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 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:
“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.
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.
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”.