Russian Children Meet new Polite Alphabet

Russian Children Meet new Polite Alphabet

The Russian attitude seems to be that if they can’t win the Ukrainians over, then we’ll make sure they hate us and one example of this thinking is in Russian schools as children are meeting the new “polite alphabet” meant to simultaneously engender Russian patriotism and denigrate anything Ukrainian while teaching the Russian Cyrillic letters. The Russian Cyrillic letters remain the same but the word examples for each letter now inject a healthy dose of propaganda, patriotism or both.

The new alphabet is being introduced to Russian school children in the Irkutsk region by Project Network, a pro-Kremlin group with plans to roll the new alphabet learning tools to more schools across Russia next year. They group is part of the “togetherness” project and say they are tasked to teach young Russian children that Russia, Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine are meant to be together.

For example the new alphabet primer and accompanying charts teach students that “A” stands for “Anti-Maidan,” the letter “Ya” is for “Yalta,” and as any good propagandist would hope, “P” is for “Putin.” Naturally “R” is for “Russia” and the face of Russian foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is matched to the term for “firmness” while the letter B represents the “berkut” Ukrainian riot police who defected to Crimea. Some older alphabet charts had the golden eagle (berkut) with the letter and a photo of the golden eagle.

Some will question why the letter “D” stands for Donetsk, a Ukrainian city instead of the more common word for “dom”  (home) as on existing charts. Organizers are quick to point out that Donetsk should and will be a part of Russia and thus school children should learn to think of Donetsk as Russian instead of Ukrainian. Some of the letter equivalents are a bit of a stretch.

To make the point about Ukraine, the chart assigns the letter ы for Крым, spoken as “Krem” (Crimea). No Russian words begin with the letter ы so Russian school children will meet the new polite alphabet with Крым for Crimea. To make the point that Crimea has been annexed into Russia the Ukrainian term for Crimea, Крим, has been circled with an arrow drawn through it.

Two letters within Russian Cyrillic, ь and ъ, have no sound themselves but serve to modify letters adjacent to them. The new “polite alphabet” did find patriotic words which included those letters and for example they assigned ь, the letter which serves to soften other sounds, to мягкость which is a term commonly used to express the idea of gentle or soft in relation to a mother and her baby. Some Ukrainian groups have responded on social mean with an alternate “war alphabet” that mocks the Russian attempt at indoctrination.

It is no accident that Project Network calls it the “Polite Alphabet,” as it is named for the so-called “polite” but armed forces that forced Russia’s annexation of Crimea earlier this year. The Project Network website claims that as Russian school children meet the new polite alphabet they “…will be taught to love the motherland, respect its people and culture.”

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Duma seeks to expunge Western words from Russian language

The Russian Duma’s Committee on Culture is recommending that Parliament pass a bill that would ban foreign words from being used in public speech or advertising.

Lawmakers representing the LDPR (Liberal Democratic Party) want to protect the purity of the Russian language, making it a crime to utter foreign words in public or for companies to use them in advertising.

Choc milk coffee

According to the Moscow Times the law, if passed, would make the use of ‘linguistic imports’ punishable by a fine of up to 2,500 rubles ($73) for ordinary citizens, and up to 50,000 rubles ($1,460) for companies or organizations. What is unclear at the moment is whether the intent is to ban words and phrases such as “fat free” and “ipad” or “iphone” and branding for Western companies such as Coco Cola, McDonalds, etc.

Some linguists estimate that as much as twenty-five percent of the Russian vocabulary consists of cognates, borrowed words, and thus we doubt that the purpose of such a law truly targets foreign words as much as it seeks to ban foreign ideas. According to documents posted on the Duma’s public website, efforts to eliminate banned words would include the confiscation of books and other publications containing foreign terms.

Many of Russian language borrowed words are French such as "toilet". Even "Cafe" as seen here in Russian Cyrillic spelling is a borrowed word.
Many of Russian language borrowed words are French such as “toilet”. Even “Cafe” as seen here in Russian Cyrillic spelling is a borrowed word.

The list of foreign or borrowed words in Russian is extensive, easily in the hundreds. Terms such as журналист (journalist), видео (video), меню (menu), секс (sex), экзамен (exam), директор (director), aлфавит (alphabet) and hundreds of others would have to disappear if the law were truly about protecting the Russian language.

If true that the real intent is to ban Western influences, then the question also looms over what would happen to hundreds of thousands of street and Metro signs that have English tranliterations in Russia’s drive to attract more tourism. Will lawmakers ban those too?

Metro floor stickers b ed

One of the most beloved features of large Russian cities and especially in places like Moscow is the famous transportation system knows as the Метро (Metro). That too is a foreign term. Would such a law cause the Metro to be renamed? No, we already know the answer to that question.

We suspect that the bill has less to do with language purity but instead is yet another thinly veiled piece of anti-Western legislation driven by the current insane frenzy of nationalistic zealotry. In fact some critics of the legislation inside Russia admit that the motivation is an attempt to isolate the Russian people from Western ideas and also to punish Western companies who do business in Russia in response to Western sanctions over the annexation of Crimea.

Just last year the same Duma committee had refused to advance similar legislation saying then that there was no need to protect the Russian language from foreign words and phrases.

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Summer preparations for winter: firewood

When you have very cold winter temperatures, unless your home is in a city with central steam heat boilers every few blocks to pipe in some warmth, one needs a very large firewood supply.

Firewood stacks.

Scenes like these are common in the countryside as farms and villagers stock up wood which will be needed in the coming winter months for heating and cooking.

Orthodox nuns stacking firewood.

Monasteries and Convents often provide their own winter heat fuel by gathering and cutting wood from nearby forests.