Айда во двор! – Russia Culture War Poetry Slam – Part II

Picking up right from where we left off yesterday:

Kremlin spokesperson Maria Zakharova wasted no time in responding to Dmitry Bykov’s poetic assault against the Russian government.  And moreoever, she responded to Bykov in his own language – the language of poetry.

“You have been served right back, Citizen Bykov.”

But first a few words about Maria herself:

The attractive 40-year-old Zakharova  holds the title Director of the Information and Press Department  of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the first woman to hold this post in Russia.  Both of Zakharova’s parents were diplomats, so she grew up in this culture.  Yet she is a different breed.  Fluent in social media, combative and funny, Maria is the very model of a modern Russian diplomat.  She is not afraid to speak bluntly to Russia’s enemies, both internal and external.  For this, she has earned the criticism of anti-Russian media outlets such as the Moscow Times, which wrote this about her:

Maria Zakharova, a Foreign Ministry official generally credited with a dramatic vulgarization of the tone of its official releases, has been appointed its top spokesperson, the ministry said in a statement Monday.


In September 2014, a photo of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and five of his predecessors holding shovels during the groundbreaking ceremony for the U.S. Diplomacy Center in Washington was published on the ministry’s account with the caption “Let’s hope that this is not the mobilization of veterans to dig Cold War trenches.”

Zakharova herself often uses emotive language in her direct statements, calling the current Ukrainian government a “junta degrading to the level of a dump” and sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union a “revenge for the ultimate failure of the ‘Foreign Policy of the European Union’ project.” She concluded it was “trite revenge — but desperate.”

Even some of the formal press releases published on the official website of the ministry during her time as the deputy head of the department have included some surprising metaphors.

A new breed of diplomat: America’s Jen Psaki

In one example that made national headlines, the statement called the European Union a “corporal’s widow,” referring to a character in a Nikolai Gogol play who smacks herself and then complains about it. The statement was arguing that sanctions against Russia had backfired by hurting the EU as well as Russia.

“I’d phrase it this way: it’s [talking about] professional matters using lively language,” Zakharova was cited as saying by the Gazeta.ru news website last year. “[Working with] different audiences requires different language. And it’s not slang, not lingo, it’s the language of the blogosphere,” she said.

Maria has been compared

to the American Jen Psaki, but the difference is obvious:  Jen is a fiery redhead, whereas Maria is what people used to call a “dishwater blonde”.

After Bykov

fired the first shot with his poem, lamenting Russia’s isolation from the “civilized world” and its descent into amateurish dinky-ism, Zakharova shot back with this.  On her Facebook page, of course.  And readers must forgive me if my translation is off, or if I don’t fully “get” what Maria is trying to say.  Such is the mystery of poetry.  Even Bykov admitted, after the fact, that her poem was too complex in its metaphors for him to fully understand all the nuances.  Although he did praise Maria’s creative use of rhyme, when she rhymed the word “nuzhen” (“necessary”) with “fusion”.

Дворовый стиль был задан вами.
«А мы? Ничем мы не блестим».
Лишь для удобства пониманья
Мы на дворовом говорим.

Кому нужны изыски Гессе?
Ведь не с кем в бисер нам играть.
Теперь для санитаров леса
Мы стали вирши сочинять.

Из блогов их мы почерпнули
Расходных слов немало, и
Мы жизнь в руду из слов вдохнули,
Себе сказав заветно “жги!”

Услышав слов знакомых звук,
Слетелись все, кто только мог,
И влипла стайка злобных мух
В наш лингвистический урок.

Что ж… Эту чудную картину
Мы наблюдаем каждый день.
Вам дела нет до сути мира,
А стиль вам обсуждать не лень.

Заумный стиль для вас не нужен –
Им говорим с народом мы.
Для вас готов дворовый фьюжн,
Не напрягающий умы.


The backyard style was started by you.
“And we?  We don’t shine in anything.”
For the purposes of comprehension
We’ll speak in that same backyard style.

Who needs the literary delights of Hesse?
After all, there is nobody to play glass beads with us.
Today we will compose our rhymes
For medtechs who live in the forest.

We have extracted from their blogs
Quite a few cool expressions,
And breathed life into this ore created from words,
Exclaiming to ourselves:  “You’re on fire!”

Hearing the familiar sound of words,
Everyone who possibly could, flew in,
Like a swarm of angry flies
Settling on our linguistics lesson.

In any case, we observe
Every day this marvelous phenomenon.
You have no business in the real world,
Yet you are quick to discuss style.

A style beyond your comprehension is not needed,
We speak in one way with the people.
For the likes of you we have backyard “fusion”
Which doesn’t challenge your brain.

Footnotes and Interpretation

“Hesse” – Hermann Hesse, famous German writer who wrote a book called “The Glass Bead Game”

“You’re on fire!” – Russian “zhgi!” – a blogosphere meme.

“A style beyond your comprehension” – Zakharova is trying to say that the Russian government speaks a certain way in its official pronouncements, and in addressing the people; but can speak in a completely way on the blogosphere – a “backyard fusion” style.

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3 Responses to Айда во двор! – Russia Culture War Poetry Slam – Part II

  1. Cortes says:

    Sounds like her criticism of Bykov is in the finest western tradition of, say, Cicero in “On the Republic ” in which statesmen must deal with the real world to provide for the common good while clever poets can indulge themselves in frippery and dilettantism.


  2. et Al says:

    Thanks for that. You are the dogs bollocks yalensis.

    Zakharova scares me. In a good way! 😉


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