is labeled "пригородные поезда" (commuter trains) and the other is "поезда дальнего следования" (long-distance trains). Commuter trains allow you to reach destinations up to about an hour from the city.

For long distance tickets, you should plan to wait in line for about 15-40 minutes (like we said, it's a popular mode of travel). If you wanted to order one second class ticket to Kiev at Kievskaya Vokzal in Moscow, you would tell the кассир (cashier) there: "Пожалуйста, мне билет до Киева на 14 апреля, один, купе." The cashier might reply, "Есть только верхние места" (There are only top bunks available). So long as you are able to climb a short ladder, however, this shouldn't concern you and you can accept the top bunk. If you ordered a плацкарт (third-class) ticket, the cashier might say "Есть только боковые места" (there are only side spaces available). The side spaces in third class are very small and it can be very difficult to sleep there. If you will be travelling for any length of time, you will want to take at least a second class ticket.

If you are unhappy with the available seats, you can ask "Есть места на другие поезда?" (Are there seats for other trains?) If there are other trains heading for that same destination (at some other time) that day, the cashier will tell you. On the ticket you bought, you will see your номер поезда (train number), номер вагона (car number) and номер места (seat number). For more about how to read your ticket, check our Guide to Russia.

The procedure of entering the train is simple: you show the проводница (train attendant - who is usually female. If male, the title is "проводник") your ticket and passport. They are very strict about passports, so don't forget yours. If you don't have it, you will have about as much chance of getting on the train as if you showed up without a ticket.

After the passengers take their seats, and usually after the train has begun moving, the attendant will collect the tickets. She asks, "Билеты пожалуйста" (Tickets, please). Her second question, if you will be travelling overnight, is usually: "Постель будете брать?" (Would you like some bedding?) As a rule, постель includes two sheets, a pillow case, and a small towel. Renting this комплект (set) will set you back about 50-100 rubles (2-4 US dollars). Blankets are often in the storage compartment above the door of second-class cabins. If not, you can ask the attendant, who resides at the front of your wagon, for a blanket. The attendant also generally has coffee and tea continually available - purchasing a cup costs about 5-10 rubles.

Any problems that you may have on the trip can be taken to the проводница, you can address the начальник поезда (train chief), who is usually located in the штабной вагон (chief car), which is usually at the very front of the train. There are often security forces on any train as well.

The туалет (bathroom) of the train is small and not very comfortable as it almost never has туалетная бумага (toilet paper) and for this reason passengers often carry toilet tissue with them.

If you will be traveling several hours, you will probably want to buy some food at train stops. If you will be getting off the train, you should always ask the attendant Долго будет стоять? (Will we be here a long time?) If the train will be at the station a very short amount of time, you might not want to risk getting off. If you are not on by the time the train leaves, you will be left behind.

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True Love - Истинная любовь

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If a man likes a woman, he can ask of her "Давай встретимся" (let's meet) or, if he is more bashful, "Я хотел бы с тобой встретиться" (I would like to meet with you) and she will understand that he is asking her on a date. She can agree прийти на свидание (to go on a date or meeting). When they meet, he might pay her compliments by saying "Ты очаровательна" (You are charming/enchanting) or, if he wanted to seem more "hip" and modern, he could say "Ты классная" (You are first-class/cool). If, over time, he develops stronger feelings, he might tell her that "Ты мне очень сильно понравилась" (I like you very much) or, if he wanted to use another common but less direct phrase he might say that, "Мне с тобой хорошо" (It is pleasant to be with you). Of course, if he wants to get right to the point, he would say "Я в тебя влюбился" (I have fallen in love with you).

To describe his feelings to his friends using slang, he might say "Я по уши влюбился" (I've fallen in love up to my ears) or he might use the more commonly accepted phrase "Я влюбился с первого взгляда" (I fell in love at a first sight). If the woman likes him as well, she might begin "строить глазки" (to make eyes), and say "Я скучаю по тебе" (I miss you) when he calls her. He might respond with and say "Я думаю о тебе" (I am thinking about you) or even "Я тебя обожаю" (I adore/worship you).

The two might begin to refer to each other with pet names such as "солнышко" (little sun), and "милая" or "милий" (sweetheart).

The man might decide on day to tell the woman "Жить без тебя не могу" (I can't live without you) or "Я люблю тебя больше всего на свете" (I love you more than anything in the world). He might simply say "Ты мне нужна" (I need you) and she will understand that he feels that he needs her in his life always.

At this time, the man might decide that it is time to "сделать предложение" (to make a proposal / to propose). He might say, after repeating much of the above phrases, "Выходи за меня замуж" (marry me) or he might use "Будь моей женой" (be my wife), which is more common and pitheir.

Later on, if their family is happy, people can say about them "Они живут душа в душу" (they live soul-in-soul), meaning that they live in perfect harmony, that they are soul mates. People may also say simply "У них счастливая семья" (they have a happy family). He might call he by more mature terms of endearment such as "моя половинка" (my [other] half) or "родная," which means "darling" but also implies "my home" or "my own place, where I am meant to be." She can call him "моя опора" (my support, my rock), meaning that she can rely on him for anything.

Although many Russians are beginning to adopted more western-oriented values in this regard, most Russians believe that ideal home is one in which the wife "обеспечивает хороший тыл" (provides a solid home front), to which the man will always "летит домой как на крыльях" (fly home as if on wings).

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New Year Resolution - Новогодний зарок


GRINT students visit Red Square
Russian Studies

Russian language in
Moscow with optional
subject-area classes and
internship options!

The world's number one New Year's resolution (Новогодний зарок) is probably to more regularly go to the gym (ходить в тренажерный зал). In honor of this tradition, which is popular in both Russia and America, this month we feature an intensive Russian lesson all about fitness activities. Enjoy and be healthy this New Year!

Я хочу быть сильным и иметь хорошую фигуру. А чтобы быть в хорошей форме (to be in good form, to be fit), нужно регулярно тренироваться. Поэтому я хожу в тренажерный зал, 2-3 раза в неделю, и «качаюсь» (this slang word literally means, "I swing," but the meaning here is "to lift or pump weights." It is mostly used by males. Females sometimes say, "сходить в тренажерку" but everyone is most likely to say simply "ходить в тренажерный зал") - то есть даю нагрузку мышцам (I give my muscles a workout). «Тренажерный зал» на слэнге называют «качалка» ("swinging room" - the word also means "rocking chair").

Я купил абонемент (subscription; membership) на 3 месяца занятий.

Когда я прихожу в «качалку», вначале переодеваюсь (change my clothes) в раздевалке в спортивную форму (athletic clothes). В спортзале есть весы, (scales) можно взвеситься (weigh oneself). Я взвешиваюсь каждый раз, чтобы определить, какой эффект дают тренировки.

Потом иду в зал и делаю разминку (I warm up), чтобы разогреть мышцы (to warm up the muscles). Летом могу пробежать несколько кругов (run several laps) по стадиону, который находится рядом. Также могу побегать на беговой дорожке (running track), походить на степпере (use a stepper), или размяться (loosen up, stretch) на велотренажере (exercise bicycle). Затем я делаю вращения руками ("arm rotating" - usually referred to in English as "windmills"), наклоны (stretches - for a whole series of Russian stretches, click here), и другие разминочные упражнения (warm up exercises).

Потом приступаю к основной части тренировки. В разные дни я делаю упражения для разных групп мышц (muscle groups) - рук (бицепсов [biceps], трицепсов [triceps]), плечевого пояса (дельтовидные мышцы [includes deltoids and trapezius muscles]), груди (pectorals), спины (широчайшие мышцы [latissimus dorsi or "lats"]), ног и брюшного пресса (abdominal muscles). Это такие упражнения, как жим штанги (weights) лежа широким и узким хватом (wide and close grip), разведение (extensions) рук с гантелями (dumbbells) в стороны, сгибание (curls) рук с гантелями, тяга (inclines) штанги и многие другие. Если вес штанги слишком велик, когда я делаю жим лежа (bench press), я прошу кого-нибудь «подстрахуй меня» (to "spot" me).

Есть разные упражнения – на силу, на массу (for mass) и на рельеф (for muscle tone). Когда я хочу звеличить мышечную массу, я делаю упражнения по 4-6 подходов (sets), по 8-10 повторений (repetitions) в каждом, в среднем и медленном темпе. Каждый подход выполняется «до отказа» (literally, this term means "until breakdown" - here it is used as slang and means "to exhaustion") - пока мышцы станут неспособны сделать хотя бы еще один повтор (rep).

В упражениях для улучшения рельефа мышц количество повторений – 15-20 и более, в быстром темпе.

Я надеюсь стать таким же, как мои кумиры (idols/heroes) – известные российские атлеты Александр Невский (Alexander Nevskii, the first Russian champion in European bodybuilding, and often regarded as the pioneer of professional bodybuilding in Russia, nicknamed "Russian Schwarzenegger") и российские чемпионы мира Сергей Цикунов, Алексей Себастьянов, Александр Балдин, Дмитрий Золин.

Думаю, что в будущем, когда кто-либо увидит мою фигуру на пляже, он скажет про меня: «Смотри, какой «качок» (slang term meaning "jock," though it carries fewer negative connotations in Russian).

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Russian Scientists - Русские ученые

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Russian Studies

Russian scientists (русские ученые), like scientists everywhere, practice the scientific method (научный метод) to acquire knowledge about the world. This method was first applied (был применен) by Arabian scientists more than 1,000 years ago, and has led to many discoveries (открытия) and inventions (изобретения).

There are several steps (этапы) to the scientific method including: formulating a hypothesis (формулирование гипотезы), testing the hypothesis (проверка гипотезы) often by performing an experiment (проведение эксперимента), processing the results (обработка результатов), creating a theory (создание теории), and publishing the results (опубликование результатов).

There are many Russian scientists whose work has been recognized all over the world, such as Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleev (Дмитрий Иванович Менделеев), who, in the mid 1800's, created the periodic table of elements (периодическая таблица элементов). Another important scientist was Alexander Stepanovich Popov (Александр Степанович Попов), a Russian physicist (физик) who, in 1895, was the first to demonstrate (демонстрировать) the practical application of electromagnetic (radio) waves (электромагнитные (радио) волны). Yet another celebrated Russian scientist is Sergey Korolyov (Серге́й Павлович Королев), who was the lead the Soviet space program (космическая программа) and designed missiles during the cold war. Under his leadership the Soviets would be the first to launch a satellite (спутник) and the first to conduct a manned space flight (пилотируемый полет в космосе).

Russian space technology is still used by other countries, including the US, to launch satellites and carry cargo into space. Russia's technology and techniques are known for being reliable (надежные) and relatively inexpensive (относительно недорогие). For these reasons and more, Russian is the second most popular language (второй по популярности язык) spoken in space.

In contemporary time, Russian scientists have been known primarily for their contributions to physics (физика) and information technologies (информационные технологии), and several have been awarded the Nobel Prize (были награждены Нобелевской премией) for the achievements (достижения) in such fields (области) as superconductors (сверхпроводники) and semiconductors (полупроводники).

Currently, Russian scientists receive support for their research from grants (гранты), companies' R&D departments (научно-исследовательские и опытно-конструкторские работы), and - though less commonly - through Russian military (industry) contacts (контракты с оборонной отраслью). Many are also beginning to find employment with technology-specific companies that are opening in Russia's new technology parks (технопарки), which have been developed with funds from the Russian government and given special tax status in an effort to diversify Russia's economy and better harness Russia's passion for science and invention.

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Визит к врачу - Visiting a doctor

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Research Travel

Hopefully, students coming abroad will not often face sudden проблемы со здоровьем (health problems), but occasionally this might happen, and they may have to лечиться (undergo medical treatment). In this case, they need записаться на прием к врачу (to make an appointment with a doctor) and сходить к врачу (to go to see the doctor). Often, a first visit to the doctor starts with seeing a терапевт (general practitioner).

In a кабинет врача (doctor's office) the пациент (patient) is usually first posed with the question "На что жалуетесь?" ("What is bothering you?") The patient can say "Я плохо себя чувствую," ("I am not feeling well"), and then elaborate – "У меня болит голова/живот/зуб/горло" ("I have a headache/stomachache/toothache/sore throat,") or "У меня сильная простуда" ("I have a bad cold") or perhaps the patient will have something that often affects people who have just traveled long distances and arrived in a new country and say, "У меня расстройство желудка и диарея" ("I have an upset stomach and diarrhea.") Other ailment that affect travelers can include depression and insomnia. The patient can then say "У меня депрессия/бессоница" ("I have depression/insomnia").

The doctor will осмотрит больного (examine the sick person) and will usually выпишет лекарства/терапию (prescribe some medicine/treatment).

От головной боли (for headaches), the doctor can prescribe анальгетики (painkillers). Сбить температуру (to bring down a temperature), аспирин (aspirin) is often prescribed. Russian doctors often treat depression with антидепрессанты (antidepressants), but sometimes транквилизаторы (tranquilizers) and/or витамины (vitamins) too.

Medicine often has to be taken до еды (before meals) or после еды (after meals). Most medicine is regimented as well, for example, по одной таблетке три раза в день (one tablet three times a day).

If a person has грипп (the flu), he/she can be recommended to try продаваемые без рецепта (over-the-counter medications) such as парацетамол (Paracetamol) and other противопростудные препараты (anti cold medications), such as колдрекс (Coldrex).

Russian people have elaborated many народные средства (folk remedies) for different diseases.

For example, to treat insomnia and depression, пустырник (motherwort) is boiled and drank (one teaspoonful in a glass of water) to give the patient a deep and restful sleep. Motherwort can be отмерять меньшую дозу (measured in a smaller dose to calm people before exams or other important events. It has no побочные явления (side effects).

All doctors are aware of such natural успокоительные средства (sedatives), such as мед (honey), молоко (milk), бананы (bananas), and тыква (pumpkin). Also, some пряности (spices) such as гвоздика (cloves), тмин (caraway), имбирь (ginger), and шалфей (sage) act as снотворные (soporifics, or drugs that induce sleep). One has to either add them to one's dinner or to prepare отвары (medicinal teas) from them.

For treating a sore throat, Russians often make a полоскание (gargle). The simplest of these contains 1 teaspoonful of salt per glass of water and two drops of iodine. One can also boil herbs – sage or ромашка (chamomile) – and gargle every 30 minutes. Other sore throat remedies include vodka, vodka with pepper, and hot milk with honey (two tablespoons of honey per glass of milk).

To treat a headache, folk wisdom says that you may crumple a fresh капустный лист (cabbage leaf) and affix it to your forehead or temples with a bandage. Cabbage is rich in calcium ions that will normalize the blood vessels under the skin, causing many types of headaches to be alleviated.

For treating diarrhea, one can dissolve two or three small crystals of марганцовка (potassium permanganate) in a half liter of water to produce a dark pink, but not violet, solution. One glass is drank in the morning and another at night. After taking the solution one or two times, the patient is usually cured.

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Political movements - политические движения
A few words related to political movements and the struggles that go with them.

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Boycott = бойкот
to impose a boycott = объявлять/объявить бойкот; наложить/накладывать бойкот
to lift a boycott = прекратить/прекращать бойкот; отменять/отменить бойкот

Constitutional right = конституционное право

Demonstration = демонстрация; выступления

Discrimination = дискриминация; умаление в правах; принижение роли; неодинаковое отношение
To practice discrimination = дискриминировать (кого-л.),
Religious discrimination = дискриминация по религиозным убеждениям, религиозная дискриминация
Sexual discrimination, sex discrimination = дискриминация по половому признаку, половая дискриминация
Racial discrimination, race discrimination = расовая дискриминация
Employment discrimination = дискриминация при найме на работу
Wage discrimination — дискриминация в оплате труда

Human rights = права человека

Non-violence = ненасилие

Prejudice = предубеждение, предвзятое мнение
Prejudice in favour of smb. = пристрастное отношение ( в пользу кого-л.; к кем-л )

Protest = протест; опротестование

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More about Computers - Еще о компьютерах

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Students often arrive in Russia now with computers, and often realise that they forgot something at home that they will need to replace. Sometimes computers breakdown here (as they do everywhere) and students find themselves asking Russians how to solve their problems. We've featured this terminology in our newsletter before but this this month we present an expanded vocabulary lesson about computers.

A Few Keys:
Key = клавиша
Button = кнопка
(Note: Key and button are often interchangeable)
Alphabetic key = буквенная клавиша
Number key = цифровая клавиша
Arrow key = клавиша управления курсором
Backspace key = клавиша возврата на одну позицию
Control key = управляющая клавиша
Delete key = клавиша аннулирования or клавиша удаления
Enter key = клавиша ввода sometimes simply "ввод" in slang
Tab key = клавиша установки табулятора
Escape key = клавиша выхода
Alt key = клавиша "Alt"
Shift key = клавиша регистра
Hot key = быстрая клавиша or комбинация "hot key"

Spare Parts:
Adapter = переходник
AC Adapter (that black block you plug your laptop into) = блок преобразователя напряжения or "блок" in common slang
Voltage adapter (so you can use American appliances in Russia, for instance) = инвертор
Plug adapter = переходная вилка
Plug = вилка
Power cord = шнур питания
Cord = шнур
Flash drive = флеш-диск or "флэшка" in common slang
Keyboard = клавиатура or "клава" in slang
Screen = экран
Flat screen - плоский экран
Port = порт
To plug into a port = подсоединять через порт
Mouse = мышь
Mouse pad = коврик для мыши
Touch pad (such as on an iPod or laptop) = Сенсорное управление

WiFi = беспроводной доступ; many Russians also just say and write "WiFi" (with English letters and pronunciation).
To go online = "войти в Интернет"
Access to the Internet = Доступ к интернет(у)
Note - Rules for conjugating "интернет" in Russian are not set. Some say it does not conjugate (like радио). Others say it should conjugate as a masculine noun. Either way is acceptable.

Window = окно
Icon = пиктограмма or "значок" in common slang
Control bar = комплект инструментальных средств
Boot up (to start a computer) = загрузить
Booting (the process of starting a computer) = загрузка
Start menu = меню Пуск
To freeze / lock up / take a really long time to do something = завесить / завешивать
The computer is locked up = компьютеp завесит
Upload/download = загружать / загрузить

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Законодательный процесс - Legislative Process

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Russian Far East

Russia's законодательный процесс (legislative process) has several этапов (stages). First, a законопроект (bill) разрабатывается (is developed). The right to develop bills has been given to cубъектам права законодательной инициативы, (subjects with the right of legislative initiative): Президенту (the Russian President), депутатам Совета Федерации (Deputies of the Federation Council), депутатам Государственной Думы (Deputies of the State Duma), Правительству (the government - which includes the various organs and departments of the government), законодательным органам субъектов Российской Федерации (The Legislative Bodies of the Russian Territories). In addition, this right is given to several judicial bodies: Конституционному Суду (The Constitutional Court), Верховному Суду (The Supreme Court) and Высшему Арбитражному Суду (The High Court of Arbitration) within their competences.

A developed bill вносится (is introduced) to the Государственную Думу (State Duma, or the Lower Chamber of the Russian Parliament) in the form of проектов (drafts of) федеральных конституционных законов (federal constitutional laws) and федеральных законов (federal laws) or поправок к законопроектам (amendments for bills).

Председатель Государственной Думы (the Chairman of the State Duma) sends the registered bill to the профильный комитет (relevant committee) which examines if the bill соответствует (complies with) регламенты (regulations) of the Russian Constitution and the Duma.

If the committee decides that the bill complies, Совет Государственной Думы (The State Duma Council) decides at the suggestion of the relevant committee to include the bill in the Duma agenda for очередную сессию (regular session).

Рассмотрение (The process of considering) bills is performed в трех чтениях (in three readings).

В первом чтении (during the first reading) концепция (the general concept) is discussed, and дается оценка (an assessment is given) for the bill's compliance with the Russian Constitution and an assessment is given on why the bill is needed.

К законопроекту, одобренному в первом чтении (For bills approved in this first reading), вносятся поправки (amendments are introduced). Поправки принимаются (amendments are made part of the bill) при рассмотрении законопроекта во втором чтении (during the second reading). В третьем чтении (during the third reading) no more amendments are allowed, and the law обсуждается в целом (is debated as a whole - in its final form).

Принятые Государственной Думой федеральные законы (federal laws adopted by the State Duma) передаются (are then submitted) на рассмотрение Совета Федерации (for the Federation Council's consideration). The Federation Council, which constitutes the Upper Chamber of Russian Parliament, is obliged to debate the law within 14 days.

A federal law is considered одобренным Советом Федерации (approved by the Federation Council) if за него проголосовало (it was voted for) by more than half of the членов палаты (Chamber Members).

After this, the law is sent to the President для подписания (for signing) и официального опубликования (and official publishing).

The President has право вето (the right of veto). If the President vetoes a law, the veto can be преодолено (overridden) by a two-thirds majority vote of the Federation Council. The president is entitled to impose veto only for federal laws. As for federal constitutional laws, the President must sign them after the Parliament's adoption.

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Russian often takes technological lexicons and "Russifes" them. Those words associated with mobile telephones and their use are no exception. For example, Russian not only uses the straight-forward translation "мобильный телефон," but has also developed several shorter forms including "мобильный," and "мобилник." Other less-used variants derived from the same root are "мобила," "мобил," and "мобилка."

Russian has applied the same process to the term "cellular telephone." The most appropriate translation is "сотовый телефон." "Сотовый" come from "сота" in Russian, which is a more precise term than "cell" in English. "Сота" refers specifically to a honeycomb. Shorter terms based on this term include "сотовый" and the less-used "сотик," "сотка," and "сотовик."

Russian also has variants for the cell phone that do not have analogues in English. These include "карманный телефон," (pocket telephone) and some Russians even use the term "хэнди" (a "handy" telephone). Another odd slang (and sparsely used) term for a mobile phone is "пелефон" which seems to have perhaps originated from the fact that one of the first mobile telephone service providers in Israel who marketed directly to Russian immigrants there was known by that brand name.

A cell phone may also be called a "труба," or "трубка," (pipe), a term that can be applied to any handset. This includes handsets connected to a landline which, in Russian, is known almost exclusively as a "городской телефон" or "городской."

The same has been applied to SMS, which in Russian is sometimes written with Latin letters (SMS), sometimes in Cyrillic transliteration (СМС), and sometimes in Cyrillic phonetic transliteration (Эсемес). All seem to be accepted forms, though the first two are used most often. Diminutives of each of these also exist, though there is some debate still about weather they should be allowed in educated speech. They are usually written "SMSка" (or "SMS-ка"), "СМСка" (sometimes "СМС-ка") and "эсемеска," respectively.

SMS, as in English, has also become a verb in Russian: Эсемесить (sometimes spelled partly with Latin letters: SMSить). This means, of course "to send an SMS." However, the generally accepted way to express this action is with the phrase "Отправить/отправлять SMS."

Other verbs and phrases associated with telephone communication include:

Сбросить/cбрасывать звонок (to deny a call). In terms of etiquette, this is considered acceptable in Russia for calls placed to mobile telephones (and most places). It simply means that you called at an inconvenient time.

Перезвонить/перезванивать (to call back). It is also quite common, if a person has received a call at an inconvenient time, to simply pick up the phone and say something like: "Перезвоню. Хорошо?" They then almost immediately hang up. This means they can't talk now but will call back.

Those who speak Russian and are interested in learning more about shortened text used in Russian SMSs can see this list.

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Оганы = Security Forces (FSB and Spies)

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Органы (security services) were very powerful in the Soviet Union. They conducted activities both in Russia and abroad. Previously, the KGB (Committee of State Security) had several управлений (departments), and Первое управление (The First Department) was in charge of внешняя разведка (foreign intelligence). Later this department was reorganized as Служба внешней разведки (Foreign Intelligence Service).

Spying generally worked something like this: an aгент (agent) or штатный сотрудник органов (staff member of the security services) would recruit some осведомителей (informers) to collect necessary information. The agent would often работает под прикрытием (work under the cover) of some organization such as a diplomatic mission or company. If he был раскрыт (was discovered) by the enemy's контрразведка (counterintelligence service), this meant that the agent провалился or терпел провал (had failed). Sometimes the agent then switched sides and работал под контролем ("worked under control") to дезинформировать (misinform) his former bosses and spy for the former enemy. Sometimes he or she would become a двойной агент (double agent) and work for both sides. This could be lucrative position, but with the risk that either side might discover the arrangement and punish the agent for being a предатель (traitor).

There were агенты-женщины (female agents) in the KGB. However, the special services are reluctant to uncover the names of these ladies even nowadays. For example, there are no photos of female agents in the special services museum located in Lubyanka, the former KGB building. Female agent were often referred to as "ласточки" (swallows) and their operations were often called медовые ловушки (honey traps). The agent became a mistress of a prominent person (either Soviet or a foreign man) and extracted secrets from him. Similar tactics were used by male agents who would seduce and even marry female secretaries working in government offices in order to obtain sensitive information.

Spies are perhaps most famous for their ликвидационные операции (liquidating operations) abroad. It is officially recognized that Soviet security services arranged the murder of Leo Trotsky, and Russian Special Services claim that the last liquidating operation abroad was conducted on October 15, 1959, when the leader of radical Ukrainian nationalists Stepan Bandera was killed by an agent in Munich. However, there is now much debate in the West over the recent death of Alexander Litvinenko and whether he too may have been "liquidated."

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How to Address Strangers in Russia

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