SRAS Assistant Director Josh Wilson in front of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow on the eve of the quarantine measures.

Quarantine Diaries: Накануне самоизоляции

Published: March 17, 2020

Quarantine Diaries is a series of free language lessons. Each can take a variety of forms but all focus on building intermediate and advanced vocabulary and listening skills. The following bilingual text was created from a blog entry by SRAS Assistant Director Josh Wilson on It has been reformatted here as a Russian MiniLesson. Read the text and familiarize yourself with the new vocabulary. Then, watch the related video below and see if you can answer the questions!

I провел день (spent the day) running a few errands in Moscow. This may be the last time I can say this for a while. Большинство (the majority) of SRAS students уехали или уезжают из России (have left or are leaving Russia). In what should be середина семестра (the middle of the semester), I’m already завершаю некоторые дела (wrapping some things up). 

Moscow will also закроет часть городских учреждений (close some services), чтобы поощрить людей оставаться дома (to encourage people to self-isolate). Schools and universities переходят на дистанционное обучение (are going online), массовые мероприятия отменяются (large events are cancelled), and museums могут закрыться в ближайшее время (are expected to close). My family and I will be settling into our neighborhood at the edge of Moscow. So, here I am наслаждаюсь красотой исторического центра города (enjoying the beauty of the historic city center) while I’m here. 

With постоянно ускоряющимся потоком новостей (an exponentially accelerating news cycle), the last couple of weeks have felt surreal. Один за другим (one by one) US universities отозвали студентов (have recalled students) and правительства стран по всему миру (governments worldwide) ввели ограничения на передвижение (have implemented travel restrictions). It was the latter that led us, as an organization, to eventually advise the last of our students отправиться домой (to head home). Although SRAS locations currently have низкие показатели заболеваемости COVID-19 (low COVID-19 rates), риск закрытия границ (the risk of closed borders) was suddenly quite real. 

Ложка меда в бочке дегтя* (A silver lining) to all this is that all our students получат доступ к дистанционным занятиям (will have access to online instruction). We are working to make sure that they can still get in достаточно учебных часов (enough academic hours) to hopefully ensure that their semester завершится успешно (can be judged a success). Yet all this is беспрецедентно (unprecedented) and we still have much work ahead to see it all through. 

In Moscow, настроение в обществе неоднозначное (the public mood is mixed). The news speaks regularly о пандемии (of the pandemic). Everywhere, you can hear people speaking about coronavirus (which is the same in Russian: “коронавирус”). The metro and the city center сегодня были свободнее обычного (were quieter than usual), although not strikingly so. Большая часть серьезных мер (most of the major measures) encouraging self-isolation вступит в силу (will go into effect) starting Monday. There are медсестры (nurses) at the doors of hospitals, children’s activity centers, and even в московском метро (in Moscow metro), проверяющие температуру у всех, кто заходит внутрь (checking the temperatures of all who pass). 

The new reality can be most felt in the changed details of local жилых кварталов (neighborhoods). Schools have been на свободном посещении (on optional attendance) for about a week and groups of school kids can be seen calmly hanging out on playgrounds and benches during the day. Парковки (parking lots) seem extra full as more people stay in. Местная полиция (local police) усилила патрули (have increased patrols) throughout the city. 

Безошибочный барометр кризиса в России (Russia’s great crisis barometer), however, is always отдел с гречкой (the buckwheat aisle) в ближайшем супермаркете (at the local grocery store). I’ve lived through a few crises in Russia –  the economic crisis of 2008, обвал рубля (the ruble meltdown) of 2014, and now глобальный кризис здравоохранения (the global health crisis) of 2020. Всякий раз (at each turn), Russians have always turned to one item: buckwheat. As soon as any sign of crisis can be felt, this traditional staple разлетается с полок (is snapped off the shelves), a sign that Russians are calmly and logically planning how to пережить следующее испытание (make it through the next challenge). (And there are some good reasons for this – we’ve written about them here

The generally спокойный и практичный характер россиян (calm and practical nature of the Russians) is something I’ve always respected. It’s also something I’ve always ценил (valued) в своих коллегах (in my place of employment). 

SRAS views this as the crisis that it is, but also as something that мы можем преодолеть при грамотном планировании (we can get through with proper planning). Мы также не прекращаем деятельность (we will also not simply shut down) over what could be a very quiet summer. We have always been an organization, у которой гораздо больше идей, чем времени на их воплощение (with far more ideas than time). The next few months will thus be used to play с идеями, которые мы откладывали на потом (with more of our backburner ideas). We hope to закончить это лето (come out of this summer) with new materials, improved internal processes, and even more ideas on how to пробудить в студентах интерес к глобальному мышлению и изучению новых языков (excite students about thinking globally and learning languages).

Чтобы повторить лексику  и потренировать понимание устной речи (work on listening comprehension), давайте посмотрим репортаж (report) о противовирусных мерах, принятых в Москве в конце марта:


Listening Comprehension

На три недели (Note: впоследствии срок был продлен до 30 апреля).

Концерты, кино, дискотеки, спортивные матчи.

Будут покупать лекарства и продукты, выгуливать домашних животных и покупать для них корм, оказывать небольшую бытовую помощь.

Будет сокращено количество пленарных заседаний (plenary meetings), отменены круглые столы с участием экспертов.

Эскалаторы, поезда и автоматы по продаже билетов дезинфицируют каждый час.


*Ложка меда в бочке дегтя (literal translation – a spoonful of honey in a barrel of tar) – is a Russian saying used when something good needs to be found in a difficult situation 

About the author

Alex Sitnikov

Alex Sitnikov

Alex holds a BA in Teaching Russian as a Foreign Language (RFL) and an MA in Translation. He came to Moscow from Tolyatti to study at Lomonosov Moscow State University in 2013 and has been in love with the city ever since. Alex coordinates student activities in Moscow for SRAS. When he’s not occupied with that, Alex likes to play guitar, sing, read, play videogames, and make YouTube videos.

Program attended: SRAS Staff Member

View all posts by: Alex Sitnikov