Last week I learned a word that cannot really be translated into English, a word that is specific to the Russian language and culture. That word is “Бардак” [bardak]. It translates to “mess” on Google Translate, but that does not explain the full nuances of the word. I definitely do not understand all the nuances AT ALL myself but have been asking some people about the word, and my resident director told us that it most closely relates to the word “cluster fuck.” Again, that might be hard for many to define.

In Russian Бардак is not necessarily a negative word. It reflects how in Russia preemptive planning is not really part of their culture. Things change ALL the TIME and often very last minute with no explanation. People do things last minute here. Our resident director told us that Бардак is even how the highest offices of the government works.

But this giant mess is seen positively here. Opportunity builds from that mess, whereas in the U.S. people generally see a mess as a description of failure and often will just move on completely from it. For example, at school if Americans are failing their class and their work is an absolute mess they might opt to just drop the course altogether. This is very common at Brown, where I go to school.

Бардак is very interesting. Here’s another example…

This past week at my university here in Moscow it was announced that the city commissioner for schools was going to come and check the campus. So…. The ENTIRE staff at the school went into a GRUMBLY frenzy to get ready, of course incredibly last minute. Apparently they actually knew a few months ago about the commissioner coming and, yet, Бардак happens.

Anyways my professors were saying how in order to work at the university they have to pass a certified health exam and get a certificate that says they are not crazy. Apparently, most people just buy counterfeited copies off the streets, which cost about $30. So this past week the school hired all these doctors to come in and give the professors/staff real documents for free.

Other examples of Бардак this past week include how the school suddenly decided to add the appropriate exit and enter stickers to doors for in case a fire happens, etc. They suddenly decided to add a metal detector in the front entrance. The metal detector is SO incredibly poorly placed. Most people just walk around it, it is soooo funny. The janitors have also been cleaning more rigorously and there was even a DISCO BALL and strobe lights set up in the main atrium. This all happened LAST minute for this commissioner.

It was quite funny to watch. So my take on Бардак so far is basically Russians typically show a facade that everything is ok and up to high standards when it is not really the case. Бардак is basically functioning in chaos. Honestly, that is how I feel here half the time: functioning in chaos.

Would be a cool thesis topic if I could actually speak Russian better.

Lastly… here are a few photos to share with you. I have not photographed much. It’s easier to blend in when my phone is not out.





2 thoughts on “Бардак — Functioning in Chaos

  1. Alexi..great post. You taught me something about Russia that I didn’t know. Funny how in the US our big goal as parents with our kids is that they are resilient, adaptable, flexible, and tough. Maybe we should have just sent you to Russia earlier. Keep writing – this is the best piece on Russia that I’ve read in a while. Your proud Dad.

    Liked by 1 person

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