Categories: "Religion"


by Janell  

Душа is the Russian word for soul. This is how it declines:


У меня есть душа. I have a soul.

Very often Russians will use the word душа where Americans would use the word ‘heart.’

Он красил с душой. He painted with heart.
Я благодарю вас от всей души. I thank you with all my heart.

The phrase «по душе» means ‘pleasant’ or ‘pleasing.’

Эта книга была мне не по душе. I didn't care for the book.

What is a soul exactly? A soul is the non-physical essence of a person. Across the globe the meaning and existence of the soul varies. For the Christians the soul is the spiritual side of a person that must be saved by Christ in order to go to heaven. The Egyptians believed that a person had three souls, each of which went separate ways after the person died. Many believe that the soul can be contacted through the help of mediums or other spiritual forms of contact. According to Wikipedia and the book Russian Folk Belief By Linda J. Ivanits there is a creature called the Rusalka it is the Russian version of a mermaid. It is believed that when a young woman dies of violent circumstances or commits suicide their soul turns into one of these creatures. Around the soul are terms and phrases: soul mate, window to the soul, lover of the soul, soul music, to sell one’s soul to the devil, etc., that show the soul affects many aspects of life even if the major folklore around the soul has become irrelevant. One must be careful that they do not confuse the word душа the word for soul with the word душ the word for shower!


by Don  

The word for church in Russian is церковь. It is a third-declension feminine noun with a complication: the о drops out in every case except the nominative/accusative singular and the instrumental singular:

Preцерквицерквях or церквах
Datцерквицерквям or церквам
Insцерковьюцерквями or церквами

You will notice that there are alternative forms for the prepositional, dative and instrumental plurals: they can be soft or hard. The справка division at suggests both forms are acceptable, but I didn't really believe them because the soft versions should be much more natural by analogy with other feminine nouns in -ь, so I did a quick Google hit count (6 Feb 2010) and came up with these results:

Soft Hits Hits Hard
церквях 189,000 298,000 церквах
церквям 58,300 164,000 церквам
церквями 84,600 177,000 церквами

So much for my theory. It seems like the hard forms are dominating.³ (Take that conclusion with a grain of salt. Such Google searches do not tell you how many times a particularly source is simply copied, so you can't tell how many unique instances there are of the word.) Despite the ambiguity, we can still produce some sample sentences:

— Ты ходишь в церковь?
— Ни за что! Разве ты не знала, что я атеист? ¹
“Do you go to church?”
“Hardly! Didn't you know I'm an atheist?”
В Москве сорок сороков церквей.² Moscow has forty times forty churches.
В церковь ходят самые разные люди. Среди них встречаются самые умные люди, которых я знаю. Among people who attend church you will find an amazing variety. Among them are the smartest people I know.

¹ «Ни за что» means “not for anything” in the sense of “I wouldn't do it for anything in the world.” The ни and за are unstressed, and the что is stressed. Notice that there is a slight spelling difference (and a major stress difference) between that phrase and the phrase «не за что». In the latter the не is stressed the за and что are unstressed; it literally means “there is nothing for which” in the sense of “There is nothing for which to thank me”; we usually translate it as “don't mention it”: «Спасибо». «Не за что». “Thanks.” “Don't mention it.”

² This is an old stock phrase I encountered in Даль. People used it even though there were fewer than 1,600 churches in Moscow, so in effect it really means “There are a great many churches in Moscow.” Human languages often use large numbers to mean a non-specific “great many.” It is a common literary trope which we call “numerical hyperbole.” This use of language seems quite unnatural to those of us who were taught arithmetic from an early age and who were penalized if a number was off by even one. We tend to think “A number is precisely what a number says, nothing more and nothing less.” Alas, that is a common error in thought produced by otherwise good education.

³ Ah, it looks like my original guess that the soft forms are dominating is correct. See the discussion in the comment section. Thanks to the readers who gave such great feedback!


by Don  

The word for jaw in Russian is челюсть, which is a feminine noun. Not too surprisingly, the movie “Jaws” was translated into Russian as «Челюсти».

Doubtless the most famous historical incident involving a jaw is Samson's slaying of the Philistines:

Нашёл он свежую ослиную челюсть и, протянув руку свою, взял её, и убил ею тысячу человек. He found the fresh jaw of an ass and, having stretched forth his hand, he took it and killed a thousand people with it.
Книга Судей израилевых 15:15 Judges 15:15

Sometimes your neck and head can hold a lot of tension, in which case you should take the following advice:

Зевните один раз как можно шире, потом пошевелите челюсть чуточку налево и направо, и потом спокойно закройте рот. Yawn once as wide as you can, then move your jaw a little left and a little right, and then calmly close your mouth.

When you combine челюсть with the adjective вставная “insertable” or съёмная “removable,” it means denture:

У Жанны Фриске вставная челюсть Zhana Friske has dentures
В своём блоге Александр доложил о том, что в бизнес-классе одного из рейсов, который перевозил целую плеяду отечественных звёзд, через приоткрытую дверь туалета он стал очевидцем следующей картины: Жанна Фриске стоит у раковины, а в руках съёмная челюсть (!) и зубная щётка… Это шокирующее открытие имело подтверждение на днях. (source) In his blog Alexander reported that in the business class section of a flight that carried the entire Pleiades of Russian stars, through a slightly open restroom door he became witness to the following picture: Zhanna Friske stood at the sink, and in her hands was a set of dentures (!) and a toothbrush… This shocking discovery was confirmed a few days later.

Oh, the horror! Oh, the humanity! Actually, when I read things like this in Russian, I'm encouraged: it proves that not it's not just we Americans who can be shallow beyond words.

Рождество — 2008

by Don  

The Russian word for Christmas is Рождество, which comes from the verb родить “to give birth.” Here we have the text of the angels' announcement of Christ's birth to the shepherds. The text on the left is in pre-revolutionary spelling which is still used by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Въ той странѣ были на полѣ пастухи, которые содержали ночную стражу у стада своего. Вдругъ предсталъ имъ Ангелъ Господень, и слава Господня осіяла ихъ; и убоялись страхомъ великимъ. И сказалъ имъ Ангелъ: не бойтесь; я возвѣщаю вамъ великую радость, которая будетъ всѣмъ людямъ: ибо нынѣ родился вамъ въ городѣ Давидовомъ Спаситель, который есть Христосъ Господь. И вотъ, вамъ знакъ: вы найдете младенца въ пеленахъ, лежащаго въ ялсяхъ. И внезапно явилось съ Ангеломъ многочисленное воинство небесное, славящее Бога и взывающее: Слава въ вышнихъ Богу, и на замлѣ миръ, въ человѣках благоволеніе. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Лука 2:8-14 Luke 2:8-14

С Рождеством Христовым!
Merry Christmas!


by Don  

The Russian word пророчество means prophecy. Below you will find one of the most famous prophecies from the Old Testament. The text on the left is from a Russian Bible written in pre-revolutionary orthography.

А ты, Виѳлеемъ Ефраѳовъ, мало тебѣ быть наряду съ воеводствами Іудиными: изъ тебя произойдетъ Мнѣ Тотъ, Который долженъ бытъ Владыкою во Израилѣ, и Котораго происхожденіе изъ начала, отъ дней вѣчныхъ. But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
Михей 5:1 Micah 5:2

You'll notice the verse numbers in this particular Russian translation and the English King James version don't match. That's no error. Verse numbers were not part of the ancient Greek and Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible. They are a reference convenience added years later, and from edition to edition they don't always match perfectly.