March 15, 2021

Equus Asinus Asinus


Equus Asinus Asinus
Sorry, this story has nothing to do with actual donkeys.  TS Sergey | unsplash.com

Everyone loves giving insults in foreign languages, but sometimes it can land you in hot water. And cost you R3,000  ($41) if you insult the wrong person: in this case, a former FSB officer.

This story begins back in 2019 with a particularly rowdy WhatsApp group chat among residents of Novosibirsk. This particular group of people was composed of shared equity holders in a several-year-long project to renovate an old unfinished building.

Emotions became heated and insults began to be thrown about, particularly targeting one individual in the group who happened to be a former FSB agent. Typical insults in the Russian language, such as a "clown," a "blabbermouth," or even a "donkey" are to be expected, but apparently, tensions ran so high that one participant felt that the Russian language couldn't do the argument justice anymore and resorted to using the Latin language instead. 

For some reason, this individual felt that the phrase "donkey" in Russian alone just didn't have the same ring to it, so they added their one and only contribution to the disparaging: "Equus asinus asinus" (the scientific, Latin name for "donkey"). This comment, despite being out of context and not immediately directed at anyone, still earned this individual a R3,000 fine in court when the former FSB agent sued for "moral anguish."

Legal suits for online insult or defamation such as this one have become increasingly more common in Russia in recent years. The other participant who made a majority of the insults, albeit in Russian, was fined R7,000 as well.

Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar is a hilarious and insightful memoir by a diplomat who was “present at the creation” of US-Soviet relations. Charles Thayer headed off to Russia in 1933, calculating that if he could just learn Russian and be on the spot when the US and USSR established relations, he could make himself indispensable and start a career in the foreign service. Remarkably, he pulled it of.
The Latchkey Murders

The Latchkey Murders

Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin is back on the case in this prequel to the popular mystery Murder at the Dacha, in which a serial killer is on the loose in Khrushchev’s Moscow...
Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

A book that dares to explore the humanity of priests and pilgrims, saints and sinners, Faith & Humor has been both a runaway bestseller in Russia and the focus of heated controversy – as often happens when a thoughtful writer takes on sacred cows. The stories, aphorisms, anecdotes, dialogues and adventures in this volume comprise an encyclopedia of modern Russian Orthodoxy, and thereby of Russian life.
The Samovar Murders

The Samovar Murders

The murder of a poet is always more than a murder. When a famous writer is brutally stabbed on the campus of Moscow’s Lumumba University, the son of a recently deposed African president confesses, and the case assumes political implications that no one wants any part of.
Davai! The Russians and Their Vodka

Davai! The Russians and Their Vodka

In this comprehensive, quixotic and addictive book, Edwin Trommelen explores all facets of the Russian obsession with vodka. Peering chiefly through the lenses of history and literature, Trommelen offers up an appropriately complex, rich and bittersweet portrait, based on great respect for Russian culture.
The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The fables of Ivan Krylov are rich fonts of Russian cultural wisdom and experience – reading and understanding them is vital to grasping the Russian worldview. This new edition of 62 of Krylov’s tales presents them side-by-side in English and Russian. The wonderfully lyrical translations by Lydia Razran Stone are accompanied by original, whimsical color illustrations by Katya Korobkina.
Marooned in Moscow

Marooned in Moscow

This gripping autobiography plays out against the backdrop of Russia's bloody Civil War, and was one of the first Western eyewitness accounts of life in post-revolutionary Russia. Marooned in Moscow provides a fascinating account of one woman's entry into war-torn Russia in early 1920, first-person impressions of many in the top Soviet leadership, and accounts of the author's increasingly dangerous work as a journalist and spy, to say nothing of her work on behalf of prisoners, her two arrests, and her eventual ten-month-long imprisonment, including in the infamous Lubyanka prison. It is a veritable encyclopedia of life in Russia in the early 1920s.
Fearful Majesty

Fearful Majesty

This acclaimed biography of one of Russia’s most important and tyrannical rulers is not only a rich, readable biography, it is also surprisingly timely, revealing how many of the issues Russia faces today have their roots in Ivan’s reign.
A Taste of Chekhov

A Taste of Chekhov

This compact volume is an introduction to the works of Chekhov the master storyteller, via nine stories spanning the last twenty years of his life.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
73 Main Street, Suite 402
Montpelier VT 05602

802-223-4955