8 phrases about modern Russia that are worth knowing

I got used to the fact that Muscovites generally don’t like to come out of their shells. Actually, it’s quite normal for people living in modern Russia–especially in Moscow. They are trying to construct a “Great Wall” between their private life and the harsh reality so that they may protect themselves from mind-blowing and heartbreaking absurdity.

But to what extent is it a substantial justification for not seeing an inch beyond their noses? Of course, we are not the smartest and the most highly educated locals, but we would like to ‘enlighten’ our readers about some trends, phrases, or phenomena that every Moskvaer foreigner or Russian citizen should know—at least a little bit.

It’s not anything extraordinary, but is rather commonsense knowledge–useful for integrating into Moscow culture and understanding what the hell is going on around you.

As usual, we will start from the basics, but solemnly swear to regularly update our Moskvaer vocabulary.

Let’s go!

Spiritual braces

“Spiritual braces” – a meme, which entered into use thanks to the Speech by Vladimir Putin to the Federal Assembly on December 12, 2012 indicating the traditional values of Russia.


“It pains me to speak of this … but Russian society today lacks spiritual braces – kindness, sympathy, compassion toward one another, support and mutual assistance, a deficit of that which has always, throughout history, made us stronger,” he said.

Subsequently, the meme has become a concept that expresses the essence of Russia’s policy towards the West in the current cold relations. It is also used often in ridiculing the excessive and inappropriate dissemination of religion.

Talking about the specific content of spiritual braces, it includes family values, Victory Day and the Russian language, love for the Motherland, compassion, generosity, honesty and chastity, Russian Orthodox Church.

Polite people aka Little green men


A colloquial expression referring to masked unmarked soldiers in green army uniforms wielding Russian military weapons and equipment within Ukraine. It was first used during the 2014 Crimean crisis, when said soldiers occupied and blockaded the Simferopol International Airport, most military bases in Crimea and the parliament in Simferopol.  This expression has become an extra popular meme all over the Internet in Russia. The Polite people meme generally reflects the fact that the Russian intervention looked not quite like the Western media portrayed it…

Like the Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu said, “Regarding the statements about the use of Russian special forces in Ukrainian events, I can only say one thing – it’s hard to search for a black cat in a dark room, especially if it’s not there. And searching for the cat would be stupid if the cat is intelligent, brave, and polite”.

Offense of the feelings of believers

The so-called blasphemy law is a law limiting the freedom of speech and expression relating to blasphemy, or irreverence toward holy personages, religious artifacts, customs, or beliefs.


The article “On the Protection of the Religious Feelings of the Citizens of Russia” was previously part of the Administrative Code and had carried a penalty of up to 1,000 rubles ($30). Now, according to a current law, you literally risk your freedom by blurting out something blasphemous.

Since June 11, 2013 it is declared a federal crime to conduct “public actions, clearly defying the society and committed with express purpose of insulting religious beliefs”.

The maximum punishment is three years in prison, but there are other penalties, such as fines of up to 500 thousand rubles, or compulsory labor.

Dmitry Enteo

Dmitry Tsorionov – one of the most prominent conservative Russian Orthodox activists, founder of the movement “God’s will”. He is known for his outrageous and provocative actions that are somehow supposed to represent Orthodox values.

One of Enteo’s latest antics in Moscow was the attack at the exhibition of Soviet sculptor and veteran, Vadim Siddur, where Enteo smashed several statues of religious subjects, which he considered “blasphemous”.

This action was widely covered in the media, and the exhibition had tremendous success as a result. I visited it after the attack, and believe me it was a full house! A similar situation, by the way, occurred when Orthodox activists disrupted a performance by Konstantin Bogomolov, “An Ideal Husband”. Now thanks to them, not only theatergoers know the name of Bogomolov. I wonder–did the Ministry of Culture pay for it? 🙂 Haha

Sanctions geese

The collective image of all food that came under Russian sanctions on imports from the West.

Video (shot by police!) of the “solemn” destruction of three frozen carcasses of geese from Hungary was published on YouTube. The incident occurred in Tatarstan. Employee Rossel Khoznadzor found the frozen carcasses and in the presence of witnesses took the geese to a landfill, where packages of frozen meat laid on the ground and were rolled over by a bulldozer.

This is a true, authentic surrealism, isn’t it?

Sobyanin’s tile

With the entry of Sobyanin as mayor of the capital, some peculiar changes began to occur in the city. In the summer of 2011–within his framework for city improvement–one of the mayor’s first initiatives was the replacement of asphalt pavement to tile on many streets in the town center. 4 billion rubles of budgetary funds were supposed to be spent for this initiative. Belt tiles began to be laid around the center, and the Garden Ring and surrounding alleys were transformed into a big construction site.

Some media outlets reported that this project has to do with the wife of the mayor. They recalled that in the past, Irina Sobyanina owned a road construction company “Aerodromdorstroy” that covered all the Tyumen area with paving tiles, and framed the roads with granite curbs.

The mayor denied the report, and as far as we know the story did not develop. However … In 2012 “tile-zation” of the city was suspended. But we can still hear its echo… Recently someone posted a video on the internet where paving tiles, laid out in the heat of enormous change, had conventional asphalt poured directly on top.


“What the hell?” – You’ll ask.

“Have no idea”, – we’ll reply. We were shocked ourselves.



This phrase came from a name of the ultraconservative Russian deputy Elena Mizulina, who is also a Chairman of the Duma Committee on Family, Women and Children Affairs.

She is known as the author and co-author of the resonant initiatives and legislation that caused controversial public reaction and had been often accompanied by scandal. These include the fight against “gay propaganda”, against bad language on the Internet, against divorces, and against foreign adoption of Russian children.

Mizulinschina is correspondingly, a designation for the absurd initiatives that cannot be logically comprehended and aimed to shock the public for the purpose of self-praise, under the guise of morality and “spiritual braces”.

Rabid printer

The nickname of the Russian State Duma, which was applied after the deputies in a short time approved several resonance laws. These are “The laws of Dima Yakovlev” banning adoption of Russian children by US citizens, Russian foreign agent law, the anti-gay law, the abolition of direct gubernatorial elections and others.

6Activist of the party “Yabloko” hammer smashes a rabid printer.

Well, I guess that’s enough to start with. We will continue to fill up the modern Moskvaer dictionary, and not only with social and political terms. Stay updated and … let’s deal with this fucking city!

About Yana141 Articles
Journalist by education, barstool philosopher by heart. Moskvaer. Rebel. Frustrated hedonist.

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