The news about Russia’s war against Ukraine gives us each week new names and/or new vocabulary. This week, we’ve heard a lot in Russian about mobilizat︠s︡ii︠a︡ (mobilisation) but some of us might also have seen the rise of the term mogilizat︠s︡ii︠a︡, a grimly wry portmanteau of the words mobilisation and – mogila (the grave). The name for a call-up paper is simply povestka, a word related to “telling” (eg povestʹ means a story). Judging by news coming from Russia, povestki are arriving in huge numbers and not only to those within the parameters Putin set out that; the scale of mobilisation is far greater than the president will openly admit.
In terms of names, Alla Pugacheva will either have been abundantly known to you already or also a new thing this week. Pugacheva was an absolutely huge music star in Soviet times and has remained so in modern Russia (she gets her own two chapters in David MacFadyen’s Red Stars : Personality and the Soviet Popular Song, 1955-1991; you can find other Cambridge library books, not all of them, admittedly, highly academic, about her here). Earlier this week, Pugacheva wrote an open letter to the Russian authorities requesting that she be added to the list of inoagenty (from inostrannye agenty – foreign agents) to which her husband, Maksim Galkin, a consistent opponent of the “special military operation”, had just been added. Pugacheva’s dramatic stand against the war may have come over 6 months after Russia invaded Ukraine, but it was pretty seismic. Until, that is, Putin outdid her with his address about “partial” mobilisation, about the referenda that (properly stage-managed) will allow him to claim parts of Ukraine under Russian control as parts of sovereign Russia, and about the possibility of using a nuclear bomb (no ‘blef‘, he said – no bluff)…
We should end on a light note. Alla Pugacheva’s husband, Maksim Galkin, became famous as a comedian, singer, and much more around the year 2000. He won my delighted respect in 2002 when, in response to the rather self-admiring singer Nikolaĭ Baskov’s release of an album called ‘I’m 25!’, Galkin released a rather less earnest album named ‘Well, I’m 26!’ Not many images can be found of the latter, sadly, but here is Baskov’s.