The following bilingual Russian MiniLesson is meant to build your vocabulary by providing Russian phrases within English text. Hover over the bold Russian to reveal its English translation.
Russians are often superstitious and regard discussions of death or illness as unpleasant or even dangerous. However, as with all cultures, death does play a significant part in Russian folklore and modern Russian culture. The following mini-lesson is designed to very briefly introduce students to this and the vocabulary that surrounds it.
is a central theme of many Russian myths and fairy-tales. There are many in Russian folklore show that a person might (note the use of the perfective tense). For example, if a person dreams of white clothing, a white horse, a house without windows, an egg, or is met in a dream by a deceased relative who invites the dreamer to follow him/her someplace. Death sometimes follows certain events such as a dog howls for a long time, a hen’s crow, a bird beating against a window pane, the walls and the floor of a house producing cracking sounds, or falling stars.
Many social historians argue that Russians of 100 years ago were not afraid of cмерть and perceived it as a wholly natural phenomenon. There was a popular proverb. Russians held the folk belief that if a person died , he/she will go to . «Тот свет» resembles our world: there are fields and meadows, houses where the souls of the dead reside. They live with their families and do their daily work – but surrounded by gold and silver palaces and rivers that flow with milk.
can bother living people if the покойник was a or or if he/she . There are many Russian fairy tales that center on the at night and going to village to kill the living. Often in these cases a smart (also ‘солдат’ is used) or a will happen to be nearby and will the unfortunate victims after forcing the deceased to tell him how this can be done.
Russians divide deaths into two groups:and which can also be . Преждевременная смерть can happen or it can be . People present their condolences to the deceased person’s relatives by saying: . They will attend and to honor the deceased.
When Patriarch Alexei II died in 2008, we heard western newscasters on CNN and BBC refer to Russian traditional funeral practices as “involved,” “strict,” and “very, very long.” Of course, to most Russians, the practices are rather “normal,” “reverential,” and, of course, “Orthodox.” This month’s Russian Mini-Lesson explores these traditional practices and the vocabulary related to them.
, much like the says that should, if possible, , , and . If you have a relative or friend who is gravely sick, you should and that person of any offense they may have caused you.
According to, should be and in clean and preferably new clothes in order to in purity. is placed in , a corner of a Russian home traditionally reserved for icons. The deceased’s head should point to the icons. Покойник is covered with white , with eyes and mouth closed, arms folded on the chest with the right arm on the top of the left, and a white handkerchief placed into the right hand. The arms and legs of покойник are tied together. They are untied during a later part of the funeral, the .
is placed into the left hand, and is put on the chest. For men, the Icon of Christ is used and for women, the Icon of the Mother of God. is a paper strip with the picture of God, the Mother of God, and John the Baptist and is placed on the forehead of покойник to symbolize that покойник observed the canons of the faith during his/her life.
Before placingin , and гроб should be . Under the head of усопший, a pillow is put. Four are placed around покойник – one at the head, one at the feet and two on the sides at the level of the folded arms, symbolizing a cross.
Psalms should be continually read over theuntil . If is invited, he conducts .
Whenis at home, relatives and friends come to . The most appropriate ritual of parting is and . If one did not have a chance to do so while the deceased was living, one should also and .
takes place on the third day after the death.
Гроб с покойным is taken from the house. According to the Orthodox Church traditions, should carry the coffin.
First, покойник is taken to the church for. After that, покойник is taken to .
, in accordance with the Christian belief that the body of Christ was buried with his head pointed to the West and the face – to the East. All people in attendance . is set at the feet of покойник.
The funeral ends with, where special dishes are offered, such as and . According to the Orthodox tradition, should not involve alcohol. Prayer at this time is considered especially important, and prayer and alcohol are considered incompatible by the Orthodox Church.
Усопший should beon the third, ninth, and fortieth day after . are also arranged on the third, ninth, and fortieth days, and people can visit these поминки without being invited. On all other days, поминки may be held and only relatives and close friends invited. One should arrange church prayers for the dead immediately after the death. For example, the is especially important.
The prayer schedule corresponds with Orthodox beliefs about the path the soul takes in the after life. For the first two days,of the dead person has relative freedom. It stays near the deceased’s body and can visit its favorite earthly places. On the third day, душа must make its way to heaven, but is blocked by evil spirits that accuse it of various sins. After the third day, душа is shown for 6 days. On the ninth day, by angels to worship God. Душа is also shown Hell and moves between Heaven and Hell for 37 days. On the fortieth day, it is given a place to be until and . Prayers for the dead help it on its course.