Russian Word of the Day: Мрак-gloom

The pleasant weather of golden autumn is slowly turning to the dark chill of winter and I thought I would dedicate this week’s posts to vocabulary associated with some of the woes of winter.

So yesterday we discussed Daylight Savings time and how as of 2011 Russia stopped doing it. The claim was that it would be better for people to not throw their systems off by an hour.  But what resulted in the winter of 2011 without the change in time was not positive. A few different articles explained:

“И этот эксперимент признан неудачным практически всеми. Опросы населения показали, что россиянам было крайне не комфортно жить этой зимой по летнему времени.”

“This experiment was acknowledged as a failure by practically everyone. A survey of the population showed that it was extremely uncomfortable for Russians to live this winter on summer time”.

And that in 2011

“…зимой был мрачняк: идешь на работу – темно, идешь с работы – тоже. Но с другой стороны, на то она и зима.”

“In the winter there was gloom: you go to work and it’s dark. You come home from work and it’s dark. But on the other hand, that’s winter for you.”

All of these words: мрак/мрачняк(gloom, shadow), мрачный(gloomy, dismal, bleak), сумрак (dusk), сумерки(twilight) all come from the same root -мр- and they are all very useful when describing a Moscow winter.

This is exactly how I remember Moscow winters even with Daylight savings. I left to school at 8:30 am and it was сумерки (Twilight. That’s also the name of the Twilight series in Russian, fyi). My lectures officially finished at 5:30 and by the time I gathered up my stuff and went back outside it was мрачно (gloomy) all over again.

Without that extra hour that Daylight Savings gives the sun was rising at 10 am. Ick.

It wasn’t the cold of the Moscow winter that wore me out. I didn’t mind walking around in blizzards and getting ice crystals in my eyelashes.  It was the darkness that was so hard to take. I am not a vampire, I need light!

My final пара (a pair of lectures) of the day was history.  It went from 4 to 5:30.  Let me just say that I got all 5’s ( a 5 is like an ‘A’ and a 1 is like an ‘F’) on my final exams except history. I got a 4.  Why? Because I skipped it in the winter months so that I could at least get an hour of daylight(notice I didn’t say ‘sunlight’ because that is typically non-existent in the winter in Moscow).

Studies show that suicides in Russia and other northern countries go up in these gloomy winter months.  That would explain why умереть “to die” shares the same -мр- root with the other gloomy words mentioned above.

Now they are considering returning to the Daylight Savings switch.  But I really don’t think an hour makes THAT much of a difference. The law they really need to pass to overcome зимний мрак (winter gloom) is to instate a nation-wide, mandated гибернация или эвакуация (hybernation or evacuation).

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