Kolvirt.

Jonathan Morse posts about an amusing linguistic discovery:

This Yiddish-language recruiting poster for a settlement in the Soviet Union’s Jewish Autonomous Region translates in part as, “Come to us in קאָלװירט.” But what might that last word, kolvirt, mean? The other day my own Yiddish wasn’t good enough to help, and I couldn’t find the word in any Yiddish dictionary.

A machine translation rendered it as “Calvary,” but eventually he ran across the Wiktionary article, which translated it “kolkhoz (farming collective)” and explained that it’s short for “Contraction of קאָלעקטיווער ווירטשאַפט‎ (kolektiver virtshaft, ‘collective economy’).” Whoda thunkit!

Comments

  1. Totally transparent for any Russian familiar with the history of the times. Where else they’d invite you to come, which begins with kol-?

    There is even a chastushka following up on this poster,

    Приезжай ко мне в колхоз
    С чемоданом кожаным,
    А уедешь ты обратно
    с х*ем отмороженным

  2. Ha!

  3. David Marjanović says:

    + 1

  4. Very lucky, as the Wiktionary page wasn’t created until 9 September of this year.

  5. In 1970 when I briefly studied Russian (Russian was the language my school thought was going to be the most useful in the future for English speakers and I’m pretty sure I know what they had in mind) колхоз and красный (карандаш) were some of the first nouns we had to memorise. It seemed odd.

  6. I’d ask if you were recruited for MI5 but if you told me you’d have to kill me, so I won’t.

  7. David Marjanović says:

    the most useful in the future

    Cold War half-joke: “optimists learn Russian, pessimists learn Chinese”.

  8. .. and pragmatists the Kalashnikov.

  9. Hardly recruited in secondary school, but perhaps preparation for perhaps being recruited in future.

  10. But was he in preparation of being recruited by one of them?

  11. Hardly recruited in secondary school
    You don’t know my secondary school, John. They had to work fast in those days. The headmaster had been Montgomery’s adjutant at El Alamein but it seems likely he’d been recruited by the НКВД at Cambridge. Far from having Language bumped off I’d ask him to translate my Russian memoirs.

  12. David Marjanović says:

    .. and pragmatists the Kalashnikov.

    That reminds me of the joke about the existence of the Austrian army.

    How long do the Russians need to overcome the Alps?
    A quarter of an hour. Ten minutes for laughing, five minutes for climbing.

  13. Stu Clayton says:

    I just read in Spiegel that Austria has returned to the 18C. It had armies in those days !

  14. Are they going to take back Silesia?

  15. Not to mention the county of Zips.

  16. “Austria takes nothing from her neighbor, sire, except that which belongs to her,” replied Kaunitz, quietly.

  17. Stu Clayton says:

    I read a bit further. Unfortunately the article is written by a lady novelist whose thought processes are so elevated that I can’t follow. Silesia is not mentioned.

    # Einen Nationalismus des Österreichischen hat es nie gegeben. Immer war Zisleithanien mit dem Haus Habsburg selbst identifiziert. Das hat sich im Katholisch-Sein ausgedrückt. Der Austrofaschismus war dann der offene Auftritt, der von Sonnenfels verlangten Beschränkung des Bürgers in die Herrschaft des Staats. Nun ohne einen Kaiser. Aber tief in der Kultur des Katholischen. Die deutschnationalistischen Männer lachten über die Austrofaschisten als weibische Papisten. #

  18. Ooh, weibische Papisten! That’s telling ’em!

  19. Stu Clayton says:

    It’s all so operettenhaft. Much more entertaining than our daily reruns of Fucknutsville.

  20. David Eddyshaw says:

    My old Russian teacher (I was a poor student, alas) said that in his experience there were two kinds of Russian teacher in UK schools: those who had taught themselves out of the Penguin Russian Course and those who’d learnt it in the army.

  21. Austria takes nothing from her neighbor, sire, except that which belongs to her

    When Sergei Witte went to Portsmouth conference, which ended Russo-Japanese war, he had been instructed by a high ranking Russian official to give up only the lands that are not “ours”. I am not sure how half of Sakhalin is counted. Witte has been made count for his efforts. I wonder if anybody is going to get peerage for Brexit…

  22. David Marjanović says:

    Austrofascism was an extremely humorless system to live in, and actually very similar to the original fascism in ideology; but from a safe distance it’s great fun.

  23. Have there ever been any larky, fun-filled varieties of fascism?

  24. David Marjanović says:

    The original kinda tried. Duuuceee, tu fà la luuuceee, Duce – Duce – Duce!!!

  25. Even better, Gabriele D’Annunzio

  26. Magyarofascism was pretty funny in its way. A kingdom without a king! A landlocked country ruled by an admiral. But of course you didn’t dare say so at the time.

  27. J.W. Brewer says:

    “Austrofascism” was an exonym rather than an endonym. You might think that the fact that the Actual Nazis hated it and violently suppressed it would entitle it to be judged charitably in hindsight, but apparently not. (I mean, I’m certainly not saying it was superior to liberal democracy, but the Austrians had already demonstrated that they couldn’t figure out how to actually operate a liberal democratic regime to save their lives. Although maybe the instruction manual Pres. Wilson bequeathed them was badly translated?)

  28. There is a natural tendency to combine all the pre-Second-World-War European right-wing dictatorships under the label “fascism.” However, there was often a meaningful difference between having an ultraconservative, militaristic, authoritarian regime and one that truly was (or at least aspired to be) totalitarian. On the other hand, of course, trying to draw a sharp distinction between merely rightist and truly fascist regimes is also a mistake; the authoritarian governments existed on a (multidimensional) continuum—with regimes like Salazar’s Estado Novo in Portugal at one extreme, versus Pavelic’s Croatian Ustashe toward the other end.

    Hungary, in particular, had a change in government during the war, which illuminated sharply the real differences between the different forms that right-wing regimes could take. Horthy’s conservative dictatorship were looking at the situation in 1944, when they were facing imminent invasion by Soviet forces, and their resolve to stand firm at Hitler’s side was faltering. So the Nazi’s replaced Horthy’s government with the nastier and much more clearly fascist Arrow Cross, led by Szalasi. Under the Arrow Cross, Hungary was completely a puppet of the Nazis, and the overall situation in the country worsened considerably.

  29. There was a populist politician in Denmark back in 1960s. He proposed to balance the budget by eliminating military expenditure and abolishing Danish army altogether. He claimed Denmark only needs one officer in the armed forces who knows just two words in Russian: “We surrender!”.

  30. to give up only the lands that are not “ours”. I am not sure how half of Sakhalin is counted.

    At the time it was thought that Russia proper ended at Urals. So he could give up half of Siberia, it still wouldn’t bother people in European Russia much.

  31. two kinds of Russian teacher in UK schools: those who had taught themselves out of the Penguin Russian Course and those who’d learnt it in the army.

    My school textbook, three feet away from me on a shelf right now. Our teacher was a chain-smoking jazz trumpeter who mostly taught French and was just about old enough to have done National Service. So he might have been either but he was very particular about pronunciation, which implies the army. He used to repeat the word должен a lot. I still remember the first words of the first class, вот стул! while he waved a chair around in the air by its leg.

  32. The kind of language you learn in the military

    https://youtu.be/9esOBGApSnA

  33. Huh. That’s a good site for the likes of me.

  34. That’s a hilarious movie and a major building block of modern Russian culture (there were equally popular sequels).

  35. There is a natural tendency to combine all the pre-Second-World-War European right-wing dictatorships under the label “fascism.” However, there was often a meaningful difference between having an ultraconservative, militaristic, authoritarian regime and one that truly was (or at least aspired to be) totalitarian. On the other hand, of course, trying to draw a sharp distinction between merely rightist and truly fascist regimes is also a mistake; the authoritarian governments existed on a (multidimensional) continuum—with regimes like Salazar’s Estado Novo in Portugal at one extreme, versus Pavelic’s Croatian Ustashe toward the other end.

    This is a problem that has often perplexed me. It’s so hard to talk about these things, especially today, when “fascism” has taken on a whole new life as an insult/descriptor.

  36. The Portsmouth treaty was a good deal for Russia. It ceded its leaseholds in Manchuria but kept the northern railway, the KVZhD. It handed over South Sakhalin, which had only been under unilateral Russian control for 30 years and had a very limited Russian settler population. In contrast, the Far East had become more or less “ours” from the Russian standpoint thanks to the large-scale migration starting around 1880, the last wave of Russian agricultural colonization (more Ukrainian than Greater Russian in this case).

  37. Stu Clayton says:

    The addition of the qualifiers “merely” and “truly” in front of “rightist” and “totalitarian” only exacerbate the difficulty, which is the attempt to analyze a complex whole as a sum of distinctive, standalone parts. Not every complexity is mereological.

  38. a (multidimensional) continuum—with regimes like Salazar’s Estado Novo in Portugal at one extreme, versus Pavelic’s Croatian Ustashe toward the other end.
    What makes these two the extremes?

  39. Stu Clayton says:

    Especially given that mutiple dimensions are being invoked, not just one.

  40. PlasticPaddy says:

    Another point would be that totalitarian (and indeed any) states behave differently in colonial or occupied territories. Thus the “anti-terrorist” and other activities of the Italian fascists in Libya resulted in a measurable population decrease, which was not equalled in Italy.

  41. Trond Engen says:

    AJP: What makes these two the extremes?

    Following Brett’s own argument, presumably extremes along one (or more) of many possible and never quite independent axes. One such axis might be propensity for violence, another support for traditional sources of authority, a third interest in civil administration, a fourth degree of racism, etc.

  42. the Austrians had already demonstrated that they couldn’t figure out how to actually operate a liberal democratic regime to save their lives

    How so? Red Vienna was a very successful social model eventually undermined by the Great Depression, a reactionary Catholic Church and outside meddling from angry neighbors. The Austrians kept a liberal democracy going under trying circumstances longer than the Germans at any rate.

  43. @Trond Engen: Those were just about exactly the axes I was thinking of, and you are also right, of course, that they are not perfectly orthogonal. My specific examples I came up with off the cuff, although I deliberately picked two of the lesser-known regimes of the period. The differences between the tenors of the Estado Novo and Ustashe governments were quite pronounced of the racism, traditionalism, and murderousness axes.

    @PlasticPaddy: One of Hannah Arendt’s lesser-known theses in The Origins of Totalitarianism was that totalitarianism involved a reimportation of colonial violence back to Europe. Of course, the situations in the colonies varied a great deal. Gandhi, for example, thought that the ill-treatment of indigenes that he witnessed in India and elsewhere in the British Empire was typical of the worst excesses of colonialism, when in fact it was nowhere close to what happened in some other colonies, such as German Southwest Africa or the Belgian Congo (where, for a while, severed human hands served as a major form of currency).

  44. Just one universe away, Bavaria is still Red, and the Holy Roman Emperor (who is head of state despite Napoleon and the Great Wars) is known officially as “Genosse Waiblingen, Generalkapitän der Roten Armee von Bayern”.

  45. Nine out of Ten. One point off for not using “Fraktion.”

  46. David Marjanović says:

    You might think that the fact that the Actual Nazis hated it and violently suppressed it would entitle it to be judged charitably in hindsight, but apparently not.

    It is being judged charitably in comparison to the Actual Nazis! 🙂

    longer than the Germans at any rate.

    Well, for one year. Then the civil mini-war happened, and the conservatives took over.

    Red Vienna immediately sprang back up in 1945, BTW, and is still going, though lately the Greens had to be taken on as a coalition partner to stave off the totally-not-Brown Blues.

    Bavaria is still Red

    That is just too tempting to pass up, isn’t it.

  47. a reactionary Catholic Church

    Excellent example of “a” used “before a proper noun to distinguish the condition of the referent from a usual, former, or hypothetical condition”. I take it to mean the Catholic Church in Vienna at that time was more reactionary than it was in other times and places.

  48. Especially in a world where Communist parties never have large-scale success: the Whites win in Russia and establish SNORist (Союз Народного Обновления России) parties that rule Eastern Europe and other parts of the world, including Lebanon, until the early 1990s. The Yorkshire group NoMoreEagleZ (the name refers to the SNORist flag) wrote a song about it, “Far from the S.N.O.R.”, that became an international hit in 1974:

    Flew in to Virginia Beach, BOAC
    Didn’t get to bed last night
    Oh, the way the paper bag was on my knee
    Man, I had a dreadful flight
    I’m far from the S.N.O.R.
    You don’t know how lucky you are, boy
    Far from S.N.O.R., yeah

    Been away so long I hardly knew this place
    Gee, it’s good to be back home
    Leave it till tomorrow to unpack my case
    Honey reconnect the phone
    I’m far from the S.N.O.R.
    You don’t know how lucky you are, boy
    Far from the S.N.
    Far from the S.N.
    Far from the S.N.O.R.

    Well the Petrograd girls really knock me out
    They make me leave the west behind
    And Moscow girls make me scream and shout
    And Vozgia’s always on my my my my my my my my my mind
    Oh, come on
    Hu Hey Hu, hey, ah, yeah
    yeah, yeah, yeah
    I’m far from the S.N.O.R.
    You don’t know how lucky you are, boys
    Far from the S.N.O.R.

    Well the Petrograd girls really knock me out
    They make me leave the west behind
    And Moscow girls make me scream and shout
    And Vozgia’s always on my my my my my my my my my mind

    Oh, show me round your snow peaked
    mountain way down south
    Take me to you daddy’s farm
    Let me hear you balalaika’s ringing out
    Come and keep your comrade warm
    I’m far from the S.N.O.R.
    Hey, You don’t know how lucky you are, boy
    Far from the S.N.O.R.
    Oh, let me tell you honey …

  49. J.W. Brewer says:

    I should be perhaps clearer that it’s certainly not as if the Austrians were uniquely or unusually bad at doing the stable-liberal-democracy thing. By 1939 the only place in Europe east of France and south of Denmark where the stable-liberal-democracy thing was still operational was Switzerland, which probably not by coincidence was the only place in the same vast region where it had already been reasonably deeply rooted before 1914. It is polite, and maybe even true, to note that liberal democracy fell in Czechoslovakia only as the specific result of external force, but who’s to say if its luck would have continued to hold.

  50. totalitarianism involved a reimportation of colonial violence back to Europe

    Yep. One of the weirdest ideas of Hitler was that Russia could be made into a typical African colony where Russians would play role of Negroes while German settlers would be the white master race.

    This marvelous colonial fantasy ended up with German POWs serving as menial labor in Siberia.

  51. David Marjanović says:

    I take it to mean the Catholic Church in Vienna at that time was more reactionary than it was in other times and places.

    It was. It was a lot like under Franco or Perón.

  52. There is (or there was) also in Soviet Yiddish : Sovirt for Sovkhoz.

  53. A nice companion word, and just as impenetrable if you don’t know it!

  54. “those who had taught themselves out of the Penguin Russian Course and those who’d learnt it in the army”

    Four of Britain’s best modern playwrights, Alan Bennett, Dennis Potter, DM Thomas and Michael Frayn, were alumni of the Joint Services School for Linguists – all studied Russian. As did National Theatre head Sir Peter Hall.

  55. I once met a group of Japanese “experts” in Mongolia. Officially they were just that – ordinary highly paid consultants for Japanese aid project in Mongolia. Unusually they all spoke fluent (if accented) Mongolian – as they explained they picked it up after spending two years in rural Mongolia conducting research for that aid project.

    Maybe I am paranoid, but I still suspect that I accidentally run into Japanese intelligence operation. They likely needed Japanese officers fluent in Mongolian (the country traditionally was used by the West as a base for intelligence gathering operations against China and Russia) and manufactured both pretext and means to make it happen.

    CIA guys are even easier to spot though they don’t flaunt their language skills (I guess there is internal regulation on the subject)

  56. CIA guys are even easier to spot

    There is a parachute trailing behind them?

  57. Almost. The record has to be the a thirty minute conversation I had in a plane with a guy who worked at the American embassy in Ulaanbaatar.

    I could tell immediately that he was former military by his looks alone, but after we talked a bit about common interests and his job at the embassy, it clicked – CIA.

    Of course, special “I am CIA” vibe comes from operatives only, informants for the agency are just ordinary people. You’ll have to be trained in counter-intelligence to get them.

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