James W. Meng

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Units: Foreword 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

21.1 21.2 21.3


Unique aspects of Russian culture.
21.1. Core values of the Russian people.

Russian culture is rich and multifaceted. As any other culture, it includes a material component: housing, tools, methods of cultivating the land, and so forth; and a spiritual component: visual arts, music, literature. The Russian language in itself is very much a reflection of Russian culture as well: the structure of the language reflects the different stages of culture and its features, and its words capture the experience of its people and their wisdom.

One particular value of great importance for Russians is friendship. Friendship and comraderie have always been venerated by the Russian people as the highest and most noble of relations between people. To love a friend as you love yourself - this is, perhaps, the definitive cultural wisdom about friendship. From the earliest of ancient times to today, our ancestors left a sort of directive, a proverb: Нет друга - ищи, а найдешь - береги. Не пожелай другу, чего себе не пожелаешь.

Other well-known proverbs about friendship promote respectful relationships with our close relations: Три друга: отец, да мать, да верная жена и бережное отношение к друзьям: Над другом посмеёшься, над собой поплачешь, Старый друг лучше новых двух. Ведь друзей-приятелей много найдется, а друг - он единственный. Друзей-то много, да друга нет. - go the proverbs about the difficulty of finding true friends. And in Russian it is worth noting that the plural of the word for 'friends' leads to some loss of uniqueness, and of the special affinity present in the noun 'friend'.

But folk pedagogical thought, as concentrated in proverbs and sayings, imposes certain restrictions on friendship: Дружба дружбой, а служба службой, На друга надейся, а сам не плошай. Then again - Для мила дружка и серёжка из ушка. And a true friend is verified through trials of misfortune and time: Друг познается в беде, Друга узнать – вместе пуд соли съесть. And so Russians say this of old friends: Мы вместе не один пуд соли съели.

True human friendship is priceless. Не имей сто рублей, а имей сто друзей, because after all - Без друга человек сирота, а с другом семьянин. And the more direct words of ancient wisdom still hold weight: Доброе братство милее богатства.

21.2. Russian science.

Throughout the centuries Russian culture has produced many great names: writers, poets, artists, musicians, sculptors, architects, scientists. Among the world-renowned scientists of history, well known are the names of chemist Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleev, who conceptualized and created the first periodic table of chemical elements; the physicists Lev Landau and Igor Vasilyevich Kurchatov; the mathematiciais Andrei Nikolaevich Kolmogorov and Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky; and the physicians Nikolai Ivanovich Pirogov and Ivan Petrovich Pavlov.

However - the very first scientist and encyclopaedist of Russia was Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov, whose life history is worthy of admiration and amazement. In the winter of 1730, Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov, then just nineteen years old and the son of an Arkhangelsk peasant, arrived in Moscow with a fish cart and a passionate love for science. Pretending to be a nobleman, he entered the Slavic-Greek-Latin academy. Struggling constantly with terrible need, he nevertheless stubbornly studied and for one year studied a program of three classes.

Following that year of study, Lomonosov was sent to Germany to master mining and metallurgy, where for five years he meticulously studied a variety of sciences and arts. Upon his return home, he became a professor and academic at the Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences. A man of encyclopaedic knowledge, Lomonosov enriched science with many outstanding discoveries.

In 1748 he wrote: "All changes that occur in nature occur in such states that when as much is taken from one body, so much is added to another." This law, formulated by Lomonosov, was used in works of French scientist Lavoisier over 41 years later.

In 1761, observing the movement of heavenly bodies, Lomonosov established that "the planet Venus is surrounded by an atmosphere of noble gases." Setting out his scientific views in poetic form, the Russian scientist boldly asserted that the cosmos is infinite and consistuted of a multitude of star worlds (galaxies).

Открылась бездна, звезд полна.
Звездам числа нет, бездне дна...

In his work "On the Earth's Layers" Lomonsov explained the origin of coal, peat, and oil shale. Lomonosov also independently discovered methods for producing colored glass, and, being also a talented artist, created a number of remarkable mosaic paintings that even today have still not lost their luster.

Lomonosov compiled the first scientific Russian grammar and is considered by rights a foundational figure of the Russian literary language. His life is an eternal example of selfless service to the motherland, and he spoke of work in science and teaching with the greatest respect:

Науки юношей питают,
Отраду старым подают,
В счастливой жизни украшают,
В несчастной случай берегут;
В домашних трудностях утеха
И в дальних странствах не помеха.
Науки пользуют везде,
Среди народов и в пустыне,
В градском шуму и наедине,
В покое сладки и в труде.

As a linguist, Lomonosov put forth heroic efforts throughout his life to create the language of Russian science - both its syntax and terminology. He was unwaveringly insistent that at the university he founded in Moscow, all lectures be read in Russian - in stark comparison to European universities, at which all teaching was typically conducted in Latin rather than in local languages. From Lomonosov, a multitude of words were added to the Russian language - including names of chemical elements like hydrogen and oxygen; names of scientific implements and their characteristics: air pump, earth axis, liquid bodies, body equilibrium, resistance, elasticity, and many more. Lomonosov also gave new meanings to old words that were then brought into scientific use: experience, motion, phenomenon, acid, particle, observation, and others.

21.3. Russian literature.

Russian literature is well known worldwide. Virtually all educated people know of authors Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy and Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky, Ivan Alekseevich Bunin and Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov. Also widely known are Russian poets Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov, Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev, Josef Aleksandrovich Brodsky, and many others - the most famous of which, of course, is Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin.

On the 8th of February, 1937 at five o'clock in the afternoon on the outskirts of Saint Petersburg along the Black River, a shot rang out. "Shot through in broad daylight!" exclaimed the young poet Aleksei Koltsov upon learning of the news. Two days later, at 2:45 in the afternoon Pushkin had died. But immediately from that tragic moment forward began the poet's immortality: "The beginning of all beginnings" said Gorky of Pushkin. "Within Pushkin lay, in waiting, all the seeds, all the very embryonic rudiments from whence all kinds of art and forms of art developed in all of our artists" - said literary great Ivan Goncharov of the poet's work.

His poetic genius and love of his motherland made Pushkin an eloquent mouthpiece for the deeper thoughts and aspirations of the Russian people. Nikolai Gogol, to whom Pushkin's writings prompted the subjects of Dead Souls and The Inspector-General, wrote: "Upon hearing the name of Pushkin, immediately the thought of a Russian national poet is evoked...as if in a lexicon, in his work is all the wealth, power, flexibility of our language...Pushkin is an extraordinary phenomenon and, perhaps the only phenomenon of the Russian spirit: a Russian in his final development, a man who, perhaps, will seem the very same way in another two hundred years."

Feelings of compassion, empathy, and respect for the dignity of a person, regardless of his nationality, allow us to consider Pushkin a poet of the brotherhood of the Russian peoples, a prophet of the times when they, "forgetting to squabble, will unite into one great family." This definitive characteristic of Pushkin's work was noted by the People's Poet of Kalmykia David Kugultinov: "No one in world literature until Pushkin devoted so much attention and love to kind-hearted, downtrodden peoples."

The following poem of Pushkin is well known:

Exegi monumentum (Я памятник воздвиг)
Я памятник себе воздвиг нерукотворный,
К нему не зарастет народная тропа,
Вознесся выше он главою непокорной
Александрийского столпа.
Нет, весь я не умру — душа в заветной лире
Мой прах переживет и тленья убежит —
И славен буду я, доколь в подлунном мире
Жив будет хоть один пиит.
Слух обо мне пройдет по всей Руси великой,
И назовет меня всяк сущий в ней язык,
И гордый внук славян, и финн, и ныне дикой
Тунгус, и друг степей калмык.
И долго буду тем любезен я народу,
Что чувства добрые я лирой пробуждал,
Что в мой жестокий век восславил я Свободу
И милость к падшим призывал.
Веленью божию, о муза, будь послушна,
Обиды не страшась, не требуя венца,
Хвалу и клевету приемли равнодушно
И не оспоривай глупца.

The example of the poet, his poetry, and even his memory are an integral component of the spiritual and linguistic consciousness of the Russian people. The use of expressions and even entire lines of Pushkin's work in speech indicates, to some degree, a person's education and the richness of his use of language.

«Любви все возрасты покорны», «Блажен, кто смолоду был молод», «Чем меньше женщину мы любим, тем легче нравимся мы ей» - these and other lines from Eugene Onegin have long been at the tip of the tongue. About men who behave with an affected intellectual countenance: «С учёным видом знатока». On the affairs of days gone by: «Дела давно минувших дней». And on the heavy burden of power: «Ох, тяжела ты, шапка Мономаха».

When considering the future, we joke: «Что день грядущий мне готовит?» And phrase disappointment as such: «А счастье было так возможно...» In admiring women: «Красавиц много на Москве». And young men dream of dedicating to the Motherland «души прекрасные порывы».

A greatful Fatherland immortalized Pushkin's memory in numerous monuments, street names, villages and squares. There is the city of Pushkin near Saint Petersburg. Near Moscow is the city of Pushkino.

Upon arriving in the Russian capital, many foreign guests are surprised by how many places in Moscow are named in honor of Pushkin: a museum, a square, a theatre, a street, a library, a metro station and finally the Institute of Russian Language.

And of course the fairy tales of Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin in verse are well known to all Russian children. Below is an excerpt from one - the Tales of Tsar Saltan and his Son the Glorious and Mighty Hero of Prince Guidon Saltanovich and the Beautiful Princess of Swans" or, as it is more commonly known, The Tale of Tsar Saltan.

Ветер по морю гуляет
И кораблик подгоняет;
Он бежит себе в волнах
На поднятых парусах
Мимо острова крутого,
Мимо города большого:
Пушки с пристани палят,
Кораблю пристать велят.
«Ветер, ветер! Ты могуч,
Ты гоняешь стаи туч,
Ты волнуешь сине море,
Всюду веешь на просторе...»
Ель растёт перед дворцом,
А под ней хрустальный дом;
Белка там живёт ручная,
Да затейница какая!
Белка песенки поёт
Да орешки всё грызёт,
А орешки не простые,
Всё скорлупки золотые,
Ядра-чистый изумруд;
Слуги белку стерегут...

And another well-known poem for children about the fall season:

Уж небо осенью дышало,
Уж реже солнышко блистало,
Короче становился день,
Лесов таинственная сень
С печальным шумом обнажалась,
Ложился на поля туман,
Гусей крикливых караван
Тянулся к югу: приближалась
Довольно скучная пора;
Стоял ноябрь уж у двора.

In the quiet village of Kobrin stands a log cabin. On the outside a plaque has been affixed: "Here lived Arina Rodionovna, nursemaid to A.S. Pushkin." This house, where Arina and her family lived, was singled out for preservation by Maria Alekseevna Hannibal, the poet's grandmother, who noticed and valued Arina not only for her diligence and honesty, but also for her famous memory of old folk tales and wisdom.

An interesting historical note is that earlier in the year of Pushkin's birth Arina Rodionova was offered her freedom, but refused: instead, she stayed with the Pushkins long thereafter and nursed all of their children. And indeed the poet's life and work are inextricably linked with his nanny. The same folk tales with which she filled his childhood he heard once again during his exile at Mikhailovskoye. So Pushkin presented his childhood friend with immortality, singing of her in "Eugene Onegin" and in the poems "To Nana", "Again I Visited", and "A Winter Evening".

Arina Rodionovna had four children. Their descendants are still alive today.