In my opinion, russian nation's chronic inability to fight oppressive regimes is partly attributed to one interesting quirk the russian language has.
When talking about injustice committed against someone, or making threats to commit said injustice, the actor is completely omitted.
Here's an example:
“Надо будет — найдут”, roughly translated to “they could find you if they wanted to”, is a common phrase to use when talking about proxies, VPNs and other online privacy measures. But the word “they” in English translation is nowhere to be found in the original text! Let's examine the literal translation:
- “надо будет” — “the need will arise”
- “найдут” — “will find you”
The English phrase “they could find you if they wanted to” can be easily challenged with a simple question: “Who's they?” The government? The corporates? The regime? The CIA? Who exactly?

English language can mimic that with passive voice: “you are being watched”, “you are an easy target”, etc. But in active voice, you can't avoid using “they” or some other actor.
In russian, you can. And you will. Indeed, this is how russian people converse. It's a very specific, very common pattern that never really changed.

It's a very powerful thought-terminating cliché built straight into the language. You can't fight an enemy that has no name and no word to describe it, not even a euphemism. The very language you THINK in prevents you from analyzing the entities that oppress you.

In a Tom Scott Plus video where he tried tightrope walking, he learned that they don't say the “F-word” — “fall”. You can't say “I'm afraid I'll fall”. You have to find more specific alternatives like “I'm afraid I'll lose balance”. The word “fall” in this context is a thought-terminating cliché. There is no going back after you “fall”. But if you “lose balance”, you can “regain balance” — the lack of a thought-terminating cliché promotes problem-solving.

Russian language is the same, but in soviet russia, language terminates you, I guess.

  • 10
    Orwell explored this concept in their novel 1984 which featured the systematic destruction of language into something so limited that people cannot express anything above a basic need / idea.
    You can't rebel if you don't know what rebellion is.

    Its called NewSpeak.

    It's a great novel and worth enjoying:
Add Comment