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Fighting Words

Published: September 5, 2014 (Issue # 1827)



Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Чмарить: to bully (slang)

Although I adore most things about the Russian language, there is a group of verbs I detest. Чмарить, угнетать, обижать, издеваться and притеснять all mean to persecute, bully, make fun of, oppress, torture or defile. Obviously I don't like the activities they express. But I especially loathe them as a translator, since the meaning almost always depends on context. In some cases, the word издеваться can mean to tease someone. In other cases, it means to defile. And in still other cases, it means to torture.

So every time I see one of these words, my fingers twitch over the keyboard as I try to determine where the author is on the scale of atrocity.

Let's start with чмарить (also чмырить, чморить), a slang word that means to make fun of someone, to bully, to harass. It seems to be youth slang — in any case, almost all the examples I found are connected with schools or schooldays. Мальчик не понимает, что лузер в этом коридоре не очкарик, которого он чмарит, а он сам (The kid doesn't get that he's the loser in the hallway, not the nerdy guy in glasses he is bullying).

Угнетать means to oppress. Often it is used to describe a psychological state caused by an emotion: Безвыходность ситуации нас угнетала (The hopelessness of the situation weighed heavily on us). Circumstances can oppress, too: Домашняя тишина стала угнетать его (The quiet at home began to oppress him). But the oppression can also be external. One woman blogger laments the workplace pattern of bonuses going only to her male colleagues. When she and her female cohorts complained to their boss, he said: "Я никого не угнетал!" ("I didn't discriminate against anyone!") In the end, she writes: "остаётся только мысль, что угнетают нас какие-то инопланетяне" (we're left with the thought that we are discriminated against by some kind of aliens from outer space).

Притеснять is also often used to describe oppression, persecution or discrimination of classes, races or religious groups. Новый король сильно притеснял пуритан (The new king brutally persecuted the Puritans). Or what Russians call друзья по интересам (interest groups): Владельцы кафе настаивали, что они не вправе притеснять своих курящих посетителей (Cafe owners insisted that they didn't have the right to discriminate against their clients who smoked). But it can also be personal and vicious: Недалёкий и мелочный отец жестоко притеснял сына (The stupid and petty father cruelly tormented his son).

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBA’s ongoing “Breakfast with the Director” series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at “Sounds of the Universe,” a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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