March 01, 2006

The General Zima factor

The General Zima factor

As I write these lines, Moscow is being assaulted by a brutal cold spell surrounding the date of Orthodox Epiphany (Krescheniye), a time of traditionally cold weather long known as Крещенские морозы (Epiphany frosts). This prompted a local humorist to rephrase Pushkin’s famous winter line: И рады мы проказам матушки зимы  (“We are pleased with Mother Winter’s mischief.”) by adding a “ль” between рады and мы, changing the meaning to “Are we really pleased...?”

January’s freeze would seem to indicate that global warming is far from imminent. Weather forecasters promised that the mercury would dip to -37o Celsius – apparently a low not hit since 1940. At such times, we writers cannot help but consider the role of winter in Russian history and culture.

Winter weather lasts a good six months here – from mid-October through early April. So perhaps it is not surprising that many Russians adore this season, tenderly calling winter (a feminine noun in Russian) зима-красна (winter the pretty), or Зимушка-зима (little winter).

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