Welcome!

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,

yalensis

Posted in Uncategorized | 38 Comments

Coronavirus Reveals Failure of American Healthcare System – Part II

Dear Readers:

Today continuing my review of this piece by reporter Gevorg Mirzayan.  Who writes about the American healthcare system, and how it proved itself completely unworthy in the face of this challenge.  Along with many other components of the American system.

Virus or no virus, the potholes must get filled.

Having said that, and living as I do, in my little pocket of the Shining City On The Hill — actually, things are not so bad here.  Thanks to the always-unsung heroes:  The American working class.  The garbage still gets picked up once a week.  The electricity still works, as does the water.  The toilets still flush.  You can still get your suits professionally cleaned, and you can still get your car serviced, albeit they will not provide a free shuttle any more.  Speaking of cars, you still see them out there on the highway (am I just imaging it, or are the drivers much more polite now?  not honking or flipping you the bird, or trying to cut you off like they used to…), and there is even a road crew out there on one of the exits, I think they are trying to build a new ramp, or something, they have been working on that for the last year and a half and still keep plugging on…

Walsingham: “You can’t tell me what to do!”

In other words, life goes on, even as people are dropping like flies.  Like many other healthy people, I live my life in a style I called Modified Walsingham [allusion to a character in John Wilson’s City of the Plague]; Modified, because I do not carouse drunkenly with my neighbors, nor do I break any laws, nor will I place anybody else at risk, but I do strive for a level of normality and routine; plus, I have no choice but to venture out once in a while, fighting off zombies right and left, just to forage for food and supplies!

But enough about me and my tiny life, let us return to Mirzayan’s well-argued critique of the American system, and what brought this country to such a brink.  And it wasn’t the working class or ordinary people who are to blame; as always, it was the elite class of uncaring rulers and a howlingly incompetent government.

The Testing Kit Crisis

One of the main reasons, why this crisis ballooned as quickly as it did, is the insufficient quantity of testing kits.  In a pandemic, the plan is to move as quickly as possible and test as many people as possible within the shortest amount of time.  That way you know who has the plague, and then you can implement strict quarantines.  For example, by March 1 South Korea had performed 110,000 tests; Italy 23K; Great Britain 13K; and the United States, 472.  [That’s right, literally four-hundred and seventy-two, don’t put any zeroes after it; but by March 11 the number had risen to 7,000 whoop-de-doo.]

Once people started to get tested and the mathematical egg-heads saw which way the curve was rising — all of a sudden, the American authorities started to get a clue what was going on; and realized, with big sinking feeling, that they did not have the infrastructure needed to take on the expected number of sick people.  Like, the number of beds in hospitals, ventilators for the lungs, medical doctors and nurses to take care of the ill.  And all of this criminal negligence can be placed squarely on the American government and CDC.  Boo hiss!  Hang your heads in shame.

The Ventilator Crisis

Long before anybody had heard of Covid-19, way back in 2010, in the entire United States there were only 62,000 ventilators.  What is a ventilator?  I’m glad you asked.  The Russian word, by the way, is ИВЛ, which stands for искусственная вентиляция легких (“artifical ventilation of the lungs”).  In English, they used to be called “Iron Lungs”.  When you see photos of miserable people lying in those tubes, that’s what it is.  Ventilators have an interesting history, dating all the way back to 1530…

[to be continued]

Posted in Medicine and Health | Tagged | Leave a comment

Coronavirus Reveals Failure of American Healthcare System – Part I

Dear Readers:

There are so many stories coming out now which demand “coverage” that I have decided to just keep on blogging as much as I can, so I will skip my usual “How am I doing” monthly post which I would normally do tomorrow, in order to cram in more stories.  Don’t worry, I took a peek at my Stats, and my numbers are okay, fairly stable and normal for me.  So it’s not that.  I’ll start doing it again, once this crisis is over.  We all must do our bit for King and Country!

With that said, today I have this piece by reporter Gevorg Mirzayan.  Who uncovers the shocking secret that nobody knew:  The American healthcare system is completely broken!  My next story after this one, probably, will be a similar expose of the American prison system.  Whose shortcomings have also been placed into stark outlines by this crisis; in case anybody still doubts that the U.S. possesses a big super-giant Gulag within its borders.  Oh, and by the way:  Americans have also just discovered that homeless people need a better place to live!

Investigative Reporter Covid digs dirt on American system…

But back to the healthcare system:  President Trump himself has predicted, based on statistical trending data (which is probably accurate) that a minimum of 200,000 American citizens (or residents) are expected to die as a result of this pandemic.  The actual number could be greater.

As of yesterday, March 30, there were more than 142K people in the U.S. infected with the virus.  These are people who were tested (with the scientific kit) and confirmed.  The actual number of infected (not tested, or don’t even know they have it) would be of a magnitude greater.   How many zeroes to add to the confirmed number, varies from country to country and depends on the rigor of scientific testing, how many test kits were available, how many people are willing to line up to be tested, etc.  And there is also a certain ratio (which mathematicians can chart) between the number of the infected and the number of deaths to be expected.

How could such a thing even happen in the most developed economy in the world?  There are many reasons, and not just the khalatnost of the authorities.  Deeper root causes go to the peculiarities of the American system, in particular, its economy and healthcare system.

American government was asleep at the switch

In the very first stage of the crisis, the government was asleep at the wheel, thus losing valuable time.  [yalensis:  you know how they say, in a missing-person case, the first 24 hours are crucial, and not a second can be lost?  Apparently the same is true of a pandemic.]  While the Asian countries (China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore) were scrambling to avert a worst-case scenario, the U.S. just continued to live its normal life, with Trump Impeachment and Oscars being the main topic of conversation.  The Trump administration did not even have (and had not had since 2018) a functionary whose sole job was to coordinate epidemic type crises.

Anthony Fauci: “The test is really complicated…”

Probably the worst oversight of all:  The government did not possess good numbers and had no way of forecasting the extent of the epidemic as it reached American shores.  Reason being:  not enough testing kits!  The only way to really get on top of things, as the Chinese showed, is to test the entire population in the very first days!  And this was not done.  [yalensis:  Granted, this is not exactly like your home-pregnancy test kit.  To test for Coronavirus, it takes a DNA/RNA splicing setup and big shiny labs with centrifuges, etc.]   According to Anthony Fauci, who heads the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, the blame for the insufficient number of testing kits should not be placed on the White House nor the CDC, but rather on the technical difficulties of the test itself.  [again, DNA splicing, etc.]

However, Fauci is not being fully transparent.  It turned out that, at the CDC, one of the components used to run the tests, was defective.  And when the testing was turned over to private companies, there were bureaucratic delays with the CDC certification.  Also, the CDC’s initial guidelines stipulated testing only of persons who had recently returned from abroad, or who had personal contact with another person of proved infectiousness.  Such limited testing was clearly insufficient.  [yalensis:  I think what the reporter is trying to say here is they should have gone hardcore totalitarian and forced everybody in the U.S. to take the test.  Well, lots of luck with that, people have legs and they can run away…]

Another glaring problem was a lack of proper technology…

[to be continued]

Posted in Medicine and Health | Tagged | Leave a comment

Plácido is gonna be okay!

Dear Readers:

For opera lovers:  There is very good news: Plácido Domingo, the Silver Lion of Hero Tenors, is gonna be okay!  The Spanish/Mexican superstar came down with this wretched Covid-19 virus, I didn’t even know that until I saw this piece from RIA.  But he’s home now and feeling better.  The 79-year-old Domingo was hospitalized in Acapulco, Mexico, due to the virus infection and ensuing complications.  Eventually he was discharged and continued to recuperate at home.

Here is what he wrote on his Facebook, in Spanish, with translation into English:

“We’re gonna get through this, Amigos!”

Placido Domingo
Today at 10:55 AM

Queridos amigos,
se ha circulado mucha información confusa e incorrecta en las redes sociales y en la prensa sobre mi actual estado de salud.
Estoy en casa y me siento bien.
Afortunadamente desde el primer síntoma estaba, como siempre, bajo supervisión médica, dada mi edad y mis comorbilidades, por lo tanto la infección COVID19 se sospechó de inmediato y esto me ayudó mucho.
Ahora continúo la terapia y descanso.
En este momento, mis pensamientos están con quienes sufren y con todos aquellos que luchan generosamente por salvar vidas.
Agradezco a todos vuestro cariño y una vez más les recomiendo a todos que se queden en casa y al seguro.
Hasta pronto.
Plácido

Dear friends,
a lot of confusing and incorrect information about my current health condition has been circulated in social networks and in the press.
I am at home and I feel fine.
Fortunately from the very first symptom I was, as usual, under medical supervision, given my age and my comorbidity, therefore the COVID19 infection was immediately suspected and this helped me a lot.
Now I continue my therapy and rest.
My thoughts right now are with those who suffer and with all those who are generously working to save lives.
I thank everyone for your affection and once again I recommend everyone to stay safe at home.
See you soon.
Plácido.

Everybody please to wish Plácido best health and survival in these difficult times!  Working together, with Love in our hearts, we will win!

P.S. – don’t listen to this guy literally, though.  Do try to get lots of sleep!

Posted in Opera | Tagged | 2 Comments

Free Un-Named Odessa Motorist!

Dear Readers:

Today, on a lazy Quarantine Sunday, I have this short piece from Odessa Online [a pro-government, pro-fascist newspaper], concerning a street-altercation in Odessa, Ukraine.  With notable slap-dashiness of a fascist press, the reporter does not even bother to specify the time and date of the incident, but one might assume it happened yesterday (maybe March 28?)

The incident was reported to the newspaper by “activist” (=Ukrainian Nationalist) Demyan Ganul.  Ganul is one of these little cowardly Nazi snitches (in Russian they are called stukachi — “stool pigeons”) who patrol the streets of Odessa trying to find dissidents that they can turn in to the authorities.  Just being cowards and snitches, revelling in their own impunity whilst serving a totalitarian regime, these Nazi bullies portray themselves as heroes who maintain public order.

In fascist Ukraine, it’s a crime to like Stalin!

So, Ganul, while out patrolling with a “friend”, while also apparently packing heat, noticed this guy’s car that had a picture of Stalin taped to the window.  Ganul asked the guy to remove the portrait, and the guy refused.  Ganul, being loathesome rat-fink that he is, immediately called the cops to lodge a complaint.  Ganul:  “While we were waiting for the police to arrive, around 15 Titushki came up to show their support for the driver.  They made several attempts to attack us.  In the second case, even right in front of the police.  There were 15 of them, and only two of us, therefore I had no choice except to shoot into the air.  After which, the police were able to subdue them [with tear gas].”

The pro-Stalin car owner was arrested.  He turned out to be a 45-year-old native of Odessa.  He has been charged under Article 436, Part 1 of the penal code which forbids display of “totalitarian” symbolica.  On paper, this includes both Communist and Nazi symbolica, but everybody knows they only apply this law to Commie symbols, while Nazis are allowed to cavort through the streets like a Hitlerite Mardi Gras.  The unnamed owner of this car may face up to 5 years in jail under these grossly unfair laws, not to mention confiscation of his property.

Demyan Ganul on patrol of Odessa streets

Anyhow, the irony also is not lost on most people, that the banning of certain symbols is not only an attack against free speech, but is itself a manifestation of totalitarianism.  In this case, the totalitarianism of a fascist government.

The hopeful thing is that 15 “Titushki” rose to the challenge and dared to say “NO!” to the Nazi thugs.  Where there are 15 today, there will be 1500 tomorrow.

In fact, very few people who bother to follow the Ukrainian situation, are in doubt that the nasty little rat-finks like Demyan Ganul, are only temporarily in the driver’s seat.  Eventually things will change, and then they will be the ones whining, just like their grandpapas before them, that they were “only following orders” – LOL!

Posted in Breaking News | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Orange Crusader vs Yellow Peril: Trump Will Sue China

Dear Readers:

Today I have this piece by reporter Dmitry Bavyrin.  The shocking news is that President Trump plans to sue the nation of China for a whopping $6 TRILLION BUCKS!   There are many twists and turns in this story.

You might think this would be a time when all nations of the world should put aside their grievances and work together to help each other and find a cure?  But Noooooo….

Covid’s mugshot has gone viral.

In a nutshell, Trump blames China for the Covid-19 outbreak; his economic advisors estimate the damage to the American economy at some $6 trillion; and Trump intends to sue China for that amount. The Chinese government, of course, will placidly accept the blame and fork over the dough… NOT!

Trump is totally serious about this frivolous lawsuit.  His plaint boils down to this:  The Chinese government were too secretive and inscrutable during the first few days.  They should have pushed the panic button the first second they learned of the first infection.  Instead, the muckety-mucks retreated into the back rooms to figure out what to do.  They decided to hide the fact that people are eating digusting undercooked bat soup.  Thanks to this khalatnost precious time was lost and America got infected.  This led to American business suffering such tremendous losses in the past couple of months; not to mention the indescribable suffering of regular working people.  It wasn’t that the American bureaucracy and medical infrastructure were woefully unprepared for a crisis, no, they just didn’t get the timely warning from the Chinese they should have gotten.

The American government plan to pursue this strategy the way they always do:  They hired a sleazy Personal Injury law firm.  Just a bigger, richer version of those shills you see on TV hawking their services.  These highly paid legal eagles will go judge-shopping, find a judge somewhere in the world that rules for them, and then, once the Chinese refuse to fork out the dough, they will seize all Chinese assets located in the U.S.

Travis Lucas, Senior Partner of Lucas/Compton

Sleazy law firm in question is Lucas/Compton [Bavyrin has a typo there, mis-spelling it as Copmton].  This law firm is involved in Trump’s pre-election campaign as well, which Bavyrin cynically remarks is no coincidence.  Trump’s demand that China pay up for America’s problems, will most likely find a lot of resonance with his voting base.  Plus, this is totally in Trump’s style:  He is always demanding that other countries pay up or he will bust their kneecaps; he’s sort of like the Tony Soprano of international relations.

Bavyrin comments that Trump is a sincere Sinophobe.  He detests the Chinese, in other words.  He sincerely believes that China is the main threat to the American economy, and he wants to whale on their yellow assets.

Angry and panicky American voters are sure to go for this bait; we see in the news already that Trump’s popularity has skyrocketed, even though he himself showed quite a dosage of khalatnost in his response to the crisis.

The Biden Connection

This is where the story gets interesting:  There is another sleazy Personal Injury law firm filing an almost identical claim, but this time on behalf of the State of Florida.  This is the Berman Law Group, one of whose top managers is Francis (call me Frank) Biden, brother to Joseph (call me Joe) Biden!  America’s glorious former Vice President and current Presidential candidate.  Oh wait,  I found this piece, in English, which conveys some of the same material as Bavyrin’s piece.  Quoting the Breitbart piece:

Frank Biden: “Our hourly rate is very reasonable…”

“This is an ambitious complaint against a world super-power,” Russell Berman, co-founder of the firm, said in the news release. “But, as we have alleged, China has unleashed a pandemic upon the world, and the harm is now exponentially multiplying every day here in the U.S. and Florida — our firm isn’t afraid to take them on and get the justice that is deserved. It is the Chinese government that should be paying damages for economic stimulus to the United States not the American People.”

This Berman lawsuit has got to be a very unpleasant surprise for the Chinese.  See, the Chinese government, amazingly, has cultivated good relations with the Biden family!  Which puts them at odds with the Russian government, which considers Biden to be the anti-Christ incarnate.  So we have this weird situation, where the Chinese want (or wanted) Biden to win the Presidency; whereas the Russians are rooting for Trump.  Not because they love Trump, but because they consider him to be the lesser of the 2 evils.

Did It Come From Shrimps?

Either way, Trump wants the Chinese government to pay for the huge stimulus package he just passed in the Senate.  Which is estimated to amount to $6 trillion.

The big question is:  How will China respond to this big slap to their collective countenances?  Will they lose face?  Trump has been more than boorish in his attacks against the Chinese, practically calling them contagious to their faces; some of the wince-atory rhetoric is reminiscent of the “yellow peril” scaremongering of the 19th century.  On the other hand, there are indications that the Chinese are starting to get nervous, like maybe they do have something to hide.  Maybe a slightly guilty conscience?  Like, what’s up with that bat soup and undercooked offal?  Is that why the terrified virus took a leap out of the bowl and into the gourmand’s nasal orifice?

Chinese cops shut down the shrimp shop in Wuhan

The official Chinese version is that Patient Zero was a woman selling shrimps in the market in Wuhan.  Virus leaped from shrimp to human.  Once the lady got infected, the Coronavirus spread exponentially, as airborne (or droplet-spread) viruses are wont to do.

There is another theory, believed by many Chinese diplomats and doctors (also by many “conspiracy theorists” throughout the world):  Namely, that the Covid-19 virus was created in an American laboratory.  Possibly even as part of a germ-warfare program against China.  Or maybe the virus just escaped from the lab, as in a Hollywood movie.  The Americans and their allies counter with a counter-conspiracy theory, whereby the Chinese government was testing something in their own germ-warfare facility near Wuhan.  But this latter theory is debunked by reputable scientists, whereas the former theory has some appendages.

According to still another theory, believed by many Italians, based on anecdotal evidence:  The virus actually travelled from China to Italy already a year ago.  Long before Covid became a household word, an unusual number of Italians showed up in hospitals complaining of pneumonia.  If this theory were true, then China really could be accused of extreme khalatnost.  But is there any way to prove this theory in court?  Probably not.  The pneumonia could be explained away by other factors, and the anecdotal evidence is of the same type as my mom saying, “I’m pretty sure I had this last summer…”

Bavyrin: America has released the Kraken!

In conclusion:  The political benefit will accrue to Trump if Covid helps him win the election.  The Chinese will be sad, because they want to see Biden win.  [WHY?  ARE THEY CRAZY??]   But the Russians will be okay with a Trump win, due to their visceral hatred of Biden.  On the other hand, Russia does not approve of the American tendency to swing their you-know-what all over the world and demand that other nations submit to their laws and regulations.  Everybody is sick of their coercive methods and their shake-downs, it’s just not healthy, and it’s not good for the world.  Russia has had its own taste of this noxious medicine.

Up until now, Bavyrin concludes, the Chinese have behaved rather meekly in response to American bullying.  But this lawsuit goes too far, and will surely overflow their cup of patience.  And speaking on the geopolitical plane:  The more backbone that China shows; the more hostile that China becomes to the U.S. – then all the better for Russia!  The last thing that Russia wants to see is an American-Chinese alliance against Russia, as in the 1960’s.

OH WAIT!

Oh wait!  I was about to hit the “Publish” button, but then I saw this piece from Gazeta, which just came out yesterday.  The reporter is Anna Yuranets, and the tone is completely different, the headline reads:

“China Has Gone Through A Lot”:  Why Trump is Making Peace With Xi

Apparently, after conferring with world leaders at the G20, Trump started talking nicer, and more politer than before.  He even stated that the two countries could collaborate on finding solutions to the pandemic.  Trump on Twitter:

Ping, Pang and Pong: “Nice country you got here. Would be a pity if something was to happen to it…”

“China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus,” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter. “The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!”

Which is quite different from yelling at them and suing them for $6 trillion bucks!

One can only speculate what came over Trump.  Did 3 Chinese ghosts appear to him in the middle of the night?  To remind him what they could actually do to the American economy, were they to take the route of confrontation?

Posted in Breaking News, Economics, Friendship of Peoples, Medicine and Health | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Russia Helping Italy To Deal With Plague

Dear Readers:

Still on topic of plague – sorry!  I’ll find something else eventually.  But this short piece was written by reporter Anton Nikitin, and is an example of international solidarity.  People helping people, nations helping nations.  [Cue Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” swelling chorus.]

Beethoven: A real Mensch…

So, the Italian people and government are going through a very tough time right now.  The Covid plague hit them hard, they were unprepared (like most countries), didn’t have enough testing kits, enough ventilators, enough doctors, enough nurses, etc.

Into the rescue gallops the Russian cavalry, in the form of 22 units of automotive specialized anti-virus technology.  These guys work for the Russian military, so they are fairly well organized.  And is actually kind of unprecedented that a NATO country is accepting this kind of quasi-military aid from the “enemy”, Russia.

So this military column landed, a few days ago, at the Italian airbase Pratica di Mare and has  just completed a 600-kilometer march north to the city of Bergamo, where it will unroll operations.

Smartly dressed carabinieri accompany the Russian military column.

The Russians are coming!  The Russians are coming!  And bringing with them the following supplies:  Mobile diagnostic complexes, mass-production disinfection facilities, special equipment to assist those critically ill with the infection.  The Russian Defense Ministry proudly announced that the aid column was accompanied, along the entire route, by Italian carabinieri, in their colorful uniforms.  These might even be some of the same units that Herr Beethoven encountered, back in the day, when Napoleon was busy invading Europe.

The military-medical unit will set up operations at the airbase Orio al Serio, near Bergamo.  Russians and Italians will be working together, hand in hand (wearing latex gloves, of course) in the battle against the Covid-19 virus.

The city of Bergamo, located in the beautiful region of Lombard, has been, unfortunately, one of the epicenters of the infection in Italy.  But Russia is bringing assistance, in the shape of 600 ventilators, 15 airplanes containing vital equipment; not to mention 100 specialists, and 8 brigades of Doctor-Nurses.  Russian President Vladimir Putin had offered this assistance to the Italians, and they gratefully accepted.  Yesterday Italy’s Ambassador to Moscow, Pasquale Terracciano, thanked Russia for the help.  Terracciano was too polite to mention, but ex-Italian diplomat Franco Frattini commented pointedly that the EU had abandoned Italy, pretty much to just die on the side of the road.  EU nobbity-nobs even had the gall to blame Italy for its own problems, saying that Italians were lazy and don’t follow the rules.

[yalensis:  I have heard similar quasi-racist remarks about, say, the Chinese; like people blaming them, they started the whole thing because they “eat digusting food”, that sort of ignorant talk.]

In conclusion:  Russia is doing the right thing to help a fellow nation that is suffering and needs a hand of friendship (in a latex glove, natch).  In the words of philospher Rodney King:  “Can’t we all just get along?”  Especially in these trying times, which would test the patience of Christ himself.

Posted in Friendship of Peoples, Medicine and Health, Military and War | Tagged | Leave a comment

Humanity On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown – Part III

Безбожный пир,
безбожные безумцы!
Вы пиршеством
и песнями разврата
Ругаетесь над мрачной тишиной,
Повсюду смертию
распространенной!
Средь ужаса плачевных похорон,
Средь бледных лиц
молюсь я на кладбище,
А ваши ненавистные восторги
Смущают тишину гробов —
и землю
Над мертвыми телами потрясают!
Когда бы стариков
и жен моленья
Не освятили общей,
смертной ямы, —
Подумать мог бы я, что нынче бесы
Погибший дух безбожника терзают
И в тьму кромешную тащат
со смехом.
Godless feast,
godless madmen!
With feasting
and obscene songs
You bring curses to the gloomy silence
Which Death has
spread out everywhere!
Amidst the horror of sad funerals,
Among the pale faces
I pray in the cemetery,
While your hateful celebrations
Disturb the quiet of the graves —
And shake the earth
above the dead bodies!
Were it not for the prayers
of the old men and wives
Revealing the common,
deathly pit, —
I might have thought it was demons
Tormenting the soul of a godless man
And dragging him, laughing,
into the abyss.

(Alexander Pushkin, “A Feast During Plague Time“, from the short plays)

Dear Readers:

Today concluding my review of this op-ed by pundit Petr Akopov.  And to show respect for Akopov’s religious convictions, I allowed the Priest to have the final word (in my Pushkin quotes).

Pushkin’s short play is based on a work by Scottish writer John Wilson, called City Of The Plague, which is a kind of ghost story.  Pushkin took Act I, Scene IV, which involves a group of people revelling near the cemetery.  It’s their way of dealing with the crisis, but they get scolded by an angry Priest.

People fleeing from London during the Plague

There are two basic points of view expressed here, two basic tactics for dealing with the plague:  (1) Edward Walsingham encourages people to socialize, to revel, to work through their losses via conversation and song, and to enjoy the very last moments of life; (2) versus the Priest who wants people to seclude themselves and pray.  But all he can offer the revellers is the possibility of achieving new happiness in heaven.

Terrified Seclusion versus carrying on as if nothing had happened…  Sound familiar?  People today are making such choices every day.

The Etymology Of Fear

We have been talking a lot about Fear and the various formats that it takes.  It might be interesting to do a comparison of various languages, and how many words they have for the concept.  Why have different words?  Well, everybody knows that having a large vocabulary is a good thing.  Educated people strive to have as large a vocabulary as possible, in order to most precisely and effectively express their thoughts and feelings on a given topic.  Synonyms help to elucidate the various nuances and semantic flavors of any concept that is important to a particular group, or to human beings in general.  For example, did you know that Classical Greek had six different words for “love”: agápe, éros, philía, philautia, storgē, and xenia.  They needed 6 different words, because there were 6 different flavors that they needed to distinguish.

“Fear”, by Russian painter Maria Yakunchikova, 1893.

Similarly, there are several different flavors for the concept of  “FEAR”.  In English there are a cluster of synonyms:  Terror, fright, horror, panic, dread, apprehension, phobia.  Verbs:  scared, frightened, etc.

Russian has even fewer synonyms, to my knowledge the main words are: Страх (strakh), ужас (uzhas), испуг (is-pug), and боязнь (boyazn).  All of which are ancient Indo-European words, and the last three related in a rather strange way, as I shall prove here:

Strakh:  From Proto-Baltic Slavic *strākš-, as reconstructured from Proto-Indo-European  *(s)treg-, or going back even further, when Proto-IE-Hittite had Laryngean consonants, *sterh₃-.  Classical Greek στόρνυμι, Latin strages. Most likely the same semantic root as the word for “strew”, as in “strewing fear among one’s enemies on the battlefield”.  All the Slavic languages have this same word, also shared with cousin languages Lithuanian as in stregti, and Proto-Germanic *strakaz.  The common meaning is “fear” or “terror”.  That which is sowed against enemies on the battlefield.

Now, for the next three Russian terms, I set out to prove that they all come from the same Indo-European root, but via different routes, not to mention a side-borrowing from Old Germanic.  Here is my theory:

Let’s start with the German word Angst which also was borrowed into English intact, via the works of Kierkegaard and Freud.  The Proto-Indo-European root was *anghu- (“stretch tight”) whence the English word “anger”, and I stipulate that there is a bit of a semantic stretch from “anger” to “fear” or “anxiety”, but there you have it.

Next we have to do a bit of Slavic Historical Linguistics, to prove that the 3 Russian words ispug, uzhas, and boyazn all stem from this same Proto-Indo-European root.

“The Amityville UZHAS” – “Get out of the freaking house!”

Let’s start with uzhas (“fear”, “terror”, “horror”), which is the clearest candidate for direct genealogy into Slavic.  Indo-European /an/ became Common Slavic (and Old Church Slavonic) nasal phoneme ǫ pronounced, most likely, similar to the snooty French nasal sound as in “bon”.  In East Slavic languages, including Russian, this nasal phoneme morphed into the /u/ sound as in “oooh look at that!”  So, from this we pull the first sound in /uzhas/.  But what about the rest, the /zh/ for example.  Elementary, my dear Watson.  The Slavic word must have been something like /ange-/ or /angi/ and everybody knows (at least everybody with an advanced degree in Historical Linguistics) that the /g/ sound palatalized into /zh/ before a front vowel; so there must have been a front vowel there, like /e/ or /i/.  Hence /angi-/ becomes /uzh-/ and then the rest of it, the /as/ somehow just tacked itself on, some kind of suffix or infix.  QED.

This “First Palatalization” era, by the way, is thought to have taken place starting around 300 AD, among the Slavic peoples.

Ping, Pang and Pong

Proceeding to the disputed etymology of the Russian word ispug (“fright”).  There are various speculations, but here is my theory:  It’s the same root /ang/ but with a prefix /p-/!  See, /p-ang/ or /p-ong/ would give the same result as what we saw above, just that the final /-g/ was not followed by a front vowel in this case, and so became /pug/.  Then tack on another prefix /iz/ and you have /ispug/.  QED.

Turandot’s Advisors: Ping, Pang and Pong

And now onto the most interesting word of this trio.  Same word, different route.

Boyazn:  I flatter myself that I came up with the correct etymology myself.  If somebody else figured this out first, then I retract my claim.  But I believe I was the one who figured it out, even though I’m not a practicing Linguist any more:

Russian boyazn (fear) has to be a borrowing into Slavic from Old-Germanic /be-ang-n/.  (Again, that /ang/ root!)

See, my German is not that great, nor my vocabulary so extensive, and I used to know only one German word for “fear”, namely “Furcht“, which is a different root entirely.  But then one day I was listening to the Richard Strauss opera Der Rosenkavalier, and I happened to notice that drunken Baron Ochs, in his famous aria, sings the lovesick words:

Wie ich dein alles werde sein !
Mit mir, mit mir keine Kammer dir zu klein,
ohne mich, ohne mich jeder Tag dir so bang

Which translates, roughly, as:  “If only I could be your all!  With me, with me, the room would not seem so small.  Without me, without me, the day for you would not be so frightening…”

Baron Ochs: A proponent of the Big Bang Theory!

Bang!  More like Eureka!  I had to look it up in the dictionary to make sure; but, sure enough Bang is another German synonym for FEAR!

As also on display in the famous Erlkönig (Elf-King) song by Franz Schubert:

Mein Sohn, was birgst du so bang dein Gesicht?  (“My son, why do you hide your face so fearfully?”)

Bang!  With that same root /ang/ and, who knows, maybe English “pang” (as in feeling a pang of fear) comes from the same word as well, just a different prefix /p-/ instead of /be-/.

So anyhow, Baron Ochs got me thinking about it, and in a moment of pure epiphany, I realized that this German word Bang had to be the one and same word as Russian boyazn.  Here is my theory:

Everybody knows that Common Slavic peoples came into heavy contact with Old Germanic peoples sometime around the Goth period (500 AD?).  Words that were borrowed around this time then subsquently became subject to the laws of sound changes which rippled through the Slavic dialects.  One such sound change (a movement known as the “Second Palatalization”) affected the consonant /g/, turning it into a /z/ in certain environments.  The poster-child word for this change is Germanic kuningu (“Duke”) which became Slavic knyaz’ (“prince”).  The rule here is that the consonant /g/ morphs into a /z/ after a front nasal vowel /in/, pronounced not unlike the French nasal in, for example, chemin.

Ancient Goths: “We will teach you the meaning of the word FEAR!”

Based on this, it is child’s play to deduce that Old High German bange (“fear”), (from the composite be-ange), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂enǵʰ- (“narrow”), was borrowed into Common Slavic (around Goth times).  The actual root is ange, the Germanic be- is a prefix, just like the /be-/ in the English word “be-coming”.  Slavs borrowed the whole word along with the prefix as something like bu-enge.  The syllable -en- was interpreted as the Slavic nasal vowel ę which morphed, for example, into Russian я; and following that nasal vowel, the consonant /g/ morphed into /z/.  The /bъ/ part, with a short schwa-ish /u/ sound (as in English “put”) becomes Russian /o/.  Giving Russian боязнь(“fear”).  QED.

This is my theory, by the way; and I believe that I am the first person to discover this etymology.  NOBEL PRIZE, PLEASE!

And moral of the story being, that Slavs, like the Germanic hero Siegfried, were mostly fearless people, until they learned the meaning of the word “fear” from the Goths!  With whom, most likely, they had friendly relations, inter-married, exchanged recipes, and borrowed a ton of useful vocabulary.

In Conclusion

So, I will give the final word, as promised, to Akopov as he rails against the Walsinghams of our current plague.

Akopov:  What is happening now is in fact very mild, compared to the panic to come.  Fear breaking out onto the surface will periodically morph into a panic of greater proportions.  If a virus like this, which is quite ordinary and does not even present such a great threat, can terrorize people to this extent, then one can only imagine what a real threat will do to us.

Groundless fear, which sublimates the actual threats to our existence, is the main threat to our existence!  The panic that is summoned up will infect all of humanity in a way the Coronavirus cannot.  The fear of being doomed and sentenced to death.  And there is no vaccine to cure humanity which is already prepared to perish.

On the other hand, human history goes back way more than any existing civilizations, and it is only this one civilization, which considers itself to be the most advanced, which has strayed into this dead end.

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