April 01, 1996

Invoking Heaven and Hell

Invoking Heaven and Hell

Не упоминай имя Господа своего всуе.
Don’t speak the Lord’s name in vain.

If there is one commandment that Russians ignore the most, this is definitely it. One can hear слава Богу (Thank God) in Russia almost as often as “please” or “thank you.”

Over the course of 74 years, atheist Bolshevism failed miserably at driving religious idiom from the Russian language. Phrases invoking the Almighty proved so deep-rooted that even Party leaders peppered their oral and written speech with them. Lenin himself was known to take the Lord’s name in vain while driving home a point in one of his fervent diatribes against the enemies of world socialism, perhaps in deference to his famous maxim that “anything which serves the communist cause is moral.”

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