How to Interpret Ukraine’s Turmoil
Published: January 1, 2014 (Issue # 1800)
By Michele A. Berdy
Òèòóøêè: Ukrainian thugs for hire
As I’ve been reading the news and blogs on events in Ukraine, I came across quite a few words that I didn’t understand. So I thought a little primer on Ukraine news might be useful.
But as I began to compile my primer, it turned out to have a lot of Russian nouns, slang and otherwise, used to insult people in Ukraine. So with apologies:
Åâðîìàéäàí: Euromaidan. Although ìàéäàí (maidan) is a square, the word åâðîìàéäàí refers to street protests over then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision not to sign a trade agreement with the EU.
Òèòóøêè: Thugs for hire. These are the tough guys in tracksuits who act as agents provocateurs. The name comes from Vadym Titushko, a mixed martial artist who was part of a group that beat up some journalists in 2013. During the Kiev demonstrations the titushki were believed to have been brought in by the government to instigate violence.
Ñòåïàí Áàíäåðà: Stepan Bandera, a leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement. He is admired by some as a fierce protector and advocate of Ukrainians and their state; he is reviled by others as a Nazi collaborator and violent opponent of everyone he considered a threat to Ukraine, including Russians, Poles, and Jews.
Áàíäåðîâöû: Banderists, used to describe the actual historical followers of Bandera and anyone who is perceived as a Ukrainian nationalist. In the latter sense, today áàíäåðîâöû is a synonym for fascist, anti-Russian, nationalist Ukrainian scum. Êòî ïîääåðæèâàåò íàöèñòîâ íà áàíäåðîìàéäàíàõ è ïðèçûâàåò ê ôàøèñòñêèì áóíòàì, òîìó â Ðîññèþ äîðîãè íåò. (Whoever supports Nazis at Bandera-Maidan demonstrations and calls for fascist regime change is not welcome in Russia). Here áàíäåðî- is used as a play on åâðî- in åâðîìàéäàí (Euromaidan).
Êóêðàèíà: derogatory term for Ukraine, apparently a mix of Óêðàèíà (Ukraine) and êóðêóëü (Ukrainian kulaks or rich peasants; slang for a rich, greedy person). Used in phrases such as Êóêðàèíû óæå äâà äíÿ êàê íåò (That stupid Ukraine hasn’t existed for two days).
Õîõîë: slang for Ukrainian, sometimes derogatory or condescending. In today’s political rhetoric it seems to be used to describe a “bad Ukrainian,” i.e., a Ukrainian who doesn’t support Russia and Russian political positions. Since there isn’t a slang word for Ukrainians in English, it’s hard to translate. Âñåõ õîõëîâ ñ äåìîêðàòè÷åñêîé Óêðàèíû, ãåòü. (All you dumb Ukrainians — get out of democratic Ukraine)!
Ìîëîä÷èêè: goons, thugs. Although in some literary contexts ìîëîä÷èê can just be a young man, in contemporary usage ìîëîä÷èê is a guy looking for trouble, a guy who is part of a criminal organization, or a guy who is part of a right-wing, reactionary, criminal group. Ôàøèñòñêèå or íàöèîíàëèñòè÷åñêèå ìîëîä÷èêè (fascist or nationalist goons) were code words for anti-Soviet, fascist youth. The Russian Foreign Ministry statement included the term âîèíñòâóþùèå ìîëîä÷èêè (aggressive young thugs) grouped with áîåâèêè èç óëüòðàïðàâûõ íàöèîíàëèñòè÷åñêèõ îðãàíèçàöèé (armed fighters from ultra-right-wing, nationalist organizations) to describe Ukrainian demonstrators.
I’m not sure how this rhetoric is going to win the hearts and minds of Russia’s Ukrainian neighbors. Remember: ëàñêîâûé òåë¸íîê äâóõ ìàòîê ñîñ¸ò (you get more flies with honey, literally “a friendly calf nurses on two cows”).
Michele A. Berdy, a Moscow-based translator and interpreter, is the author of “The Russian Word’s Worth” (Glas), a collection of her columns.