YANA DJIN

1234 BEST THINGS RUSSIANS EVER SAID

(A Book Of Russian Aphorisms
Compiled And Translated By Yana Djin)



 
PREFACE

INDEX: LIST OF TOPICS

INDEX: LIST OF NAMES


 
PREFACE

       In the beginning was the Word. 
 So we’ve been told, at least. This phrase has become an axiom in the civilized world, and like everything that becomes an axiom, it has lost the power of persuasion. In the same way that the irrefutable truth of 2+2=4 has lost the power of surprise and has become a cliche. 
      Yet, a cliche, any cliche, is, probably, the only thing that can reawaken us from our tired daily lives, overstuffed with unnecessary, because thought-up, complications. 
      It is an unfortunate thing that we get used to things, and it is just as irrefutable that, indeed, we get used to anything, be it the death of loved one(s), utter happiness, the state called love, global tragedy, etc. 
      Perhaps, looking at this through the eye of a cold observer, we will consider ourselves, the human race, that is, blessed that we have this ability - for, seemingly, it is the only thing that allows us to survive and drag through life. It is a different question altogether, whether survival of the sort, this “dragging through”, is worth it. Whether the lackluster existence of an amoeba, granted safe, is what befits a creature called man. Whether survival at any cost justifies Maxim Gorky’s rather impetuous comment that “A man - sounds proudly!” So, is it worth it?
      The answer to this question, I’m afraid, varies, for it depends on one’s temperament. The same Maxim Gorky would answer “no, it isn’t“; mere survival at the expense of “getting used to anything” is humiliating and, in such cases, the notion of a man, rather than sounding proudly, sinks into the abyss of vulgarity. It is a matter of temperament... 
      Those whose temperament coincides with that of Gorky are, I’m afraid, in the ranks of minority. 
      The majority considers survival at any cost as their primary goal - even at the expense of going through life in a somnabular state. It is much easier to get used to than to oppose; after all, we become numb to joy and pain and learn to “survive”, to live evenly like a cardiogramm of a deadman. 
       Any calamity, personal or all-involving, becomes matter of fact, matter of getting used to after the initial, short-lived stir. In the 80’s, the Aids phenomenon had caused such a stir, but now Aids is almost a household name which evokes not the inevitable horror that it should, but rather mild discomfort expressed in the all-too-correct and justifiable habit of wearing a condom. We got used to it. It doesn’t surprise us any longer. It is not entirely implausible to imagine that humanity would propose to multiply through budding in the near future. (We could only pray that it won’t happen in our future.)
       There have been many definitions of creativity. I believe, that it is the ability to get astonished. Or, if you will, it is the ability to keep on feeling pain and joy as sharply as they are meant to be felt, the ability to refuse the numb inner existence, the ability to notice instead of turning one’s back.
       I would encourage the reader to look at the present book in this light - as a collection of aphorisms and sayings by people who have retained the rare capacity to get astonished, who, though, like all of us, overwhelmed by the weighty dilemma of earning the daily bread, felt not only their own hunger but that of others’ as well.
      Besides the above-mentioned ability, all of the people quoted in this book have another thing in common: they expressed their “astonishment” in the same language - Russian.
      In the beginning was the word - so says the Book, translated into all the existing languages. The Bible held the Word as the first cause of existence.
      Throughout the universe, the Word is loosing its esteem and has been, or is being replaced by temporary values which, alas, are going to prove too weak to fight the ever-accelerating current of Time. 
      Even in Russia, which historically is the land of the word, the latter is dissipating in its influence. And undestandably so. With the borders between East and West becoming more and more penetratable, the values of the two also become mutually exchangeable. 
      Russia has always been the land where the power of the word reaches insurmountable heights. Poets and writers, not statesmen and generals, are regarded as national mentors: Alexander Pushkin and Leo Tolstoy play a much more important role in the average Russian’s development than Empress Catherine or General Budyonny. 
      America, on the other hand, is generally considered the land of deeds: it builds, produces, exports, imports, moves, and shakes. One is more likely to catch an average American over a book by Donald Trump or Bill Clinton rather than Marc Twain or Robert Frost. Perhaps, that explains that, as a whole, Americans are seemingly a happier nation. 
      If the West, and primarily the USA, is instructing the Russians in business etiquette, and from what we can see, Russia is adapting quickly, it would be at least a sign of a different sort of ettiquette on behalf of Americans to adapt some of the values of Russia as well, the most important one being, their respect for the written word. 
      I doubt that it would prove destructive to the established system of US values. After all, it did not prove strong enough to uphold the value system that existed in Russia itself.
      So if there is nothing to fear, what is the point? Where is that power of the Biblical Word if it could neither destroy, nor uphold? Is literature and poetry simply another form af an aberration that has nothing to do with real life? Or is life, perhaps, a form of an aberration in itself? The answers, once again, depend on one’s temperament.
      Those, whose temperament coincides with that of Joseph Brodsky, one of the greatest poets who wrote in Russian, will have to agree with him that: “Existence which does not live up to the standards set forth in literature is not worth pursuing.” 
      But again, they will be in the minority. 
      The majority believes in the opposite - that a word is a word and a deed is a deed, and never the wain shall meet. I’m afraid, Leo Tolstoy spoke for himself and very few others like him when he said that a word is already a deed. 
       In practice, they are diametrically opposed. It is my opinion, that herein lies the cause of all of our misfortunes - in our exodus from the Word. Herein lies the cause of all the hypocrisy - personal and global. We say one thing, but we do another; we appreciate a beautiful poem on love, but the very next day we are disrespectful towards the love of others; we admire selfless acts of heroism, but we teach and encourage our children to be greedy, egocentric, in-step-with-time. 
       And all this, without the slightest tinge of conscience - after all, we are here to survive at any cost. 
       We forget that no idea in practice, whether it deals with a close circle or society as a whole, is just if it swerves from the word out of which it was born, even if it justifies the goal, because there is something which ranks higher than justice - and that is mercy. And we are not merciful because mercy requires inner stregth, whereas mankind as a whole, is a conglomerate of cowards. Even a weakling can be just, but only a strong man can be merciful. And besides, what justice can there be without mercy?! 
       Unfortunately, all of man’s great ideas, for instance, the idea of equality that was implemented in Russia in the form of the Socialist revolution, were originally founded on the stive for justice, but in practice, turned out to be based on blood of the guilty, as well as the non-guilty. 
       Come to think of it, man has not yet created a system, a society that did not cost the blood of countless people. 
       American democracy which was for the “poor and the hungry” caused an almost entire annihilation of the Indian nation as well as the enslavement of the whole race. Word is not a deed, and man - does not sound proudly! Perhaps, if we could only go back to cliches... 
       But then, we’d have to become monkeys and there aren’t enough trees left for all of us. Once again, our hopes lie with the Second Coming of Christ who, this time, must succeed in returning the Deed back to the Word. 
       In the meantime, we wait, surrounded by contradiction and hypocrisy. 
       We wait, make life, and at times, leaf through books. 
       We wait and realize more and more that it is easier to write well than to live well. 
       One needs to have talent for the first, but for the second. a much more difficult quality is required - a soul. 
       And with years it recedes from pain. “To really live is painful.”
 

       This book is the compilation of spiritual nostalgia as it is expressed by the best minds that created or continue to create in the Russian language, within the borders, as well as outside the borders of the former Soviet Union. 
        It is the first of its kind in the English language and it includes excerpts from prose, poetry, proverbs, sayings -- old and new -- that best exemplify the character of the Russian soul. 
        In choosing the aphorisms, my intention was to present to the reader not the commonly known truths, but those which are peculiarly Russian in style and content. The book is divided into 85 themes, each of which is highly controversial, in the sense that it is unresolved, and therefore, still very much alive. 
        It is a book that illuminates the essences of existence from the Russian perspective, essences which once resolved, will be replaced by new, yet unknown mysteries to ponder over. 
        It is a book that shows the multi-dimensional polarity of the Russian thought and I hope that after glancing through it the reader will join me in repeating after Nikolai Gogol: “Yes! The Russian folk expresses itself forcefully!” 

Yana Djin

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INDEX

LIST OF TOPICS

 1. Absurd
 2. Action/Deed
 3. Alcohol
 4. America
 5. Anarchy
 6. Art
 7. Beauty
 8. Beginning
 9. Bravery/Cowardice
10. Capitalism
11. Career
12. Caution
13. Children
14. Communication
15. Communism
16. Conscience
17. Death
18. Despotism
19. Duty
20. Faith
21. Freedom
22. Friendship
23. God
24. Good/Evil
25. Happiness
26. Health/Illness
27. History
28. Home/Homelessness/Emigration
29. Hope
30. Hunger
31. Illusion/Reality
32. Indifference
33. Individualism
34. Jews
35. Joy
36. Judgment
37. Kindness
38. Knowledge
39. Laughter
40. Law
41. Laziness
42. Life
43. Love
44. Man
45. Marriage
46. Masses/People
47. Mistakes
48. Nature
49. Old Age/Youth
50. Opinion
51. Optimism/Pessimism
52. Passions
53. Patience
54. Patriotism
55. Philosophy
56. Plagiarism
57. Poverty/Riches
58. Power
59. Punishment
60. Progress
61. Relativity
62. Religion
63. Revolution
64. Russia/Russians
65. Sadness
66. Self-Improvement
67. Simplicity
68. Sin
69. Socialism
70. Soul
71. Stupidity
72. Suffering
73. Suicide
74. Talent
75. Thinking/Thought
76. Time
77. Tradition
78. Truth/Lie
79. Vanity
80. War/Peace
81. Wisdom
82. Woman
83. Word
84. Work/Labor
85.Writing/Literature
 
 














1.  ABSURD
 

There is no sense in anything to such a degree that even if there were some sense in something - then what could be the sense of it?!

                                                       N. Djin
The absurd is only too necessary on earth. The world stands on absurdities.
                                                       F. Dostoevsky
God sets us nothing but riddles.
                                                       F. Dostoevsky
Sometimes that which seems strange is, in reality, simply absurd.
                                                       Contemporary Saying
What is most absurd is that absurdities need to be disproved.
                                                       Contemporary Saying
In reality, everything is not as it really is.
                                                       V. Gandelsman
No ideas, no love or forgiveness, no harmony, in brief, nothing that sages have devised from ancient times can justify the nonsense and absurdity in the fate of an individual person.
                                                       L. Shestov


 
 
 

2. ACTION/DEED
 

I am a man of my word. As for actions - that’s not my specialty.

                                                       Contemporary Saying
Judge the trees by their fruits and the people by their deeds.
                                                      Proverb
Not he is good whose face is benign, but he whose deeds are fine.
                                                       Proverb
The day is praised by the evening.
                                                       Proverb
Lazy hands are no match for a clever head.
                                                       Proverb


 
 

3. ALCOHOL/ DRINKING
 

Men drank and died, still drink and die.
But shall death pass non-drinkers by? 

                                                     R. Gamzatov
Come drink, procrastinator,
We’ll find a reason later!
                                                    R. Gamzatov
A ban on drink won’t stop a drinking man,
Nor does it stop the authors of the ban.
                                                   R. Gamzatov
A wise man drank, into a fool he grew.
The opposite has often happened, too.
                                                   R. Gamzatov
Wine suits all men, it’s such 
A pleasure to consume.
But you must know how much,
Why, when, where... and with whom.
                                                  R. Gamzatov 
After an alcoholic’s wife presented her husband with an ultimatum to choose between his marriage and vodka, the former asked: “ How much vodka are we talking about?!”
                                                 Joke
I’d rather, if you ask me,
                         die of drink,
Than die of boredom,
                         or live a bore.
                                                 V. Mayakovsky
Let us fill our cups and bury
All our woes in frothing wine.
                                                 A. Pushkin
When black thoughts bother you,
the sure cure
is to uncork a bottle of champagne.
                                                 A. Pushkin
The question is: whom will I drink with tomorrow
                   amongst those with whom I’m drinking today?
                                                V. Vysotsky
Those who don’t eat, don’t drink.
                                                V. Vysotsky
(a parody on the Soviet slogan: Those who don’t 
work, don’t eat.)


 
 

4. AMERICA
 

I keep wondering what provokes so many people in Latin America, Russia, and Europe to anti-American sentiment of such intensity that it can only be called hatred. There is something oddly hysterical about it all, as if America were not a country but a woman who has hurt a man’s pride by cheating on him.

                                                           V. Aksyonov
New York is like a guy who perfumes his hair every day but forgets to use the toilet paper.
                                                           V. Aksyonov
From today’s vantage point the Russian Revolution looks like nothing so much as an outmoded and absurd act of violence. American capitalism, on the other hand, is on its way to a truly new, as yet unknown and undefined age of liberalism.
                                                           V. Aksyonov
East is one exit out of the boundaries of European culture; America - is another.
                                                           N. Berdyaev
In order to be heard, one has to speak in half-a-whisper in America.
                                                           S. Dovlatov
President Roosevelt proved that a President could serve for life. Truman proved that anyone could be elected. Eisenhower proved that your country could be run without a President.
                                                           N. Khrushchev
I’m wild about New York City,
Though I’m not about to bow to you.
We, Soviets, have our own pride
And look down at the bourgeois
With our noses in the air.
                                                          V. Mayakovsky
Western thinking has become conservative; the world situation should stay as it is at any cost; there should be no changes. This debilitating status quo is the symptom of a society that has come to the end of its development.
                                                          A. Solzhenitsyn
Yes, it is impossible for a society to remain in the abyss of lawlessness as in our country (USSR); however, it is more than demeaning for it to stay on such a soulless and smooth plane of legalism as in yours, the USA.
                                                           A. Solzhenitsyn
It seems to me that an American lives for today presupposing that tomorrow will be better. A Soviet man, however, torturously remembers his yesterday, cherishing a dim hope that tomorrow will be just a little worse than today.
                                                           A.Vainer


 
 

5. ANARCHY
 

Democracy is but one form of state, and we Marxists are opposed to all and every kind of state.

                                                          V. Lenin
While the state exists, there is no freedom. When there is freedom, there is no state.
                                                          V. Lenin
Government is an association of men who do violence to the rest of us.
                                                          L.Tolstoy


 
 

6. ART
 

World was created by the artist after his own image so that there should be another artist who would appreciate it. An artist needed another artist: he could not be alone. The Creator needed Adam more than Adam needed Him. Only in the artist one can find if not the answer, then, a response; if not love, then, pity. 

              A. Bitov
For man art is as vital as eating and drinking.
                                                         F. Dostoevsky
I occasionally play works by contemporary composers and for two reasons. First, to discourage the composer from writing anymore, and, secondly, to remind myself how much I appreciate Beethoven.
                                                         Y. Heifetz
Art is not a mirror to reflect the world, but a hammer with which to shape it.
                                                          V. Mayakovsky
Beauty plus pity - that is the closest we can get to a definition of art.
                                                          V. Nabokov
All music bores me to death after some time.
                                                          V. Nabokov
Self-giving is the purpose of creation.
And not the hum-drum, not the fame.
Being a subject of everyone’s elation,
When you yourself don’t mean much,
                                      is a shame.
                                                          B. Pasternak
The craft fears the craftsman.
                                                          Proverb
Art is a human activity whose goal is to communicate to people those of the higher and better feelings that mankind has achieved.
                                                          L. Tolstoy
Just as a work of thought is a work of thought only when it contains original observations and ideas and not when it only repeats that which is already known, so a work of art is a work of art only then, when it introduces new feelings into the scope of people’s everyday lives.
                                                          L. Tolstoy
It is a terrible mistake to think that the beautiful can be senseless.
                                                          L. Tolstoy
Mediocrity is a possible element in science but as for art and literature, those who don’t reach the highest peaks fall into an abyss.
                                                          L. Tolstoy
Never will a writer invent anything more beautiful and forceful than the truth.
                                                          Y. Tynyanov
Art is the communication of ecstasy.
                                                          P. Uspensky


 
 

7. BEAUTY
 

Beauty elevates the moral virtues.

                                            V. Belinsky
Beauty will save the world.
                                            F. Dostoevsky
The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there, and the battlefield is the heart of man.
                                             F. Dostoevsky
Beautiful children are always born with the women that we love.
                                             L. Leonov
On the neutral land, you know,
There flowers grow,
of extraordinary beauty.
                                             V. Vysotsky


 
 

8. BEGINNING
 

Beginning, even the saddest beginning, is better than the happiest end.

                                                          Sholom Aleichem
The echo responds to the call.
                                                           Proverb
Morning is wiser than night.
                                                          Proverb
The day is praised by the evening.
                                                          Proverb
He did nothing who started nothing.
                                                          Proverb
This is a mere preamble; an amble would follow.
                                                          Proverb
Where is the beginning of that end which ends the beginning.
                                                         K. Prutkov
The first step of an infant is the first step towards his death.
                                                         K. Prutkov
There are three things that once begun are difficult to finish: a) eating delicious food; b)talking to a friend who had just returned from a long journey; and c) scratching where it itches.
                                                         K. Prutkov


 
 

9. BRAVERY/COWARDICE
 

Life will take you by the throat and crush the breath out of you if you face it in mystical terror and servility; look it in the eye.

                                                          V. Belinsky
Don’t be a lamb and wolves won’t eat you.
                                                           Proverb
I am not I, and the hut is not mine.
                                                            Proverb
The decline of courage, of manhood, is perhaps the most striking thing that an outsider notices in the West... Should I remind you that the decline of courage has been considered to be the first sign of the end since the ancient times?
                                                           A. Solzhenitsyn
He who risks his life out of vanity, curiosity, or greed should not be considered brave.
                                                           L. Tolstoy
Galileo’s contemporary scholar
was no stupider than he.
He knew the earth rotates in the solar
system, but he had a family.
                                                           Y. Yevtushenko
People who are ready to move mountains, for some reason, always live in the low-lands.
                                                            Y. Zamyatin


 
 

10. CAPITALISM
 

In America, instead of making revolutions, the workers are buying cars!

                                                              V. Aksyonov
The annihilation of human life taking place in peaceful bourgeois society is no less terrible than that which takes place during a war.
                                                               N. Berdyaev
Capitalism isn’t merely an unjust economic system. It is a way of life that leads to corruption of important values. Television is only one of many examples.
 N. Khrushchev
Democracy for an insignificant minority, democracy for the rich - that is the democracy of capitalistic society.
V. Lenin
Munch on your pineapples
Chew on your grouse.
Your days are numbered,
Bourgeois louse!
V.Mayakovsky


 
 
 

11. CAREER
 

Brevity may indeed be a sister of talent, but a bureaucrat needs much more influential relatives.

                                                       Contemporary Saying
 (Take-off on A. Chekhov’s : “Brevity is the sister of  talent.”)
If you accidentally forgot to greet your boss, make sure to explain to him later that it wasn’t you.
           Contemporary Saying
If your conscience is bugging you because of the work you do, then, it’s time to change one or the other.
          Contemporary Saying
Bosses often forget that their employees are people also, and, thus, do not fell like thinking either.
         Contemporary Saying
Hearts of men born into slavery
Sometimes with dogs’ hearts accord:
Crueler the punishment dealt to them,
More they will worship their lord.
          N. Nekrasov
Your master’s home is like a millstone around your neck.
        Proverb
The master promised a fresh cut, but instead, gave me a kick in the gut.
        Proverb
The higher the rank of the leaders, the lower is their individual value.
A. Zinoviev
One doesn’t “make” a career, it is made by itself. If it is being made, it must be ruined. If a career isn’t rolling along smoothly, then one should wait till it is. Without this, a career is senseless.
A.Zinoviev


 
 

12. CAUTION
 

If you want to be become a portrait, keep within the frames.

     Contemporary Saying
If people carry umbrellas full of holes, then, they must never think that it would ever rain. 
     Contemporary Saying
Don’t play with fire and don’t believe the water.
     Proverb
Look back twice and you’ll gain thrice.
     Proverb
A whisper has a loud echo.
     Proverb
Trust a wolf only when he’s dead.
     Proverb
There are no forests without jackals.
     Proverb
Little birdie, don’t sing yet! First, look out for a cat!
     Proverb
If you are leaving for a day, pack the bread for a week.
     Proverb
A careless calf is a wolf’s treat-n-a-half.
     Proverb
Carelessness has three brothers: “may be”, “anyway”, and “somehow”. 
Proverb
Here a wolf is a shepherd and a fox is a bird-keeper.
Proverb
While you were busy making a deal, the dog stole a peace of veal.
Proverb
When a fox reads sermons, hide your geese.
Proverbs
Galileo’s contemporary scholar
was no stupider than he.
He knew the earth rotates in the solar
system, but he had a family.
Y.Yevtushenko


 
 

13. CHILDREN

Childbearing is a punishment for the sexual act and, at the same time, it is also a redemption of that sin.

     N. Berdyaev
Oh, people! Oh, beasts!
Be more like children!
Understand me, please!
     A. Blok
According to the opinion of adults, an egg cannot teach a hen. According to the opinion of the children, however, a hen is not a bird.
     Contemporary Saying
If you want your children to grow up full-fledged people, start reading to them about animals.
    Contemporary Saying
I begot you! I will kill you!
     N. Gogol
Boys’re bound to grow up pigs,
If the boys are porkers.
     V. Mayakovsky
It’s difficult to get away from your childhood. 
     Shklovsky
Live and behave as though the next generation is watching you.
     M.Svetlov


 
 

14. COMMUNICATION
 

Contact with a fool might prove to be useful if that fool is smarter than you.

     Contemporary Saying
If two people don’t have solitude in common, they usually split up.
     Contemporary Saying
The more you get to know yourself, the less you understand others.
     Contemporary Saying
In order to find a common language with a man, you need to keep quiet.
     Contemporary Saying
In order to understand better your fellow men, you must listen to them less.
     Contemporary Saying
Life should be made in such a way , so that every single person would have at least one place where he could go to.
     F. Dostoevsky
The great are endowed with the talent of recognizing the great in other people.
     N. Karamzin
You are not a human being until you learn to see human beings in all others.
     A. Radischev
We don’t spend enough time with each other; we are always too busy.
V. Shklovsky
A man lives in order to get to the true vision of things; but he must not lose the exit leading to the people.
V. Shklovsky
If you find people a nuisance, you have nothing to live for.
L. Tolstoy
Always look for the good in other people, not for the bad.
L.Tolstoy


 
 

15. COMMUNISM

Communism is mankind’s tomorrow.

     L. Brezhnev
We are in a desperate need of bread, butter, cheese, sausage, milk, cottage cheese, vodka, beer, meat, and other colonial products.
     Contemporary Saying
A communist thinks that it was Sysyphus’ labor that created men.
     Contemporary Saying
Communist is a Russian autocracy turned upside down.
     A. Herzen
If a certain train traveling between two cities is scheduled to run every day, that doesn’t yet mean that it will run on Thursdays as well.
     Joke
Proletarians of all countries, forgive me!
     Joke (Marx’s last words)
The Supreme Soviet consists of people who are capable of nothing and, at the same time, of everything.
     Joke
Adam and Eve must have been originally from the Soviet Union. Otherwise, how else would you explain the fact that having one apple to share, being barefoot and naked, they still considered themselves to be living in Paradise?!
Joke
There would be no stealing whatsoever during communism, because everything would be already stolen during socialism.
Joke
A communist is someone who reads the classics of Marxism-Lenininsm, whereas an anti-communist is someone who understands them.
Joke
All the world will come to communism. History doesn’t ask whether you want it or not.
N. Khrushchev
The whole society will be one office and one factory where there is equality of labor and equality of reward for it.
V. Lenin
Communism is anti-humanity.
A. Solzhenitsyn
The striving towards the understanding of the essence of the communist social order is much more terrifying to it than any sensational, scandalous revelation of its disease.
A.Zinoviev


 
 

16. CONSCIENCE
 

A man living by the logic of use is not prone to the stings of conscience.

      F. Iskander
Conscience is a thousand witnesses.
Proverb
It has no teeth, but it gnaws.
Proverb
You can’t run away from your own shadow.
Proverb


 
 

17. DEATH

But not one poet has yet said
That there is no wisdom,
there is no age,
and may be, there is no death.

      A. Akhmatova
Believe me! The end is always same for all.
Comprehensible to none and solemnly brief.
      A. Blok
Death is that something which happens to others.
      J. Brodsky 
Don’t die! Resist! Though you don’t feel youthful.
              Existence is a bore when useful..
      J. Brodsky
Death is scary, but it would have been much scarier to know that you would never die.
      A. Chekhov
We don’t know how to die, and this sin, stripping us off the ability to live, affirms the visctory of death over life... Death - is not the end, and if life seems an illusion to us, then death is just as illusory as well!
      N. Djin
The opposite of death is not life. It is love.
      N. Djin
Dying in this world is not so new,
Neither is living, I daresay.
S. Esenin
I’m aware that in that other world or other country
There are no such fields in golden haze.
That is why I cherish so the people
Who on earth, beside me spend their days.
S. Esenin 
Don’t bombard me with grief like with knives.
Silver knives that have turned to dark lead.
You should know, I don’t cry for the dead.
I don’t know who is dead and who’s alive...
                                                                        A. Galich
A thousand roads you build, but one thing’s clear.
Whichever road you choose, you end up here.
      R. Gamzatov
       (Inscription on a tombstone)
When dead, even a fish drowns.
      F. Iskander
A man was born to gloriously die.
M. Lomonosov
Dying in this world is not so hard,
Making life is harder, I daresay.
V. Mayakovsky
I’d rather, if you ask me,
                 die of drink,
Than die of boredom,
                        or live a bore.
V. Mayakovsky
I abhor every kind of deathliness!
I adore every kind of life!
V. Mayakovsky
You lose your immortality when you lose your memory.
V. Nabokov
For two deaths to come to you - there is no way, but from one - you will never run away.
Proverb
You can never get enough breath right before death.
Proverb
The first step of an infant is the first step towards his death.
K. Prutkov
The reason death is placed at the end of life is so we could prepare for it more comfortably.
K. Prutkov
When a man dies, the watch in his pocket continues ticking.
V. Shklovsky
People who fear death do so because it seems to them that death is an abyss and darkness; but they see this abyss and darkness only because they don’t see life.
L. Tolstoy
There is nothing in life except death, and it shouldn’t be there.
L. Tolstoy
Our sentence in life has no period.
We will be immortal!
A. Voznesensky
We forgive the dead and tease them with paradise.
V. Vysotsky
“Die!” - Ivan says to Koschei - “Right now!”
“I’ll be more than glad, but I’m immortal! Don’t know how!”
      V. Vysotsky
  (Song about Koschei-the-Immortal)
No matter how much you hurry,
You’ll still be overpassed by somebody more brave.
But nothing ever threatens you,
Only when you’re lying in your grave.
V. Vysotsky
And if in this wide world I die,
Then I’ll die from joy that I’m alive.
Y. Yevtushenko
I would simply not survive it,
If I wouldn’t be alive.
Y.Yevtushenko


 
 

18. DESPOTISM

Every command slaps liberty in the face.

M. Bakunin
Powerful states can maintain themselves only by crime; little states are virtuous only by weakness.
M. Bakunin
It is not only that one man has no right to rule over the multitude, but the multitude also has no right to rule over one man.
V. Chertkov
The attainment of absolute freedom is an unlimited despotism.
I. Shigalev
We are in favor of the state withering away and, at the same time, we stand for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Is it contradictory? Yes, it is contradictory. But this contradiction is a living thing, and completely reflects Marxist dialectics.
J. Stalin
How many divisions has the Pope?!
J.Stalin


 
 

19. DUTY
 

Never forget your duty. It is the only music. Without it there is no life, no passion.

A. Blok
The most difficult thing is to dictate your will to yourself.
Contemporary Saying
You cannot fulfill your duty until you grow fond of it.
I. Goncharov
Everyone is really responsible to all men for all men and for everything.
F. Dostoevsky
Aspire to fulfilling your duty and you will instantly learn what you are worth.
L. Tolstoy
All of us have an anchor that never fails us, unless we break it ourselves. It is our sense of duty.
I.Turgenev


 
 

20. FAITH
 

Sun doesn’t penetrate the eyes that are closed.

I. Babel
Not having faith in anything is blindness.
But more often it’s simply piggishness.
J. Brodsky
Faith is nothing more than an unanswered letter.
J. Brodsky
Without an ideal, without faith, without some vague aspiration to something better , there will never be a better world.
F. Dostoevsky
In order to be faithful, one doesn’t have to believe. In the very least, one has to simply not know.
                                                                V. Gandelsman
Those who can’t know, believe.
A. Lunacharsky
If upon a cage of an elephant you will see a sign reading : “bull”, do not believe your eyes.
K. Prutkov
When looking at the sun, squint your eyes and you’ll readily recognize spots upon it.
K. Prutkov
A believer struggles forward, never looking around himself, never asking himself the question of where he is going. Only he will get to the Promised Land, who, like Abraham, decides to set out on his journey not knowing where it would lead him.
L. Shestov
Faith, only faith that looks to the Creator and that He inspires, radiates from itself the supreme and decisive truths concerning what is and what is not.
L. Shestov
Faith treats the hidden as though it were revealed.
V. Shklovsky
He who has learned to think and reason, finds it difficult to believe, while to live in God is possible only through faith. Thought is evil.
L. Tolstoy
Rational knowledge of scientists and learned men refutes the meaning of life, whereas the huge masses, the whole of mankind see the meaning of life in the irrational. Namely this irrational knowledge is what we call faith, and I had to do away with it.
L. Tolstoy
He who has no ideals is a sorry sight.
I.Turgenev


 
 

21. FREEDOM
 

From the naturalistic point of view all men are equal in the eyes of freedom. There are two exceptions to this rule of naturalistic equality: geniuses and idiots.

M. Bakunin
If there is a human being who is freer than I, then I shall necessarily become his slave.
M. Bakunin
Freedom is -
when you forget the tyrant’s name,
and your saliva is sweeter than Persian pie.
And, though, your brain is twisted like the horn of a ram,
nothing drops from your pale blue eye. 
J. Brodsky
To lose one’s independence is much worse 
than to lose one’s innocence.
J. Brodsky
Equality, brother, excludes brotherhood.
We should get clear on this matter.
Slavery always gives birth to slavery,
Even with the help of revolutions and
                        rebellious chatter.
J. Brodsky
Nothing has been more insurmountable for a man and a human society than freedom.
F. Dostoevsky
Didst thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil?
F. Dostoevsky
Whoever wants supreme freedom must kill himself. He who cares enough to take his own life is God.
F. Dostoevsky
People are the ones to blame: they had paradise, but they wanted freedom and they stole the heavenly fire, realizing that they will become unhappy; so, there’s no need to pity them.
F. Dostoevsky
There is no anxiety which is more torturous or more eternal for a man than the anxiety to find something to worship as soon as he acquires some freedom.
F. Dostoevsky
No free man needs a god.
V. Nabokov
In critical times, freedom gives birth to terror; in more or less stable times, it gives birth to mediocre bureaucracy, spiritual grayness, and apathy.
A. Sakharov
The attainment of absolute freedom is an unlimited despotism.
I. Shigalev
Freedom, destructive freedom, irresponsible freedom, has been granted boundless space. Society turned out to be improperly protected against the abyss of human decadence.
A. Solzhenitsyn
Mere naked freedom in no way solves the problems of man’s existence and in many ways adds new ones.
A. Solzhenitsyn
What can be the personal freedom of an unemployed person who goes hungry and finds no use for his toil?
J. Stalin
People think that self-denial destroys their freedom. Such people do not know that only self-denial gives us the new freedom liberating us from our own selves, from the slavery of our own depravation. Our passions are the most cruel tyrants; as soon as you yield to them, you’ll be in a constant struggle without the strength to breath easily. God, deliver me from the slavery which people are not ashamed to call freedom.
L. Tolstoy
Freedom is when everyone and everything agrees with me, but then, I don’t feel it because we all feel freedom only when we struggle, only when we contradict and rebel.
L.Tolstoy


 
 

22. FRIENDSHIP
 

The more truths you know, the less friends you have.

     Contemporary Saying
A friend in need is a friend indeed.
     Proverb
Friendship is like glass - once broken, it is never mended
     Proverb
A bad friend is like a shadow: on a sunny day, you can’t get rid of him, and on a rainy day, he is nowhere to find.
     Proverb


 
 

23. GOD
 

There is no forgiveness for you Jesus Christ! No forgiveness!

I. Babel
Do you believe in God?.... Let him who won two hundred thousand golden rubles believe in God!
I. Babel
If God existed , it would be necessary to abolish him.
M. Bakunin
We have not yet decided on the question of the existence of God, and you want to eat?!
      V. Belinsky
 (a controversy was raging amongst several men
  and one of them proposed dinner)
The worship of God is founded on the cult of male love.
N. Berdyaev
Usually, he who spits at God,
First spits at men.
J. Brodsky
God sets us nothing but riddles.
F. Dostoevsky
And it would not have been that strange, it would not have been that marvelous, if God did really exist; but what is strange and marvelous is that such a thought - the thought of the necessity of God - could have crawled into the head of such a savage and vicious beast as a man.
F. Dostoevsky
As soon as man denies miracles, he, at once, denies God as well, for man seeks not God, but miracles.
F. Dostoevsky
Oh, Lord! Deliver!
S. Esenin
I’m ashamed that I never believed in God,
And I’m pained that I don’t believe in him, still.
S. Esenin
I went out to create the Lord.
A kind One to whom I could kneel.
But my Lord whom I made from the word,
whispered to me: “ Go and kill!”
A. Galich
The majority believes in God because of its lack of spirit, and only the few believe in him because of the richness of spirit.
M. Gorky
The minority needs God because it has everything else, whereas the majority needs him because it has nothing else.
L. Tolstoy
All of you people,
          Are merely bells,
Chiming away on
          God’s nightcap.
V. Mayakovsky
No free man needs a god.
V. Nabokov
God is not in power but in truth.
A. Nevsky
I need someone to pray to and adore,
Imagine, an ordinary ant,
Suddenly, felt like falling to someone’s feet
Believing he had been enchanted.
B. Okudjava
Where was God when the rich man was kicking the poor man?
Proverb
If God you will follow, your pockets will stay hollow.
Proverb
Without God the road is always wider.
Proverb
People do not obey God but adore him. It is better not to adore, but to obey him.
L. Tolstoy
The necessity of accepting God is felt most strikingly when we renounce Him, forget Him.
L. Tolstoy
And can you tell me that the people who were burned on the steak by the Christians are less in number than the burned Christians themselves? And still, still, they glorified this God as the God of Love. What an absurdity!
Y. Zamyatin
Ancient God created ancient man, that is, a man who was capable of making a mistake. Multiplication table is much more wiser, much more perfect than the ancient God. You see, it never, never makes a mistake!
Y.Zamyatin


 
 

24. GOOD/EVIL
 

Fog is curling, swirling.
Clouds - like white lace.
Soon, every little devil
Will want to get to the Holy Place.

     A. Blok
Evil is here to fight against it,
And not to weigh it on the beam.
     J. Brodsky
Being a good man is, of course, not a profession. It is merely a hobby.
     Contemporary Saying
If you can choose between two evils, that’s already not that bad!
     Contemporary Saying
Just think! There are so many evils in this world, but they give us only two to choose from!
     Contemporary Saying
A bad person is he, who treats me - a good person - badly.
     Contemporary Saying
Didst thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil?
     F. Dostoevsky
If you are a scoundrel, don’t delude yourself that you are being original.
M. Gorky
Evil produces evil. Suffering makes one understand how pleasant it is to do evil to others.
M. Lermontov
Don’t expect a good deed from a bad seed.
Proverb
Morality cannot exist without its antipode - immorality. Evil is necessary for the good; it serves as the object of its vengeance.
L. Shestov
The “good” which we have always believed to be beyond the hereditary action of egoism, shows itself to be just as human as all other, purely pagan goals - glory, power, wealth. For the sake of the good, just as implacable struggle is possible.
L. Shestov
There are people who upon meeting their rival who is happy about anything at all are ready to deny anything good that might be inherent in him, and see in him only the bad; and, there are people who, on the contrary, most of all wish to discover in that rival those qualities with which he conquered them, and, so, they seek in him, with a futile pain in their hearts, only the good.
L. Tolstoy
The rational and the moral always coincide.
L. Tolstoy
Goodness is the eternal and supreme aim of our life. Whatever the meaning we put into goodness, our life is an explicit striving for it.
L. Tolstoy
A good deed is done with effort, but after the effort is repeated, the deed becomes a habit.
L.Tolstoy
 

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