The Kremlin’s Criminal Vocabulary

Criminal Vocabulary

Putin himself is famous for deploying Bender-like formulations. He uses “whack” like an Italian mobster when he refers to what Russia will do to terrorists. Another favorite: “If my grandmother had balls, she’d be my grandfather,” used to derisively dismiss what he considers a non-possibility, such as the capacity for the post-Yanukovych Ukrainian transitional government to perform.

Typically, professional diplomats don’t resort to gangland jargon, but in Putin’s Russia, the exceptions are subtly smuggled in.

For instance, one Foreign Ministry briefing on June 29, 2012, read, in Russian, “Americans prefer to pull down their allies rather than take their interests into account.” To the untrained reader, this sounds hostile but ho-hum. However, the usage here of the verb, opustit (“to pull down”), in the Russian criminal argot refers to homosexual rape. Opustit, in fact, refers to how tougher inmates make weaker ones their “bitches.”