It’s time to take a quick trip to the Eastern Hemisphere, because June 6 is Russian Language Day! Being the largest country on Earth, and the source of many important social and political movements in recent times, Russia remains a rich source of culture, and June 6 is the day to celebrate the language that makes that makes that culture what it is. Russian is a Slavic language, whose closest relatives are Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Rusyn (which is spoken in some parts of the Ukraine and Slovenia). In the 19th century, what we now classify as modern Russian was known as “Great Russian,” while Belarusian was called “White Russian” and Ukrainian was “Little Russian.” Today, an estimated 170 million people speak Russian. And today, we celebrate them!
How to Celebrate Russian Language Day
1. Throw a Russian-themed dinner party
While Russian cuisine may not be as celebrated as French or as ripe for entertainment as British, it has some masterpieces of its own. See if you can find a Russian cookbook, and then invite your friends for a nice of food and fun…and if you’re of age, plenty of vodka!
2. Read some Russian literature
Of course, there are the classics: the works of Tolstoy or Dostoevsky are always work a read. But there are more contemporary (and frankly, more brief) works. Check out Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Sorokin, or The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia. And as for movies, Night Watch is a modern fantasy thriller, while The Diamond Arm is an excellent comedy. (Yes, the Russians do know how to do comedy!)
3. Get in touch with a Russian pen pal
If you’re a retro-minded individual, you might consider the time-honored pastime of finding yourself a pen pal. Getting past the images of foreign countries fed to us by our governments and the media is always key to gaining a better understanding of real people who live different lives than ours. And best of all, these days you can do it by email.
Why We Love Russian Language Day
A. It’s a beautiful language
Not everyone agrees on this, but there are those who think that the Russian language is just about the most beautiful spoken language in the world. Not only that, but it has a considerable impact on other languages. A good deal of modern political-centric words derive from Russian (including “intelligentsia”), and without Russian, we wouldn’t know what to call a wooly mammoth.
B. Russia is an important political force in the world today
Russia is a major player in modern global politics. There are about 200 million Russian-speakers in the world, and they all have a voice to affect change in the world. Russian Language Day gives us a chance to examine the way that Russia participates in world government and the kind of policies it institutes.
C. There are some jokes that are only funny if you know Russian
We don’t often think about it, but a lot of humor depends upon the language used to deliver it. And just like there are certain jokes that only work in English, there are certain jokes that only work in Russian. For example: Купил надувную кровать. В инструкции на семи языках написано: «Не использовать при купании». И только на русском: «При купании держитесь за боковые ремешки».(To our Russian-speaking readers, that one’s for you!)