Ukrainian Chief of Navy Dismissed For “Khalatnost”

Dear Readers:

In previous blogposts we have discussed the Russian legal concept of “khalatnost” (Халатность), which is best translated into English as “Negligence”.

The word itself has an interesting etymology.  A Russian “khalat” (Халат) is a robe.  There is an oriental flavor to this word, one thinks of a plush oriental robe worn by wealthy noblemen in Persia or Arabia.  Etymologists in fact derive the word from Turkish, but it came into Russian most likely via the Arab “khilat” .خلعت

In Russian, the word “khalat” came to symbolize a type of plush robe worn by lazy Russian noblemen.  According to the Russian wiki entry which I linked above:

In Russia, “khalats” are not used as outer-wear.  They are divided into “household” type robes and “workers” robes.  [yalensis:  which I would translate as “smocks” or “scrubs” in the medical context.]

Household robes are mostly used only to temporarily cover one’s nakedness before getting dressed; for example, when arising from bed or after taking a shower.

Working robes (=smocks) are used for hygiene purposes, to protect one’s regular clothes from getting dirty.  Smocks are used by doctors, lab workers, cooks, (and others).

A typical Russian nobleman in his “khalat”

Foundry workers wearing protective outer wear

A very famous figure in Russian literature is the nobleman Ilya Ilyich Oblomov, in Ivan Goncharov’s classic novel Oblomov.  Several film and television adaptations have been done from this work.  One of Oblomov’s signature characteristics is his propensity to sleep long hours and wear his “khalat” at all times of the day and night.  Russian literary and social critics pointed to the Oblomov figure as a byword for Russian laziness and backwardness.  Oblomov was compared unfavorably with his German friend Stoltz, who is a real get-up-and-go type of person.

The Oblomov reference simply underscores the negative connotations of the word “khalat” in Russian, and why accusing somebody of “khalatnost” is, in effect, assigning them legal liability for Negligence.

And having gotten this etymology, and these literary references, and this legal definition, out of the way, it is time to turn to today’s political headline, which concerns a Ukrainian Admiral named Sergei Gaiduk.  Or, in Ukrainian transliteration Serhiy Hayduk.  Whichever spelling one prefers, the fact remains that this man just got fired from his job, as Commander of the Ukrainian navy.  According to Ukrainian President Poroshenko, Hayduk was fired for the following reasons:

Oblomov: The very epitome of “khalatnost”

“Taking into account the opinions of the Volunteers, and of society, and also taking into account the systemic inadequacies in (his) fulfullment of his service duties, and also the low level of authority (which he enjoyed) among the command team,  I have taken the decision to relieve Serhiy Hayduk of his duties as the Commander of the Naval Forces of the Ukrainian armed forces.”

Already back on April 2 Ukrainian mass media were reporting that Hayduk had been dismissed.  However, on April 4, the armed forces denied this “rumor”.  But then the “rumor” was confirmed again, by Poroshenko himself.  And on his Facebook page, too, which means it has to be true.  Word on the grapevine is that Hayduk’s position will be taken by the current Head of Personnel for the General Staff, Lieutenant-General Igor Voronchenko.

Hayduk’s “Khalatnost”

The VZGLIAD piece goes on to lay out some of the backstory to Hayduk’s dismissal.  The tipping point was the Crimean Referendum.  After the results of the vote were published (in which overwhelming majority of Crimean residents voted to return to Russia), bigwigs from the Russian navy arrived in Sebastopol HQ to take over from the Ukrainians.  At that point Hayduk basically had 3 choices:  (1) Stay and fight, (2) Stay and facilitate the peaceful hand-off to the Russians; or (3) Take off his uniform, disguise himself and flee.

Hayduk picked option #3.

In better times: Hayduk aboard the American ship USS Ross, conducting joint naval maneuvers for “Exercise Seabreeze”

Quoting Sebastopol Governor Sergei Menyailo:  “How can one even talk about the man having any authority left?  After the Referendum, the Commander of (Russia’s) Black Sea fleet, Alexander Vitko, arrived at the Headquarters of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, in order to meet with his colleague [Hayduk], and the man just wasn’t there!  There was just an empty office.  But two hours later, they found him [Hayduk] hiding in a utility closet, wearing a worker’s khalat, or smock.”

And thus, it could be said with all due authority, that Hayduk was fired for “khalatnost”.

And there, Dear Readers, you have your punchline!

This entry was posted in Breaking News, Russian Literature and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Ukrainian Chief of Navy Dismissed For “Khalatnost”

  1. Lyttenburgh says:

    The colored photo of Mohammed Alim Khan (the last of Chingis Khan’s descendants to rule) is gorgeous, but still causes a lot of cognitive dissonace in me – medals on .khalat, why, why…

    Another big fan of khalats among the fictionary characters was Nozdryov from Gogol’s “Dead Souls”:

    Dat pose!

    As for the Ukranian military … it’s still amazing that they still have Admirals after all! Such bravery surely results in the enormous level of injuries or KIAs!


    • yalensis says:

      Yes, yes, Lyttenburgh, but what did you think of that lovely red box that I put around the last line of text?
      I figured that out, by the way, as a serendipitous byproduct of editing your next opus.
      In the course of figuring out how to embed a table in WordPress HTML, this also revealed the secret to me, how to create a text box with a red border. It’s all in the HTML, my dear Doctor Watson.


  2. marknesop says:

    “Taking into account the opinions of the Volunteers, and of society, and also taking into account the systemic inadequacies in (his) fulfullment of his service duties, and also the low level of authority (which he enjoyed) among the command team, I have taken the decision to relieve Serhiy Hayduk of his duties as the Commander of the Naval Forces of the Ukrainian armed forces.”

    What a visionary is Poroshenko. Rarely missing an opportunity to pander to ‘the Volunteers’, it does not seem to occur to him that when they have had enough of him, the ones who will be called upon to save his fat dimpled ass will be the long-suffering military.

    I’m certainly not arguing in Hayduk’s behalf – with a handful of yardcraft and minesweepers, and a fleet of which the capital ship is only a frigate, the night baker could probably run the whole show and they probably don’t need an Admiral, except for playing make-believe like they do when the Americans come for joint exercises. But considering the blizzard of firings and hirings among the senior officer corps that has ensued since Porky took the helm, he cannot have too many friends among the armed forces. And if the shit hits the fan with the people – probably backed by the ‘Volunteers’ who seem to be running Ukraine, there will not be a guard comprised of generals and admirals protecting Porky from them.


    • anonym2008 says:

      “they probably don’t need an Admiral”

      Well, Gayduk’s successor is no admiral.
      Any opinion about him?
      It is kind of odd that a former tanker is the commander of a navy.


  3. Cortes says:

    Sounds like a smear job.

    Does khalat cover one of ces enfants?


  4. Jen says:

    So it took Poroshenko two years to notice that Serhiy Hayduk had been AWOL from his job, to finally sack him via Facebook. Wheels of progress surely grind slowly with Poroshenko at the helm. Maybe if he didn’t sit on them they might speed up exponentially by a factor of 100.

    It also does not say a great deal about Poroshenko’s respect for the Ukrainian military, that he sacks a senior naval officer via social media, that everyone can see, instead of relieving Hayduk of his duties in person and in private.

    As for Hayduk himself, regardless of how competent or incompetent he was as Admiral, he didn’t have much choice once Crimea passed over to Russia: fighting would have been useless; handing over the base to Russia would have sealed his fate as a traitor; trying to flee probably seemed like the best option of a set of bad choices. The fourth possibility he could have taken, given the unenviable position he was in, was to jump ship (not literally, that is) and pledge loyalty to the Russian navy. But then he would end up a small fish in a big pond and his deficiencies as an admiral would have been obvious to one and all. He would probably have ended up being shunted into a position where he would not have much responsibility over people and a budget, and eventually after some years he would be pensioned off.


    • yalensis says:

      Option #4 didn’t even occur to me.
      I guess I just assumed that Hayduk was svidomite all the way.


      • yalensis says:

        P.S. – There were some Ukrainian-loyal units at the time which negotiated with the incoming Russians, and they were allowed to march out under their own banners and keeping their weapons, and hie themselves back to the Ukraine.
        This was an honorable course of action for them, given their ideological beliefs.

        They were army, though.
        In navy, I think it is different, and especially for an Admiral, he is supposed to go down with his flagship, no?


  5. et Al says:


    “Hajduk is a term most commonly referring to outlaws, brigands, highwaymen or freedom fighters in Southeastern Europe, and parts of Central and Eastern Europe.

    In Balkan folkloric tradition, the hajduk (hajduci or haiduci in the plural) is a romanticised hero figure who steals from, and leads his fighters into battle against, the Ottoman or Habsburg authorities. They are comparable to the English legend of Robin Hood and his merry men, who stole from the rich (which as in the case of the hajduci happened to be also foreign occupants) and gave to the poor, while defying unjust laws and authority.

    In reality, the hajduci of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries commonly were as much guerrilla fighters against the Ottoman rule as they were bandits and highwaymen who preyed not only on Ottomans and their local representatives, but also on local merchants and travelers. As such, the term could also refer to any robber and carry a negative connotation.


    The etymology of the word “hajduk” is unclear. One theory is that hajduk was derived from the Turkish word haidut or haydut, which was originally used by the Ottomans to refer to Hungarian infantry soldiers. Another theory suggests that the word comes from the Hungarian hajtó or “hajdó” (plural hajtók or “hajdók”), meaning a (cattle) drover.[3] Indeed, these two theories do not necessarily contradict each other, as the Balkan word is said to be derived from the Turkish word haiduk or hayduk (bandit).[1][2][4]

    Other spellings in English include ajduk, haydut, haiduk, haiduc, hayduck, hayduk….”

    What jumped out at me is that there is a brilliant balkan gypsy band called Taraf de Haïdouks:

    In other excellent balkan news, Emir Kusturica & the No Smoking Orchestra have already started their European tour.


    • yalensis says:

      Well, in the Russian spelling/transliteration Admiral Sergei’s name is Gayduk.
      Which maybe sounds like a “Gay Duke”.
      Which would fit in with the “Robin and his Merry Men” theme.
      Except that Robin Hood was an Earl, not a Duke.
      Or maybe the Duke of Earl?


  6. Error says:

    Ukrainian interim president Oleksandr Turchinov dismissed Berezovsky after his defection, accusing him of treason.


  7. Error says:

    Berezovsky had been named Ukraine s naval commander-in-chief only yesterday , part of an effort by the interim Ukrainian government to sideline military leaders from the ousted Yanukovych government.


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