How to say Happy New Year in Russian

Russian Words for the New Year and Christmas Holidays 2009/2010

The New Year arrives before Christmas in Eastern Europe and that is not well known in the West. Most of the Eastern world still celebrates Christmas on it’s historical date–7 January. We’ll explain why in a future post.

But for now lets’ learn how to say “Happy New Year” in Russian and in Ukrainian. In Russian it’s С новым годом and the expression in Ukrainian is З Новим Роком.

Q: How to say Happy New Year / New Year in Russian?
A: S Novym Godom! (С новым годом)
The stress is on the first syllable in both words. Russians do not say Happy New Year, just New Year. Don’t say the “S” separately as its own syllable, it’s merged/jammed into the Novym and the S Novym should sound as one….Snovym.

Q: How to say Happy New Year / New Year in Ukrainian?
A: Z Novym Rokom!
The stress: Novym (last syllable), Rokom (first syllable). Ukrainians do not say Happy New Year, just New Year.

Meanwhile in cities across Russia signs like this are appearing on the streets:

Happy New Year banner on Moscow street.

Embarrass someone you love today!

Blending in this time of year usually means that it’s time to embarrass my wife and daughters.

It’s our tradition at holidays. She knows it’s coming. Those of you with Russians in the family know the expression very well, “its our tradition.”

When you ask why she insists you must be fully dressed, shaved, hair combed and teeth brushed all just so you can step out to empty the trash, “it’s our tradition.” When you ask why everyone in the family must sit silently on a bench near the door for 15-30 seconds before leaving for a trip, “it’s our tradition.”

So I have come up with just a few traditions of my own! They do tend to drive the ladies in my world a bit crazy, but that is the entire point!

One of my favourites is to greet everyone on the street or at the bus stop. As you can imagine, those stoic Russians who rarely acknowledge each other, who rarely smile, and who rarely greet a stranger on the street, they think I’m a nut case when I turn on the jolly old Grandfather Frost charm at New Years and Christmas.

So, when walking around the streets I greet everyone with a big smile and a hearty greeting. Now if you’re going to make this work you can’t be shy about it. You need to smile, spread your arms wide like greeting a long lost friend, take a deep breath, and let ‘er rip! To everybody, even the police!

С новым годом! is Happy New Year!

С Рождеством Христовым! or just С Рождеством is Merry Christmas!

Just go for it. It’s Christmas time…don’t be shy. Now in Russia they will look at you kind of funny. But it will put a smile on most faces. I’ve sent old babuskhas giggling down the street while my wife turns beet red. I’ve made businessmen laugh and return the greeting. One time I greeted a bus driver with С новым годом! No response. He just kept driving. So I ripped off a С Рождеством! He sent the cashier back to check as to whether I was drunk.

Children love it–it’s so unRussian they’ll think you’re an American…or even worse.

When my wife tells me that it’s not an American tradition, I revert to that other old standby. You know, the one she beats me over the head with if I point out that one of her traditions isn’t really a Russian tradition: Hey, it’s a family tradition! She can’t argue with that one.

С новым годом! С Рождеством Христовым! That’s the way to “blend in” this time of year.

Police officer gets 2 years for killing opposition Journalist

(RIA Novosti)
A court in the southern Russian republic of Ingushetia sentenced a police officer on Friday to two years in prison for killing a journalist in 2008.

Journalist Magomed Yevloyev, who ran a website critical of local authorities, was shot in the head while in a police vehicle in August 2008 after being arrested at Ingushetia’s Magas airport. He died later in hospital. Police claimed the officer’s gun had gone off “accidentally.”

“He was shot straight in the temple,” said Magomed Khazbiyev, Yevloyev’s official representative, said immediately after the shooting.

Police officer Ibragim Yevloyev, who is not related to the late journalist, was convicted on accidental homicide charges.

Opposition groups and his family insist Yevloyev’s death was politically motivated.

Widespread media speculation after the killing said that before his arrest and subsequent death the journalist had been involved in a mid-air dispute with then Ingush President Murat Zyazikov, who was travelling on the same plane as Yevloyev.

His death triggered mass protests in the volatile North Caucasus republic, with police firing warning shots to disperse demonstrators.

(RIA Novosti)

Водитель для Веры (Driver for Vera)

Movie review: Driver for Vera (2004) Ukraine
Learning about Russia and Ukraine is made easier by watching movies made there. With English subtitles not only do you have the ease of following the plot, but you truly get a sense of each personality played by the characters. Not to mention the fun of listening to common words and expressions by Russian speakers.

Those of us who travel so freely to Sevastopol or anywhere in Crimea today often don’t realize that in those days that Sevastopol was a “secret” and closed city to which even Soviet citizens needed KGB vetting and special permits to visit.

The use of Western rock and roll as a form of cultural rebellion becomes evident fairly quickly in the film, provided that you understand that such was often banned during periods of Soviet rule, depending on which dictator was in power at the time.

In the story General Serov hires Viktor, a cadet from the Kremlin Guard to work as his private chauffeur. Viktor chauffeurs the General’s disabled daughter Vera. Viktor is oblivious to the hidden agenda of the KGB agent Saveliev, who manipulates everyone behind the scenes.

Some cultural observations:
If you didn’t know that there was a long running rivalry between the Army and KGB, it is certainly evident in this movie. The presence of a “political officer” (KGB) at the side of every ranking Army official made it risky to give orders to units, etc. Although a commander might outrank his KGB sidekick, often the KGB officer called the shots which was fine if all went well, but any failure fell on the shoulders of the Army commander no matter who gave the original order.

In one scene young Viktor pulls his car (I want that car!!!) out of it’s garage to be washed and shined. The camera focuses for a moment on the logo of the model found on the hubcaps. That’s a great moment to study the large differences between Russian Cyrillic in print or in cursive. As often the case, this one is a mixture of the two, making it confusing for those who learn only printed letters to understand.  That is exactly why I harp on learning cursive Russian at the same time, because it is so different. Just in case you’re wondering, the logo reveals that the car is a ZIM.

The prominence of abortion as the most common form of birth control is also an important part of the story. Soviet condoms were notoriously unreliable and whether true or not, rumours that the CIA had produced hundreds of tiny holes in Western brand condoms headed for the Soviet states (and the difficulty in obtaining western condoms in the first place) made birth control difficult at best.

Nikita Khrushchev was in power and it was a time known in the Soviet Union as “the thaw” when Khrushchev as undoing the terror of the Stalin decades. Khrushchev was no angel himself, but he took a better course after Stalin. The thaw for Soviet citizens would end when the boring and unimaginative Leonid Brezhnev managed to topple Khrushchev in 1964.

Hats off to the camera and production techs for their photography. With YouTube one may not appreciate fully the use of the scenes of the Crimea countryside and the Black Sea, but on a big screen this movie comes to life!

The ending is a little unrealistic however, all in all we give it a thumbs up. The movie begins across the street from Moscow State University’s main campus in Sparrow Hills above Moscow. You’ll see several wedding couples in the background as the opening scene is shot from an overlook area from where lots of couples come after the wedding to make photos with the city of Moscow laid out in a panoramic view in the Valley below.

The next scenes are inside the kremlin, with an entry from Red Square’s “Saviour Gate” and then the characters are off to Crimea. With the subtitles, its easy to follow along and practice recognition of Russian language patterns at the same time.

Viewing the film on YouTube is easy. Just click on the first episode and when it ends the next episode (there are 11) is usually loaded next in line.

The entertainment magazine Variety referred to the film as “more off-putting than enthralling” with the opinion that it lacked a main character that a viewer could identify with. That is pure bull crap, pardon my French.

Variety labeled the film as one of poor acting from the cast of characters. Frankly, the characters are much like what the Soviet Union was like in the 1960’s, even the cook in the kitchen. The film was Ukraine’s submission to the 77th Academy Awards for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but it was disqualified by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences before formal review process having ruled that too much of the film’s production was Russian-based, making the film ineligible as a candidate for Ukraine. What the Academy failed to understand at the time was that this is a very good representation of Ukraine at the time, showing how “things Russian” dominated that region at the time. Frankly speaking, the film was a bullseye on target culturally. There was just no one at the Academy with sufficient intelligence to understand that reality.

4 hours of Putin

Looking tired and older, Russia’s Prime Minister made sure that he filled a full 4 hours of a question and answer talk show with Russian citizens. To be sure, a normal radio show is typically 3-4 hours long, but this is a PM and not a media regular host.

So question one is whether the marathon show was designed to place himself back in the driver’s seat? Question two, linked to the first, is whether he’s worried about the growing stability seen as a result of Dmitry Medvedev sitting in the Kremlin while Mr Putin offices over in the Russian White House.

At times testy, at times tired, and at times funny, Mr Putin held court and you can bet that many a Russian tuned in.

How many times can you sell Yukos and imprison it’s owner? Apparently never enough. Just when you’d thought that Yukos was over, Mr Putin made it an issue again. This time the Prime Minister accused Mikhail Khodorkovsky of ordering murders while running Yukos.

Of course it was Putin, who as president oversaw Khodorkovsky’s arrest in 2003 and subsequent sentencing to 8 1/2 years in prison on tax and fraud charges.

Yukos was bankrupted after tax authorities demanded billions of dollars in back taxes in a case that is widely seen as punishment from Putin’s Kremlin for Khodorkovsky’s political and commercial ambitions. Khodorkovsky, his business partner Platon Lebedev and Yukos’ security chief have all been jailed.

Putin said Thursday that funds collected in the forced sell-off of Yukos’ assets had been spent by the government on the needs of ordinary people. He said Russia used 240 billion rubles ($8.2 billion) of the proceeds from the bankruptcy auctions to create a housing and communal services fund.

“I have never said it publicly before, but now I will say that the funds earned from the Yukos assets were transferred to the budget,” Putin said. “If money was once stolen from the people, it should be returned directly back to the nation.”

But information about Yukos assets being spent on housing is not new. In 2007, the State Duma passed a bill that allowed the government to pump billions of dollars from the sale of the assets into housing and high-tech research. Frankly, it’s meaningless to promise money from a trial that took place half a decade ago.  

The question that brought up Khodorkovsky’s case was raised when the call-in show’s host read out the question, “When will Khodorkovsky be released?” It was not clear whether the question was called in or read from a pre-prepared script as the question came from the radio host and not a caller. If from the host, then it’s a soft-ball set up question. If from a caller, then maybe it’s an indication that the average Russian is not so blind to what the government did to bring down Yukos.

Also noteworthy is that Mr Putin conveniently failed to mention is that he took a $200 MILLION finders fee while serving as president when ordering Khodorkovsky’s arrest and directing the sale of Yukos assets to a Kremlin controlled competitor. The average Babushka trying to survive on a meager penion has to wonder what happened to her finders fee.

Nightclub blast in city of Perm kills over 100

(Al Jazeera)

Perm, Russia–At least 109 people have been killed and 140 others injured in a blast caused by fireworks at a nightclub in Perm, a Russian city located near the Ural mountains.

The explosion occurred in the Lame Horse bar in the centre of the city, where over 200 people were partying early on Saturday, Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency quoted a local police official as saying.

A regional emergency situations ministry spokesman said earlier that 102 people had died, but officials and witnesses later revised the toll to 109.

Law enforcement officials ruled out the possibility that the blast was a “terrorist” act.

Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, ordered a national day of mourning for December 7 and demanded tough action against owners of the nightclub.

He said they had repeatedly ignored warnings from fire inspectors that the premises were unsafe. Perm, the sixth largest city in Russia, has a population of 1.2 million people.

Caucasian Mujahideen claim operation against ‘Nevsky Express’

With an opening statement of “Caucasian Mujahideen reported successful sabotage operation against the ‘Nevsky Express’,” the Chechen Muslim rebels have claimed responsibility for the successful attack on a Russian train.

On the Chechen news website,, a letter was published from the command of the Caucasian Mujahideen stating the goal of the operation had been to destroy the Nevsky Express and kill all those aboard. More chilling was the letter’s claim that the Nevsky blast was only one of many operations the group has planned to unleash on strategic targets across Russia.

The Nevsky Express is often used by government officials and businesspersons traveling between Moscow and Saint Petersburg and the letter acknowledged that the goal was to inflict damage upon as many officials as possible.

Just a couple of days before the destruction of “Nevsky Express” another Russian train in the Caucasian region was blown up and although there were many injuries, no one died in that explosion.  

The Kavkaz Center website claimed to have published the letter without any cuts or corrections. On 27 November an explosion derailed the “Nevsky Express” train with several carriages destroyed, over 30 people killed and at least 80 people injured.