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Russian MiniLessons
for intermediate and advanced students
2013 Archives
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other resources for students of Russian!

Below is an archive of the Russian MiniLessons featured in the SRAS newsletter over the 2013 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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Новый Год по-русски - A Russian New Year

In most of the Western world, Christmas is celebrated on December 25 and is one of the most popular holidays of the year. Families gather to обменяться подарками (exchange presents). In Russia, however, Christmas is mainly observed as a религиозный праздник (a religious holiday), and is celebrated, в соответствии с российской православной традицией (according to the Orthodox tradition), on January 7. The most popular holiday in Russia is without a doubt New Year’s. Many Russians с нетерпением ждут новогодних праздников (can’t wait for the New Year’s holidays), as this time is often the самое яркое событие года (most outstanding event of the year).

Many traditions that ассоциируются с Рождеством (are associated with Christmas) in Europe and the US are associated with New Year’s in Russia. For example, almost all Russian families will наряжать ёлку (decorate a fir tree) for New Year’s, similar to the tradition of decorating a Christmas tree in the West. Several традиции празднования Нового года (New Year’s traditions) came to Russia from other countries. Some sources say that the новогодняя ёлка (New Year fir-tree) came from Germany, and the tradition of наряжать ёлку (decorating the fir-tree) came from France.

The holiday is heavily associated with food. New Year's meals in Russia often consist of several salads and perhaps one or two main dishes. Салат «Оливье» (Olivier Salad) and Сельдь «под шубой» (herring “under a fur coat”) are two staples of the holiday, to be found on nearly every table. Салат «Оливье» делается из нарезанного кубиками картофеля, овощей, яиц, ветчины, отварной курицы или говядины, и заправленный майонезом (Olivier salad is made with diced potatoes, vegetableseggs, ham, cooked chicken or beef , and mayonnaise as a dressing). Для сельди «под шубой» нарезанная кусочками сельдь покрывается слоями отваренных и натертых на терке овощей: картофеля, моркови и свеклы, с добавлением майонеза. (Herring “under a fur coat” is small pieces of pickled herring under several layers of boiled, shredded vegetables such as beets, potatoes, and carrots, which are bound with mayonnaise).

Mандарины (tangerines) are also associated by many Russians with the holiday. Oranges, tangerines, plums, and other fruits were also once special (and expensive) holiday treats in the West. However, advances in transport and storage technology helped reduce the price of fruit in winter and the West largely abandoned the tradition by the mid-20th century. In Russia, however, the soviet government often imported tangerines specifically for the holiday until the late 20th century, helping to maintain the tradition in Russia.

Just as children in the West anxiously wait for Santa Claus to bring them presents, Russian children expect подарки от Деда Мороза (gifts from Grandfather Frost). Дед Мороз путешествует на тройке (travels on a "troika" – a traditional Russian carriage driven by three horses). He travels with his внучка Снегурочка (granddaughter, the Snow maiden), and appears after его три раза позовут (he is called three times). It is fairly common now for parents in Russia to hire actors from an agency to play Дед Мороз and/or Снегурочка. The actors are asked to вручить подарок (give a present) and often развлечь детей играми (play games with the children).

Little children, as a rule, верят в Деда Мороза (believe in Grandfather Frost), just as many Western children believe in Santa Claus. They долго готовятся (spend a long time preparing) for his arrival: children наряжаются (dress up; often in their best clothes or in carnival-like costumes) and учат стихотворение или песню (learn a poem or a song) for Дед Мороз, who gives them presents as a reward for their performance. At schools or kindergartens, children have a новогодний вечер (New Year’s party), where they водят хороводы вокруг ёлки (sing and dance around the fir-tree) and play забавные игры (funny games). Many theatres will also offer special Ёлки (Fir Trees; the parties/performances are often referred to as such) to which parents will take their children.

If Дед Мороз does not come in person, he brings presents at night and кладет под ёлку (puts them under the fir-tree), similar to the way that Santa Claus in the West спускается из камина и оставляет подарки под деревом (comes down the chimney and leaves presents under the tree).

Дед Мороз расшитая шуба с атласным поясом (wears a fir-coat with a satin belt), расшитые рукавицы (embroidered mittens), and сафьяновые сапоги (Morocco leather boots) or валенки (Russian felt boots). He carries a посох (staff). Unlike many images of Santa in the West, Дед Мороз не носит очков (Grandfather Frost doesn’t wear glasses) and обходится без эльфов (has no elves).

As for adults, большинство людей празднуют Новый год дома или на даче (most people celebrate at home or at the dacha), but some prefer to выйти в свет (go out). Молодежь любит собираться большими шумными компаниями (young people like to get together in big noisy groups), ходить в гости (pay visits to friends), or отмечать этот праздник в ресторанах, в лесу, на площадях и улицах своих городов у украшенных ёлок (celebrate this holiday in restaurants, in the woods, in their city’s squares and streets around decorated trees). New Year’s Eve spent at a club or restaurant, will usually be quite expensive and places must be reserved weeks in advance. For Muscovites, it is increasingly popular to go to Suzdal or some other town near Moscow to встреча Нового года (bring in the New Year), where the experience is cheaper and more rustic.

Another New Year’s tradition is the новогоднее обращение главы государства к народу (president’s New Year’s address to the people). Shortly before midnight, the country’s president выступает с коротким обращением (gives a short address) which is carried on several national channels. The picture then shifts to show кремлевские куранты бьют полночь (Kremlin bell towers strike midnight). At this time, люди встают из-за стола и чокаются бокалами с шампанским (people get up from the table and clink glasses with champagne), and some people кричат «Ура(yell, “Hurray!”).

In some families, people пишут на бумажках желание (write their wishes on paper) and then глотают бумажки (swallow the paper), or just загадывают желание (make a wish). В России на Новый год возлагают особые надежды (in Russia, people have special hopes at New Year’s), и независимо от социального положения и возраста в этот день ждут чуда (and regardless of social status and age, they expect miracles on that day).

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Гражданская война в Сирии - Civil War in Syria

The сирийский кризис (Syrian crisis) is a conflict between повстанцы (rebels) who are seeking to свергнуть правительство (oust the government) and проправительственные силы (pro-government forces). The crisis has now devolved into a гражданская война в Сирии (сivil war in Syria). The беспорядки (unrest) in Syria is recognized as part of the so-called Арабская весна (Arab spring) movement.

The протестное движение (protest movement) in Syria started in March 2011 with демонстрации против правительства (demonstrations against the government). These протестующие, требующие отставки Башара Аcада (protesters demanding the resignation of President al-Assad) denounce him for нарушения прав человека (human rights violations) and пытки (torture). Eventually, the protesters подняли оружие против правительства (took up arms against the government). Some офицеры-перебежчики (defected military officers) joined the opposition forces. The бунт (uprising) or восстание (rebellion) обострялся (has escalated), with the Syrian Army using танки (tanks), артиллерия (artillery), бомбы (bombs), and even, some say,  химическое оружие (chemical weapons) against силы оппозиции (opposition forces). Группировки повстанцев (insurgent groups) have formed a коалиция (coalition), which consists of исламистские группировки (Islamic groups) and Хезболла (Hezbollah).

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Recently, борьба обострилась (the fighting has intensified), and the количество погибших (death toll) has grown, especially жертвы среди мирного населения (civilian casualties). After химическое оружие (chemical weapons) were used, some члены, обладающие правом вето (veto-wielding members) of the Совет Безопасности ООН (UN Security Council) requested more severe measures towards Syria than the политические/экономические санкции (political/economic) sanctions that were currently in force.

So far, переговоры (negotiations) on the Syrian crisis have not produced any positive outcome, except for the occasional прекращение огня (ceasefire). Some countries have поставляли оружие (supplied weapons) to the rebels, while others оказывают поддержку правительству Асада (support Assad's government). Because of the Syrian crisis, the двусторонние отношения (bilateral relationship) between Russia and the USA has deteriorated. Russia highly values its relationship with Syria, partly because of the fact that Russia’s only военная база в Средиземном море (Mediterranean naval base) is located in Syria. Also, Russia has a well-established торговые отношения (trade relationship) with Syria.

США заявляют (the USA announced) that it felt, что Башар Асад должен уйти (that Bashar Assad must go), and that с Асадом никакие переговоры не будут вестись (no negotiations will be conducted with Assad). Some in US government also требуется внешнее вооруженное вмешательство (demand outside military intervention).The United States has been supporting rebel groups by providing them with weapons. Россия и Китай, напротив, заявляют, что насилие нужно прекратить через политический диалог двух воюющих сторон без вмешательства извне (Russia and China, on the other hand, state that the violence should be stopped through political dialogue between the two sides in conflict, without outside interference).

To avoid outside military intervention, Russia has proposed that Syria turn over their chemical weapons to международные наблюдатели (international monitors) in several stages. First, Syria should присоединиться к Организации по запрещению химического оружия (join the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons). Then, the Syrian government should задекларировать все места хранения и производства отравляющих газов (disclose all sites used for storing and manufacturing poisonous gases). Finally, Сирия должна пустить на свою территорию инспекторов Организации по запрещению химического оружия (Syria must allow inspectors from the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to come), and then, решить, кто займется уничтожением запасов химоружия (decide who will deal with destroying the arsenals of chemical weapons). Leaders of many countries have viewed this proposal favorably and the US approved of it. The adoption of the plan was seen by many as a great diplomatic win for Russia and Vladimir Putin personally.

Wikipedia was consulted while preparing this text.

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Хэллоуин как особенность культуры - Halloween as a Cultural Rift

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One of the most interesting things about learning more about other cultures is the opportunity to learn more about your own.

Every culture is different, and what is acceptable or even fun in one culture can seem вульгарный (vulgar) and оскорбительный (offensive) in another. The ideas behind these cultural differences are often very difficult to translate, and instead of explaining something using one word, you must often explain the history or theory behind a concept to make it more understandable. For example, Хэллоуин (Halloween) is a widely popular holiday in the United States, and is becoming more well-known around the world. In Russia, however, it is still looked on with some скептицизм (skepticism), if not отвращение (disgust), as it is seen as a прославление смерти (glorification of death) and thus possibly even сатанинский (satanic). When explaining America’s observance of Halloween to Russians, it's often helpful to углубиться в историю (draw on its history) or провести сравнение (make comparisons) with similar holidays in other countries. This may make the holiday seem less strange and offensive, or at least more understandable.

Halloween in the United States is also known as Канун Дня всех Святых (All Hallow's Eve), and “Halloween” is actually a сокращение (shortening) of that name. It occurs the night before День всех Святых (All Saints Day), also called “All Hallows Day.” The грустный (somber) Catholic holiday of All Hallows Day is a time for вспомнить (remembering), чествовать (honoring), and молиться за (praying for) those who had recently been received in небеса (heaven). All Hallow’s Eve, however, became a time for remembering all those who had died, whether or not they had attained entrance to heaven; it was thought that prayers and remembrance could помочь заблудшим душам (help lost souls) пройти через чистилище (pass through purgatory). In some areas, it was believed that the неуспокоенные души (souls of the unburied) бродят по земле (roamed the earth) and needed similar help in their переход в духовный мир (passing to the spiritual realm).

Halloween is a порог (“threshold”). The threshold is a важнейшая (pivotal) concept in many cultures and фольклор (folklores), including Russian and represents a time or place where there are расплывчатые границы (blurred lines) between two things that are thought to be separate, thus allowing a way to pass between them. Russian folklore, for instance, contains many stories and beliefs about bridges, которые служат как места перехода между двумя континентами (which serve as a place to pass between two land masses) – carrying a bride across a bridge is still a rite of passage for newlywed Russian men, although the tradition has deep roots. The hour of midnight and the break of dawn are оба примера перехода из одного временного измерения в другое (both instances of passing from one time frame to another), and оба времени невероятной силы в фольклоре многих стран (both times of incredible power in many folklores), including Russian. Halloween was seen as a threshold in which the barrier between the physical and spiritual worlds размыт (is blurred), when actions on earth could affect events in чистилище (purgatory) and assist loved ones who were suffering.   

Thus, the day was spent praying by могилы (graves) and at special church services. At night, prayers would be held at the local charnel house – a special place for keeping the останки (remains) of those not yet buried or too poor to be buried. However, thresholds, while offering significant power that can be used for good, can also be very dangerous – for if earthly actions can повлиять на (affect) events in purgatory, then purgatory can also affect events on earth. Thus, it was generally considered dangerous to go out late at night on this day.

Elements of карнавал (carnival) entered Halloween likely in the sixteenth century in Scotland and Ireland after Queen Elizabeth, then Head of the Church of England, запретила (banned) All Hallows Eve in her kingdom. Carnival is also a concept held in many cultures – a time of увеселения (merrymaking), often with переодевания (disguises), and a time when можно подвергать сомнению авторитеты (authority could be questioned), both светские (secular) and духовные (spiritual). Sociologists theorize that such times allow “venting” in society and thus actually contribute to overall stability. Scotland and Ireland were particularly attached to Halloween traditions, which had been merged with those of ancient Celtic holiday called “Samhain.” Samhain involved cleansing rituals and acts of thanksgiving for the recent harvest and for the food that had been consumed that year and took place on the same day as Halloween. After Elizabeth’s ban, the peoples of Scotland and Ireland responded by making their celebrations even larger, and sometimes using it as time to наносить ущерб (make mischief) as акты протеста (acts of protest) or in the context of merriment.

Many of the traditions of Halloween also have исторические корни (historical roots). Trick-or-treating, for instance, comes from the tradition that on feast days, which All Hallows Eve and All Hallows Day are in Anglican and Catholic traditions, the needy could pass от дома к дому (from house to house) asking to taste the щедрое угощение (bounty) that lay on the tables inside. As another example, the jack-o-lantern, although today traditionally carved from a pumpkin and left on the doorstep or in a window, was originally carved from an easier-to-carry репа (turnip) and was used by those who had to go outdoors on All Hallows Eve to light their way and protect them from any spirits that may be in the area. In both cases, the process involved убрать мякоть (scooping out the innards) of the vegetable, вырезать лицо (carving a face) into the outside, and placing a candle inside so that the light glows out of through the carved face. Костюмы были использованы (costumes were employed) for a similar purpose: so that spirits might think the person to be a spirit and allow the person to pass нетронутый (untouched). Of course, costumes also came to be used so that humans might think that a mischief maker was, in fact, a spirit.

Samhain and Halloween both occur as winter is setting in and after собирать урожай (gathering the harvest). Both are связанные со смертью (connected with death). Both are also generally understood by those who currently celebrate them to be признание (acknowledgments) of the powerful and natural force of death as a part of the более широкого процесса жизни (larger process of life).

While Halloween, as it is now celebrated in America, is connected with traditions that began in Great Briton, similar holidays are celebrated in other cultures. День мертвых (Day of the Dead) is very similar in some aspects to Halloween and is very popular in countries like Mexico, Spain, and Brazil (where Catholicism is the dominant religion). День мертвых is celebrated on November 1 and 2, and is a государственный праздник (state holiday), so all banks and government offices are closed.

Like Halloween, День мертвых is associated with All Saints' Day, and serves to honor and remember the dead. Families собираются вместе (gather together) to молиться за умерших родственников (pray for deceased relatives). Sometimes they leave small gifts, or even the departed’s favorite food on a small alter or at the могила (grave) to honor the deceased relative. Some cities have large шествия (parades) and celebrations during the day, which, like Halloween, often involve disguises and decorations representing монстры (monsters), смерть (death), and скелеты (skeletons).

Those who celebrate Halloween in Great Briton and America usually associated it more with увеселение (merriment) than anything else. However, traditions of acknowledging and, in some ways, храбриться по поводу того, чего мы боимся (braving that which we fear) remain. In the US, many celebrate Halloween by gathering friends to watch страшные фильмы (scary movies). Visiting haunted houses, where actors will portray scenes or personages of horror, is also popular, as are кукурузные лабиринты (corn mazes). These лабиринты (labyrinths) are carved from parts of не убранные поля (harvested fields) and challenge the visitor to найти дорогу оттуда (find their way out), often with actors roaming within them to add to the Halloween atmosphere by scarring (or helping) the participants along. Many other traditions, like hay rides, where participants ride on beds of свежее сено (fresh hay), often pulled by a tractor, also восходит к сельскохозяйственные традиции (originate from to agricultural traditions).

While it is becoming rarer today as communities in the US become less permanent and neighbors often don’t know each other well, children also sometimes still go от двери к двери (door-to-door) saying “trick or treat!” to receive candy. It is more common now for костюмированные вечеринки (costume parties) to be held, in which children receive candy and prizes, often by participating in various games. For example, bobbing for apples is an ancient game that likely originated with Celts, who made apples part of their Samhain celebrations. In this game, apples are placed in a ванну с водой (tub of water) and the participant must вытащить яблоко с помощью только зубов (retrieve an apple using only their teeth). To protect costumes, a version of this game is often played where apples are hung from strings and must be bitten using only the teeth with no assistance from the hands.

Costumes today include not only scary costumes such as ведьмы (witches), монстры (monsters), зомби (zombies), привидения (ghosts), скелеты (skeletons), страшные маски (scary masks) or разрисованное лицо (face paint), but also fun or cute costumes, such as фея (fairy), принцесса (princess), ниндзя (ninja), or знаменитости из сферы политики или поп-культуры (figures from political or pop-culture), such as Barack Obama or Justin Bieber.

Modern Halloween has древние корни (ancient roots). Many Halloween traditions can be traced back to America’s roots in ancient England and отражать (reflect) a culture that can подвергать сомнению авторитет (question authority), ценит сельское хозяйство (values agriculture), and принимает или пытается принять смерть (accepts or tries to accept death) as a normal or at least неизбежный (unavoidable) part of the жизненного цикла (cycle of life). However, Halloween, in touching on the subjects of death and evil, can itself seem scary and dangerous, especially to those who were not raised in its traditions. While Halloween is gaining a wider following in Russia, particularly among young adults, many Russians are deeply offended by Halloween's imagery and traditions. Thus, cultural sensitivity should be used when discussing the holiday abroad.

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Запись в начальную школу - Enrolling in Elementary School

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The structure of the Russian school system differs somewhat from that in other countries. Начальная школа (elementary school) includes first through fourth grade, with kids from 6.5- 9 years old. Next is основное общее образование (basic general education) or основная школа (basic school), which includes sixth through ninth grade. The first two stages of education are mandatory for all children, while the third stage is geared towards подготовка в вуз (preparing for higher education). This last stage is called среднее полное образование (full secondary education) or старшие классы (senior grades), and includes tenth and eleventh grade.

Начальная школа in Russia is usually located in the same building as средняя школа. Only remote villages have separate elementary schools, in which case older students take a special bus to a secondary school located in a larger village or town.

In order to записаться (enroll) in an elementary school, parents have to подать заявление (submit an application) to the local education authority and предъявить подлинники документов (produce original documents) for:

  1. документ, удостоверяющий личность заявителя (a document verifying the applicant’s identity)
  2. свидетельство о рождении ребенка (the child’s birth certificate) or another ID document for the child
  3. копия полиса медицинского страхования подтверждающий ребенка (a copy of the child’s medical insurance policy)
  4. документ, подтверждающий факт проживания (регистрации) ребенка по указанному адресу (a document confirming the child’s residence (registration) at the stated address)
  5. медицинская карта ребёнка, заверенная печатью главврача поликлиники (the child’s medical records, verified by the head doctor of the clinic)

In Moscow, application documents need to be submitted nine months before the beginning of the school year. Обязательное условие для зачисления в первый класс (a mandatory condition for enrolling in first grade) is that ребенок должен достичь возраста не менее 6,5 лет к началу учебного года (the child should be at least 6.5 years old by the start of the school year).

Each school прикреплена (serves; literally: is attached to) a certain neighborhood, and the children living in this neighborhood have priority зачисление (enrollment). If there are свободные места (free places) in a school, children from other neighborhoods can be enrolled. Some schools are of better quality than others, and parents often vie to get their kids into what they consider to be the best school. There are also different types of schools. For example, школа с углублённым изучением предметов (a school with in-depth studies) or гимназия (gymnasium) offer more profound academic learning. Some schools will offer subjects, like foreign languages or drama, which other schools do not.

A great majority of schools in Russia are государственные школы (state schools), and there are no official fees for entering schools or studying there. However, some schools collect сборы на нужды школы (fees for school needs) from parents. Parents often have to сдавать деньги (donate money) for ремонт классов (decorating/repairing classrooms) or выплата охранникам (paying security guards).

There are about 750 частные школы (private schools) in Russia, which is fewer than one percent of the overall number of schools in Russia. Most of these schools are located in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The fee there varies from about 300 to 3,500 US dollars per month. Private schools generally have smaller classes, usually 10-15 ученики (students) instead of up to 30 students in a государственная школа (state school), they teach the state-mandated curriculum, but some subjects are taught with more class hours and private schools are more likely to teach additional subjects or even be specialized in foreign languages, science, etc.

Although the school administration is not allowed to administer any tests to children before accepting them, a small number of schools have дошкольное подготовительное отделение (school preparation departments). Graduates of these programs have priority for entering first grade. Basically, a preparation department has the same curriculum as a kindergarten: children are taught развитие речи (developing speech skills), математика (mathematics), and рисование/изо (arts), with a special emphasis on развитие мелкой моторики (developing fine motor skills).

Kids добираются в школу и из школы (get to and from school) пешком или на общественном транспорте (on foot or by public transport). Often, родителя отвозят детей в школу (parents drive their kids to school). Bright yellow school busses are generally not found in Russia – but Soviet town planning was such that most neighborhoods have a local school nearby. As a rule, school for ученики начальных классов (students in elementary classes) starts at 8:30 am. Some schools have две смены (two shifts), with second shift students starting classes at 2:00 pm, but все ученики первых классов (all first grade students) always study in the morning shift.

Ученики первых классов (first graders) have four lessons per day, which are 35 minutes each. Elementary students have перемена (recess) between each session for about 15 minutes, with one большая перемена (long break) of 20-25 minutes when children have lunch. Lunch is provided by the school – although Russian elementary schools generally do not provide breakfast or other food. Основные предметы (core subjects) for elementary school are: литературное чтение (literature), русский язык (Russian language), and математика (mathematics), which are all taught four-five times a week. Ученики (students) have уроки физкультуры (physical education lessons) twice a week, where their physical skills are developed, mainly through games.

The rest of the lessons are filled with музыка (music), технология (technology), and рисование (art, or изо for short). An additional subject called окружающий мир (the surrounding world) is about studying nature and society, as well as rules for living safely in the world. Most subjects are taught by the same teacher, who is known as the классный руководитель (grade director/homeroom teacher). The классный руководитель supervises the discipline and grades of children in his/her class, and invites parents for a meeting if there are any problems (but generally there are no set parent-teacher conferences).

From second grade, students have five lessons per day with an иностранный язык (foreign language) is added to the curriculum. In most cases, children’s parents want their kids to study English. However, sometimes German (most common), French, or Spanish (least common) are offered. There are, however, some cities have специализированные языковые школы (specialized language schools), where students study two or more foreign languages in-depth.

In fourth grade, the last grade of elementary school, students study ОРКиСЭ - Основы религиозных культур и светской этики (basics of religious culture and secular ethics). There are six options for teaching this subject, and students or their parents select one of them: основы светской этики (basics of secular ethics), основы православной культуры (basics of Russian Orthodox Culture), основы мировых религиозных культур (basics of world religious cultures), основы исламской культуры (basics of Muslim culture), основы буддийской культуры (basics of Buddhist culture), and основы иудейской культуры (basics of Jewish culture). The four specific religions listed here are Russia's "traditional" religions – practiced by cultures considered indigenous to Russia. Their inclusion in the curriculum has been recent and relatively controversial, with many parents arguing that such education should be left to the parents. Further, many schools will not offer all the options (as many of the minority cultures are geographically contained in certain Russian regions. Thus, as a rule, students and their parents usually select one of the first two programs (основы светской этики or основы православной культуры).

The end of the day for some students is marked by lunch at the school canteen, usually around 1:00 pm. After this, parents may have their children come home or students may stay longer for additional activities such as рисование (drawing), пение (singing), риторика (rhetoric), театр (theater), or рукоделие (handicrafts). Students can choose one or more activities, and sometimes students hold performances for theater or singing. Some schools have группа продленного дня (extended day class), where students делают домашнее задание (do their homework) under the supervision of a teacher, known as a воспитатель (mentor). It generally takes one hour for a first grader to do homework. Thus, most students arrive home at 2:00 or 3:00 pm.

The use of школьная форма (school uniforms) was abolished in Russia in 1992, but in the spring of 2013, President Putin declared that “Школьная форма в стране должна быть" (“We should have school uniforms in our country”). The new regulations allow each school to decide their own requirements for the uniforms. There are no nationwide requirements, but as a general rule, no jeans or short skirts are allowed. Many people support uniforms as they are cheaper than покупать разную одежду на разные дни (purchasing different clothes for different days). In addition, children from poorer families will not be embarrassed когда у других одноклассников более дорогая одежда (when other classmates have more expensive clothes).

At the beginning of the school year, there is an interesting tradition, called the церемония первого звонка (first bell ceremony), where the директор школы (school principal) and завуч (assistant principal) произносят речи (give speeches), and выпускники (graduates: eleventh grade students) провожают первоклассников в класс (accompany first graders to their classroom). The first day of school, typically September 1st, is celebrated as a holiday in Russia and many former Soviet states and is known as День знаний (Day of Knowledge). For about this holiday, and others see this resource.

Another tradition at the beginning of the school year is for parents to дарить цветы (give flowers) to the teachers. There is no tradition of giving expensive gifts to teachers, except for at окончание школы (graduation), but the situation can be different in some schools in bigger cities. It is common to give teachers фотоальбомы (photo albums) в память об их учениках (in memory of their students), often as a collective present arranged and given by all parents.

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Политическое убежище - Political Asylum

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Russian Studies

Recently, US authorities предъявили обвинение (accused) former CIA employee Edward Snowden of хищение государственной собственности (theft of government property), раскрытие данных о национальной обороне (disclosing national defense information), and умышленная передача секретной информации постороннему лицу (willfully communicating classified intelligence to an unauthorized person); the latter two crimes are covered under the Акт о шпионаже (Espionage Act). Snowden is currently разыскивается властями США (wanted by US authorities).

Snowden disclosed data on a US special services’ секретная программа наблюдения (secret surveillance program), known as Prizm. The US authorities have said that the disclosure was an act of шпионаж (espionage) and государственная измена (treason). Edward Snowden acted as an информатор (whistleblower), that is a человек, сообщающий обществу о предполагаемой мошеннической или незаконной деятельности  (person who exposes alleged misconduct, dishonest or illegal activity). He has also been labeled a человек, раскрывающий секретную информацию (leaker), because he раскрыл секретные документы (leaked classified documents). Because of his actions, he had to сбежать из своей родной страны (flee his native country); in other words, he became a беглец (fugitive).

He is staying в международной транзитной зоне аэропорта (in the international transit area of an airport) in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. He is trying to просить политическое убежище/подать запрос о политическом убежище (apply for asylum/submit a bid for asylum), after which the country he applies to can предоставить убежище (offer asylum) or отказать в политическом убежище (refuse asylum).

Russian authorities are refusing to экстрадировать/выдавать (extradite) Edward Snowden to the USA. President Putin said there is no соглашение об экстрадиции (extradition treaty) between Russia and the US, adding that Snowden не совершал преступлений (has not committed any crime) on Russian soil, and is therefore a free person. Putin has indicated the Snowden might get asylum in Russia but "есть одно условие: он должен прекратить свою работу, направленную на то, чтобы наносить ущерб нашим американским партнерам, как это ни странно прозвучит из моих уст," ("there is one condition: he must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my lips”). [Source:]

Snowden may face смертная казнь (the death penalty) if extradited to the United States. Russian officials have cited this as a reason not to extradite him. However, Russia’s refusal to extradite could cause международный спор (an international dispute), as US authorities would like to арестовать/взять под стражу (arrest/take into custody) or задержать (detain) Mr. Snowden.

For more on President Putin's comments about the situation, follow this link.

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Аренда жилья в России - Renting Housing in Russia

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When it comes to renting an apartment or a room, Russians do not make a distinction between a landlord and a host, they both are called хозяин (male)/хозяйка (female). Apartment leasing companies in Russia are extremely rare (companies who own a whole building, for instance, and rent all apartments within it). Thus, people who want to rent an apartment generally have to deal with the владелец квартиры (apartment owner), either через агентство (through an agency) or напрямую (directly). Most often, both parties prefer to rent без агентства (without an agency) as an agent often takes a комиссионное вознаграждение (commission) equal to one month's rent.

A foreigner who intends to rent a living space in Russia, should know some basic vocabulary related to the topic, such as жилец (unofficial term—tenant; also sometimes "съемщик") or арендатор (official term—tenant; lessee), снять (unofficial term—to rent/lease ) or арендовать (official term—to rent/lease), арендодатель (official term—lessor) and договор (contract or lease).

There are several questions you should ask the landlord before renting.

Two of these include: Какая арендная плата в месяц? (How much is the rent each month?) Какой залог? (What is the deposit?) and Мы заключим договор? (Will there be a contract?) Landlords often "unofficially" rent their apartments to avoid paying taxes on the income (which are a prohibitive 30%). This can sometimes cause problems for a tenant - such as in registering your address with the authorities – required of all foreigners and Russians alike. We will discuss this more later.

Another important question is: Коммуналка (unofficial term)/ коммунальные платежи (official term) включены в плату? (Are utilities included in the rent?) As a rule, платежи за электроэнергию (electricity fees) and платежи за воду (water supply fees) are paid separately by the tenant, according to показания счетчика (meter indicators), while платежи за тепло оплачиваются хозяевами (heat fees are covered by landlords). However, every situation will be different. Electricity and water bills can amount to 500-1,000 rubles (~$16-33) per month, while the heat bill can be 2,000 rubles or more. These costs tend to rise substantially each year. Sometimes landlords will pay the bills for you, but then expect you to возмещать им затраты ежемесячно или раз в несколько месяцев (reimburse them every month or every few months) – this is often true of landlords cautious of creating any paper trail showing that they have a tenant living at their property.

A fairly common question might be: Какой день оплаты/ В какое число нужно будет платить? (What day is rent due each month?) However, it is best to avoid a question like: Если я не смогу уплатить вовремя, есть ли какие-либо штрафы? (Are there any late fees if I don't pay rent on time?) This will generally make the landlord suspicious about the tenant’s credibility. Generally, an instance or two of slightly late rent with a good excuse, while damaging to the relations between a жилец and a хозяин, will generally be handled on a case-by-case basis.  

Because "unofficial" renting is so common in Russia, if a tenant does not pay rent on time, the process of выселение (eviction) is often also more unofficial: the landlord will simply tell the tenant to leave and if the tenant does not, the landlord will sometimes arrive with friends or relatives to request again or arrive and change the locks. There have been cases when a tenant barricades himself in the apartment or the house and refuses to leave, then police interference is required. However, it is generally avoided, particularly if there is no contract.

Other basic questions include:

На какой срок? (What are the minimum terms?) The most common minimum term is one year. If you rent самостоятельно (on your own – with no agent) there might not be a contract. Sometimes, a landlord can just issue a tenant a расписка (written receipt).

Квартира меблирована? (Is the apartment (pre-)furbished?) Лифт есть? (Is there an elevator?) When moving into an unfurnished apartment, there is generally no service elevator for the moving process. Russian apartment building often have only a very small elevator designed to carry no more than 2-3 passengers at a time or might not have an elevator at all. A tenant can нанять грузчиков (hire loaders) to move his/her furniture in however, note that you will most likely be charged for each floor the movers will have to ascend.

Можно ли держать животных? (Are pets allowed?) There are no fixed rules regarding pets, it depends on the landlord’s preferences. Sometimes a landlord may allow a tenant to keep even a big dog in the apartment.

Что делать, если что-то в квартире сломается? (What should I do if something breaks/isn't working?) К кому мне нужно обращаться? (Who should I contact)? As landlords often only own 1-2 apartments and rarely is an entire building owned by a single entity, there is usually no комендант (superintendent; a person who fixes problems in the apartment). Most Russians rely on the services of the ЖКХ (жилищно-коммунальное хозяйство; Housing maintenance and utilities board). Most neighborhoods have one of these, usually privatized, state-supported enterprises which grew out the Soviet system of handyman brigades charged with maintaining soviet housing stock. The landlord might also leave a список телефонов аварийных служб (list of emergency services phone numbers) for the tenant for such occasions. Often a landlord covers the expenses if the damages произошли не по вине жильца (are not the tenant’s fault).

Куда выбрасывать мусор? (To where do I take the trash out?) Most apartment units with more than five floors have a мусоропровод (trash chute) in the stairway. Often there are контейнеры для мусора (large dumpsters) outside as well.

Есть место для парковки машины? (Is there parking available?) As a rule, есть только уличная парковка (only street-parking is available).

The question “Вода идет с хорошим давлением?” (What is the water pressure like?) is relevant for smaller towns where the водоснабжение (water supply) is not as good as in bigger cities.

If you are planning on seeking roommates, you might ask: Могу ли я сдавать свободные комнаты в субаренду или для этого нужно спрашивать Ваше разрешение? (Am I allowed to sub-let out any extra rooms or do I need your approval for that?) Depending on the visa status of your potential roommates, you may need the owner of the apartment to register them.

Other pertinent questions include: Это хороший район? (What is the neighborhood like?) Где ближайшая остановка общественного транспорта? (Where is the closest public transportation?) От квартиры до метро легко дойти пешком?  (Is the apartment walking distance to the metro?) Какие магазины есть в пешей доступности? (What types of stores are in walking distance?) Рядом есть парк/игровая площадка? (Is there a public park/play area nearby?)

Легко подключить в квартире интернет? (How easy/difficult is it to set up internet in the apartment?) Кабельное телевидение? (Cable TV?)

Я могу менять интерьер квартиры, например, перекрасить? (Am I allowed to make any changes to the apartment's physical appearance; i.e. can I repaint?) Я могу установить полки? (Can I insert shelves?) Мне нужно спрашивать разрешение, чтобы поменять что-либо в квартире? (Do I need permission to make any changes?)

В квартире можно курить? (Is smoking allowed in the apartment?)

The registration process for foreign tenants is complicated. A tenant must go to the ФМС (Federal Migration Service) or the почта (post office) upon his/her arrival in Russia and inquire about the details of the process. The process changes frequently, so be sure to get the most updated information.

Finally, a foreign tenant should also realize that the relationship between tenants and landlords is often different in Russia. The whole concept of renting is a relatively new one for Russia, where until the 1990s, the state owned all housing.

Some landlords might expect to be able to держать вещи в квартире (keep belongings in the apartment), especially на балконе (on the balcony). Some may expect to maintain a personal relationship with a tenant, and often stop by for tea. Some may expect to retain some personal use over the space, to the extent that they might feel entitled to stop by and let themselves in to use the bathroom. Some may or may not abide by the rules spelled out in the contract or agreed to early on and insist on повысить арендную плату произвольно (arbitrarily raising the rent), often pointing to "рыночные цены" (“market prices”) which they may have heard from friends and which may or may not have anything to do with the actual condition, size, and location of the apartment you are renting.

A prospective tenant should keep in mind that many Moscow landlords do not like to rent their places to tenants from Asia or the Caucasus, due to the influx of migrants from these regions in recent years. Some landlords may not comfortable with black tenants. On the other hand, hosts are generally comfortable with Americans or people from other Western countries, as they consider such tenants заслуживающие доверия (trustworthy) and платежеспособные (financially responsible).

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Стрижка - A Haircut

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In Russia, there is no distinction between the words for "barber" and "hair stylist;" the word "парикмахер" in Russian refers a person who cuts hair for both men and women.

A person visits a парикмахерская (barbershop; where the парикмахер works) to подстричься (have his/her hair cut), although some people do стригут себя (cut their own hair).

In Russia, the average cost of a haircut is 450 rubles in bigger cities, but some парикмахерские эконом-класса (economy class barbershops) can подстричь (provide a hair cut) for much cheaper, even as low as 100 rubles. Of course, there are many more stylish shops that also offer haircuts for much more. It is not customary in Russia to tip the person who cuts your hair.

There are many different basic hairstyles, such as: for men - короткая стрижка (buzz cut), стрижка под горшок (bowl cut), стрижка ёжик (crew cut), ирокез (mohawk), а-ля Битлз (mod-top), маллет (mullet), and стрижка-шапочка (shag); for women – гарсон/под мальчика (crop), каре (bob cut), стрижка перьями (feathered cut), стрижка боб (pixie cut),  гаврош (razor cut), and стрижка под стрижкой (undercut).

There are also practical terms to describe specific actions that a парикмахер might take. For example, it is possible to simply подравнивать волосы (to trim hair), i.e. to убрать немного по краям (cut off a little bit at the ends). The парикмахер might ask, especially to men, if the hair should закрывать уши (cover the ears). Some people prefer their hair собраны сзади (blocked in the back) while others prefer распущены сзади (feathered in the back). Some people like their hair все одной длины (all one length) while others prefer слоями (layers). Some wear чёлка (bangs) and others don't.

There are many ways to describe hair: длинные волосы (long hair), короткие волосы (short hair), волосы до плеч (shoulder-length hair), кудрявые волосы (curly hair), прямые волосы (straight hair), вьющиеся волосы (wavy hair), лысый (bald), and лысеющий (balding). Мужчины, старающиеся прикрыть лысину (men trying to hide bald spot) may try a зачёс (comb-over).

Besides different types of стрижки (haircuts) there are also many types of причёски (hairstyles): конский хвост (ponytail); бабетта (bun); коса (braid); косичка (smaller braid, often used for little girls); and французская коса (French braid). In Russia, it is fashionable for women to have a French braid go all the way around her head, in other words, заплетать косу вокруг головы (to braid one’s hair around one’s head). Women will hold their hair in place with a variety of means including заколка (a barrette/hair clip/bobby pin), резинка для волос (elastic hair tie/scrunchy; sometimes referred to as a "резиночка" in conversational Russian), ободок (a hairband), лента для волос (hair ribbon), or, of course, лак для волос (hair spray), гель для волос (hair gel) or пенка/мусс для укладки волос (mousse).

A person can also go to a парикмахерская in order to сделать химическую завивку (to get a perm; sometimes referred to as сделать «химию» in conversational Russian), сделать укладку / сделать прическу (set hair or arrange hair), or сделать наращивание волос (get hair extensions). Another option is to use a плойка (curling iron) or бигуди (hair curlers) at home. Some Russians делают прическу «гофре» или гофрируют волосы (crimp their hair), some делать пробор посередине или на боку (part their hair in the middle or on the side).

  The "Good Luck to You" Hair Salon.
What a great name...

For men, there are several ways to fashion facial hair. Men can подравнивать/ побрить бороду (have their beard trimmed/shaved), постричь усы (style a mustache), or have бачки (sideburns).

In terms of hair color, a person can be блондин (a blond), брюнет (a brunette), с темными волосами (with black hair), or рыжий (a redhead). When красить волосы (dying hair), it is possible to красить волосы самому (color your hair yourself) or to красить волосы в парикмахерской (have your hair dyed by a stylist). Instead of dying all of their hair, some people get мелирование (highlights).

To keep your hair stylish, you’ll need some of these basic hair products: расческа (comb), щётка для волос (brush), предохранительная завязка для волос (hair tie for ponytails/braids), фен (hair dryer), and выпрямитель волос (hair straightener/flat iron).

Culturally, there may be some significant differences to expect from a парикмахер, primarily in that you may not receive at all what you asked for. Obviously, some of this may come from linguistic difficulties in trying to convey what you want. Very few парикмахерскы, no matter what they are charging or where they are operating, will speak English. The terms above should help you. However, there seem to be many парикмахеры who really only know a few basic cuts and tend to give you whichever seems to most approximately match your current style. This tends to be more frequent among older парикмахеры charging low rates. However, younger парикмахеры charging higher rates seem to sometimes think that they are artists well versed in the science of hairstyles and thus provide you with what they believe would suit you best. Of course, again, much of this can be avoided if you clearly state your desires in Russian and keep an eye on the progress and provide commentary.

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Грамматические термины - Grammar Terms

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Russia's стиль преподавания (teaching style) is different from what is typically found in the USA. While добрые преподаватели и строгие преподаватели (nice teachers and strict teachers) occur in both Russia and America, it is much more common for Russian teachers to be прямолинейный (direct) and perhaps жёсткий (harsh).

Преподаватель (the teacher/professor) may make seemingly sarcastic remarks regarding a student’s performance, for example. Writer Anton Chekhov described this in his 19th century novel A Boring Story, where an elderly professor of medicine tells his student, По-моему, самое лучшее, что вы можете теперь сделать, это совсем оставить медицинский факультет. Если при ваших способностях вам никак не удается выдержать экзамена, то, очевидно, у вас нет ни желания, ни призвания быть врачом("In my opinion, the best thing you can do now is to give up medicine altogether. If, with your abilities, you cannot pass the examination, it's evident that you have neither the desire nor the talent to be a doctor").

On the other hand, a Russian teacher may be harsh because he/she is genuinely concerned about a student’s misfortunes, as if they are the teacher’s own failures. Many Russian teachers feel that he/she should be more than just an instructor, but should вдохновлять (inspire) their students towards greater accomplishments. This is thus done by continually pressing students to do better.

US students are also often surprised to find that class schedules in Russian universities are often unpredictable, especially at the beginning of the semester. The university will shuffle rooms and professors to find times that work for them. A professor may задержать (hold back) students a bit after the scheduled lesson time, or отпустить (dismiss) the class earlier. Пунктуальность  (punctuality) is more flexible in Russia, and lateness, especially on the part of the professor, while not standard, is much more socially acceptable. However, at some point, the same professor might invite students to his/her home to discuss their theses in an informal setting over tea.

In terms of studying and teaching languages in Russia, students who are taking Russian lessons with teachers that don't speak English, as well as people who may be tutoring English to Russian students, should be aware of some basic grammar terms.


     I. Части речи (parts of speech):

Имя существительное, or существительное for short (noun)
Имя прилагательное, or прилагательное for short (adjective)
Глагол (verb)
Наречие (adverb)
Местоимение (pronoun)
Союз (conjunction)
Предлог (preposition)
Причастие (participle)

    II. Имя существительное/существительное (noun):

Имена существительные (nouns) can be исчисляемые (countable) or неисчисляемые (non-countable), as well as единственное число (singular) or множественное число (plural). Russian nouns also have род (gender) – мужской, женский, средний (masculine, feminine, neuter). Unlike Russian, English has артикли (articles), which are often used before nouns. Артикль (an article) can be определенный (definite: “the”) and неопределенный (indefinite: “a/an”).

Nouns склоняются (decline); groups of nouns have a specific склонение (declension pattern).

    - Names of Russian cases:

Именительный падеж (Nominative case)
Родительный падеж (Genitive case)
Дательный падеж (Dative case)
Винительный падеж (Accusative case)
Творительный падеж (Instrumental case)
Предложный падеж (Prepositional case)

Именительный падеж (Nominative case) is a прямой (direct) case, in that it is most often used to express the subject of the sentence; all the other cases are косвенный (indirect).

    III. Глаголы (Verbs):

Verbs спрягаются (are conjugated), they have a спряжение (conjugation). Russian verbs have three different времена (tenses): настоящее (present), прошедшее (past), будущее (future).

When conjugating verbs, there are three different лица (persons):

первое лицо (first person): singular - я читаю, plural – мы читаем
второе лицо (second person): singular - ты читаешь, plural – вы читаете
третье лицо (third person): singular – он/она читает, plural – они читают

Verbs in Russian can be совершенный вид (perfective aspect) or несовершенный вид (imperfective aspect). English verbs, on the other hand, have the following aspects:

простое (simple)
продолженное (continuous)
завершенное (perfect)
завершено-длительное (perfect continuous)

English uses вспомогательные глаголы (helping/auxiliary verbs) in question constructions (i.e. I speak English—Do you speak English?). Verbs in English can be either продолжительные глаголы (continuous verbs) or непродолжительные глаголы (non-continuous verbs).

Verbs can be in the активный/действительный залог (active voice), or пассивный/страдательный залог (passive voice). Russian tends to have more passive constructions and impersonal sentences, especially in formal speech. Безличные предложения (impersonal sentences) express a state or action that occurs independently from the observer; grammatically speaking, this is either when the sentence has no subject (Темнеет – It’s getting dark), or when the sentence has a logical субъект (subject), but no подлежащее субъект (grammatical subject): Мне кажется (It seems to me; in other words, there is not a noun in the nominative case; the subject is in an indirect case, such as dative).

Russian often uses subjectless and/or impersonal sentences that seem, to English speakers, to avoid accepting responsibility for decisions or actions: “Есть мнение….” (“There is an opinion, that…”); “Целесообразно” (“It is expedient… (to do something)).

    IV. Члены предложения (core parts of a sentence):

Every предложение (sentence) has certain главные члены (core parts): подлежащее (subject) and сказуемое (predicate). In the sentence “Я изучаю русский язык”, “я” is the подлежащее, “изучаю” is the сказуемое, while “язык” is дополнение (the object) and “русский” is определение (a modifier).

There are two types of objects: прямое дополнение (direct object) and косвенное дополнение (indirect object). In Russian, a direct object is a noun or pronoun in the accusative case without a proposition: читать книгу (to read a book), увидеть его (to see him); sometimes a direct object is in the genitive case, if there is negation or to specify a part of the whole) -  купить молока (to buy a little bit of milk).

All other objects are косвенные, for example: укрыться одеялом (to cover oneself with a blanket—object in instrumental case), рад встрече (to be happy to have met—object in dative case).

In English, the direct object is the same as in Russian. A direct object receives the verb’s action: it is directly affected by the action. An indirect object, on the other hand, is the receiver of the direct object, and it usually comes just before it. In the sentence, "He gave his mother flowers," "flowers" is the direct object, and "his mother" is the indirect object. An indirect object can also come after a preposition, most commonly “to”: “He gave flowers to his mother.” Indirect objects can also be the object of a preposition - a noun or a pronoun that completes the preposition’s meaning: "The cat is looking at the fish."

Verbs express different наклонения (moods). The изъявительное наклонение (indicative mood) expresses real facts in the present, past, or future; the сослагательное (subjunctive/oblique/indirect mood) expresses unreal or improbable actions; and the  повелительное (imperative) expresses a request or order.

    V. Произношение (pronunciation):

Ударение (stress) is the hardest thing for foreigners trying to master Russian произношение (pronunciation). Russian words have one ударный слог (stressed syllable), and all other syllables are безударные слоги (unstressed syllable).

Интонация (intonation) is easier to master, since it is generally subject to the same principles as in English. There are however, some important differences in the intonation patterns of both languages, especially in yes/no questions.

    VI. Порядок слов (word order):

Unlike Russian, English has непрямой порядок слов (inverted word order) in questions (Will you be at home this morning?), while порядок слов (word order) in Russian is somewhat flexible. There is, however, a slight change in meaning depending on word order: whichever part of the sentence is mentioned first is emphasized.

    VI. Фразы (phrases):

Фразеологизмы (idioms) are tricky for learners of all languages. They are also called устойчивые словосочетания (set word combinations), and they are constantly being updated. For instance, some recent idioms are: “Все в шоколаде” (Literally – everything is in chocolate, meaning “Everything is perfect”) and “Зависать” (to hang out).  

Словосочетание (a collocation) is a broader concept than фразеологизм. A словосочетание is composed of two words that have a logical and grammatical relationship; one word is the главное слово (core word), and the other is the зависимое слово (dependent word), such as "веселый человек" (cheerful person), where человек is the главное слово and веселый is the зависимое слово.

In terms of words and combinations, one should be familiar with синонимы (synonyms) and антонимы (antonyms). Синонимы are words with the same or similar meanings, such as смелыйхрабрый (brave), сыроймокрый (wet), худойтощий (skinny), while антонимы are pairs of words with opposite meanings. Each word in the pair is the antithesis of the other, such as правдаложь (truth-lies), добрыйзлой (kind-wicked ), говоритьмолчать (to speak—to keep silent).

The following websites were used for this lesson:

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Тренажерный зал - The Gym


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The тренажерный зал (fitness center) or, colloquially, "качалка." "Качалка" is derived from the Russian verb "качать," which usually means "to rock" or "to swing." However, "качать" can also mean "to pump" or "to exercise" – as in "качать мускулы" (to work out). Gyms are becoming more and more popular among Russians. Moscow has plenty of gyms at different prices, but other big cities, such as Ekaterinburg, still lack gyms с приемлемыми ценами (with affordable prices) as the market is still developing.

As a visiting foreigner, if you decide to записаться в тренажерный зал (sign up for a gym), it would be wise to ask, "Есть абонементы на месяц/на одно занятие?" (“Do you have memberships for one month/ one training session?”). Some gyms only have годовой абонемент (annual membership), and thus might be "overkill" for someone looking for a one-semester commitment.

Some gyms have a large минимальная оплата (minimal charge) (for example, of 32,000 rubles – or about $1,000 for six months) but don't charge monthly fees. The minimum charge then might cover access to some facilities like бассейн с детской зоной (a swimming pool with children’s area), турецкая баня (a Turkish bath), финская сауна (a Finnish sauna), зал боевых искусств (a martial arts gym), студия йоги и пилатеса (a studio for yoga and Pilates), and зал групповых программ (a gym for group workout sessions).

Smaller gyms, especially those located in спальный район (a residential neighborhood), are often more affordable. These might offer месячный абонемент (monthly membership) for about 3000 rubles. However, they are less likely to have бассейн (a swimming pool) or сауна (a sauna), and additional services are more limited, although, for example, finding a персональная тренировка (individual training sessions starting) and сплит-тренировка (training separate muscle groups on different days) is generally possible at such facilities at extra cost (often about $20-30 per session).

A newcomer should ask, "У вас есть скидки/Вы предлагаете скидки?" (“Do you have any discounts?”). Many gyms do not have any, and if скидки предоставляются (discounts are provided), they are quite small. Some discounts that do occur include: студенческая/ школьная (for college students/schoolchildren); городская (for city residents); пенсионная (for pensioners); семейная (for family members); some gyms might even offer поздравительная (celebratory) which might be good for одно посещение (one visit) on your birthday. Some gyms offer discounts for attending в дневное время (in the daytime) – when most people are in offices rather than at the gym. In Russia, скидки в дневное время (daytime discounts) are more widely practiced in swimming pools than in gyms.

A newcomer may ask gym employees, "За какие групповые занятия нужно платить отдельно?" (“Which group classes cost extra?”), since some group workout sessions are платные групповые занятия, не входящие в стоимость абонемента (fee-based group workout sessions, not covered by membership cost). Such extra sessions can include эстрадные танцы (dance – of various types), бох (boxing), йога (yoga), кардио классы (cardio training), and групповые аква-программы (group aqua training sessions).

Человек, который записывается в тренажерный зал (a person signing up for a gym) might want to ask about personal trainers. "Сколько стоит занятие с тренером?" (“How much does a training session with a trainer cost?”); «Какие есть тренера и какой у них опыт работы и специализация?» (“Which trainers are available, what is their work experience and specialization?”). Some trainers are quite qualified, they can be КМС - кандидат в мастера спорта (pursuing a master's degree in sports) or призеры соревнований (competition winners), and have большой профессиональный спортивный стаж (a lot of professional experience in sports).  

Another good question to ask is: "Какие часы работы спортзала?" (“When is the gym open?”). Most gyms operate from early morning till evening, and close at night.

There are two types of fitness equipment: кардиотренажеры (cardio training machines), such as беговые дорожки (treadmills), велотренажеры (cycling machines), эллиптические тренажеры or орбитрек (elliptical), степперы (stepping machines), and гребные тренажеры (rowing machines); and силовые тренажеры (literally: strength developing machines, or weight-lifting machines), such as гантели литые (dumbbells) and разборные гантели (free weights). When поднимать тяжести (lifting weights), kilograms are used, so a Westerner should be able to convert the weight from kilos to pounds by multiplying the kilos by 2.2.

Sport was highly valued in the USSR and many Russians take sport and physical fitness very seriously. Many of the old training halls are very Spartan, but still in use and some are now some of Russia's most affordable work out facilities. However, the market is growing and maturing now and new, commercial facilities are constantly opening to serve a range of needs and price markets.

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Самый лучший разговорник - The Best Phrasebook Ever

 Study Abroad
in Russia!

Russian Far East

The following list of phrases are meant as educational humor. Some are just silly, some are useful, some will be understood by all, and some only by those who have spent time in Russia. Some of these have been around online as jokes for some time – others were added based on common experiences that our students have had. Hopefully all will be amusing – and a reason to learn a bit more Russian. 

  1. А вы уверены, что это курсив, а не, допустим, морские волны? - Are you sure this is cursive – and not, let's say, (a picture of) ocean waves?
  2. Почему сдачи никогда нет? – Why is there never any change (at the shops)?
  3. Ничего, если я разведу костер здесь? — Is it all right if I make a campfire here?
  4. В вашей стране можно делить на ноль? — May I divide by zero in your country?
  5. В вашей гостинице завтрак входит в обед? — Is breakfast included with lunch in your hotel?
  6. Какой печати здесь может не хватать? У меня уже есть три. – What official  stamp (on this paper) could I be missing? I have three here already.
  7. Мне пора идти, моя лошадь припаркована вторым рядом. – I have to leave now. My horse is double-parked outside.
  8. Почему у моей комнаты сменили номер и там другие люди? — Why has my room number changed and why are there other people in there? 
  9. Нет, офицер, о какой маленькой бумажке о регистрации вы говорите? – No, officer, what little registration paper are you talking about?
  10. Ученые в моей стране доказали, что открытое летом окно не приводит к смерти. – Scientists in my country have proven that it will not kill you to open windows in summer.
  11. Кто здесь последний? – Who is last (in this line?)
  12. Как пройти прямо? — How do I go straight ahead?
  13. Когда снова будет горячая вода? – When will we have hot water again?
  14. Здравствуйте, земляне. — Greetings, Earthlings.
  15. Это действительно кто-то проектировал, или оно само так получилось? – Did someone really design this? Or did it just happen?
  16. Где мой зонт? Я тоже хочу быть гидом. — Where is my umbrella? I want to be a guide too.
  17. Оно так и было, когда я приехал! — It was already like this when I came!
  18. Это слишком дорого. Пожалуйста, отговорите меня. – This is too expensive. Talk me out of it, please.
  19. Я не могу есть грибы — я им обещал. — I cannot eat mushrooms — I've promised them.
  20. Вы уже потратили чаевые, которые я давал вчера? — Have you already spent the tip I gave you yesterday?
  21. Говорите тише, я Вас всё равно не понимаю. — Speak softer, I cannot understand you anyway.
  22. А мне обязательно возвращаться на родину? Можно, я останусь здесь с вами? – Do I have to go home now? Can I live here with you?
  23. Почему все хлопают? – Why is everyone clapping (on this airplane)?

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