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Putin's problem with the many foreign words

It is said that the first casualty of war is always the truth.

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Putin's problem with the many foreign words

It is said that the first casualty of war is always the truth. The second and third victims are always the foreign words and foreign names. While in Germany a CDU politician is considering permanently renaming the listed Berlin Café Moscow as Café Kiev, in Russia President Putin is pursuing language politics on a much larger scale.

The new text of the law “On the State Language of the Russian Federation”, which was enacted in 2005 and published on February 16 (Warning! Foreign word!), now states: “When using Russian as the state language of the Russian Federation, it is not allowed to use words and to use expressions that do not conform to the norms of modern Russian ... with the exception of foreign words that have no widespread equivalents in Russian.” A list of exactly which expressions are meant to be used is to follow. Likewise, corresponding references in dictionaries.

In a Germany where more and more authorities and companies prescribe their employees a far more ridiculous language fad called "gender-fair language", nobody has the right to make fun of such measures or to be outraged. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see what absurdities the amendment to the law will produce.

Because Russian is a language with a lot of foreign words. Even Rossiya (Russia) goes back to a foreign word. The name is borrowed from the Norse roðr (“row, rowing team”). Because the rowing Vikings founded the first states of the Rus.

Words from German are particularly common. After English, Russian is probably the language that has absorbed most German words and integrated them so thoroughly that today almost no one sees them as foreign words.

The list ranges from buterbrod (which in Russian can mean any type of sandwich), potschtamt, schachta, tsiferblat, and parikmacher (hairdresser) to brantmauer (Russian for firewall) and the slang word absatz (disaster).

The background is that German experts and military played an important role in the Tsarist Empire for centuries and there was also a massive emigration from Germany to Russia. This did not only take place in the typical Russian-German rural areas, but also in the big cities. The St. Petersburg in Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" is populated by Germans, whom the author describes as unsympathetic but often very successful in business.

The word Nazi also made its way from German into Russian – as it did into almost every other language in the world. It is what is called an internationalism in linguistics because it is used globally. Other examples are taxi or radio or physical units of measurement such as ohms, watts or chemical terms (which also often originally come from German) such as zinc or quartz. The Russian propaganda could have a problem with a total ban on foreign words and stop talking about the denatsifikatsiya (denazification) of Ukraine.

Putin's state lackeys could also soon have difficulties with the description of the war of aggression against the Ukrainians. An exception will probably have to be made. Because, as is well known, it is not allowed to talk about war. Woina (war) is a long-established proto-Slavic word, while military special operation is made up of three Latin foreign words. And Latin, far more than English, is the language that has shaped the West (formerly known as Occident), against which Putin believes he is in a decisive war.

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