Monday, September 13, 2010

Commie in Finland

Read Inna Latisheva's Ryssänä Suomessa. The name of the book translates as "Russian in Finland", except that the word she uses for Russian is a slur - there is no exact translation for it in English.

The book is ostensibly about how hard it is to live as a foreigner in a place where your country of origin is not well-liked. She does have a point - being such a foreigner in such a place does have its problems, and Russia is not well-liked here, but she often brings this into the realm of ridiculous, claiming for example that company A was a nice place to work in because it was really a Swedish company, and company B was a nasty place because it was a Finnish one.

Most of the book is the story of a woman who was unhappily married and decided to extrapolate her feelings towards her ex-husband to the country.

The story of her life in Finland is not what caught my attention, though. It was the story of who and what she was before. Most every sentence made me think she was lying.

The woman was born in 1955 in Baku and raised in Leningrad. She then starts describing herself as a sweet and innocent girl who believed in her country and the party. Well. I always knew where must have been somebody who believed in that shit.

She got a degree from the propaganda department of Marxism-Leninism university, another one from a real university (she doesn't say which, but apparently a degree in some language or languages), taught languages in the Military academy, and worked as an Intourist guide. Right. Sorry, but this CV doesn't say "an innocent young girl who loved her country and trusted her government". It says "an extremely cynical career KGB weasel" or, in some cases "an extremely cynical career commie weasel whom KGB didn't bother to hire".

At the same time she describes how she was dreaming of bagging herself a foreigner and moving abroad, and also what kind of things she was and wasn't allowed to say to the tourists. Her jumping from "I thought it was so wonderful, I didn't know anything better" to "I knew about everything bad but had to keep quiet" and back are almost endearing. Seriously. If we are talking about 1980, even I knew better, and I was 9.

OK, anyway, the innocent patriotic girl by some accident went to study in a place no decent person would have touched with a 10-foot pole and acquired a job known to provide access to under-the-table money and foreign husbands. Only then her innocent eyes started to open to the fact that there is more money in the West and that her job does indeed provide the opportunity for meeting foreign men.

Well, she met hers. He was tall, handsome, intelligent and foreign, and married to a friend of hers. That last detail didn't bother her, because she remembered Julius Caesar's words "I came, I saw, I conquered". After coming with her to Finland the man brought her to a couple of parties, and she was wondering - and upset - about why the married man does not introduce her as his fiancee at a party attended by his wife and her friends.

Anyway, he did get divorced and they did get married and he didn't turn out to be a very good husband and she thinks that this happened because Finns don't like Russians.

The book has a happy ending, she moved to Spain and is happy there. We'll see if there is a sequel in 20 years.

9 comments:

Ironmistress said...

Vera, has anyone ever called you a cynic?

(ducking for cover)

psi- said...

Haha, this sounds so ridiculous that it must be real ussr bullshit.

Tero Linna said...

Vera, have you read Anna-Lena Laurén's "Hulluja nuo venäläiset"? The theory of a Russian soul is put forward. I wonder if you have some first-hand experience about the concept.

Anonymous said...

> Read Inna Latisheva's Ryssänä Suomessa. The name of the book translates as "Russian in Finland", except that the word she uses for Russian is a slur - there is no exact translation for it in English.

Öh?

http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A0%D0%B0%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8

Vaikka "ryssää" pidetään stereotyyppisenä etnisenä loukkauksena, niin ei se sitä aina ja kaikkialla ole. Sinuakin pidettiin yleisen kielitieteen laitoksen ryssänä, eikä se ollut loukkaus.

Vera said...

Ironmistress: who, me? *bats her eyelashes innocently*

Tero: no, I haven't, and maybe I should, but I am generally sceptical about any theories of a Russian soul.

Anonymous: ryssä is rather different from Russki, and is most often used as a slur nowadays. There are of course exceptions, such as humorous usage between friends, by Russians themselves, or when referring to the times when it was a more neutral word, etc.

Ironmistress said...

Actually if you ever really, really, want to insult a Russian in Finland, call him or her as "slobo". It has the same tone as calling someone "nigger", "gook" or "honky".

Janka said...

"Sorry, but this CV doesn't say "an innocent young girl who loved her country and trusted her government". It says "an extremely cynical career KGB weasel" or, in some cases "an extremely cynical career commie weasel whom KGB didn't bother to hire"."

But isn't the first what the latter two would say in public? So it does check after all.

Anonymous said...

> ryssä is rather different from Russki,

Monessa mielessä se kyllä on aika lailla lähellä.

> and is most often used as a slur nowadays.

En menis sanomaan, kun elämän varrella olen tavannut monia, monia ihmisiä, joille se on periaatteessa venäläisen synonyymi. "Virallisten tahojen" propaganda tässä asiassa ei ole vaikuttanut niin paljon, kun annetaan ymmärtää. Monet ei ees oikeestaan koskaan sano venäläinen. Itsellekin venäläinen tuntuu hiukan hienostelulta, mutta minkäs teet. Jos Venäjän tsaari nimitti itseään Ryssänmaan hallitsijaksi virallisissa papereissa, niin se kertoo, että nimitys oli ihan ok; myöskin paikannimet tukevat käsitystä (minusta vanhoissa, siis ennen sanotaanko 1950-lukua, paikannimissä on "aina" ryssä, ei koskaan venäläinen; okei olen "väärässä", koska myös venäläinen on vanha etnonyymi, kuten tiedetään:

http://www.mv.helsinki.fi/home/jphakkin/Vendit.html

); muutakin voisi sanoa (esimerkiksi kirjallisuuden ja kirjeenvaihdon tutkiminen). En näe estettä tulkinnalle, että nykypäivänä monille suomalaisille tämä tulkinta olisi mahdollinen ihan nykyaikaisena vaihtoehtona.

> There are of course exceptions, such as humorous usage between friends, by Russians themselves, or when referring to the times when it was a more neutral word, etc.

Mutta mitäs tällaista toiselle lingvistille esitän. Olen esittänyt todennettavissaolevia väitteitä. Ei kun tutkimaan, ettei ryssittelyllä ihan ryssittäisi tätä juttua!

--

> Actually if you ever really, really, want to insult a Russian in Finland, call him or her as "slobo". It has the same tone as calling someone "nigger", "gook" or "honky".

Ehkä näin on jossain piireissä. Joka tapauksessa slobo on ennemminkin serbokroaatti, jos jotain. Vähän vähemmän slaaveista tietoisille se tietysti voi tarkoittaa vaikka mitä, mutta silloin varmaan vetää aika lailla lähellä mustalaista tai sanotaanko puolalais-ukrainalais(-unkari[nmusta]lais)-balkanilaista.

En tjuhna igen

Anonymous said...

http://markuslehtipuu.puheenvuoro.uusisuomi.fi/49828-ryssana-suomessa-remix