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Russian MiniLessons
for intermediate and advanced students
2010 Archive
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   More Language

Click the Russian keyboard for recommended resources for language learners! Click the Russian
keyboard for texts, audio, video, and
other resources for students of Russian!

Below is an archive of the Russian MiniLessons featured in the SRAS newsletter over the 2010 school year. Please see our FULL TABLE OF CONTENTS for a list of all lessons, arranged by subject. To subscribe to the newsletter, and receive a free Mini-Lesson each month, simply sign up.  

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Leisure and Village Traditions - Отдых и обычаи деревни
Village Life in Russia - Деревенская жизнь
Part 3 - Часть третья

Villagers often проводят вечера дома (spend evenings at home). The most common forms of entertainment are watching television or talking with family members, often about household-related themes such as семья, работа или финансы (family, work, or finances).

Weekends are more lively. Village residents can позволить себе расслабиться (allow themselves to relax) and поспать днем (take a nap). Some сидят на лавочках (sit on a bench) in the street or in their yard to watch and chat with the people who pass by. In the evening, it is popular to навещать друзей (visit friends). Young people ходят на дискотеку (go dancing). Dances are often held in the local Дом культуры (Cultural/Community Center; most of these were built by the Soviets) or young people might travel to a larger town which has a night club.

Every village has a День села (Village Day) which celebrates the day the village was officially founded. These are celebrated with local amateur singers and dancers performing for their fellow villagers. Food, drink, and often fireworks mark the occasion.

For major events, villagers will often устраивают праздник (arrange a celebration). Раньше колхоз собирал урожай (In the past, collective farms brought in the harvest), today, some collective farms survive as private enterprises. Then, as well as now, when a large group of villagers bring in a harvest, they will often отмечаю это едой, напитками и весельем (celebrate its completion with food, drink, and revelry).

Weddings are also large events for villagers. There are большие свадьбы, в которых участвует вся деревня (big wedding celebrations in which the entire village takes part). While the actual ceremony is often small, the celebrations last all day. The bride and groom посещают различные достопримечательности в сопровождении гостей (visit various landmarks with a procession of guests).  In the evening, there is a banquet with lots of formal toasts, games, and entertainment.

For everyday relaxation, many will ходить в русскую баню (go to a Russian bath house). Many villagers have their own banya and take pride in it. Many follow the правило трех помывок ("rule of three washings.") The head should be washed in one washbasin, the body in another, and a third is used for ополаскивание (rinsing).

Of course, many villagers have also come to treat vodka as an everyday pastime. Алкоголизм (alcoholism) is a problem in many Russian villages, creating an economic drag and social problems. Many portrayals of Russian villages often include the stereotypical алкоголики (alcoholics), распевающие песни или громко разговаривающие друг с другом (singing or talking loudly to each other) or even уснувшие на улице (passed out in the street).

Although village life often lacks modern conveniences in Russia (including gas, phone, and sometimes even electricity), villagers often claim that they живут тихой жизнью (lead quiet lives) and have minimum stress. Some of the лучшие стороны (best points) of village life include being near красота деревни (the beauty of the countryside). You can пойти в лес собирать грибы и ягоды (go to the forest to pick mushrooms and berries). Many have access to opportunities to попробовать свежий мед (try fresh honey) and попить свежего молока (drink fresh milk). Many even prize the opportunity to ходить босиком на улице (walk barefooted through the streets) with no problems.

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Labor and Transport - Труд и транспорт
Village Life in Russia - Деревенская жизнь
Part 2 - Часть вторая

 Study Abroad
in Russia!


Регулярно ходят автобусы (buses regularly run) from most larger villages to nearby towns несколько раз в день (several times a day). Проезд недорогой (the fare is not expensive), usually не дороже 30 рублей (not higher than 30 rubles), equivalent to one dollar. However, for people squeaking by on pensions, even these trips would have to be rationed. Few people in villages tend to have cars, and большинство пользуется общественным транспортом (most people use public transport) or идут пешком (walk; go by foot) to where they need to get to within their villages. Трудно проехать (the roads are hard to traverse) in the fall and in spring, though, as many roads are не асфальтированные (not paved).

In A History of the Village of Glubokoe (whose name translates as "Deep"), author Anna Perunova describes a typical large Russian village:

“Glubokoe is surrounded by a forest of white birches on one side and by an extremely beautiful lake on another side. The beauty of the landscape will impress anybody who has seen it. There are 637 people in village Glubokoe. Most of them работают в сельскохозяйственном предприятии (work in agricultural enterprises), some of them работают в доме престарелых (work at a retirement home) located in the village. There is a школа-девятилетка (a 9-grade school; Russians go to school for 11 grades, so residents would have to go elsewhere to finish their education), three библиотеки (libraries), one at the school, another at the nursing home, and also a сельская публичная библиотека (village public library), a почта (post office), станция скорой помощи (first-aid station), детский сад (a nursery/kindergarten) and a local Дом культуры (cultural center; community center)."

Many residents of such villages are всегда заняты работой (are always busy working). Many strive to use the land for greater self-sufficiency. Many get up early, at 6 o'clock, and гонят корову на пастбище (drive the cow to pasture). After that, it is time to кормить кур и уток (feed the hens and ducks). Men and women generally do these morning chores together, then have breakfast and go to work.

At lunchtime many will return home to eat and do more chores such as убирать двор (clean the yard) and the коровник (cow shed) and other работа по дому (housework).

After work, at 7 o'clock they встречают корову и ведут ее домой (find the cow and drive it home). Those who own sheep or ducks bring them home, too. Then they доят корову (milk the cow), работают в огороде (work in the garden) until it gets dark. They then have supper.

There are also support structures that some residents might work in. For example, many might tend the local shop or work in the сельская администрация (village government offices). If the village is located близко к городу (near the town), деревенские жители (villagers) often ездят на работу в город (commute to jobs in the town).

Russia's villages are shrinking overall, in large part because their economies have suffered greatly from the agricultural collapse that followed the collapse of the USSR. Many soviet-run collective farms have never reorganized as private enterprises and much of Russia's agricultural land is currently unused. This had lead to a depressed economy in many villages.

Farms exist only in the villages where people have managed to перестроиться (literally – rebuild themselves), and adjust to the new market economy. Some villages have even seen influxes of migrants from China or elsewhere that arrive to purchase land to work or to work on land reopened for agricultural use.

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Villages and Cities - Деревни и города
Village Life in Russia - Деревенская жизнь
Part 1 - Часть первая

 Study Abroad
in Russia!


Few foreign tourists travel outside big Russian cities and have a chance to explore the настоящая Россия (real Russia) - the small towns and villages.

Originally, Russia was a страна крестьян (country of peasants). According to the census of 1897, 87% of Russia's population resided in villages. Ситуация изменилась только в советское время (this changed only during the Soviet era).

Now, only one-fourth of Russia's 142 million people live in villages. Of Russia's 150,000 remaining villages, 38,000 have populations of less than ten. The world of rural Russia has become more difficult to access, but it has managed to survive and сохранить свои уникальные традиции и образ жизни (preserve its unique traditions and lifestyle).

Village families were once traditionally large, with one family often having a dozen children to work the land and take care of the parents in their old age. That has changed, however, as economic opportunity and infrastructure in many villages are now substandard.

The major disadvantage of village life in Russia is отсутствие нормальной медицины (the absence of normal healthcare). Во многих деревнях нет аптек (many villages have no pharmacies) and только в части деревень есть скорая помощь (only some villages have ambulances). В некоторых маленьких деревнях совсем нет школ (many small villages have no schools). For villages that do have schools, the school acts as a центр культуры (cultural center) and is usually held as a символ благосостояния (a symbol of well-being) of the village. With no school, the village не имеет перспектив (has no prospects for the future).

While village life was once romanticized in late-tsarist and soviet times, there is now a stigma generally held against those that now live there. The Russian pejorative term деревенщина (redneck) is derived directly from the word деревня (village).

Более молодые деревенские жители (younger village residents) often prefer to move to larger towns or cities. Those who do not move out are often from poorer families and may lack the means to do so. Older people stay in villages and like the village life, but they сетуют что нет работы (complain about the lack of jobs).

Villagers who move to cities, however, often устраиваются на малооплачиваемую работу (take low-paying jobs) and often employers look for recent arrivals from smaller cities and villages because they will often work for much less than people raised in the city. Some former villagers приспосабливаются (adjust to city life), others return to the village, and still others succumb to alcohol and спиваются (become drunks).

If you happen to come to a Russian village, будь простым и естественным (be simple and natural) when communicating with local people. They are usually дружелюбные и открытые (friendly and open-hearted), and if they like you, they will give you a good tour around their place and maybe even invite you to stay with them.

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Reckless Drivers - Неосторожные водители

Some Russian drivers are not well-versed in культура вождения (the culture of driving). Неосторожные водители (reckless drivers) pose one of the biggest dangers on the streets of major Russian cities. Russians call such drivers "без тормозов" ("lead-footed;" literally, "no brakes"). Russian media regularly report about incidents when such drivers сбивают детей (hit children) or even сбивают людей на тротуаре (hit people on the sidewalk).

The safety rules for Russian streets are quite complicated: Посмотри в обе стороны перед тем, как переходить дорогу (look both ways before crossing the road); убедись, что горит зеленый сигнал светофора (make sure that the pedestrian crossing signal is green), but still опасайся сумасшедших водителей, которые все равно могут поехать (beware of crazy drivers who may speed through the intersection anyway).

A recent "социальная реклама" appearing on
Moscow billboards proclaiming that "'zebras' are
more important than jackasses'" - meaning that drivers should slow  down for pedestrians at 'zebras' (crosswalks).


One should always cross at a пешеходный переход (crosswalk). An above-ground переход is often called a "зебра" (zebra) in Russian slang due to its black-and-white stripes. Major cities also offer подземные переходы (underground crosswalks).

Often, even after загорелся зеленый сигнал светофора для пешеходов (the traffic light signal has turned green for pedestrians), one can see that some drivers nevertheless пытаются проскочить (try to make it through). Many pedestrians запуганные водителями (are scared of drivers) and уступают (yield) even when pedestrians have the right of way. For example, пешеходы имеют преимущество (pedestrians have the right of way) at a размеченный пешеходный переход (marked pedestrian crossing), but they often не решаются переходить (hesitate to cross the road) and пропускают машины (let the cars pass).

The golden rule of safety for the streets of Russia, especially for pedestrians, is – лишний раз уступи (literally: yield an extra time; essentially this means that one should yield even if one is unsure if one should, just to be sure. It is similar in spirit to the English saying "measure twice, cut once").

It is also important to walk as far as possible from the обочина (curb) in rainy weather, as some drivers не замедляют скорость (do not slow down) when they едут по лужам (drive through puddles) on the road and they often обрызгать (splash water on) pedestrians.

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Конфликты на улице - Street Conflicts


  Study Abroad
in Russia!


Конфликты на улице (street conflicts) are not as frequent in contemporary Russia as they were during the 1990s, a period which saw crime rates spike. However, they do still happen sometimes and knowing some precautions will help you avoid getting involved in конфликты на улице.

In nearly all cases, if you are not sure of your Russian or ever believe that you are in physical danger, it is best to simply put as much distance between you and the situation as possible. Try simply turning and walking away. If that doesn't work, run. If there are other people around, yelling "Милиция!" (Police!) is generally a good way to call attention to your situation. Use your cell phone to dial a friend or the embassy so that at least someone knows you are in trouble and may need help.

As a foreigner, you may also be targeted. We encourage all students to go out and return in groups, especially if there will be alcohol involved in the group's activities.

In bigger cities, many conflicts occur в общественном транспорте (in public transportation). If you push some hot-tempered man accidentally on a crowded bus, he might start a fight (устроить скандал) by saying,"Что толкаешься?" (Why are you pushing me?) and adding “Щас как дам!” (Now I'll give it to you!) or "Щас как толкну тебя!" (Now I'll push you like that!) To avoid confrontation, you should say, "Извините" (Excuse me) or "Извините пожалуйста" (Please excuse me), "Я нечаянно" (I meant no harm). As a rule, the brawler usually stops arguing after you apologize, so apologizing is a good way to avoid a conflict even if you were not at fault in the first place.

Some drunken men in Russia don't like being looked at. Such a man may ask "Что уставился?" (What are you staring at?). Here it is better to not respond at all and just leave. Drunken men often provoke others to find a reason (any reason) for a fight. 

One should not be afraid of попрошайки (beggars) since they are generally безобидные (harmless). You may be approached by people asking "Не поможете с деньгами?" (Will you help me with money?) or "У вас мелочи не будет?" (Do you have some change?), you may either give the person a few rubles or say, "Нет денег с собой" (I don't have money on me), and the beggar will usually leave you alone.

People who have fun intimidating and attacking others are called "отморозки" (thugs). For example, some teenagers might like избить прохожего (to beat a passer-by) and film the beating with their mobile phone so as to похвалить себя (brag) about it later. It is better to run away from such people or, if this is impossible, you should кричать (scream) in order to привлечь внимание (attract attention). Yelling something like "Милиция!" (Police!) is generally effective.

If you realize that somebody is following you, use your cell phone to call a friend or the embassy. With someone else on the line, you can say to the person following you "Оставьте меня в покое" (leave me alone) and add, "Я вызову милицию" (I will call the police).

Avoiding опасные места (dangerous places) and остаться в группе (staying in a group) are the best ways of staying safe. One should avoid riding ночные электрички (electric trains at night) or ride alone in metro cars where there are few other people. Avoid пьяные компании (drunk people) in general and it's better not to walk around окраины города (city outskirts) late at night.

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Проверка документов - Document Checks

 Study Abroad
in Russia!

Research Travel

Russian police routinely останавливают людей (stop people) on the streets or in metro stations for проверка документов (document checks). More frequently, they stop people who look like приезжие (newcomers) and especially those with an азиатская или кавказская внешность (Asian or Caucasian appearance). Милиционеры (policemen) have наметанный взгляд (a good eye for) any people who are не москвичи (non-Muscovites): they look clothing styles, for instance, or if for people who might not feel completely at home in Moscow or как рыба в воде (like fish in water). They might also look for иностранцы (foreigners) where they typically congregate, such as on Arbat and Red Square.

Милиционер (a policeman) or группа милиционеров (a group of policemen; they tend to patrol in twos and threes) might approach you and ask, "Предъявите документы" (Show your ID). You need to показать (to show) your паспорт (passport), регистрация (official registration in the city) and виза (visa).

The милиционер might say, "Регистрация недействительна" (the registration is invalid) or "Виза просрочена" (the visa has expired). Sometimes they say this even if the documentation is in order, if they are looking for a штрафчик (little bribe; sometimes this term is used a soft word for small bribe as well). You might say to the policeman "С моими документами все в порядке, можете проверить." (Everything is OK with my documents, you can check if you like).

The policeman can отвести вас в отделение (take you to the police station) in order to разобраться (look into the matter) or составить протокол (make a report). Rarely will they go this far if everything really is in order with your documents and if you are from a Western country. Если у вас с собой не окажется никаких документов (if you don't happen to have any documents), сотрудник милиции имеет право доставить вас в отделение (the policeman has the right to escort you to the police station) and задержать на три часа для выяснения личности (detain you for three hours to establish your identity). This might be a problem if you were stopped late at night – when the police finally выпустит (release) you, the metro may be closed already and you may have trouble getting home. Always carry identification in Russia.

Some people may end up giving the policemen a взятка (bribe) ranging from пара сотен (a couple hundred) to несколько тысяч (several thousand) rubles. The policeman might elicit this bribe by saying they need взнос на покупку патронов (a contribution for purchasing bullets), offer to have you pay a "штраф" (fine) on the spot, or just request money.

You should also know that you have rights when stopped for your documents. You can say to the policeman, "Представьтесь, пожалуйста" (introduce yourself, please), "назовите свою должность" (name your title) and "предъявите удостоверение" (show your certificate; this is the equivalent of their badge in Russia). By law, the policeman must show you identification and tell you his name and rank if asked. Policeman presented with these questions are understandably less apt to solicit bribes.

After you received the information about the policeman, ask him about the reason for stopping you: "На каком основании вы проверяете мои документы?" (On what grounds are you checking my documents?) It is prohibited by law to stop people for document check with no reason – although a "reason" can be that they believed you were "acting suspiciously."

If at all possible, не отдавайте свой паспорт сотруднику милиции (Don't let the policeman take your passport). Just hold it and let him read it.

If the policeman asks you пройти в отделение (to go to the police station), call your friends and notify them so that the policemen are aware that your location is known by somebody else as well.

There more tips about how to deal with document checks in English here and still more in Russian here.

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"Извините, пожалуйста... " - How to Address Strangers in Russia

 Study Abroad
in Russia!

Russian Studies

When addressing strangers in Russia, it is important to maintain an appropriate level of politeness. The address should be in a formal manner, a person should apologize first, by saying "простите" or "извините" (excuse me.) One can also say, "извините за беспокойство" (sorry for bothering you). Another way to address a stranger is to ask for information in a very humble manner, for example: "Не подскажете….?" or "Вы не скажете….?" (Can you tell me? Note: both of these translate the same in English, though "подскажете" is slightly softer. Also note that Russian prefers negative questions to the positive questions that English prefers.)

One can also preface requests with "будьте добры" or "будьте любезны" (would you be so kind as to…) in settings such as shops and restaurants to make their orders more polite.

There is a more direct way to address strangers, which is used when the matter requires more urgent attention, by saying, "молодой человек!" (young man) or "мужчина" (man) when addressing a man and "девушка" (girl) when addressing a female. The address "девушка" is typically used very frequently to females of almost any age, except for very old ladies when the address "женщина!" (woman) is more appropriate.

People of very advanced age can be addressed as "бабушка" (grandmother) or "дедушка" (grandfather.) While the use of these may sound informal to most Westerners, they are generally a title of respect in Russia. 

Rarely used but still sometimes heard are the terms "господин, госпожа, господа" (mister, miss or missus, ladies and gentlemen.) This form of address was commonly used in Russia's tsarist days, until it was replaced by "товарищ" (comrade) during the Soviet period. It came back into use when Russians were searching for an appropriate form of address to replace "товарищ" in the immediate post-Soviet period, but is not a very commonly used form of address.

There is a more direct way to form questions when in a hurry such as, "скажите…" (Tell me), but the speaker should keep in mind to add "пожалуйста" immediately after their request (tell me, please) to keep their manner polite.

Gypsies addressing people on the streets in the hope to get some money for fortune-telling may address passers-by in broken Russian, "можно спросить?" (Is it possible to ask?)

A less cultured manner, which is sometimes used to be intentionally confrontational or to directly contradict someone is to preface requests with "послушай" (listen here) or "эй" (hey.) A very rude form is, "слышишь, ты?" (do you hear me?) It may be used by a person who intends to start fighting.

Young children may address adults they don’t know as "тётя! дядя!" (aunt, uncle.) Adults wishing to address children they do not know may say “мальчик! девочка! ребята!” (boy, girl, you guys.)

If you want to make sure that someone is indeed addressing you, you may respond by saying "Вы ко мне (обращаетесь)?” (Are you talking to me?) "Вы меня зовёте?" (Are you calling me?)

Examples From Literature and the Press

Но, послушайте, что же я могу вам дать? Какие у меня места?
But, listen, what can I give you? What kind of job vacancies do I have?  А. Chekhov

"Извините меня, пожалуйста," заговорил подошедший с иностранным акцентом, но не коверкая слов, "что я, не будучи знаком, позволяю себе... но предмет вашей ученой беседы настолько интересен, что..."
"Excuse me, please," the approaching man began speaking, with a foreign accent but without distorting the words, "even though I am not an acquaintance of yours, may I allow myself's just that  the  subject  of  your  scholarly  conversation  is  so interesting that..."  М. Bulgakov

"Эй, Толстой," опять заговорил Костыль, "ты чего молчишь-то?"
"Hey, Tolstoy," Crutch started speaking again, "Why are you keeping silent?"  V. Pelevin

"Ваш билетик, молодой человек," – сказал контролер, нервно пощелкивая никелированными челюстями.
"Your ticket, young man," said the ticket collector, nervously grinding his nickel-plated teeth.  A. Ivanov

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Медицинское наблюдение ребенка до года - Children’s Medical Care in the First Year

Birth in Russia - Рождение ребенка в России
Part 5 - Часть Пятая

 Study Abroad
in Eurasia!


The day after the mother and her newborn check out of the maternity clinic, information on the child’s birth переданы в детскую районную поликлинику (is transferred to the district children's clinic – a state-run facility) serving the district in which the family resides.

After this, участковый врач и медсестра (a district doctor and nurse) from the поликлиника visit the newborn daily. This is known as патронаж новорожденного (literally: regular house calls to the newborn.)

Следят за его состоянием (they monitor the baby's condition), рассказывают родителям как ухаживать за малышом (explain to the parents how to take care of the baby), including how to bathe him, feed him, чистить носик и ушки (clean the nose and ears; note that "носик и ушки" are in the diminutive, to imply the nose and ears are small), обрабатывать пупочек (tend to the navel area), and a number of other things.

The medical workers also give общие рекомендации (general recommendations) regarding the baby’s care and talk to the mother about the advantages of грудное вскармливание (breast-feeding).

Патронаж continues for one month and then the mother and child go into the clinic for check-ups once per month thereafter. The clinic also has, once per week, a "грудничковый день" (“Infant Day;” note that "грудник," a word for "infant" come from the word "грудь," or "breast.") On this day, pediatricians and other doctors проводят плановую диспансеризацию (administer standard medical examinations) for children under one year of age.

On these days, прием больных детей не осуществляется (sick children are not admitted), so as not to infect the healthy children that are receiving routine check-ups.

When the baby is one month old, the baby is legally entitled to be seen by a neurologist, ophthalmologist, детский хирург (pediatric surgeon), and детский ортопед (pediatric orthopedist) in addition to regular visits to a pediatrician.

The pediatrician monitors the baby’s общее состояние (general condition) and развитие (development; including weight, height, etc.). The specialists also evaluate the baby’s общее состояние and look for отклонений в развитии в своей области any signs of problems in his development according to their areas of expertise.

After the one month visit, visits to the pediatrician are monthly, while visits to specialists happen at three, six, nine, and 12 months of age (although not all doctors are seen each time).

In addition, the child visits оториноларинголог (an ear, nose, and throat doctor) at six months and детский стоматолог (a pediatric dentist) at nine and 12 months.

During visits to the pediatrician, проводятся профилактические прививки (vaccinations are administered) according to a schedule as issued by Министерством Здравоохранения (The Ministry of Health). Vaccinations are not mandatory, but they are free, and most Russians receive them.

Some Russians also pay for "upgraded" vaccinations – ones imported from abroad, rather than the free отечественные препараты (domestically produced medicines). Imported vaccines are generally regarded as being of higher quality. 

According to the recommended vaccination timetable, the baby’s first shots are given at the роддом (maternity clinic) in the first 24 hours after birth and then continued at one month of age, three months, etc.

Vaccinations are given for гепатита В (hepatitis B), туберкулеза (tuberculosis), дифтерии (diphtheria), коклюша (whooping cough), столбняка (tetanus), полиомиелита (polio), кори (measles), краснухи (rubella), and паротита (parotitis).

A newborn, just like any other Russian citizen, имеет право на получение полиса обязательного медицинского страхования (is entitled to receive a mandatory medical insurance policy; this policy is often referred to be the acronym "ОМС"). This ОМС gives Russians право бесплатно получать помощь в государственных медицинских учреждениях (the right to receive free care in state medical facilities) anywhere in the country. Most often, these policies are issued through the district medical clinics. To receive the policy, the following documents are required:

  • свидетельство о рождении ребенка (the child’s birth certificate),
  • паспорт родителя, который зарегистрирован по тому адресу, который территориально относится к данному пункту выдачи ОМС (the passport of at least one parent who resides in the district served by the ОМС office).

At the same time the parent is applying for ОМС, they may also apply for полис добровольного медицинского страхования (supplementary medical insurance policy; most often referred to by the acronym "ДМС"). ДМС allows citizens to receive патронаж from a private clinic.

В зависимости от программы страхования (depending on the type of insurance program), care from a private clinic in Moscow will cost 50,000 rubles and up per year. The "insurance" often acts more like a subscription plan for the battery of examinations that the infant receives.

Private insurance will include патронаж, диспансеризацию (medical check-ups), and state-supplied прививки. Private insurance programs are appealing to those who can afford them, because often they provide doctors that pay house calls after the first month, saving parents the hassle of waiting in long lines at state clinics. Private clinics also often offer a wider variety of imported vaccines and even mobile laboratories.


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Социальная поддержка семей - Family Social Support Services

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Birth in Russia - Рождение ребенка в России
Part 4 - Часть Четвертая

In Russia, all mothers are eligible for особая социальная поддержка и защита государства (special social support services and state protection) beginning from the moment she finds out she is pregnant, up until her child reaches the age of three and sometimes longer.

First, Russia's трудовое законодательство (labor legislation) demands that employers retain лояльное отношение (loyal relations) with mothers. For example, new employees are usually subject to an испытательный срок (probationary period), during which time they may be let go for any reason. However, pregnant women and mothers of children under eighteen months are exempt from this rule and may not be terminated - including if they become pregnant during the probationary period. An employer may not dismiss a pregnant woman, a woman with a child under the age of three, or a мать-одиночка с ребенком до 14 лет (a single mother with a child under the age of fourteen). The woman can quit voluntarily, but will otherwise only legally lose her job if the company goes out of business.

These women also have the right to demand to shift to part-time work and to decline to go on business trips. They are prevented from working работа сверхурочно (overtime), ночные смены (night shifts), or on weekends or holidays. In addition to a regular lunch break, working women with children under the age of eighteen months are also given перерывы на кормление ребенка ("child-feeding breaks"). These are supposed to occur каждые три часа по тридцать минут (every three hours for thirty minutes each) and must be considered part of their paid working time. Unfortunately, the time it would take most women to travel home and return to her workplace is not subject to this same rule - making the law a largely unworkable one for most women.

All workers in Russia are entitled to отпуск в двадцать восемь дней (twenty eight days of vacation) and to be paid for those vacation days. Pregnant women are additionally entitled to отпуск по беременности и родам (maternity leave - also commonly known as декретный отпуск) for семьдесят дней до родов и семьдесят дней после родов (seventy days before and seventy days after giving birth). В случае если женщина ожидает больше одного ребенка (in the case that a woman is expecting more than one child), she is entitled to eighty-four days leave prior to giving birth and 110 days after.

During her декретный отпуск, the woman is also entitled to пособие по беременности и родам (benefit for pregnancy and birth). This is paid в размере ста процентов среднемесячного заработка (one hundred percent of her average monthly wage) for each month she is on leave. The state is responsible for paying this benefit to the employer, who must then transfer it to the mother. The benefit is capped at 34,583 rubles per month.

All benefits are revised every year. All numbers listed in this mini-lesson are current for 2010. One US dollar, as of January, 2010, is equal to about 30 rubles.

If the expectant mother visits a prenatal clinic на раннем сроке беременности (in the first trimester), she will additionally receive a one-time state benefit of 413 rubles and will be eligible for free лекарства и витамины (medicines and vitamins) from the state as prescribed by her doctor. Russia began these programs to encourage women to visit the doctor early, as this has been shown to reduce complications later in the pregnancy.

After the child is born, the parents receive a one-time пособие по рождению ребенка (child birth benefit) of 10,989 rubles. This benefit is provided by the state and delivered via one of the parent's employers (or the Social Services Fund if neither parent is employed).

This one-time пособие по рождению ребенка is paid for each child. In addition, women who give birth to their second or any subsequent children are entitled to receive материнский капитал ("maternity capital"). This is a certificate worth 343,278 rubles that may be spent on specific things. Up to 12,000 rubles may be spent at the mother's discretion. The rest must be spent on улучшение жилищных условий (improving living conditions - i.e. purchasing an apartment), получение образования ребенком (obtaining an education for the child), or формирование накопительной части трудовой пенсии матери (applied to the mother's retirement savings). 

There are also special benefits доступные только москвичам (available only to Muscovites) which are provided by the Moscow city government. While some other cities and regions offer programs of their own, none compare to the size and diversity of Moscow's programs.

If both parents hold (or the мать-одиночка - single mother - holds) постоянная регистрация (permanent registration) in Moscow, they may receive 5,500 rubles for the birth of their first child and 14,500 rubles for their second and any additional child. This постоянная регистрация is also commonly referred to as "прописка" (registration) and is held only by Russian citizens. If these Russian parents have тройня (triplets) or more children born at one time, they receive an additional 50,000 rubles.

There is also the «лужковская выплата» ("Luzhkov Payout" -  named for the Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, who initiated it), which is paid to молодым семьям (young families) who have a child while both parents are (or the мать-одиночка is) under 30. This "payout" is calculated via the official прожиточный минимум (living wage) calculated by the city each year. For 2010, the official "living wage" is 5790 rubles per month. Young families receive пятикратная величина прожиточного минимума (five times the living wage) for their first child, seven times for the second child, and ten times for the third and any child thereafter. This is a one-time payout.

Moscow also offers натуральная помощь ("natural help" - this term refers to benefits paid in a form other than cash). It is available for all children, regardless of economic circumstances, who are under three years of age. The program provides, at various stages, молочные смеси (baby formula), молоко (milk), творог (cottage cheese), and кефир (kefir). Parents can claim these products by obtaining a рецепт (prescription) from their local pediatrician. Based on the рецепт, the parents receive their ration from local молочно-раздаточныe пункты (dairy dispensaries - also known as "молочные кухни," or "milk kitchens") every two days.

After her maternity leave ends, the new mother has the right to take additional leave known as отпуск по уходу за ребенком (childcare leave). This leave is divided into two time frames with differing benefits. While the child is less than eighteen months old, the mother receives a пособие по уходу за ребенком (childcare benefit) of 40% of her average salary, but not more than 13,833 rubles per month. If she is unemployed, a new first-time mother will still receive 1,500 rubles per month and unemployed mothers of two or more children receive 3,000 rubles per month.

The отпуск по уходу за ребенком may last until the child is three years old. However, if the mother continues the leave after the child is older than eighteen months, her benefits are reduced to only 50 rubles per month. However, this leave still guarantees her a job with her former employer until the child is three years old.

Thus, in total, new mothers in Russia can expect about $13,000 in monetary benefits from the state to be paid from the time of conception to the time that their first child turns eighteen months old. Mothers of a second child can expect about $24,000. Muscovites can additionally expect about $1150 for their first child and $1800 for a second child. These figures are not including the value of any натуральная помощь they may receive.  

In 2009, Russia recorded its first demographic increase in a decade, with a growth of .012%. This came partly from a small increase in childbirths and mostly from a surge in immigration to Russia. The authorities have been quick to emphasize the childbirths as the source, however, and to at least partially credit these extensive benefits and government-guaranteed job security as being a source of these new Russians.

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Худые, Толстые - The Thin and The Fat

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Many words referring to being overweight have positive lexical connotations in Russian. Before the revolution, only the well-to-do could afford enough food to grow plump, and thus it was a sign of success. Throughout Soviet times, the ideal woman was usually presented as a stout working woman. To this day, being heavy remains much less stigmatized in Russian culture than in Western culture. That said, this, like all culturally-sensitive topics, is not one to discuss in reference to someone within earshot unless you know the person very well and are confident you will not offend them with any words you choose.

The word "полнеть" is roughly equivalent of "to fill out" in English, but can be used in Russian to describe even someone who is becoming overweight. The verb's adjective form: полный (stout, full) is usually defined as "containing in itself as much as it can or should hold," and is often used to politely describe "full-bodied" people or those с избыточным весом (with extra weight).

The verb "поправиться" also has distinctively positive connotations. In addition to meaning “to gain weight,” it also means "to be cured," "to have improved health," and "to correct a mistake." Interestingly, it is also not uncommonly used to mean "to take the hair of the dog," meaning to cure the hangover by taking another drink.

Even the adjective жирный (fat), which is rude to use when referring to people, can carry positive connotations. Ushakov's Explanatory Dictionary defines it as "saturated with useful substances, juicy," and gives the example "жирная земля" (rich earth).

Frequently, gaining weight or even being overweight is associated in Russian literature as a sign of being successful and living "the good life." For example, Ivan Goncharov writes in his An Ordinary Story of Aleksandr, a young man who is living life to the fullest, "Она не могла нарадоваться, глядя, как Александр полнел" (She couldn’t help being happy, seeing how Aleksander was gaining weight.)

Even in harsher instances, the references are often forgiving. For example, in Fathers and Sons, Turgenev writes: "Управляющий вдруг обленился и даже начал толстеть, как толстеет всякий русский человек, попавший на  'вольные хлеба.'" (The manager had suddenly grown lazy and even began to get fat, as does any Russian person after falling on the gravy train.)

The noun "толстяк" or "fatty," is generally rude, but innocuous enough that there is a chain of "plus-sized" clothing stores in Russia called "Три Толстяка." One would not expect such a store to do as much business if its name were derived from the even ruder жиртрест (fatso) or жирняк (fatty).

It is also interesting to note that a respected Russian last name, one associated with nobility and great authors is "Толстой," derived from the word meaning "fat." There is even the last name "Жириновский," which one of Russia's best-known politicians, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, adopted for himself, replacing his original, Jewish last name of Эйдельштейн with something more ethnically Russian. Even his supporters sometimes refer to him with the nickname "Жирик" – a diminutive that would also mean "fatty." It's even the title of his Russian Wikipedia entry.

In contrast, the last name "Худых," derived from the word "худой," or "thin" is very rare. Худяков is more common, and is associated with some famous figures (including at least one famous artist and a modern director of music videos), yet undoubtedly pales in fame if compared with Толстой.

The words related to недостаточный вес (insufficient weight) are more frequently given negative connotation.

In literature, "худоба" (thinness) is often associated with "нездоровье" (ill health). In Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy writes: "как ни страшен был брат Николай своей худобой и болезненностью прежде, теперь он еще похудел, еще изнемог." (Although his brother Nikolai had been so frightening before because of thinness and morbidity, he had now grown even thinner, more exhausted.)

"Tощий” is word that means "thin" but also "empty." To illustrate uses of its verb form, Dal's Explanatory Dictionary gives as its first two graphic examples: "Не болезнь истощила его, а кровопускания" (the sickness had not thinned him, but the bloodletting) and "он истощил труды и состояние безуспешно" (he was worn thin from work and constant failure).

Another related verb is "тошнить" which means "to purge" or "to vomit" – the result of which, of course, is being "тощий" – empty and eventually thin.

The word "худой" can also mean "bad" or "cheap." For example, the saying "худой товар с рук долой," means roughly "cheap goods should be dropped immediately" (i.e. not purchased). Another (better known) example is "лучше худой мир чем добрая война" meaning that is better to live with something unpleasant than to fight about it.

"Polite" names to refer someone who is thin are also more uncommon in Russian if compared with polite names for someone who is heavy. One example is the relatively innocuous "худенький" which would refer to someone not unappealingly thin. There is also the adjective "стройный" which would refer to someone with a thin, yet still athletic build and is associated with the secondary definitions of "well composed" and "harmonious."

A ruder version would be to call the person a "скелет," or skeleton.

Attitudes toward weight are changing in Russia, with more and more people going to fitness centers on a regular basis, and following the latest diet fads. Today many young girls would like their boyfriend to be накачанный (hunky) and хорошо сложенный (well-built), and guys prefer to have a стройная подружка (athletically-built girlfriend). Meanwhile, a large percentage of Russians have a positive attitude towards moderate amounts of excess weight in themselves or other people. As they say, "хороших людей должно быть много" - which is play on words in Russian and roughly means "You can never have too many good people" and "you can never have enough of a good person."

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