Sunday, February 21, 2010

QUIZ: Who and how many presidents are there in Russia?

Theoretical Answer: one - Dmitri Medvedev

"Yes, we have Vladimir Putin and...oh, hmm, Uhhh...I have forgotten his name...oh yes! Dmitri Medvedev. He is our president."

At the Museum of Russian Political History yesterday afternoon, our guide stumbled over naming the current president of the Russian Federation when attempting to explain the current political regime. This apparent forgetfulness did not embarrass her, let alone phase her presentation. Rather, she continued to describe the current conditions, which more adequately resemble a tsarist state than a post-communist, democratizing nation.

Diplomatic Answer: two - Dmitri Medvedev & Vladimir Putin

"It is a total joke on Putin's part. If anything, we have two presidents. But really just one leader: Putin."

Last Friday my roommate and I participated in a conversation hour with native Russian students in their English language class. We were the first ones to arrive in the classroom, so we decided to sit in the far right corner as to not disturb the class. Immediately, the teacher asked us to introduce ourselves, much to the students' shock that 1) we were Americans, and 2) that we were native speakers of English.

The level of proficiency ranged from beginner (6 months to 1 year) to ten years and more. They asked some interesting questions, and seemed very interested in Las Vegas because of the movie "The Hangover." Needless to say, I was speaking with three boys, aged 18 to 20. As with most other Russians, they cannot pronounce my real name because there is no female variant of "Daniel" in Russian, so I introduce myself as "Liza," the Russian name derived from "Elizabeth" that I have used for the last three years.

However, each Russian I have initially introduced myself to as "Danielle" wants to call me as such, even if they literally cannot make the "yuh" sound. Here is an example:

Igor: "Do you have another name, Danielle LoVallo?"
Me: "What do you mean? Like a nickname?"
Igor: "No, no. Aleksandr have another name, more shotter- Sasha."
Me: "Yes, nickname."
Igor: "So should you tell me please, how I can name you?" [This is a literal, direct translation of the Russian rendition of "What is your name?"]
Me: "Danielle."
Igor: "My brother's name is Daniel!"
Me: "Yes, like that, only I have the girls' name, pronounced dan - YELL."
Igor: "Oh, I am so sorry. Okay."
Me: "No problem!"
Igor: "Okay then dan yell I'm glad to get acquainted with you!"

Practical Answer: one - Vladimir Putin

"I think that Medvedev will not run for office again, and that Putin will be the new president. It is no secret that it is the plan."

Another student in conversation hour described the political climate in Russia: 1) Many people do not listen to the semi-independent radio station that discusses (aka argues) politics, and 2) Many people do not seem to mind that Russia is not a truly democratic state. According to my perceptions, people stop asking difficult questions because life itself is already too difficult; therefore, what Westerners would regard as fundamental rights to question the logic and reason of the government, Russians may disregard any such pointless argumentation in favor of simply being able to survive.

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