A half-remembered Russian saying.

Michael Zwingli

Senior Member
English - American (U.S. - New England)
Hi, all.

I grew up with a fellow in my neighborhood named Philip, who with his family had immigrated as a child to the U.S. from the Ukraine SSR. One day when I was a teenager, a group of us were hanging out and talking about themes associated with "the country" and "patriotism", and Phil told us of a short saying, something like an aphorism, that they had in the Soviet Union equating "patriotism" with "idiocy", or "a patriot" with "an idiot"...something like that. Though Phil was of Ukrainian origin, I believe that the saying was in Russian. If I remember correctly, the terms describing these two things rhymed in Russian. The saying to which I refer would have been learned by Philip during the Soviet era. Is anybody on the site familiar with such a Russian saying? I have wanted for years to reacquaint myself with the saying that I heard that day, but internet searches have proved fruitless. Thanks in advance for any help that I can get with this!
 
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  • nizzebro

    Senior Member
    Russian
    While I can't help - let's wait for others, still, I have some doubts about "Soviet era saying". More likely it is some temporary or local saying from 90-s or at least late 80-s -such things use to arise and disappear; yes, these words rhyme in Russian so there could be some jokes always. Patriotism wasn't the agenda in the USSR as in today's Russia. The communist ideology was inter- (or anti-) national, thus not so compatible with patriotism - which was used mostly about ww2 or some earlier historical events like wars and defenses. Also. you could not leave the country easily before late 80's - so I guess there was no dilemma "is it patriotic or not" like today.
     

    Vovan

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Michael Zwingli

    Yes, "patriot" rhymes with "idiot", while "patrotism" with "idiocy" in the Russian language. Plays on those word pairs have been numerous for at least a century, none of them being more remarkable than the others.

    Here are four such examples. The first is from a well-known Russian writer's novel; the second, from a sociological study of patrotism by the Soviet/Russian Academy of Sciences; the last two, from a book of aphorisms by a Ukrainian author.
    Переезжайте в Петербург. У меня там есть хороший знакомый, видный адвокат, неославянофил, то есть империалист, патриот, немножко - идиот, в общем - <скот>. (М. Горький. Жизнь Клима Самгина.)
    Translation: Move to St. Petersburg. I have a great acquaintance there: a prominent lawyer and a neoslavophile - that is, an imperialist, a patriot, a bit of an idiot, a bastard in general. (M. Gorky. The Life of Klim Samgin.)
    Патриотизм - синоним идиотизму, разновидность благородного сумасшествия. (От конфликта к толерантности. По результатам соцопросов АН СССР и РАН.)
    Translation: Patriotism is synonymous with idiocy; it's a kind of noble madness. (From Conflict to Tolerance. Based on the results of sociological polls of the USSR Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences).


    Надо быть идиотом, чтобы быть патриотом с пустым ртом. (Источник: Каневец В. В. Сборник афоризмов.)
    Translation: You have to be an idiot to be a patriot with an empty (=hungry) mouth. (Source: Kanevets V.V. A collection of aphorisms.)


    Патриот, идиот - слова очень созвучные, хотя и противоположные по смыслу. Но эхо у них одно: о-от!!! (Источник: Каневец В. В. Сборник афоризмов.)
    Translation: "Patriot" and "idiot" may sound alike but are opposite in meaning. They both have the same echo, though: o-o-ot! (Source: Kanevets V. A Collection of Aphorisms.)


    It is the second example here that explicitly equates patritiosm and idiocy.
     
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    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English - American (U.S. - New England)
    ...More likely it is some temporary or local saying from 90-s or at least late 80-s -such things use to arise and disappear; yes, these words rhyme in Russian so there could be some jokes always.
    Yes, this is sensible, and understandable given the somewhat strange life that people experienced under the communist regime.
    Michael Zwingli

    Yes, "patriot" rhymes with "idiot", while "patrotism" with "idiocy" in the Russian language. Plays on those word pairs have been numerous for at least a century, none of them being more remarkable than the others.

    Here are four such examples. The first is from a well-known Russian writer's novel; the second, from a sociological study of patrotism by the Soviet/Russian Academy of Sciences; the last two, from a book of aphorisms by a Ukrainian author.
    [...]
    It is the second example here that explicitly equates patritiosm and idiocy.​
    Thank you, Vovan, you have been more than helpful. I cannot say with any certainty that this is the precise saying, especially since similar things seem to have come and gone quickly, as @nizzebro indicated. Phil's might have been a variant of the same base saying, though. This certainly expresses the same sentiment as Philip did on that day. I wish that I could ask him, but it is my misfortune to have lost him to cancer several years ago.
     
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