Monday, July 29, 2019

Russian Russian, Ukrainian Russian and Belarusian Russian Not Fully Mutually Intelligible, Kochubey Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 27 – Not long ago, an official close to new Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky proposed renaming the Russian language “rossiisky” so that it wouldn’t be confused with “ukrainsky” Russian. Despite the apparent “absurdity” of this idea, Yuliya Kochubey says, Russian Russian and Ukrainian Russian are no longer fully mutually intelligible.

            The same thing is true, the Belarusian Interfax journalist says on the basis of her experience working in Moscow, of Russian Russian and Belarusian Russian which are closer to each other than are the two quite different “Russians” spoken in the Russian Federation and Ukraine (

            Russian-speaking Belarusians use many words for which there is no Russian equivalent or words that have a totally different meaning in Russian Russian than they do in their own language. She gives examples from food, furniture, games, tickets, and even coffee, where Russian Russians stress one syllable of latte and Belarusian Russian speakers stress another. 

            Kochubey says there a multitude of examples of differences and that she is constantly encountering new ones. Sometimes the differences are funny; sometimes they are serious. For example, the Russian Russian or at least Muscovite Russian habit of referring to the names of major streets with diminutives can lead to confusion.

            The Belarusian Interfax journalist says “the height of differences” between the two Russian languages came when a Russian who had been living in Minsk for several years nonetheless remained convinced all that time that “Yas I Yanina” should be translated as “meat and milk.”

            Perhaps the most frequent disputes concern Russian Russians’ proclivity to refer to Belarus as Belorussia. She says she has been involved in “a thousand arguments” about that. To be sure, she says, Russian laws and the rules of the Russian language give preference to the customary name. But it is wrong and offensive, and now Russian Russian linguists are urging Russian media outlets to use “Belarus.”

            And Kochubey says she still doesn’t like the fact that Russian Russians to this day refer to Belarusian paper money as “’bunnies,’” a reference to the picture of a rabbit on earlier editions. “They sincerely think that [her country’s] currency still as before shows a Belarusian animal.”

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