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Purely Russian notions

Some of the Russian notions can surprise a westerner. Even Russians sometimes are surprised and laugh at these notions themselves. But the notions we're going to talk about are not occasional and take their roots in history and folklore.


It's the word Russians know and like. It means you can get something for free, moreover, you can get everything for free, it's a dream about suddenly becoming wealthy one day, and its connected with luck. The luckier you are, the more you will get for nothing. Russian perfect wealth means straight contrary to American dream of a person working hard and as a result becoming rich. No, Russian perfect wealth is when you don't expect it and it comes to you one day. Just read several Russian folklore tales, and you will find the confirmation of this statement very swiftly. Ivan Durak (the name literary means dumb Ivan), one of the most popular Russian folklore figures, is an embodiment of this idea: hes lazy and doing nothing all the time, but suddenly he finds something or someone to satisfy all his wishes and becomes wealthy and successful.

Undoubtedly, people of other nations would be glad to get something for free as well, but the word khalyava means more than just getting a thing for free. Actually I even find it a bit difficult to give the exact translation of this popular Russian word. To get something for free = to get something na khalyavu. The meaning of the sayings is demonstrated in some of the Russian expressions and proverbs.

"Vinegar is sweet na khalyavu".

"Khalyava is khalyava in Africa as well"

"Even non-drinking people and people with stomach ulcer drink alcohol na khalyavu"

It doesn't matter what you managed to do: ride on a bus without a ticket, eat and drink without paying, receive any trifle from a postcard to a book you will never read. Khalyava is different from just a wish to save money by buying goods on a sale. If you have a chance to get something for free, you must take as many things as possible, even if you do not need them in fact. One of my friends saw a sample of Russian love of khalyava when she visited Egypt. There was a smorgasbord (it means food is included in the tour price and you can eat everything there and as much as you want). So one Russian couple came to the buffet, and while saying "all this is for free" they started eating everything. Some people were just amazed how much they had eaten, because an average person could hardly fill his stomach with such quantity of food.

Some museums and exhibitions are free for students here, or for a half of the price. So when I was a student, I had visited almost all museums in Moscow thinking I wouldn't be able to visit them for free after I graduated from university. Another friend of mine never refuses free tickets to concerts, even if she doesn't like the music at all. And these are just some real examples.

There is one more Russian notion, same specific and well-known here. I can't even find any more or less suitable translation to it, but in Russian it sounds as "avos and nebos".


The best way these words can be defined is avos=somehow, and nebosj=probably (or somehow depending on a situation). In general, these words reflect the forever Russian hope for the best future and belief in fate. It can be said about Russians that they are ready for the worst but always hope for the best. So, the main meaning of these notions is hope for something good, even when everything's going to be worse for sure.

You don't have enough money? - Well, avos it will appear earlier or later (probably, you'll have enough of it one day).

You don't want to prepare for your exams at university? - So don't. Avos you will pass them (you will pass them somehow).

You have to hurry up to be at the meeting in time? - What's the point in hurrying up? Nebos the meeting will start later than the determined time (the meeting will probably start later).

If you follow these principles you will supposedly have a result like this: "We wanted to do it better, but it turned out as always". However, Russian people know about the effects of relying on these notions, but still go on doing that. They sometimes criticize themselves for this, but avos and nebos still exist in society.

October 11, 2006 15:43

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