Мутанты межкультурной коммуникации

Виктор Кабакчи, профессор, доктор филологических наук

Нас забавляют гибридные «шедевры», произведённые теми, кто плохо владеет английским языком, типа русско-английского «зашатуйте окна, чилдренята позафризуют». Между тем это реализация «формулы языка» Л.В. Щербы «Гло́кая ку́здра ште́ко будлану́ла бо́кра и курдя́чит бокрёнка», которую он придумал для своего лекционного курса сто лет назад. Русский «скелет» этого, казалось бы, бессмысленного высказывания фактически делает его основой освоения иноязычных заимствований.

         Эту проблему мы обсуждали в своей статье, отрывки из которой приводятся ниже: Кабакчи В.В. Formation of Russian-Culture-Orientated English/ Журнал Сибирского Федерального университета, Серия «Гуманитарные науки». Июнь 2012 (том 5, номер 6), pp.812-822.


Naturalization of xenonyms – affixation

         Once as a part of the Foreign-Culture-Oriented English domain, xenonyms develop in accordance with the laws of English. They receive affixes and give life to new words. These affixes are so familiar that new formations are taken for granted so long as xenonyms are already familiar:

-an: Kievan <> Tolstoyan (DR) <> Drevlians (DR) <>

-ana (‘things associated with): Tolstoyana (Nabokov 1990 Pnin 415) <>

-dom: tsardom (DR)

-esque Gogolesque <> Pushkinesque <>

                   The second [masterpiece] was his dazzling Gogolesque fantasy, Master i Margarita (The Master and Margarita). (EncBr)

-ian: Gogolian (DR) <> Chekhovian (DR) <> Leskovian (Nabokov Pnin 378).

                  The “English” park that separated our house from the hayfields was an extensive and elaborate affair with labyrinthine paths, Turgenevian benches, and imported oaks among the endemic firs and birches. (Nabokov, 135)

         Some affixes are used seldom. For example, -id appears in the derivative of the the word “Rurik” in reference to the dynasty of the first rulers of ancient Rus’ («Рюриковичи»):

From the beginning of the Tatar period, the Rurikid princes displayed much disunity. (EncBr)

The Roman suffix –ina which forms «feminine names and titles», is used in the xenonym “tsarina”, alongside a rarer variant “tsaritsa”.

The suffix –ism is so frequently used that needs no comment. The list of the corresponding xenonyms ia endless: Decembrism, Karamazovism, Tolstoyism, Leninism, Brezhnevism.

         Sometimes affixation produces but nonce words, but these are also helpful serving the stylistic function:

The translation of the Philokalia, a collection of Greek monastic texts, into Old Slavic by the starets Paissy Velitchkovsky (1722-94) contributed to a revival of starchestvo ("staretsism")... (EncBr)

         The suffix «-ist» is also highly productive (Decembrist, Leninist, Stalinist, etc.):

         Rodchenko led a wing of artists in the Constructivist movement – the Productivist group – who wanted to forge closer ties between the arts and industry … (EncBr)

As the fund of affixes in English is not so rich as in Russian, sometimes the same affix covers the function of two Russian affixes. This is the case of the xenonym Octobrists which first appeared in the beginning of the 20th century in the meaning «октябристы», members of a party of that period, and later was used in reference to «(юные) октябрята», members of a Soviet children organization (a sort of Soviet Scouts), cf.:

… Stolypin did obtain the cooperation of the party of the moderate right (the Octobrists) … (EncBr)

                               All the children of Grades 1, 2 and 3 were Octobrists. (Smith E., 114)

         The suffix «-ite» is regularly used to form xenonyms with the meaning «adherent: follower» - Muscovite, Trotskyite, Brezhnevite (EncBr), sometimes parallel to the suffix «-ist». Thus the author of the book Black Earth prefers the xenonym Trotskyist (Meier 2004: 2007), although the more familiar variant is Trotskyite:

                   [Bukharin] was secretly arrested in January 1937 and was expelled from the Communist Party for being a "Trotskyite." (EncBr)

         The suffixes “-ize” and “-ization” are most productive too:

-ize: Leninized Russia (Nabokov Pnin 375) <> Muscovitize (Figes 201) <>

-ization: collectivization (EncBr) <> ‘Chechenization’ (Jack 121) <>

         The Russian idionym «славянофил» has two versions in English. One xenonym is formed by means of the suffix “-phile” – “Slavophile”, while the other variants is a slightly Russified version of it: Slavophil, cf.:

                   The celebrated controversy between Slavophiles and “Westernizers” in the 1840s is but one episode in a long struggle. (Billington, x)

Counter to these traditions ran the ideas of the ‘Slavophils’ ... (CamEnc 1982: 100)

         Naturally< prefixes are also used. In the article “Csars” it is the prefixe “anti-”: “anti-czarist”. More examples:

cis-: Cisbaikalia (EncBr)

de- de-Stalinization (EncBr) <> dekulakization (EncBr) <>

         It is worth while noticing that in the last case we have a combined affixation – dekulakization, and affixes are attached to the root borrowed from Russian:

                   At the end of 1929 a campaign to "liquidate the kulaks as a class" ("dekulakization") was launched by the government. (EncBr)

         The combining form “pseudo-” is rarely used: we have only one example – Pseudodemetrius (the more usual version is False Dmitry):

He came from Poland (the first Pseudodemetrius, 1605-06). (Wittram, jn: DR)

The prefix “trans-“ is used to form Russian place names: Trans-Caucasian <> Trans-Dnestrian <> Trans-Siberian (EncBr)

         “Sophisticated” formations are mostly used stylistically, but they also imitate native models:

It had taken a very un-glasnost-like 18 days to admit … (Kokker, 17)

… the Chekist-in-Chief tossed the Bushists a lifeline … (SPb Times 29.06.2004)

         Sometimes affixation is combined with descriptive xenonyms:

         In the Soviet Union it is possible to buy a  pel’mennitsa, a pel'meni-maker. (Craig, 56)

Russian morphemes are sometimes used stylistically to form hybrid neologisms. Obviously the author consider such neologisms impressive because they include such formations into the titles of their books:

                   Marshall I. Goldman. Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia, Oxford University Press, May 2008.

Hollingsworth M., Lansley St. Londongrad. From Russia With Cash. The Inside Story of the Oligarchs, 2009.

         Blends are also, although sparingly, used in Russian-Culture-Oriented English. Thus numerous airline which multiplied after the disintegration of the Soviet Union were (and still are) jokingly referred to as “babyflots” where the morpheme “-flot” is taken from the familiar xenonym of the Soviet period “Aroflot”:

… a bunch of smaller regional airlines (often called “babyflots”) … (Fodor 2002, xiii) <> also: Meier, 238 <>

         The Wikipedia encyclopedia has combined two words – “siloviki” and “oligarchs”, the result is "silogarchs" (Wikipedia Putinism).

         Writers are very inventive in this verbal game:

         [Cherney was asked] whether Russia was closer to ‘Capitalism or KGBtalism?’ (Hollingsworth & Lansley, 320)

Borrowing Russian affixes.

Now languages seldom borrow affixes. Even when some affix already appears in several xenonyms and becomes noticeable:

-ik: There were four of us in the rattling Soviet Army jeep, known endearingly as a UAZik, pronounced wahzik, in the common parlance. (Meier, 57)

Authors frequently feel necessity to borrow the suffix «-ЩИНА»:

The period from 1946 until the death of Stalin in 1953 was one of severe repression known as the zhdanovshchina, or Zhdanovism. (EncBr)

         The Russian suffix is immediately supported by the familiar “-ism” because this Russian suffix is unknown to the wider readership and needs explanation:

The influence of Zhdanov was so dominant that the post-war period became known as the Zhdanovshchina (‘Zhdanov’s reign’). (Figes 503)

         However, this Russian suffix is so full of cultural connotations, that authors frequently resort to borrowing:

[Biron] exercised extraordinary influence over Russian affairs during a period that became known as Bironovshchina. (EncBr)

When terror was loose, even the victims tended to speak of it as the creation of an underling: Yezhovshchina in the thirties, Zhdanovshchina in the forties. (Billington, 542)

         It would have been inappropriate, for instance, to anglicize the title of M.Musorgsky’s opera, so the title is traditionally borrowed:

Left very much alone, Mussorgsky began to drink to excess, although the composition of the opera Khovanshchina perhaps offered some distraction (left unfinished at his death, this opera was completed by Rimsky-Korsakov). (EncBr)

         However, one Russian suffix has entered the club of English affixes, it is the suffix “-nik”. It first entered English through Yidish in the middle of the 20th century (OED 1945), was not particularly productive and formed the words with the meaning similar to its Russian relation. These words usually belonged to slang, for instance “noodnik”, “no-goodnik”:

He falls in love with Rachael, a girl of Polish descent, but accept such a no-goodnik as a chaussen (son-in-law) her father will not. (V. Dognam, Morning Star, 28.10.1974).

         The situation changed in October 1957 when the launch of Sputnik 1 shocked the West. The fact that the English language had the exact counterpart, “satellite” was overlooked, the Russian word was borrowed and used even as a verb (Kabakchi 1985, 1990).

As the world was in the midst of the Cold War and everything coming from the Soviet Union was considered by the official Western ideology negatively, the suffix was used to create new words describing people who a person who rejects the mores of established society, the most famous word being “beatnik”, but also “peacenik”, “vietnik” and some others. However, later on, particularly after the fall of the USSR, this meaning became archaic, but the original meaning of the Russian suffix is evident in such words as “refusenik”, “computernik” and others (Algeo 1992), cf.:

                   The boy was probably a Komsomolnik. (Soviet Studies, 1983, No.4, p.521).

         Использование этого суффикса наблюдается и в новейших текстах:

                   FSBniks (former KGBniks) were summoned to the scene to disarm the device. (Mike McCoy, SPbPress 06-13.06.1995)

                  Yuri was no Greenpeacenik. (Meier, 279)

         The Russian suffix “-ski/-sky” stands somewhat apart. It would be wrong to state that this suffux is used to form really English words. However, it is not infrequently used to form Russian-Culture-Oriented neologisms used stylistically:

Kicking buttski. Making you laughski. The Academy is backski! (Newsweek, 21.05.2001)

All these words are united by two characteristics. They are mostly used within the domain of Russian culture and they have negative meaning or at least negative connotation. Incidentally, words formed by means of that suffix are registered by dictionaries:

butt.in.sky also butt.in.ski n, pl -skies [butt in + -sky, -ski (last element in Slavic surnames)] (1902): a person given to butting in: a troublesome meddler <butt: to hit or push against something or someone with your head (WNCD9).

The dictionary explains that this suffix is «the last element in many Slavic names» and supplies the date of registering of this word: the beginning of the 20th century. The interpretation of this suffix is evident from lexicographic comments on the word “Russkii”. While WNCD9 simply states the existence of the word Russki, variously spelt, on the sense “a native or inhabitant of Russia” and supplying the date of registration – 1858, while the WNW4 states that its meaning is “Mild term of contempt, esp. formerly”, the OEED (Russki) states in a straightforward way: “often offensive a Russian or Soviet [‘Russian’ after Russian surnames ending in –SKI]” <>.

This suffix so far is an integral part of the negative stereotype of Russian culture in the official English speaking world. It is also a marker of Russianness.

Therefore the appearance of this loan in the text usually marks the author’s stereotypically negative attitude towards the nation:

It is a magnificently emetic account of the lifestyles of the Russki oligarchs … (Sunday Times, review by Rod Liddle, July 26, 2009) <>

The word, however, becomes ambiguous, because those who treat Russian culture positively borrow the word in its original neutral meaning, synonymous to the word “Russian”. This is definitely the case taken from Russia’s English language of expatriates The St. Petersburg Time (not to be confused with Florida’s St. Petersburg):

Last week, MuzTV started a show called “Top Model po-Russki.”… (SPbTimes 13.04.2011)

For some reasons native speakers think that it is enough to attach this suffix to any word to make it “Russian”:

Abramovich’s purchase of Chelsey – promptly nicknamed ‘Chelski’ … (Hollingsworth & Lansley, 125)

It seems that this practice is amusing both for the inventors of such words and for the readers, because examples abound. When at the end of the Soviet Union the Communists in the elections failed, an American newspaper (Des Moines Register, 06.04.1989) published a cartoon which showed the newspaper Pravda with the headline "UPSETSKY".

The Time magazine published an article (28.05.1990) devoted to religion in the Soviet Union under the title «Adam and Evesky».

In another item the newspaper The St. Petersburg Time generously supplies its description of a noisy party of expatriates with “-sky” words:

... all horsing around the foyer of one of the city [St Petersburg] hotels, yelling "Fabsky" and "Goodsky." (SPbTimes 26.04.1996)

Rod Liddle, the reviewer of the book Londongrad makes his straightforward hatred of Russian ologarchs in London both by the very title of the book “Londongrad”) and particularly by the “-sky” words:

                            There’s bling, you see, and then there’s blingski — which is a different, more elevated beast altogether. […] And the yachts, each more outrageous and blingski than the last. (The Sunday Times 26.07.2009)

         Undoubtedly, the word bling  (bling bling) itself is negative enough in its meaning: «expensive objects such as jewellery that are worn in a way that is very easy to notice» [LDCE]. By attaching to the word ‘bling’ the suffix “-sky’ the author indicates that here is tastelessness “in the Russian (“Russki”) way.

The Cold War era inevitably influenced the development of Russian-Culture-Oriented English. The negative attitude to Bolshevism created a verbal derivative, ‘Bolshie’:

Bolshie (also bolshy) British English informal tending to be angry or annoyed and not to obey people <> bolshiness noun (Longman)


Algeo, J. There’s Life in the Old Damenik Yet – After Archy’s Life of Mehitabel, American Speech, Vol.67, No.1 (Spring, 1992), pp.107-111.

Kabakchi V.V. Семантический аспект освоения русизма SPUTNIK английским языком/ Семантика слова и предложения. - Ленинград, ЛГПИ, 1985, с.79-86.

Kabakchi V.V. Of sputniks, beatniks and nogoodniks. – American Speech, 65(3), 1990, pp.277-78.

Kabakchi V.V. Основы англоязычной межкультурной коммуникации. — СПб: РГПУ, 1998.

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Encyclopœdia Britannica 2001 Standard Ed. CD-ROM. (Copyright © 1994-2001 Encyclopedia Britannica)

Kabakchi V.V. The Dictionary of Russia (2500 Cultural Terms). Англо-английский словарь русской культурной терминологии. – СПб: Издательство СОЮЗ, 2002.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. – UK: Pearson Education Limited, 4th ed., 2006.

Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edition – 1989).

Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (unabridged). A Merriam-Webster, 1988.



Billington James H. The Icon and the Axe. An Interpretive History of Russian Culture. – NY: Vintage Books, 1970.

Cambridge Encyclopedia of Russia and the Former Soviet Union, The (1982/1994). A.Brown, M.Kaser, G.Smith (eds.): Cambridge University Press.

Craig K., Novgorodsev S. The Cooking of Russia. - A Sainsbury Cookbook, London, 1990.

Figes, Orlando. Natasha’s Dance. A Cultural History of Russia. Penguin Books, 2003.

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Fodor 2002 => Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Hollingsworth M., Lansley St. Londongrad. Fourth Estate, London, 2009.

Jack, Andrew. Inside Putin’s Russia. Revised edition. Granta Books: London, 2004, 2005.

Kaiser Daniel H. Discovering Individualism Among the Deceased: Gravestones in Early Modern Russia. – Kotilaine, Jarmo & Poe, Marshall (ed.). Modernizing Muscovy. London & NY: Routledge Curzon, 2004.

Kokker S., Selby N. St. Petersburg. – Melbourne, Oakland, London, Paris: Lonely Planet, 2002.

Meier, Andrew. Black Earth. Russia After the Fall. – Harper Perennial, UK, 2004.

Moscow and St. Petersburg. Fodor’s 5th ed.: NY, Toronto, London, Sydney, Auckland, 2002.

Nabokov V. Speak, Memory. An Autobiography Revisited. – NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1966.

Nabokov V. Избранное. – М.: Радуга, 1990 (including the novel Pnin).

Newby E. Big Red Train Ride. - Penguin, 1978.

Smith E. Village Children. A Soviet Experience. - Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982.

St. Petersburg. In Your Pocket. Essential City Guides. BCB Tourism And Publishing BV.

Wittram, Reinhard. Russia and Europe. London: Thames and Hudson, 1973.



CamEnc - Cambridge Encyclopedia of Russia

DR - Кабакчи В.В. The Dictionary of Russia

EncBr - Encyclopœdia Britannica

FCO - Foreign-Culture-Oriented

ILCology - ‘interlinguoculturology’

LDCE - Longman Dictionary …

OED - Oxford English Dictionary

RCO - Russian-Culture-Oriented

SPb - St. Petersburg.

SPbIYP - St. Petersburg. In Your Pocket.

WNCD9 - Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary