The comment system is out of order, so I’ll post my responses here.

To PF, on bezbashenny: The root word is bashnya, which may be of Turkic extraction, too. My guess it is the tower of a tank — it looks like a human head a bit, the barrel corresponding to a big nose. Bashnyu sryvaet or bashnyu sneslo make perfect sense in this context. An example of metaphoric use (I’m sure you know how this troupe is called, for I forget): “I bashnyu sryvalo s petel’.” (ChayF)

To Dave Kaiser: if only Canadians were not known for being so un-corrupt and hellbent on transparency, Moscow mayor Luzhkov might think about hiring Canadian designers to protect Moscow streets from disastrous floods and snow.

“Last time I was in Mother Russia,” writes Dave, making me ask myself, what in the world “Mother Russia” is? An Englishman can say “good old England”; a French beauty, “la belle France”, but no literal back-translation of “Mother Russia” has ever been in wide use in Russia. It’s just not translatable into anything familiar to the Russian ear, except for Andrey Sinyavsky’s Rossiya-Mat’ as part of his famous duo, Rossiya-Mat’, Rossiya-Suka (Mother Russia, Bitch Russia). The oldest standard construct is Svyataya Rus’, Holy Rus’ or, to use a somewhat misleading Latinization, Holy Ruthenia. Holy Russia sounds like an acceptable version, too, although no Russian in her right mind would say Svyataya Rossiya. A more recent development is Matushka-Rus’ or Rus’-Matushka or even Rossiya-Matushka, which is as close to Mother Russia as it gets. However, Holy Rus’ takes precedence over these, and the old-fashioned Matushka conveys a deep affection that Mother generally does not; it is closer to German Mütterchen. Rus’-matushka, tsar’-batyushka is approximately “sweet mother Russia, dear father Tsar”. There is also Rodina-mat’, but it is simply Mother Native Land, the female version of Patria.

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