February 10, 2024

Everyone Understands What's Going On

Everyone Understands What's Going On

Continuing our discussion of Специaльный воeнный рýсский язык (Special Military Russian Language), it should be noted that speaking Russian in this time of war is as much about the words you cannot say as those you can.[1]

Of course, this primarily has to do with censorship and the threat of criminal liability for antiwar statements. But even Russians who support the government must weigh their words to stay out of trouble. Talking about the war and expressing personal opinions about it is tricky for everyone, and people avoid the subject in public spaces. You can talk about the news with close friends, but it’s better to avoid the topic of current events with neighbors or at school parent meetings. It’s also dangerous to discuss the war over the telephone: everyone knows that the FSB could be listening in.

But when you have a conversation with someone, it is important to understand where they are coming from, and people have developed the ability to drop and pick up on subtle hints. Here we will look at a few common phrases that Russians use in reference to the current reality that signal their position through a thin, but necessary, veil of ambiguity.

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