Dear Readers:

Welcome to Awful Avalanche, here is my blog concept and what I do [updated 6 January 2019]:

My blogposts are written in English.  I review content mostly from the Russian-language online press, in search of stories which interest me.  From time to time I venture out and review other things, for example, opera or movies!

My target audience:  Russophiles, or anybody else who is interested.

As my blog concept evolved, it contains content divided into the following categories:

  • Animal Rights
  • Art Criticism
  • Ballet
  • Breaking News
  • Cat Fighting
  • Celebrity Gossip
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Friendship of Peoples
  • Human Dignity
  • Humor
  • Linguistics
  • Medicine and Health
  • Military and War
  • Navalniana
  • Opera
  • Popular Culture
  • Religion
  • Russian History
  • Sex and Spy Scandals
  • Space, Science and Technology
  • Sports
  • The Great Game
  • True Crime

I hope you read and enjoy my posts!

Sincerely yours,


Posted in Uncategorized | 38 Comments

WWIII Starts in 2021, Get Ready (and brush up on your German!)

Dear Readers:

Today I review this short piece from VZGLIAD, by reporter Dmitry Zubarev.  Zubarev, in turn is basically just restating (without linking his source – grrrr!) a piece from the German Left-Marxist newspaper Junge Welt.  Fortunately, although my German is a little rusty these days, I managed to find Zubarev’s source material (via linking to the Junge Welt online portal, then typing in the search word “Ulm”, and I found this piece from yesterday.  The original (German) reporter is Von Jörg Kronauer, and the headline reads:

NATO Command in Ulm is Preparing for War

Zubarev, in his version of the headline, helpfully adds “against Russia”.  To which the average burgher might just go “Duh”.

So, the German Bundeswehr, along with NATO command are preparing to launch a war against Russia.  Yawn.  Just like the last one (which worked out so well for Germany), this one will be launched from German territory and heading East through Poland.  The German city of Ulm plays an important role in the invasion:  This is where all the activities and logistics will be coordinated from the rear, while the German and American soldiers effortlessly conquer city after city in their amazing Blitzkrieg.

Ulm, Germany sits on the beautiful Danube River.

NATO’s plan is to quickly put all their front-line units into place the moment the war officially begins.  No delays, no glitches, no foobars.  The American war center will operate out of the beautiful city of Norfolk, Virginia.  Once the starting gun goes off the NATO military geniuses will instantly move all necessary forces and equipment across the Atlantic Ocean, and into Ulm.  This beautiful city located on the Danube River and sporting a population of around 120,000 people, which has been settled since Neolithic times circa 5,000 BC, will be buzzing with activity.  NATO bigwigs will be stationed here and spend their days looking at maps and moving units into their starting positions.

This Ulm command center is expected to be fully up and running by the beginning of 2021.  [Doing the math, that gives Russia around 15 months or so to either get ready for the assault, or start learning German.]

Meanwhile, American troops are being dispatched, even as we speak, from the great state of Texas into the historically relevant nation of Poland.  These forces will include around 3,500 soldiers and 2,000 units of military technology, including 85 Abrams tanks and 120 Bradleys.  Which is pretty much all it takes to bring down Russia, what with its decaying army and stuff.

Yesterday (Tuesday, 9/17) NATO representatives gathered at a conference in Ulm to concretize their project of setting up this Joint Support Enabling Command (JSEC).  The JSEC has been in the planning stages since 2018, but now it’s almost ready to rock and roll.  Meanwhile, plans are also underway for the deployment of U.S. troops through Dutch ports crossing through Germany into Poland.

Operation Atlantic Resolve: “We’re ready to go, just point the way to Russia.”

NATO planners discovered, during their war games Operation Atlantic Resolve, that troop transport through European countries is an issue now, just as in Napoleon’s time. Many roads, bridges and underpasses in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe can not withstand heavy US military equipment or are simply too small for large military vehicles.  German Brigadier General Hartmut Renk reported that much improvement was necessary in the area of, say, having prior information about a proposed route.  Lest, you know, like, a tank get stuck in an underpass, that would be embarrasing.  Hartmut not only works for the German army, but is also Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army for Europe.  Which shows the crucial importance which the Americans place on the nation of Germany as the nuclear crater staging area of its future invasion of Russia.  And also because the Germans have so much experience invading Russia.

In conclusion:  this JSEC thing is up and running now, and will be ready to organize the logistics of the invasion of the Russia.  Which is slated to start in early 2021, so mark your calendars.  Once the Americans and Germans figure out how to deal with that whole issue with the bridges and underpasses and stuff.  I bet Hitler never had these problems…

Posted in Military and War | Tagged | Leave a comment

How A Herbal Medicine Recipe Destroyed the Russian Government!

Dear Readers:

Today we return to those thrilling days of yore, namely the Time of Troubles.  One of the most interesting and exciting eras of Russian History.  And if you are a False-Dmitry buff, as I am, then you will find this piece completely fascinating.  The author is Konstantin Kudryashov.  He provides an intereresting footnote to the biography of Tsar False Dmitry I, linking Grisha to the Romanov family and the possible poisoning of Tsar Boris Godunov.  Good stuff, here we go..

The funeral of Dmitry Shemyaka. Angel #1: “That was some bad chicken…” Angel #2: “He still reeks to high heaven.”

Kudryashov begins by laying out a long rich history of poisoning or perceived poisoning of Russian rulers and their families.  It seems the Russian elite were no less adept in their use of “bad medicine” than, say, the ancient Romans!  For example, the competition for the title of Grand Prince of Moscow, between the future Ivan III and his rival Dmitry Shemyaka, was decided when the latter “ate a chicken prepared by the cook Poganka, and soon thereafter died.”  With his competitor out of the picture, Ivan III took a victory lap around the Kremlin walls, then laid the foundations of the future Russian Empire.  “No person, no problem,” as Boris Badenov was once alleged to have said.

The vicious boyar wives plot against sweet innocent Anastasia.

Next we get to the various poisonings taking place within the family of Ivan’s grandson, Ivan IV (aka “The Terrible”).  Terrible’s mom Elena Glinskaya was alleged to have been poisoned by the boyars; and then, after her, Terrible’s first wife, Anastasia Romanova.  The scene of Anastasia’s poisoning is depicted, very dramatically, in Eisenstein’s masterpiece art film/opera, Ivan the Terrible Part I.  In the film, the poison chalice is handed to Anastasia by none other than her aunt-in-law Efrosinya Staritskaya.  Having poisoned the Tsar’s “little heifer”, Effie then pimps her son, Vladimir for the throne by singing for him the famous “Beaver Song” — I’m not making this up!

[For those unfamiliar with this amazing song, it tells the story of an innocent black beaver just swimming around minding his own business, but very wary of hunters.  The hunters nonetheless trap the beaver, kill him, strip his pelt, and use it to create the fur-cap “crown” for the Tsar, the so-called “Shapka” of Monomakh.]

With his favorite wife dead and his lunatic aunt raving on about a beaver, even Ivan Grozny himself was [allegedly] poisoned in the end; he was only 53 when he died, although in those days, being 50 was like being 80 nowadays.

The Demonic Notebook

With that poisonous preamble out of the way, we proceed to the most famous [alleged] poison plot in all of Russian history, and it involves that lovable rogue and future Tsar, Grisha Otrepiev!

It all started in the usual way in medieval Russia:  with one person telling tales against another person.  (This episode was covered, by the way, in the Rossiya-1 TV series/soap opera Godunov, which I reviewed in an earlier series of posts.  The writers for that series obviously did their historical homework.)

In the magical greenhouse of Fyodor Romanov.

The rat-fink in question was a minor landowner name of Bartenev.  He worked as as accountant (казначей) at the estate of the much larger landowning family, the Romanovs.  By “accountant” I don’t necessarily mean in the modern sense, mostly his job was to guard the treasury but probably also keep track of the money and jewels and stuff.  So, this Bartenev decided to blow the whistle on his own boss, Fyodor Romanov.  So he wrote up his accusation and posted it in the Tsar’s mobile denunciation mailbox, as depicted in the TV series.  Tsar Boris Godunov read the denunciation and his hair turned white instantly.  Bartenev described that he had seen, with his own eyes, “a certain notebook in which are written down remedies for every possibly ailment, and also how to prepare poisons so that they are imperceivable.”

This happened in the year 1600.  According to the memoirs of certain Polish residents of Moscow of that time, “The Tsar was ill the entire time he ruled on the throne.”  Poor Boris was just a walking disease.  Things got so bad that he had to be carried on a stretcher just to pray in the cathedral.  Given his poor health, it is no surprise that the casual words of a nobody rat-fink might awake all the Tsar’s paranoia.  Make him believe that he was being either poisoned, or bewitched, or both.

So Boris arranged a one-on-one confrontation between Bartenev and the accused Fyodor Romanov.  Fyodor defended himself, claiming that the notebook in question did not in fact contain any recipes for poison, nor methods of its distribution.  No, these were just innocent recipes for herbal medicines.  But Bartenev doubled down, claiming that the Romanov treasury contained “bewitched plant roots, by means of which the boyars wish to seize the throne.”  The Romanovs, according to Bartenev, wished to do away with the entire Godunov family!

A search of the Romanov treasury did indeed find dried plant roots, but whether they were magical or not; poisonous or not; is another story.  Historians know where these roots came from:

Every Family Should Have Its Own Pharmacist

Near the village of Domnino, the ancestral estate of the Romanovs, there flows a stream called Monza, a tributary of the Kostroma River.

The beautiful Kostroma River

In that vicinity there resided an old Russian family of minor landed gentry, namely the Otrepiev family.  One member of this family, Bogdan, was a Centurion in the Tsar’s Musketeers.  One day he got into a drunken knife fight with a Lithuanian.  The Lithuanian won.  Bogdan left behind a son, name Yury, who was known affectionately as Yusha.  And those who have seen the Godunov TV soap opera, know that Yusha’s biological mom pursues him throughout his adventures, always calling after him:  “Yusha, Yusha!”  Only finally catching up with him as his dead and beaten up corpse is being carted away from the Kremlin by the Musketeers.

Yusha did not follow his father’s profession into government service; well, not yet, at least.  Because he was an exceptionally bright pupil in school, he was more suited for a clerical/scientific career.  For a time he became a pharmacist; they called them Apothecaries in those days.  And it was an actual real science, though based more on empirical observations than a deep knowledge of chemistry such as we possess today.  Medieval pharmacology consisted mostly of experimenting with plants.  And there was a lot of superstition (and even paranoia) surrounding this field; one only has to think of all the witches who were burned at the stake in Europe, many of them practitioners of herbal medicine.

Like most people in that area, Yusha worked for the Romanov family.  One of his job duties was to collect certain types of grasses and herbs and bring them to Domnino to concoct poisons medicines.

TV’s Grisha is a singing monk.

Now, Tsar Boris, unlike Ivan Grozny, was hesitant to lift his hands against the boyars.  The only real thing he could threaten them with, was exile.  Those people of lesser blood who worked for the boyars — now that was a different matter.  These people were regarded as scum, so one could do with them whatever one pleases.  After Bartenev’s denunciation of Fyodor Romanov, Godunov’s Musketeers went after all the Romanov employees, including the nobody Yusha Otrepiev.  He was charged with maintaining the “sorcerers notebook” of supposed poison recipes; not to mention, all the roots and tubers that he had collected for his pharmacy.  Yusha was threatened with the gallows.  But he outsmarted his accusers by suddenly joining a monastery.  He “took the haircut”, offered his life to Jesus Christ, and took on his new church name, Grigory.  And hence, Yusha morphs into Grisha Otrepiev, the man whose name is known by every Russian schoolchild!

Russia has a long tradition of herbal medicines

From Yusha, to Grisha, and then to False Dmitry, and all the way onto the Russian throne!  One sort of has to admire the chutzpah in this one.  Or the brass balls.  It is an interesting fact that, even during his short (just over a year) reign on the Russian throne, Grisha found time for his old hobby, by poking around in the Kremlin Apothecary.  Eye witnesses of the time wrote how the Tsar would spend hours in his Apothecary studying manuscripts and recipes.  His fiancée Marina Mniszek brought with her from Poland eight crates full of pharmaceutical books and dried herbs and roots, at new hubby’s request.  Grisha clearly maintained his schoolboy interest in this science, although it didn’t help him much in his final hours.

Russia’s first Pharmacist-Tsar did not reign long, Kudryashov concludes.  And probably would not have reigned at all, were it not for Bartenev’s denunciation of Fyodor Romanov and his “demonic notebook” of herbal recipes.  Or had Boris Godunov been less receptive to such tall tales of witchcraft and poisons.  Had Tsar Boris just trusted the science of real medicine and listened more to his own doctors, then maybe that whole unpleasant “Time of Troubles” could have been avoided.  And there is a lesson there for everyone.

Posted in Russian History | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Juicy John Bolton Firing Conspiracy Theory!

Dear Readers:

Today I have this interesting “conspiracy theory” from the Russian press, regarding President Trump’s sudden firing of his National Security Advisor, John Bolton.  The author is Ivan Danilov.  It is pretty clear to all that the walrus-moustachioed Bolton didn’t want to go, and was rather upset about his sacking; even felt somewhat humiliated, since he protesteth that “I wasn’t fired, I quit!”  No doubt Mr. Bolton will write a book telling his side of the story.  Until then, we have to rely on intelligent and informed speculations.

Like a detective investigating a crime, the first thing to adduce is the chronology:  Bolton was cast out of the White House quite soon after completing his European trip.  Without falling into the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc (it followed in time, therefore was caused by…), this is still something to be noted, in case, maybe, there was a connection.  Sort of jumping to the lede before developing his thesis points :  Danilov speculates that Bolton, during his European tour, especially while in the Ukraine, engaged in open sabotage of a major project beloved to his employer, Donald Trump.  As a boss, Trump is cruel but fair, he is able to forgive certain things, but not this one.  Let us proceed…

The Ukrainian Case

Danilov calls his theory “the Ukrainian Case”, and of course we knew that Ukrainians were involved somehow.  Had to be.  But, the Perceptive Reader inquires, might it not have something to do with Bolton’s failed policies in Iran and Venezuela?  Perhaps, Danilov replies.  But those were older mistakes, and older differences of opinion, and Trump bore those failures like the stoic philosopher that he is.  Whereas the Ukrainian Case is new stuff.  Bolton went to Kiev, did and said some stuff, returned, and Trump fired him.  Trump might tolerate a well-intentioned (from his POV) mistake, or even failure; he might forgive Bolton screwing the pooch on the Venezuelan regime-change operation; but he will not tolerate personal betrayal.  And that’s what Bolton did:  He betrayed Trump.  In a personal matter of utmost importance to the President.  At a time of his greatest need, when Trump felt vulnerable and threatened.  This is the working theory.

Danilov reminds us of the “Ukraine-Gate” backstory from 2016.  In the more recent continuation of this saga, a key player is Trump’s ally and personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani.  Giuliani was also sent to the Ukraine, to make certain demands on the administration of newly-elected Ukrainian President Zelensky.  Giuliani asked Zelensky to investigate his (Zelensky’s) predecessor, Petr Poroshenko, and to charge him with corruption and abuse of office.  Ex-Prez Poroshenko, while in power, believing that Candidate Trump was too soft on Russia, made a clumsy, ham-fisted attempt to influence the 2016 American elections, in favor of Hillary Clinton.  (Poroshenko’s main contribution to Hillary’s campaign was to dig up dirt on Trump’s advisor Paul Manafort.)  In addition to prosecuting Poroshenko, a major Trump “ask” of Zelensky was (according to this theory) to dig up even more dirt on Joseph Biden, who stands as Trump’s most likely competitor in the upcoming Presidential election.

Second from right: a grinning Hunter Biden

When it comes to political dirt, Biden is a gift that just keeps on giving.  For example, the corrupt relationship between Biden’s son (Hunter Biden), and Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings; and Papa Biden’s Don Corleone type moves against the Ukrainian prosecutor (Viktor Shokin) investigating Sonny.  If Zelensky is willing to provide crucial support for Giuliani’s investigation; and if the investigation produces real pay-dirt; and if Trump goes up against Joe Biden in the final round to pull this “October Surprise” out of his hat at the fitting moment; then he, Trump, will win his second term in the White House.  While, at the same time, ending Biden’s long but shady career once and for all.

9/11: Rudi rushes to save people from the burning buildings… But now he is a traitor.

But fear not, the Dems also play 3-D checkers; or maybe, since this is Rudi 9/11 we are talking about, we could call it 3-D Chutes and Ladders.  In other words, the Dems are not sitting back and complacently waiting for the October Surprise:  They are fighting back well in advance, protecting their chosen champion from this looming disaster.  Namely, the American press reports that certain Democratic Congresspersons loyal to the Biden family are preventively going after Giuliani.  Accusing him of crossing all bounds.  Self-righteously these true patriots insinuate that Giuliani is a fucking traitor who promotes “Russian aggression” against a key American ally, Ukraine!  The dastardly Giuliani even threatened to withhold life-giving weapons which allow the Ukrainian army to repel daily invasions from the Mongolic Russian hordes.  How did it come to pass that America’s greatest patriot, Mr. 9/11 himself, suddenly became a despicable traitor?  Because, see, if one is insufficiently pro-Ukrainian, or insufficiently anti-Russian, then one is, by definition, anti-American as well!  Giuliani himself, uncowed, claimed that the dirt he has already dug up on te Biden family “stinks to high heaven”.  Oh my!

In their hubris, the Dems are acting like they are already back in the White House and speaking from a position of power.  A high-ranking official of the Democratic Party made it clear to Zelensky that, under no circumstances, is he (Zel) to investigate Joseph Biden.

Zel: “If I guessed wrong, I might have to shoot myself.”

Biden: “I could hurt you badly, you Khokhol motherfucker.”

Poor Zelensky, different people are telling him different things, what is he to do, and whom should he listen to?  Whom should he obey?  The current sitting President, or the Dem-Party Opps, whose chances of defeating Trump are maybe 50/50 or less?  The bird in the hand, or the one on the horizon?  It seems that Zelensky has already made his Sophie’s choice — for Trump.  This just happened in the past week, and as a result of which Trump released to Zel a new tranche of military aid to the tune of $250 million bucks.  If I were a gambler, I probably would have made the same choice as Zelensky.  Betting on the Trump horse over the Biden horse, in other words.  But there is always a risk:  What if that old crook and sexual predator Joe Biden actually manages to ooze his oily self all the way back into the White House!  And then Zel might be punished for not joining the winning team back when he had a chance.  But still, what is an honest clown to do when pressured by two competing sets of Mafia crime families?  In a situation like that, you just have to go with your gut.  Or your conscience, if you have one.

But What Does This Have to Do With Bolton?

Be patient, my friends, we are getting to that.  So, Trump, via Giuliani, was putting the screws to Zelensky, as we said.  At one point the two Presidents were supposed to meet in Warsaw.  Then Zel did or said something that Trump didn’t like.  Or maybe Trump suspected that Zel was leaning towards the Dems.  Trump punished Zel by cancelling their “summit”.  “I have to stay home and personally manage the hurricane situation,” Trump explained piously from his golf course.

Around this same time, Trump’s other player, the “Grey Cardinal” John Bolton was manifesting himself in Kiev.  And whatever he did there, in Kiev, word got back to Trump, and Trump felt the knife slide into his back.  Because, instead of tightening the screws on Zelensky, Bolton was busy trying to turn the latter in the wrong direction.

See, Bolton is not actually a Trumpite, his loyalty is not to Trump.  Trump brought him into his administration as a gesture to the Deep State, whom Bolton represents.  As a neo-con war-mongerer, Bolton’s life is devoted to color revolutions, regime-changing wars; and making things unpleasant for America’s “enemies”, among whom Russia takes pride of place.  Trump, at a basic level, is not really into that so much, and even campaigned on a semi-isolationist platform.  (Using the American definition of “isolationism” which means to not start a bunch of wars and invade countries every other week.)

Bolton to Zelensky: “Presidents come and go, the Deep State is always there.”

So here is the key speculation, based on these known facts and personalities:  That Bolton, when meeting with Zelensky, may have uttered an unapproved message, of the type [approxiate wording]:  “Presidents come and go, the American Deep State is always there, and the Deep State needs to use Ukraine against Russia.  So don’t worry about Giuliani, and don’t be intimidated by that guinea greaseball.”

Bucked up by Bolton’s underhanded support, certain Ukrainian political figures may have acquired the boldness (or stupidity) to go against Rudi, to ignore his calls to dredge up dirt on Biden.  Thinking that Bolton openly gave them permission to show Mr. 9/11 their middle finger.

Did Bolton permit Ukrainians to be rude to Rudi?

According to this entirely plausible theory, Bolton, while in Kiev, acted as an Emissary of the American Deep State, and not of the Trump Administration.  He was disloyal, in other words.  The theory requires that word of Bolton’s betrayal somehow got back to Trump; which is easy to believe, all it takes is one tattle-tale.

Probably not as shocked as Julius Caesar, but it was still an “Et tu” moment for Trump.  The betrayal shook him up, he got angry, and he did what any boss would do:  He fired the disloyal employee.  And then he got on the horn and set Zelensky straight about who is his boss.  Zelensky saluted, and Trump released the tranche of money.

The only real question left is whether Trump will replace Bolton with still another emissary of the Deep State; or will he pick his own person this time?  The fate of the world might even depend on his choice, melodramatic as that sounds.

Posted in Breaking News, Celebrity Gossip, The Great Game | Tagged | 3 Comments

Preserving the Language of the Colonizers – Part IV

Dear Readers:

Today concluding my review of this piece by Vladimir Dobrynin.  Where we left off, we were talking about the difficulty of translating, say, technical manuals, into a particular language.  Try this thought experiment:  Imagine that you purchased a new state-of-the-art espresso maker, and you open up the package.  The instruction manual starts with a big warning:  “WARNING!  Please read these instructions carefully before turning it on, otherwise you risk blowing up your entire house.”

Where is the instruction manual for my new rice cooker?

Problem:  The instructions are written in a language you can’t read.  Realistically, if you can read English, then you’re gonna be okay, because English is the international language.  Most of these gadgets come with instructions translated into a few languages — like, one page is in French, another in Japanese, usually one in English, etc.  But, continuing our mind experiment:  Imagine that you grew up in a small town in the Ukraine; the instructions are written in, say, English, Japanese and Russian; but you don’t know English or Japanese, and you can’t read Russian because your parents, ardent Nationalists, made sure that you never had any contact with with that dreaded “language of the colonizers”.

Indian call centers became a joke…

but led to real I.T. jobs for many. One job requirement was to know English.

In a perfect world, I reckon, every child should learn their native dialect, but should also learn a couple of other languages in school, including at least one “international” language, and one “regional leader” language.  Or, if they were a former colony, then, realistically they should learn the language of their former colonizers, however it hurts one’s national pride.  For example, the people of India, speaking a multitude of regional dialects, did a very smart thing when they created several generations of people who are fluent in English.  This opened up the world of high-tech opportunities to Indian students, post-grads, and researchers.  Nowadays, there is hardly any I.T. department in the States that doesn’t have Indian employees.  And these are good jobs too, not menial ones.  It wouldn’t have been possible for these people to get these jobs if the Indian government, post-colony, had banned the use of English!

And again, this isn’t a question of “fair” or “un-fair”.  Was it fair that VHS defeated Betamax in the marketplace?  Or that Windows defeated Apple?  No, these are both examples of un-fair.  Is it fair that one language becomes dominant in high-tech while another language, equally worthy, dies by the wayside?  No, that’s not fair either.  And it particularly irks me that English, a basically Creole language with an illogical and antique spelling system, won the international lottery.  Why couldn’t it be Spanish, which is directly descended from Latin and possesses a phonemic alphabet?  It’s not fair, but it’s just reality, so what can you do?  “God grant me the Serenity to…” etc etc.

Splitting The Atom In Ukrainian?

In the Ukrainian context, one might retort:  Well, clearly English is more important as an international language than Russian; therefore, all the children should be taught English as a second language, from the first levels upward.

Not a bad idea, if you can build the infrastructure and find qualified teachers for that.  In the meantime, most of these kids already know Russian and even speak Russian, which is the dominant regional language.  Wouldn’t it be easier to perfect their knowledge of written Russian so that they can read all the technical manuals that you already have lying around, you dumb-asses?

We saw that Dobynin, in his piece, insinuated that the Ukrainization policies have led to military disasters, including ordinance explosions and the death of soldiers, even off the battlefield.  Next he approaches an even more dangerous arena:  Atomic Energy.  Here, more than any other occupation, it would seem, one needs one’s employees to be highly fluent in the use of the technical instruction manuals.

Dobrynin reports that the Ukrainian Nationalists, “in their madness”, have sacked an entire generation of professionals who received their atomic energy training (all training done in Russian, it goes without saying) in the Soviet Union, or, a bit later, in the Russian Federation.  In carrying out this purge of the professionals, the Ukrainians discovered that quite a lot of technical terminology didn’t have corresponding words in the Ukrainian dialect.  They plan to replace these words with their English analogues while translating everything from Russian to Ukrainian.  Will this politically-driven project make the Ukrainian atomic power stations safer and more efficient?  The answer is quite obvious.

In the face of all this madness, there are a few sane heads still left in the Borderlands.  A group of Ukrainian journalists undertook a project to discover if there are any persons in Kiev who communicate solely in (correct) Ukrainian, without ever switching to Russian.  To carry out this experiment, residents of Kiev were given a questionnaire written in Ukrainian.  The result was astounding:  “There was nobody to be found who speaks exclusively the official state language.  Either they didn’t speak it at all, or they could speak a little, but with mistakes.”

Please don’t rob them of their future…

According to a law passed under the Poroshenko regime, by 2020 all Ukrainian schools are obliged to abandon Russian altogether (not just Russian, but all “minority” languages) and teach exclusively in Ukrainian.  There may even be legal punishments for those who do not comply.  How do people think this will go? Dobrynin asks.

Study the Moroccan example, he concludes.  In an Arab world consisting of some 450 million souls, the Moroccans could not find a minimum quantity of specialists and professors to Arabize scientific and technical instruction in their homeland.  Morocco’s population is around 36 million, just about the same as the Ukraine.  There are an additional, say, 10 million ethnic Ukrainians living outside the borders of the Ukraine.  And that’s it, for them.  They don’t have a pool of 450 million secret Ukrainians out there, to call upon in their hour of need.

Doing the math:  Even if one was able to gather every single one of these 45 million-some Ukrainians back to the homeland; and assuming that they are all fluent in Ukrainian, which is a wrong assumption, as we saw; and even if one assumed that every single Ukrainian soul, including the babies, are all highly-educated professional pedagogues (again, a laughable assumption); —  then there would still not be enough people to teach and translate all that is necessary to turn the Ukrainian dialect into a language of technology and science.  Just based on the Moroccan example.

It took the Moroccans 63 years to learn the bitter truth, and to reject their failed experiment.  The Ukrainians, if they were to learn from the Moroccan experience, could save themselves decades of wandering in that hopeless wilderness.  Instead of spending millions of dollars and Euros in their doomed battle against the windmills of reality.

Smart people learn from the mistakes of others.  The not-so-smart —  from their own mistakes.  And there is a third category of people, who learn neither from the one nor the other.


Posted in Linguistics | Tagged | Leave a comment

Preserving the Language of the Colonizers – Part III

Dear Readers:

Today continuing my review of this piece by Vladimir Dobrynin.  Where we left off, Dobrynin starts up his main thesis, namely this analogy:  As French is to Morroco, so is Russian to the Ukraine.

Stipulating, of course, that the two situations are completely different, and it is only the extremist Ukrainian Nationalists who actually believe that they were colonized by Russia.  But the argument is of the type “Even were it so…”

Everybody was happy in the Ukrainian SSR

In Soviet Ukraine there were two official languages:  Russian and Ukrainian.  “Ukrainian” being the major central dialect that was picked by politicians (including Bolsheviks) to be deemed the National Language of this administrative entity.  On paper Ukrainian and Russian were equal; but when it came to the sphere of scientific and technical research, Russian was absolutely dominant.  When talkin’ ’bout science, everybody spoke and wrote in Russian.  Sorry, Ukrainian…

If a serious attempt is to be made to de-Russify the Ukraine in the scientific sphere, this means that all of the documentation heritage of the USSR must be translated into Ukrainian.  And this translation cannot be done by machines, despite what some people think.  Human translators would need to be hired.  “No problem,” the Nationalists say, “The West will help us.”  Uh huh.  Western countries won’t mind opening their checkbooks and allocating the money for this humongous project.  Besides, the Westies have already taken and translated (from Russian into English, not Ukrainian) everything they needed that had any value in Ukrainian science and technology.

There is not likely to be many more amazing discoveries and inventions in this new partnership between Westies and Ukrainian Nationalists.  In fact, the United States has openly said they intend to convert the Ukraine into an agrarian “superpower”, one who feeds the Westies.  Not much new science is required here, since Westies already know how to raise wheat to feed cattle for their hamburgers.  The sad truth is:  Unless a nation is a science and technology superpower, then it will not find many people in the world lining up to learn their language, however beautiful it might be.

All of the main documents issued by the Soviet Military-Industrial Complex, and circulating among the armed forces of the Ukrainian SSR, were written in Russian.  The military specialists were taught and trained in Russian.  The Ukraine inherited from the Soviet Union, a Russian-speaking and Russian-reading army.  It would actually be easier to just give all Ukrainian soldiers Russian passports, than to force them to use Ukrainian, a very little-used regional dialect, in the scheme of things.  Dobrynin points out snarkily that the Ukrainian dialect possesses 3 times fewer words than Russian.  Ukrainians have been trying for a quarter century to create and implement new words, especially technical terminology, but with little success.  Why make up a new word when one is readily available in Russian?

German television seeks to educate the masses.

[This paragraph is not from Dobrynin, but my own musings.  I recall as a college student trying to learn some basic German.  And the instructor told us how Germans had tried to invent their own words for everything, for example, they insisted on Fernsehen (literally “far-seeing”) for “television”, when everybody else in the world was just saying television, using roots borrowed from Greek and Latin.  Why such German stubbornness?  National pride, of course.  Russians have no such scruples.  They eagerly borrow tons of words from every language they can get their hands on.  Tolstoy even wrote several chapters of War and Peace solely in French!]

Returning to Dobrynin, he makes an insidious suggestion that recent Ukrainian military disasters — for example, hardly a day goes by without some ordinance cache exploding, or soldiers killing each other by accident due to improper use of weapons — can be attributed to this failed attempt to translate military manuals from Russian into Ukrainian.

In this regard, one cannot help but recall that famous Herman Wouk quote from The Caine Mutiny, in the context of rules and regs of the U.S. navy:

Wouk: You must do everything by the book.

The Navy is a master plan designed by geniuses for execution by idiots. If you are not an idiot, but find yourself in the Navy, you can only operate well by pretending to be one. All the shortcuts and economies and common-sense changes that your native intelligence suggests to you are mistakes. Learn to quash them. Constantly ask yourself, “How would I do this if I were a fool?” Throttle down your mind to a crawl. Then you will never go wrong.

The context is that the new recruit, Willie, does not see the need for all the detailed technical manuals onboard, and having to do every tiny task “by the book”, but he is set straight on that.  Sailors (and soldiers) literally have to do everything by the book, it’s the only way they can survive and be successful.  The corollary is that if they cannot read the book, then chaos ensues.

And what goes for the regular military goes double for the atomic energy sector.  Here too, every day that goes by in the Ukraine, is just a disaster waiting to happen…

[to be continued]

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Preserving the Language of the Colonizers – Part II

Dear Readers:

Continuing my review of this piece by Vladimir Dobrynin.  Whose thesis, jumping ahead, a bit, is that the Ukraine could borrow a leaf from Morocco.  The two situations are completely different, of course.  Morocco genuinely was a colony of France.  Ukraine was never a colony of Russia, albeit the Ukrainian nationalists insist it was.  But playing along for a moment with their wrong interpretation of history…  The Morocco case shows, accordiing to Dobrynin, that it is a huge mistake to make a sudden radical change in the way people use language.

Moroccan students are eager to learn.

In the Moroccan case:  After decolonization, the new government attempted, at least a couple of times, to replace French with Arabic as the language of education.  Both attempts failed, especially in education concerning the natural sciences.  The students themselves rebelled, because it turned out to be too difficult, if not impossible, to get a decent science education when relying purely on Arabic sources.

The French Language As a Symbol of Civilization

Unexpectedly for the “Arabizers”, Dobrynin continues, it was shocking for them to learn that the French language was the single, fragile link between these eager young students of science, and the outer world of knowledge.  It was the only vehicle by which they themselves might present their discoveries and accomplishments to the world.  Sociological surveys revealed that university students had already formed a concept in their heads, by which French was the language of science; and that by mastering it they would improve their chances of getting good jobs after graduation.  Therefore, the notion of forcing them to speak only Arabic in class, to be taught in Arabic, and to read only Arabic sources; would have been like pushing them back into a corner, at a time when they were eager to step out into the larger world.

France produced many fine scientists, including Louis Pasteur.

[Personally, I would have thought that German is a better choice than French for a language of science?  But we aren’t necessarily talking about reality here, just what these students believe.  Besides, they weren’t colonized by Germany, so they couldn’t be expected to have German so ready upon the tongue.  Whereas French was already there.]

The most recent phase of “Arabization” happened in 2011 when the “Party of Justice and Development” won the elections.  It was on the party’s platform to give preferences to Arabic and try to inculcate as the language of education.  In the end they realized that this project was not working, and accepted the compromise, proposed by minority parties, by which scientific and technical subjects might be taught in “foreign” languages, meaning French, mostly.  “We decided to take a constructive position in the interests of the nation, and of our future Moroccan generations.”

Amzazi: “Voici ma petite fille. Elle va à la bibliothèque.”

Morocco’s former Prime Minister Abdelila Benkirane objected grumpily that:  “Most Moroccans don’t speak French, and we don’t have enough teachers who are qualified to teach this language to the students.”

Education Minister Said Amzazi disagrees:  “The new law guarantees the future of education in our country; and creates the conditions for Moroccan schools to rise to the highest level.  This is an event of historic proportions.”

Will Ukraine Learn A Lesson From Morocco?

The short answer is probably “No” but let’s play along..  In the final section of his op-ed Dobrynin sees parallels between Morocco and the Ukraine.  In this scenario, replace Arab Nationalists with Ukrainian Nationalists.  Ukrainian Nationalists, upon coming to power in the 2014 coup, launched a campaign to root out the Russian dialect and replace with the Ukrainian dialect.  Russian was deemed “the language of the occupiers” and history was rewritten to depict Ukraine as the victim of Russian colonization.  [Again, nothing like the real situation with African countries such as Morocco, who actually were colonies!]

In the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic there were two official and equal state languages:  Russian and Ukrainian.  However, the reality was that Russian remained the overwhelming language of choice for people talking about, and writing about, scientific and technical issues…

[to be continued]

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Preserving the Language of the Colonizers – Part I

Dear Readers:

Today I have this piece, it was written over a month ago but is not all that time-dependent, and I saved for a rainy day.  The author is Vladimir Dobrynin, and the title reads:

Africa shows Ukraine an example how to deal with “the language of the colonizers”

I have classified this post under the category of Linguistics.  As some of my readers know, I have some formal training in Linguistics, and maintain a hobbyist interest in the field.  Not that much changes in this particular science, as the basics (phonemics, morphology, syntax) were laid down centuries, even millennia ago, by brilliant scholars.  There is still a lot to learn, though, in the areas of Applied Linguistics, and also in that specialized arena wherein Linguistics intersects with Politics.  We are talking about national languages, of course.  The process of turning a regional dialect into a national language takes place when a bunch of influential people come together and decide that Dialect X will be the official language of Nation Y.

In other circumstances, as happened in many African countries, local elites started speaking and writing in the language of the colonizers, and then that became the official national language.

Dobrynin starts by informing us that in the African nation of Morocco, there was an attempt (actually more than one attempt) to expel French and inculcate Arabic as the national language of higher education.

Morocco is, of course, the country where Humphrey Bogart told Ingrid Bergman that “we will always have Paris”, and then at the end Claude Rains (Captain Louis Renault) rounds up the usual suspects, while everybody sings the Marseillaise.  Everybody is speaking French, of course, although it might have sounded to the untutored ear like American English.  Because that’s what people in Casablanca did:  They spoke French.

“Rick, how do you say ‘We’ll always have Paris’ in Arabic?”

So, around a month ago, the Moroccan Parliament adopted a law to bring back the French language, since the project to switch over to Arabic had led to a host of unforeseen negative consequences.  Experts who monitored the whole process described how the attempted Arabization led to a national crisis in the spheres of education and scientific research.

Why?  Is Arabic an inferior language, barely capable of grunting out a few barks; and not possessing enough sounds, or enough words, to name, say, the chemical elements?  Not at all.  Arabic at one time was the language of the world’s top mathematicians.  Arab scholars invented our current number system, including the numeral ZERO!  It takes brains and abstract thinking to be able to deduce that nothing is also something.  And that’s why we call them Arabic numerals, as opposed to Roman numerals.  The Romans, wise guys though they were, were only capable of counting with sticks, and we never could have had calculus without the all-important zero.

Arabic and French, indeed any human language, are equally capable of saying anything that needs to be said, whether concrete or abstract.  It’s just a question of custom and infrastructure, in the final analysis.  And it took a big pair of pants for even Moroccan nationalists to recognize this simple truth and undo a mistake they had made earlier.  Not everybody is capable of such logical thought patterns, as in “This isn’t working, let’s not do this any more.”  Ukrainians nationalists, for example…  They will pursue a mistake, even double down, keep repeating it over and over, right to the bitter end, even if it kills them.  Even animals won’t do that, but they’ll do it.

When the Moroccans decided to bring French back and re-install it as the language of science and research, the vote was:  241 yays, 4 nays, and 21 abstentions.  A remarkable result, given that, as Dobrynin points out, the vast majority of these parliamentarians belong to conservative Islamist parties, which hold that Arabic is the language of God.  Of God, maybe; Science, not so much.  Not any more.  Not since the Middle Ages.  In essence, the nation of Morocco, led by patriotic and traditionalist Arabs, has decided to tear down the system of Arabization of education.  And reinstall French!  As Captain Renault might have remarked:  “Zis eez zee beginning of a beautiful friendship!”

The Brutal Truth

The brutal truth:  From 1912 through 1956 Morocco was a French colony.  As a French colony, everybody learned to speak French.  They read French books.  But they didn’t love it, because nobody really loves being a colony.  Upon gaining independence, the new Moroccan government set about trying to get rid of French and replace it with Arabic.

… but not really the language of Science, any more…

Arabic itself has a rich cultural and literary tradition, so that wasn’t the problem.  The problem was, there weren’t enough specialists to carry the load.  In 1958 specialists were brought in from Syria, Egypt and other Arabic-speaking countries.  The government created a “Scientific Reseach Institute On Questions of Arabization”.  Researchers right away discovered an alarming lack of Arabic-language source materials, a deficiency of Arab-language instructors, and the resulting sharp decline in educational standards, especially among those studying the natural sciences.  As a result of this failure, the Ministry of Education decided, in 1965, to return to the French system of education.

Then the worm turned again:  In 2000 Arabist parties decided once more to try the Arabization of education route.  Even the World Bank was on board:  allocating 60 million dollars to the Moroccan government to implement this reform.  Once again, the attempt failed:  the students themselves, those studying the natural sciences, continued, stubbornly, to use French as “the language of science”, deeming second place to Arabic as “the language of culture”.  Opinion polls showed that the educated elite esteemed Arabic as a part of their identity; yet preferred French as more appropriate for the natural science disciplines.  For a practicing scientist, specializing in a certain field, it was necessary to possess a “conceptual apparatus”, along with standard terminology; not to mention actual research materials, books and monographs, written in the corresponding language.

Next:  French as a language of world civilization…

[to be continued]

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