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Russia: The RuNet's Top 10 Political Slang Words

RuNet Echo This post is part of RuNet Echo, a Global Voices project to interpret the Russian language internet. All Posts · Learn more

Understanding political discussions in the Russian blogosphere requires a certain fluency in RuNet slang. For anyone interested in grasping the nuances of online satire and blogger arguments (or for those who seek to “troll” their own virtual opponents), the following list of ten popular slang terms should be particularly useful:

1. Зомбоящик (zombobox) characterizes television as an evil device that turns its users into zombies. In RuNet discourse, the TV industry is assumed to be a tool of the authorities, the main purpose of which is to stultify the brains of viewers and distract them from political struggle. This effect is supposedly achieved by systematically feeding TV addicts a barrage of propaganda, as well as unintelligent programming and mind-numbing commercials.

Here is one example of zombobox humor: an English-subtitled parody of the Russian daily news (disclaimer: profane language):

2. Ботокс (botox) is one of Putin’s nicknames, earned because of rumors that he has received several botox injections in recent years, presumably to preserve a more youthful appearance. After a televised interview in 2011, the unusual smoothness of Putin's face led “#ботокс” to become one of the most popular hashtags on Russian Twitter.

“Sex is good, Botox (Putin's nickname) is bad” is written on the paper, 24 Dec 2011, photo by Dmitry Nikolaev, copyright © Demotix.

Garry Kasparov, leader of the oppositionist movement “The United Civil Front,” prominently utilized the botox meme to mock Putin's tears [en], shed after his most recent presidential victory.

Вчера, я думаю, это была не слеза, это вытекал ботокс. Он чувствовал свой конец. И в наших силах приблизить его. Мы будем праздновать освобождение страны от оккупантов. Перед тем, как построить свободную страну, надо прибраться – надо смыть эту лужу ботокса с карты России. За Россию без Путина!

Yesterday, I think it was not a tear, but Botox that flowed out. He felt his end [approaching]. And we can bring it closer. We will celebrate the liberation of our country from the occupiers. [But] before we build a free country, we must clean up the place — we must wipe this puddle of Botox off the map of Russia. For a Russia without Putin!

3. Айфончик  (iPhonchik) is a popular nickname for former President (and now Prime Minister) Dmitri Medvedev. In 2010, Medvedev became the first Russian citizen to own an iPhone 4, which he received as a personal gift from Steve Jobs (see video below). Medvedev's well publicized enthusiasm for the device, as well as his attachment to his iPad, has led observers to compare him to a child giddy about a new toy. As a result, the nickname iPhonchik (a diminutive for “iPhone”) has stuck.

4. Хомячки (hamsters) is an insult typically directed at Russian oppositionist bloggers. The term originally competed for popularity with the word “lemmings,” which ultimately fell out of vogue. “Hamsters” is meant to imply that bloggers who claim to have independent points of view (a common self-defense in online debates) are in fact quite susceptible to manipulation and groupthink. Hamsters’ comments on blog posts are often derided for being formulaic and unpatriotic. During an unsanctioned rally immediately after the December 2011 parliamentary elections, Aleksei Navalny said:

Они могут смеяться в своём зомбоящике. Они могут называть нас микроблоггерами или сетевыми хомячками. Я – сетевой хомячок! И я перегрызу глотку этим скотам. Мы все вместе это сделаем.

They can laugh in their zombobox. They can call us microbloggers or Internet hamsters. I am an Internet hamster! And I will gnaw at the throats of these bastards. We will all do it together.

5. Кремлядь (kremliad) is a combination of two words, Кремль (Kremlin) and блядь (bliad) — an obscenity with almost universal application, but here translates to something like “whore.” Kremliad is the collective name for people who make their living by serving the interests of Putin and his entourage: the directors of the zombobox, the corrupt journalists, the ideologists of United Russia and Nashi, various pro-Putin celebrities, and — to some extent — even the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Two years ago, Boris Nemtsov, a well-known and outspoken critic of the Kremlin, used this word in the title of a blog post [ru]: “Кремлядь — позор нашей страны” (Kremliad — The Disgrace of Our Country).

6. Либераст (liberast) is a slur that applies to people with liberal, pro-Western political views. According to this stereotype, “liberasts” promote Western concepts about universal values and human rights ‘at the expense’ of Russian national interests.

The term is a mix of two words: либерал (liberal) and педераст (pederast, a common homophobic insult in Russia), dovetailing with the country's widespread homophobia [en]. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, for instance, recently argued that Russia's Christian Orthodox heritage ruled out the possibility of ever accepting homosexuality as Western Civilization has in recent decades.

7. Поцреот (potsreot) is a deviation of the word “patriot,” with the first syllable changed to “pots” (which means “dick” in Yiddish).

Potsreots are so named for their ostentatious public displays of love for Russia and the state authorities. Their archetypal enemies are Americans and Jews. Potsreots are commonly ridiculed for paradoxically endorsing contradictory arguments simultaneously. For example, some will deny the Holocaust, but at the same time say that “Hitler was right in exterminating Jews.”

Ironically, many ardent potsreots prefer to live abroad, loving their Motherland from a safe distance.

8. Рашка (Rashka) is a derogatory name that some Russians use to identify their own country. The word is a combination of a backwards Russification of the English word “Russia” (distinct from the Russian name, “Rossiia”) and the “ka” Russian diminutive. The term is often employed by expat bloggers in the context of Russia's political and social dysfunctionality.

“Rashka lives according to its own laws.” An anonymous image widely circulated online. 22 May 2012.

9. Совок (sovok) is a person who maintains a Soviet mindset, Soviet ideology, and Soviet habits. Sovoks are stereotypically slavish, socially-dependent, anti-democratic, intolerant of others’ opinions, and — in general — stupid, evil, and jealous people.

10. Пиндос (pindos) is an anti-American slur. In the Soviet period, “pindos” was common in military and criminal circles as a general-use obscenity due to its phonetic proximity to other Russian profanities. After the war in Yugoslavia, Russian troops operating in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Kosovo started using “pindos” as a nickname for American soldiers. Now, on the RuNet, the term has come to describe Americans in general.

  • http://redhotrussia.com Augis

    The main question that the readers of this list should ask themselves is “Am I liberast or potsreot?” :-)

  • Stepan

    I’m from Russia, use internet daily, and I didn’t know half of these words. The other slang words are not even that popular. Also, some of the definitions are wrongs and misleading. For example, “pederast” means one who practices pederasty (relationship between an older man and an adolescent boy), which is *not* homophobic.

    • http://redhotrussia.com Augis Barkov

      In my opinion, the only slang from this list which is falling out of vogue is the nickname of Medvedev – “iPhonchik”. It competes in popularity with Medvedev’s initials ДАМ (which in Russian is overloaded with additional meanings) and the recently popular epithet жалкий (pathetic, miserable).

      As for “pederasty”, I think that it is mostly used as homophobic for two reasons:
      1) pederasty – as relationship between an older man and adolescent boy – is the accurate definition of this word; however, in everyday Russian it is not used in its “scientific” connotation and instead often tags homosexuality in general
      2) moreover, the obscene derivative of the word pederast – пидорас (“pidoras”) is the most widespread Russian homophobic slur; due to this reason many Russians even don’t know the accurate meaning of pederasty and use the words “pederast” and “pidoras” interchangeably.
      ***
      As a side note, it is worth to mention the recent law accepted in St. Petersburg banning the propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia (thus, outlawing pride parades, for example). It is quite curious that Russian legislators put homosexuality and pedophilia in the same category!

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