Ukraine War Day #134: Mazepa’s Whiskers

Орлик: СраженьяOrlik: The battle hasn’t started yet.
Дождемся. Время не ушлоThere is still time
Еще поправить можно зло.Perhaps to fix this.
Разбитый нами, нет сомненья,Broken by us, without a doubt
Царь не отвергнет примиренья.The Tsar will not refuse a truce.
Нет, поздно. Русскому царюNo, it’s too late, the Russian Tsar
Со мной мириться невозможно.Would never be able to reconcile with me.
Давно решилась непреложноMy fate was determined
Моя судьба. Давно горюLong ago. I have burned
Стесненной злобой. Под АзовомWith hidden anger. At Azov
Однажды я с царем суровымOnce with the stern Tsar
Во ставке ночью пировал:Did I feast in headquarters:
Полны вином кипели чаши,Our cups were brimming with wine,
Кипели с ними речи наши.Hot words were exchanged.
Я слово смелое сказал.My mouth ran away with me.
Смутились гости молодые…The young guests were upset…
Царь, вспыхнув, чашу уронилThe Tsar, fired up, cast his goblet down
И за усы мои седыеAnd grabbed me menacingly
Меня с угрозой ухватил.By my greying whiskers.
Тогда, смирясь в бессильном гневе,At that time, engulfed in impotent rage,
Отмстить себе я клятву дал;I vowed to someday get revenge;
Носил ее — как мать во чревеI carried this anger, like a mother in her womb
Младенца носит. Срок настал.Carries her infant. The time is here.
Так, обо мне воспоминаньеThus, he will carry this memory
Хранить он будет до конца.Of me until the very end.
Петру я послан в наказанье;I have been sent to punish Peter;
Я терн в листах его венца:I am the thorn in his laurel crown:
Он дал бы грады родовыеHe would give up his native cities
И жизни лучшие часы,And the best hours of his life,
Чтоб снова как во дни былыеIf only he could, as in olden days,
Держать Мазепу за усы.Grab Mazepa by his whiskers.
Alexander Pushkin, Poltava

Dear Readers:

This post is a continuation of yesterday’s story. About Mazepa and his Swedish allies; and our modern-day Mazepa. In his brilliant poem Pushkin showed how the clash of nations and a ferocious war might be incited by a relatively meaningless gesture, in this case Tsar Peter’s humiliation of Mazepa. When, in a moment of drunken rage, Peter grabbed Mazepa by his moustache, Mazepa was instantly infected by the disease of PDS (=Peter Derangement Syndrome). Which led to serious consequences, as we have seen. Just as in our modern era, Putin Derangement Syndrome also brings unwanted side effects, for example completely losing one’s judgement and ability to think rationally.

Go on, Ben, grab him by his whiskers!

That Russian word усы by the way (pronounced ooh-see!), usually has the more narrow meaning of “moustache” but can technically refer to all the hair (below the nose) on a man’s face. Which is why I chose to translate as “whiskers”, another reason being that these two words, in Russian and English, sound very much the same, although they may not necessarily be related. (The English word descending from Proto-Germanic *wiskijaną, cognate to German wischen, in the meaning “to rub” or “to wipe”. ) The Old Prussian form wanso shows best what the Slavic word looked like. Proto-Slavic form was *vǫsъ (with a nasal vowel, sounding something like vansu) which became Russian /usi/ which is always in the plural form (because whiskers are a set of many hairs). Other I-E cognates include the Greek  ἴονθος (from *vi-vondho). All descending (so goes the theory) from I-E *wendʰ- (“to wind”, obviously also the source of English “wind”, as in winding road, because, you know, hairs, wind around). And thus related to many other words such as “wander”; and possibly even, in a different variant and after the Brothers Grimm applied their consonant shifts, the English word “fuzzy”.

Fuzzy-Wuzzy Zelensky Flunked His History Class

Speaking of whiskers, it seems our modern-day Henry V simply doesn’t know the history of his own adopted nation. If one is to believe Russian Presidential advisor Vladimir Medinsky.

According to reporter Anton Nikitin, Medinsky claims that Zelensky only got a “two” (something like a C or D) in his history class in school. That’s the only thing that can explain his ignorance. Yes, they are still going on about that exhibit from the Swedish archives, in which Karl XII ordered his Ambassador in Constantinople to “recognize” the Zaporozhian Sich. Zelensky is treating this event as some kind of proof that the nation of Ukraine has centuries-old legitimate roots in Western Europe.

In Chukovsky’s story: When the Mighty Cockroach waves his whiskers, all the animals must bow down to him.

Medinsky points out, in his Telegram tweet, that Swedish King Karl XII regarded the Zaporozhian Sich as a colony of Poland. Which, in turn, was considered a colony of Sweden. “In other words, the vassal of a vassal. These stories about promising independence to Malorossiya — are nothing but fairy tales.”

Medinsky also pointed out that the recipient of Karl’s letter was none other than Filipp Orlik, the Little Russian “hetman in exile”. A role analogous to that played nowadays by Ukraine’s so-called “Governor of Luhansk Oblast”, Sergei Hayday. In other words, a sweet well-paid job with no actual duties. In the previous post we saw Orlik in his role as Mazepa’s vicious henchperson, brutally torturing the noble Cossack Kochubei. Later, after losing the Battle of Poltava, Orlik was able to escape, with his master, to Turkish-owned territory. Whence he was assigned to Constantinople to represent the interests of those Zaporozhian Cossacks who still allegedly reported to Karl. It is expected that, in the not too distant future, Zelensky’s life path will look something similar to Orlik’s.

Medinsky again: “This Orlik would never be able to expect, neither forgiveness from Tsar Peter, nor support from his European allies, and hence, quoting from the despised Wikipedia, suffering from his own impotence and shame, was fated to die in exile. If [giving Zelensky this letter] can be considered the trolling of Zelensky on the part of the Swedes, well, this was a pretty cruel act on their part.”

Are modern Swedes really that clever, though? Or that subtle? Or that knowledgeable about their own history, let alone the history of Malorossiya? Color me dubious. I believe that these silly Swedes sincerely thought they were giving Zelensky a wonderful gift. And that Zelensky, in turn, was so enchanted by this present from his wonderful European friends, that one could almost see his whiskers wiggling with delight, like a puppy being stroked behind the ears.

This entry was posted in Celebrity Gossip, Military and War, Russian History, Russian Literature and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ukraine War Day #134: Mazepa’s Whiskers

  1. Well, it seems that the silliness sweepstakes are going to be hotly contested, what with all the bathos around the departure of Borisovitch Johnsonchuk, and the general sadness produced in Banderaland.
    As the wicked witch of the west said, “What a world, what a world” (Based on somewhat fuzzy memory)


    • yalensis says:

      I tried to follow that Boris Johnson thing, even a little bit, and still have no clue what it’s all about. Oh well, I reckon I will never understand English politics!


      • FatMax says:

        British politics in short: PM can get away with *anything*, as long as the economic situation is hunky-dory.
        Especially if *anything* is boring old stuff like having sex with your politico colleagues, cheating on your sick wife or lying through your teeth about everything and anything.
        He wanted to be a churchillian leader but forgot that Churchill was a victor in an epic war. Twice.
        How does that old saying go? “Quod licet Iovi non licet bovi”?


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