Bykowski, Monica

Name: Monica Bykowski
Location of Study: Russia
Program of Study: Russian
Sponsor(s): Robert Berner

13 thoughts on “Bykowski, Monica

  1. Expectations

    Before departing to Russia, I have some apprehensions. First off, despite the fact that the Cold War ended decades ago, in the U.S., I still constantly encounter cold-war mentalities when I discuss my summer plans. Other Americans often ask “why do you want to go there? They’re communists.” These same people, furthermore, insist that Russia has not really changed since the fall of the Soviet Union. And yet, we cannot deny that American business, at the least, has made inroads into Russia. McDonalds, KFC, Starbucks, all these could be found there. Likewise, more and more Russians are learning English and anglicisms have become trendy. I wonder, then, what reality I will encounter in Russia and whether Russians too have held on to former antagonisms. I personally think that it is not that Russians hate Americans; rather, they haven’t entirely accepted the American version of how society, economics, and life in general should work. Then again, if the Occupy movements are any indicator, a lot of Americans are also discontent with contemporary America. Perhaps, we could each learn from each other.

  2. Task 3: Russia Day

    On June 12th fell Russia’s annual national celebration of its adoption of the Declaration of State Sovereignty of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic on June 12, 1990, also known as Russia Day. While celebrations occur throughout the country on this day, the most celebrated are the concerts hosted by the state on Red Square. Interestingly enough, this year, it was supposed to thunderstorm on the very same day. I say “supposed to thunderstorm,” because it, in fact, did not. Instead, it was bright and sunny. This fortunate turn of events did not result out of simple luck; rather, it was a result of human intercession into nature. Essentially, planes were sent into the stratosphere and chemicals, such as silver iodide, were dispersed into the clouds. These chemicals caused the vapor H2O to condense into liquid form, causing the clouds to precipitate before reaching Moscow. Thus Russia Day’s concert was saved.

    I was fortunate enough to attend this event. One of my favorite performances included a troupe of traditionally clad babushki and devushki repeating the phrase “olympic games,” referring to the Winter Olympic Games that will be held in the Russian town of Sochi in 2014. Another song’s chorus upheld that “real men play hockey, cowards don’t play.” Besides these groups, many famous Russian stars made appearances and the solidarity of Russians with one another was promoted by song lines that went “we’re together” and broadcasters that encouraged Moscovites to befriend each other. The show was cap-stoned by the Russian anthem, grandly sung by performers and spectators alike, and an impressive firework display.

    Despite this grandiose program, conversion with native Russians has indicated that the Russia Day celebrations were better in years past. One person indicated that, comparatively, there was hardly anyone on Red Square. When I questioned why this was the case, I receive a number of answers. First off, entrance policies were much more strict this year: the number of tickets given out were restricted and visitors had to go through security checks. Security personnel took a hard-line towards alcohol, especially since a couple years back someone had apparently died on the grounds of the concert due to an alcohol related incident, and, I think, because of the states attempts to combat alcoholism. Once inside, police officers and security guards seemed to outnumber visitors. In addition to these factors, some Russians insisted that performances had been better in years past, with more popular groups making appearances.

    It seems, then, that there is a sort of discordance between the ambitions for Russia Day, and policies that render its celebrations less popular, or at the least, less well-attended.

  3. Task 1: Reflections on the Russian Language

    Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the number of Russian speakers worldwide has dropped drastically. This fact is not surprisingly considering that former soviet states have used language as a mechanism of asserting sovereignty. Thus, when once Russian was the official state language of Ukraine, Ukrainian is now the accepted mode of conversance. The decline of Russian speakers, however, is not the only source of anxiety for those concerned with the preservation of the Russian language: members of the intelligentsia have also descried the decline of “correct” Russian amongst contemporary speakers. Considering the range of opinions on “proper” Russian, slang, and swearing, I decided to open this topic of conversation with some Russian acquaintances.

    I immediately noticed a difference between generations. One woman, who had been raised and educated prior to the fall, insisted that education simply isn’t what it used to be. Furthermore, she holds that the influx of migrants who are not native speakers of Russian have influenced how Russian is spoken. This effect, though, could be canceled out with proper education. To the foreigner learning Russian, she advised that one should not waste his or her time learning slang and should instead focus on correct Russian.

    Conversely, a young lady in her 20s made a distinction between slang and foul language. Slang, she equivocated, might not be that great to use, but she herself uses it. Foul language, on the other hand, she straight-forwardly asserted was bad. A changing, or evolving, language, then, is not necessarily a bad thing; what matters is how one uses it.

    On the other side of the spectrum, an older gentleman, and a firm believer in progress, saw the changes Russian was undergoing as a sign of the language’s dynamism. Just like technology continues to move forward, so too must the language used to describe it. However, while at one point the intelligentsia had the greatest say in how this language would be used, the democratization of access to, and proffering of, information via the internet, has meant that anyone can have a say in how something is said.

    Whether the common man’s influence over language is considered good or bad, the reality is that it exists. The question remains how Russians will adapt, or react, to these neologisms.