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									Yatsenko, Russian Mob Slang: dictionaries and non-linguistic description

            Russian Mob Slang: dictionaries and non-linguistic description

                              Anna Yatsenko, Ph.D., Reed College

        During the collapse of the Soviet Union, as the political, economic, and
infrastructural institutions underwent radical transformation, a new social formation
going under the name of "organized crime" appeared in Russian society. Its members
quickly moved to carve up spheres of influence, resources, former state monopolies, and
to establish themselves as the new social, economic, and political elite. Organized
criminals quickly established business contacts with elements of the Soviet era "black
market," the criminal underworld, and former Party opportunists. Lawlessness extended
into all areas of life and manifested itself in the realm of language in a number of
distinctive ideolectological features, including:
        - sub-standard syntax: получа          ть с кого (poluchat' s kogo) – to receive money
from a businessman – instead of получа           ть от кого;
        - re-semantization: кры ша (krysha) – protection, guard; the direct meaning of
the Russian words крыша is 'roof';
       - neologisms: кида ла (kidala) – person who deceives, who does not keep to a
promise, does not carry out obligations;
         - distinctive phraseological units: заби ть стре лку (zabit' strelku) – to
appoint a time and place for a meeting;
        - intonational and phrasing patterns: Эт чѐ, наезд типа? (Et che, naezd tipa?) –
What is that? Are you, like, going to push on me?
        From the end of the 1980s until the year 2000, "bandity" - the closest English
equivalent would be "gangs" or "gangsters," "organized criminals" - were a sociological
phenomenon that commanded the attention of contemporary Russian society. Politicians,
lawyers, sociologists, anthropologists, linguists, writers, artists, and ordinary citizens of
every stripe discussed, analyzed, interpreted, and evaluated the meaning of this Russian
        The phrase "organized crime" became one of the most popular expressions in c
law enforcement literature1. Lawyers created the special term OPG (in Russian, ОПГ –
организованная преступная группировка) – "organized crime grouping" – to designate
groups of mobsters. The OPG was defined by a distinct set of characteristics that
included: material and financial resources; group hierarchies; information database;
corruption ties with state institution. Each OPG has its own delimited sphere of influence
and control that distinguished it from other OPGs. From the legal point of view, the
gangster mobs were certainly extremely negative social formations. According to official
reports and statistics, the crime rate grew steadily throughout the 1990s, earning Russia

       I am very thankful to the professor of the Russian Department of Reed College Lena Lencek for
attentive regard for this work and for edition of my English text.
       The word combination "organized crime grouping" appeared for the first time appeared in law
enforcement texts in 1985. At that time any documents about organized crime were labeled with the title
"ultra-confidential"       (A.     Gurov.        Organizovannaja   prestupnost'   v      Rossii       –
Yatsenko, Russian Mob Slang: dictionaries and non-linguistic description

the official title of "criminal super-state," and St. Petersburg – the "crime capital of
        The popular press and radio and television media uniformly lumped together
under the rubric "organized crime" all illegal actions – including theft, trade in illegal
substances, racketeering, fraud, murder, extortion – committed by a group of individuals
working together. This produced the impression that post-Soviet society was inundated
by a tidal wave of criminal chaos. At that time a number of independent journalists such
as, for example, Andrej Konstantinov of St.Petersburg, launched independent
investigations aimed at uncovering organized crime activities and turned up evidence that
linked organized crime with state institutions. Their findings provided a rich fund of
material for a number of non-fictional and fictional accounts of the criminal underworld.
In response to demand from a public whose curiosity about the criminal underbelly of
contemporary life seemed to have no bounds, journalists and former militia officers alike
began to churn out publications based on their professional experiences. Books about
crime were the number one best sellers.
        The popular image of the gangster has changed considerably in the last twenty-
five years. At the end of 1980s, a gangster was typically a young man between the ages
of 19 and 22, heavily muscled, athletic, dressed in an "Adidas" knock-off sweat suit --
(there was popular saying at the time: "Today he's in "Adidas" - tomorrow he'll betray his
country"), wearing black sunglasses and dangling a bunch of keys from his finger. These
young men were among the usual "elements" of city markets and kiosks (commercial
outlets). People referred to them as качки           - "kachki" (singular: качо   к - "kachok") –
"guys with 'pumped up' muscles" – or рэкети ры - "reketirs" (racketeers).
       By the mid- 1990s, a typical mobster could be recognized by his very short hair,
zippered, black leather jacket (this style of leather coat got the name косу ха -
"kosukha" meaning "diagonal" from the fact that the zipper was not sewn straight but at
an angle) black jeans, cell phone, gold "Rolex" watch" and black "BMW." The folk
interpreted the acronym as Боевая Машина Вымогателей - "Boevaia Mashina
Vymogatelej" or "Combat Racketeer Car"), "Mercedes" or "Jeep". This new species of
mobster was called a брато к - "bratok" - "bandster" or "brother").
        The gangster character quickly migrated to T.V. and cinema. At the end of the
1990s,     "Бандитский Петербург" - "Bandit's Petersburg" (based on Andrej
Konstantinov's novel) – the most popular TV series of the day – paved the way for
numerous gangster films. More often than not, criminals were depicted as positive
characters: tough, cool guys not afraid to fight against an evil, brutal reality. "Бригада" -
"Brigada" (The Brigade, 2002), one of the last bandit' TV-series, came close to
romanticizing the image of the criminal.
        Sociologists and socio-anthropologists have undertaken serious studies of this
new sociological formation, seeking to explain why mobs (organized crime) have come
to acquire such a strong position in society and what factors have enabled them to
develop a powerful and stable system of self production. These researches target the
social strata and groups from which criminals/ gangs originate; the values and norms
(standards) of criminal behavior; the function of organized crime in the formation and
development of the new market-oriented economy in Russia. Scholars also study such
Yatsenko, Russian Mob Slang: dictionaries and non-linguistic description

problems as the connections between organized crime and state institutions (above all,
the militia and the state security organs); the transformation of OPGs into business-
groups; and processes of legalization – or "laundering" (отмывание денег – otmyvanie
deneg) – of criminal income.
        According to Vadim Volkov2, Russian sociologist and specialist in organized
crime, "Urban markets and sports associations are the beginning of a uniquely Russian
form of capitalism". Demographically, gangsters generally came from sports clubs,
former military personnel (soldiers, officers), militia members, veterans of the Afghan
war and participants in the Chechen war. They were organized into relatively small
groups or brigades of between 6 and 15 members. Each brigade had a leader who
maintained strict discipline within the group, enforces subordination, and organized
training in gyms. The brigades resembled military units both in organization and in
appearance. Mobsters got their start in the city markets, where they peddled (protection
racket) to small business (private entrepreneurs).
        The distinctive mob ethos assigns high value to physical power and violence; and
low value to life. The mobster must be prepared to prove his superiority over any
challenger and must be willing to risk his life and be prepared to die.
            The ideal model of the criminal – the so-called пра                    вильный паца        н –
"pravilnyj patsan" – "all-right guy" and реа льный банди т –"realnyj bandit" – "a
real mobster" – includes the following traits:
        - A "real mobster" should be ready to use force at any time and any situation, but
most importantly, he must know how to rule and to manage people without using force
and violence. Unlimited and unfounded use of physical force is considered a violation
and leads to loss of "all-right guy" status ". Unbridled use of force is called беспреде л
- "bespredel" (literally "limitlessness", " lawlessness" and "chaos"), and its perpetrator is
called an отморо зок - "otmorozok" (a" frostbitten limb");
        - A "real mobster" should take responsibility for his verbal behavior. Words are
taken to be equivalent to actions. A threat must be carried out. The effect of the speech-
actions depends on the mobster's reputation (authority);
        - The "real mobster" motto is "You, businessman, must pay me because I exist."
The word, which describes mob's professional "obligations", is получать - "poluchat" (to
receive money from a businessman). A "real mobster" cannot be a businessman or a
clerk. Mobsters receive money (tribute money) because they have a high reputation,
authority. In fact, however, mobsters carry out a number of jobs or tasks designated by
the formula "решать вопросы" - "reshat' voprosy" or "solve problems". These involve
everything from providing protection, to resolving complicated disputes, to collecting

       In undertaking to investigate the specific linguistic phenomenon known as
"gangster lexicon " one must be aware of the following caveats:

      2   V. Volkov. Silovoe predprinimatel'stvo. SPb.: Evropejskij universitet v Sankt-Peterburge. 2002. P.
Yatsenko, Russian Mob Slang: dictionaries and non-linguistic description

         - gangster lexicon is not synonymous with the lexicon of obscenity or swear
        - gangster subculture ("mob underworld") must be must be differentiated from
thief subculture, which can be treated in researches as prison subculture as well.
        Mob subculture and thief subculture occupy two entirely separate social niches. It
is interesting, that even mass media use the different language expressions for organized
crime and thief underworlds, such as – бандитская среда – "banditskaja sreda" –
gangster sphere, and воровская каста – "vorovskaja kasta" – thief caste.
        The world of the thief is the marginal and "invisible," white the world of
gangsters is openly provocative and aggressive. The main distinctive features of a
member of the thief's world are:
        - refusal to collaborate with any government institutions or officials and
maintenance of irreconcilably contradictory stance vis a vis official authority3;
        - dedication to the "society of thieves" to the total exclusion of "normal life,"
meaning no wife, no family. Living entirely on the proceeds of one's thieving;
        - long prison sojourns and sophisticated expertise on penal "culture";
        - live your life according to поня тия – "ponitiia" (special thief moral codex,
"unwritten law" for behavior and subordination).
        The thief's world and lexicon are relatively stable. The lexicon is inaccessible to
outsiders, and as a result thief words always require "translation" into standard language.
In the thief's lexicon there are not only origin Russian words (roots), but as well a number
of the borrowed words from the foreigner languages (mostly from Polish, Hebrew and
Yiddish, German, Gypsy. E.g.: шмо                тки     – "shmotki" (Polish) means "clothes";
кси ва – "ksiva" (Hebrew; "kituba" – marriage contract) means "document" and
"business letter"; шмон – "shmon" (Hebrew; "shmone" – eight) means "search").
        Thieves usually do not use their "conspiracy language" in front of the people who
do not belong to their world; and especially thieves avoid to use their words in
conversations with militia members or members of law enforcement officials. The thief
lexicon (as any argot) carries two main functions: the first one is to be a device for
isolation of criminals from the non-criminal society , and the second one is to identify a
person as one from the crime society. Obviously, the militia "studies" the thief words to
use them as a way to incorporate into crime underworld.
        By contrast, the meanings of gangster words are approachable and absolutely
understandable for all native speakers. Mostly of these words have the origin Russian
roots. The borrowed foreigner words (and grammatical adapted to Russian language
morphology) belong to the international well-known lexemes; e.g.: голда "golda" –
things are made from gold; баксы –"bucks"; бобы (beans) – "bobs"- American dollars).
The clarity of a meaning is one of the reasons for common usage of mob words. The mob
lexicon contains some number of the thief words. The meaning of these words are
"transparent" for any native speaker as well. These words are almost without "value"

       This is one of the main and the oldest principle of the actual thief underworld. However, this
principle has now lost its importance. In order to survive in new reality thieves – as well as mobs –
cooperate with government institutions. Destruction of the thief codex began after WWII (1948), when
thieves-combatants returned to the Soviet camps and started to collaborate with prison administration: V.
Shalamov. Ocherki prestupnogo mira -
Yatsenko, Russian Mob Slang: dictionaries and non-linguistic description

connotations4, and many of them belong to the standard language (they just changed their
direct meaning).

       The gangster words taken over from "thief argot" can be organized in the
following groups5:
            Words for description of structure and hierarchy of crime group:
       авторитет "avtoritet" (authority) – leader of a crime group; member of the
highest level in the informal hierarchy of the mob;
       боец "boets" (fighter) – person who executes punishment using violence; this
kind of person belongs to the lower levels of a crime group; usually "boets" is not well
       братва "bratva" (brothers in a crime group) – crime group; this word is used as a
reference word in conversation between the gangsters;
       пацан "patsan" (boy, guy) – true gangster/mobster; all-right mobster;
       общак "obshchak" (collective fund) – illegal common fund (money) for mutual
help and support. The high level of group ("avtoritety") handle this collective fund.

             Words for description of source of money, income:
        барыга "baryga" (direct meaning is 'someone who makes profits in a dishonest
way') – businessman (this word carries a negative connotation; a bad attitude toward to
people who work in trade institution is relatively strong in Russian state of mind. It was
before the revolution, during the Soviet time, and still his idea exists in Russian society).

            Words for description of "moral institutes":
        базар "bazar" (bazaar, market) – words, talk; the word "bazaar" bears negative
attitude toward unreasonable empty speech (person should take responsibility for his
speech; words are equivalent to action);
        беспредел "bespredel" (limitlessness) – lawlessness, chaos;
        понятия "ponitia" (concepts) – unwritten law; codex of thief life;
        правильный "pravilnyj" (correct, right) – right (as Solomon) reputable, honest
        предъявить "pred'iavit'" (put in; present) – accuse of the infringement of the
informal norms and rules of a group, as accepted for some matter or business (предъява
"pred'iava" – accusation of incorrect behavior, act).

             Words for description of "business" actions:
         дербанить "derbanit'" – to racket, to destroy property;
         мочить "mochit'"/"zamochit" (to wet, to soak) – to kill, to murder;
         обуть "obut'" (to put on shoes) – to deceive, to cheat;

     4 Let us keep in mind, of course, that the connotation is the main component of the meaning of an argot

word. After all, argot word is created precisely so that it may carry this connotational, axiological value.
     5As a resource for thief lexicon was used the following material: Short Explanatory Dictionary of

Prison Slang (Tiuremnyj mir glazami politzakliuchennykh 1940-1980 gody, V. Abramkin and V.
Chenokova;        Moskva,        1998).       Kratkij     tolkovyj      slovar     tjuremnogo        mira    -
Yatsenko, Russian Mob Slang: dictionaries and non-linguistic description

        опустить "opustit'" (to put down) – to discipline, punish (to teach a lesson: if
you make mistake, be ready to pay; no compassion for you);
        разборка "razborka" (taking a part; breakdown) – solution to a conflict using
force (usually moral) or weapons.

        These lexical groups perfectly reflect the characteristics attributed to the gangster
organized groups, like: hierarchy and strong subordination, system of rules, and
demonstrative violent acts. Withal the mob, as a special social group, have produced a
number their own language creatures. These origin mobster lexemes and phrases are
highly expressive, but void of value (positive/negative) connotational marking. "Mobsters
technical terms" constitute the significant part of these words. Others describe the new
occurrences in the general crime underworld. All of these language unites are used in
contemporary colloquial Russian.
             "Mobsters technical terms":
        крыша "krysha" (roof) – protection, guard; крышевать "kryshevat'" (to be a
roof) – to protect, to guard;
        наезд "naezd" (crash, a type of car accident) – a way to enforce business, bring
pressure to bear upon businessmen; наезжать "naezzhat'" (to come cross, run into) – to
enforce business, bring pressure to bear upon businessmen;
        пробивка "probivka" (punch, piercing) – collection of information about other
companies or organized groups; to define who works with whom; пробить "probit'" (to
break through) – to get information about other or companies, organized groups;
        разводка "razvodka" (cut, separation) – way to increase payment for the
protection of business by feigning of threat from other mob groups; разводить (на
какую-то сумму денег) "razvodit'" – to make a businessman increase payment for
        стрелка "strelka" (pointer, arrow) – meeting and discussion of business matters
between two (or more) mob groups; забить стрелку "zabit' strelku" – ("drive in a nail")
– to appoint a time and place for a meeting;
        получать (с кого)6 "poluchat' " (to receive, to get) – to receive money from a
businessman; получалово "poluchalovo" – racket; process of receiving money from

           "Mob contribution" to the general crime thesaurus:
      заказать (кого) "zakazat'" – (to order) – to order a murder; to murder;
      качок "kachok" – person who "pumps up" his muscles;
      кидать/кинуть "kidat'/kinut'" (to throw) – to deceive, to chea (кидка "kidka";
кидалово "kidalovo");
      конкретный "konkretnyj" (concrete, definite) – real, correct, concrete;
      отморозок "otmorozok" (frostbitten limb) – a person who uses unlimited and
unfounded violence, force; who breaks the norms and rules; negative connotation;
       реальный "real'nyj" – true; real; e.g.: он реальный пацан – he is every inch a

    6   Incorrect verb government; in standard language: получать от кого.
Yatsenko, Russian Mob Slang: dictionaries and non-linguistic description

         подняться "podniatsia" (to rise) – to increase one's own money and take a higher
financial level in a crime group or business; improve one's material circumstances;
        продвинуться (по чему) "prodvinutsja" (to move forward/up) – to achieve
considerable results in some action.
        "Bounded" phrases:
        разговоры разговаривать "razgovory razgovarivat'" ("to talk talks") – waste
time and words
        решать вопросы "reshat' voprosy" ("solve questions") – this phrase implies a
range of mobs activities from simple protection to resolutions of complicated
disagreements, getting debt returning or credits
        пробить тему "probit' temu" ("break down topic") – this phrase implies to get
information about concurrent, businesses and etc.
        Under the new economic situation in Russian society – under the market-oriented
economic – protection of business (in the other words, force) became the most expensive
and marketable merchandise. Owners of force and information became the most powerful
        V. Volokov pointed out the following group of the words, which he considers as
the essential concepts of organized crime as a system (the order of the words reflects the
order of the gangster actions)7:
    1) Проби       вка – collection of information.
    2) Нае зд – a way to enforce business, bring pressure to bear upon businessmen.
    3) Стре лка – meeting and discussion of business matters.
    4) Разбо       рка – solution to a conflict using force or weapons.
    5) Разво дка – way to increase payment for the protection of business by feigning
        of threat from other mob group.
        The specific of Russian organized crime system is that the mobsters were nearly
related to formation of marked economic in Russia. The mobs had control over not only
the typical illegal spheres of business (drug, prostitution, gambling business, and arms
trade), but also over the sphere of state industry – legal business (machinery-producing
industry, food industry, extraction of non-ferrous metal ores, and oil industry). Such
situation promoted the mob subcultures and their language. At the present time, the world
of the mobsters (as well known under a name "new Russians" – новые русские) is in the
process of disappearing, as evidenced by the recent movement of the figure and culture of
gangster into the sphere of comedy, irony, and jokes8.
        At the end of 1990s a new store opened in downtown Moscow, in the Arbat, "The
World of New Russian" (Мир новых русских)9 offers for sale to kitsch New Russian
souvenirs created on the model of Russian national traditions. For instance, one can
purchase a porcelain credit card painted in Gzhel. At the same time a publishing house

    7 V. Volkov. Silovoe predprinimatel'stvo. SPb.: Evropejskij universitet v Sankt-Peterburge. 2002. Pp.

      Many of mobs who acted at the end of 1980x and a the beginning of 1990x were killed; in the latest
1990x part of "former-mobs" successfully legalized their business and got into the state institutes system.
      This store has the web-site "The World of New Russians. Unusual Internet-shop" (in Russian and
English) -
Yatsenko, Russian Mob Slang: dictionaries and non-linguistic description

with the same name – "The World of New Russians" – was established in Moscow. The
books of this company still are in great demand and very popular. Authors write for this
publisher in new Russian language, which is the conglomeration of mob and youth slang,
and dedicate their work to the new Russians "to initiate" them into Russian culture. In
1999, the book "The New Russian A-B-C-book" Новый русский букварь (author K.
Metelitsa, graphic artist V. Fomina) were awarded the prize of "The best printed book in
         Contemporary Russian linguists have undertaken serious studies of crime slang.
Crime slang for them is one of sphere of non-standard language and one of recourses for
replenishment of common colloquial language (predominantly urban colloquial
language). Linguists discus the lexicographic, taxonomic problems, the general ways of
language development (word borrowing, word formation, re-nominalization, metaphoric
re-interpretation, specifics of phraseological units formation, and etc.). Also linguists are
still debating what criteria should be used to define the borders between standard
(codified) and substandard (non-codified, common colloquial) languages; and they have
yet to formulate precise definitions for what constitutes argot, slang (nonstandard
         A curious thing happened in the dictionary publishing industry of mid 1990s
Russia. Suddenly, between 1991 and 1999, there appeared no fewer than twenty-one –
that's almost three per year!!! – dictionaries – and all of them devoted to slang or "argot"
Russia was in the throes of a slang dictionary boom. During the last five years a number
of slang dictionaries have appeared in "on line" versions. The authors of these slang
dictionaries were not only professional linguists such as Elena Zemskaia, Valerij
Mokienko, Vladimir Elistratov; they were also journalists and other nonprofessional
"word-hunters". Unlike in English speaking countries, Russia lacked a robust tradition for
publishing slang dictionaries. Although pre-revolutionary scholars studied argotic words
(according to the contemporary Russian linguist Alexei Plutser-Sarno, more than 20
dictionaries of non-standard speech were published in Russia between 1820 and 191610),
during the Soviet period, however, linguists were charged with studying and describing
the "normative" or "standard" language, also known as the "literary language" "language
of literature", i.e. language of very high stylistics register. In 1991 IUrij Karaulov, one of
the leading contemporary Russian linguists, wrote: "… we became accustomed to
orienting ourselves by the masters of language, the authorities, and tried to avoid
"negative" (nonstandard) language material."11
         It is interesting that in the Soviet Union from the mid 1960s to the beginning of
the 1970s several dictionaries of thief' argot were published12. These dictionaries,
however, were designed only for professional use and limited to members of the militia.
Compiled by criminal investigators, these works aimed to "translate" thief' words into
standard language.
         At the present time, the boom in the fascination with slang has passed. Linguists
have begun to analyze the lexicographical works, and have discovered many

         A. Plutser-Sarno. Bibliografija slovarej "vorovskoj" … leksiki za poslednie dva stoletija. -
        JU. Karaulov. O sostojanii russkogo jazyka sovremennosti. Moskva, 1991.
Yatsenko, Russian Mob Slang: dictionaries and non-linguistic description

inaccuracies. For example, some slang dictionaries listed swear words, obscenities,
archaic words, and even non-existent words were included in the word list for no other
purpose than to increase the number of slang lexemes; etymology of word is often not
         Linguists represent the thesaurus of the crime slang as a conceptual field
containing a number of lexico-semantic groups (LSG), correlated with specific notions
(concepts) for the crime underworld. It should be noted that linguists often use the term
"crime slang" use to refer not only to the mob lexicon, but as well as to the prison and
thief lexicons.
        The most typical LSGs, which can be found in linguistics works are following
(thief and mob words are not distinguished)14:
     Subjects of crime actions: "вор в законе" - "vor v zakone" – member of elite of
crime world, leader, likes "godfather".
     Potential victims: лох "lokh" – fool (this word is the most popular word
designating anyone who does not belong to the crime underworld).
     Crime actions: подставить "podstavit'" – to set up; to deceive.
     Instruments for crime actions: ствол "stvol" – barrel; перо "pero" (feather and
pen) – knife.
     Goals of crime actions: бабки "babki" (old women) - money.
     Actions, events and conditionals: тусовка "tusovka" ("gang", "rave-up") -
meeting with the special goals – entertainment and making business connections.
     Places of stay: академия "akademija" - "academy" - prison")
     Everyday-life-things: тачка "tachka" (wheelbarrow, hand-barrow) – car, тѐлка
"telka" (heifer) – girl.
     Enemies: мусор "musor" (trash) and мент "ment" – member of militia.
     Emotions: торчать "torchat'" (stick out/up) - enjoy something, getting pleasure.

       Although now in Russia mobs are considered as "outgoing ethnos", the gangster
words, as it was mentioned, are incorporated into colloquial language and became
common lexemes. These words acquired their specific connotations (lexemes having of
"criminal spirit"), and they passed into word formational system of substandard or
colloquial language.15
       An extraordinarily interesting phenomenon has begun to emerge on the morpho-
phonemic level of contemporary Russian colloquial language. Recently linguists noticed
in contemporary substandard language (or in interslang) a number of lexemes with the
suffix "-lovo-" that is not characteristic of the standard language (e.g., кидалово
"kidalovo", гасилово - "gasilovo", получалово – "poluchalovo")16. It is curious that some

    13 V. Shapoval. Problemnye tolkovanija v slovarjakh russkikh argo. Moskva. 2001.
       O. Ermakova, E. Zemskaja, R. Rozina. Slova, s kotorymi my vse vstrechalis': tolkovyj slovar'
obshchego russkogo zhargona. Moskva, 1999; V. KHimik. Poetika nizkogo, ili prostorechie kak kulturnyj
fenomen. St.Petersburg University Press, 2000.
       Getting of specific connotation and passing into word formation system are the main signs of
incorporation of slang word into colloquial language. Slang word becomes interslang word. The interslang
words are broad used by the ordinary citizens.
       V. KHimik. Poetika nizkogo, ili prostorechie kak kulturnyj fenomen. St.Petersburg University Press,
Yatsenko, Russian Mob Slang: dictionaries and non-linguistic description

of the mob words produced the derivates with the suffix "-lovo-" ("kidalovo" means
repeated processes of deceiving; "naezzhalovo" – repeated process of enforcing someone;
"poluchalovo" – repeated process of receiving money originally from businessman, but as
well as from anyone.
        What semantic contribution does this suffix make to the word's basic meaning? In
the mob language the lexemes - "kidka" (deceive), "naezd" (enforcement, push on) -
designate action and result of action. The neutral suffix "-k(a)" and the zero-suffix are
typical for marking the meaning of action and result of action When the words "kidka"
and "naezd" came into common usage, they acquired the new suffix "-lovo-", which
barriers the processual meaning and indicates the iterative character of action. In common
colloquial language, the derivates with the suffix "-lovo-" describe iterative situations and
along with situations have durative character. The situations may be cruel (мочилово -
"mochilovo" means "process of murdering which constantly repeats"), but may also be
simply cheerful and enjoyable (зажигалово - "zazhigalovo" (this word is derivate from
the verb "zazhigat'"– to light, to turn on) means "any type amusing and fun things, which
make person to be cheerful and happy"). The group of derivates with the suffix "-lovo-"
("kidalovo", "naezzhalovo", "mochilovo", "poluchalovo") by some way reflects the
following social phenomenon: although from one hand, the Russians considerer
lawlessness as "black" infinity, but from the other hand, Russians make jock at this
situation, since the suffix "-lovo-" gives a word the derogatory sense.
        The same suffix "-lovo-" also carries the object-collective meaning: бухалово -
"bukhalovo" (any alcohol containing products that might be drunk), ширялово -
"shirialovo" (any possible drugs for shots). In prison slang the word отрицалово -
"otrizalovo" (negation) designates prisoners who do not collaborate with the prison
administration or actively disrupt its work. Now in common interslang this word can be
used in any situations when someone impedes or prevents the activities of other people.

         The mob words attract the attention not only of sociologists and linguists, but also
of foreigners studying Russian. Russian language pedagogical methodology has
traditionally been oriented to transmitting the model of "hyper-correct" language.
Textbooks for foreigner businessmen ("Business Russian") published in the beginning of
1990s, of course, did not include any slang-words. These textbooks presented the
economics and law lexicons (almost all of these words are belong to the bookish formal
language register, based on the international lexicon, and practically these words are
poorly used in everyday business conversations). At present the situation is changing. A
study guide entitled "Русский "тусовочный" как иностранный" – Russian "gang-rave-
up" as foreigner language17 was recently published in Russia. This work treats mob
words in a special way. Evaluative and expressive words and idiomatic phrases are set in
italics. These kind of words circulate between the mob and youth slang forming so-called
interslang, or interjargon. Certain "diffuseness" of slang-word meaning give the speaker
the opportunity to imply more than is stated((irony, jocks, word play). These words are
widely used by native speakers regardless of education and social status.
         The following word categorizations can be found in materials for foreigners:

         T. SHkapenko, F. KHjubner. Russkij "tusovochnyj" kak inostrannyj. Kaliningrad, 2003.
Yatsenko, Russian Mob Slang: dictionaries and non-linguistic description

       Nominalization of money: штука "shtuka" (1000), тонна "tonna" (1000), лимон
"limon" (1 000 000).
       Dishonest actions with money: кинуть "kinut"18, обуть "obut", наколоть
"nakolot" (to pin); развести "razvesti".
       "Business relations": разборка "razborka", наезд "naezd", стрелка "strelka",
включить счетчик "vkljuchit' schetchik" (to turn on meter) – 'increase the rate of
interest of unpaid debt.
       Victim of deceive: лох "lokh" – fool.
       Words for nominalization of cars, clothes, technical equipments, drugs: мобила
"mobila" – cell phone; травка "travka" – "grass (as drug)", прикид "prikid" and
упаковка "upakovka" (packing) –'dress', прибамбасы (pl) "pribambasy" cool fashion
details, accessories; тачка "tachka" a car.
       Evaluative words: крутой "krutoj" (steep, rapid) and продвинутый
"prodvinutyj" – cool, modern person; правильно упакованный "pravilno upakovannyj"
(right packed) – dressed according to fashion style; немерено "nemereno" (unmeasured)
– a lot of, enormous amount of something
       Significant language expressions: фильтруй базар! – filter, select your words!–
watch your words!; чисто-конкретно – clean-concrete; absolutely real – the words
confirm a reality of something; брателло (reference word) "bratello" – member of mob
group; this word imitates sound of the Italian language (Sicilian mafia); пальцы веером
"paltsy veerom" (fan out of fingers) – to be proud of yourself, to look at everybody from

        Thus, sociologists see new social situations emerging through the slang words and
try to identify the concepts most relevant for contemporary society. Linguists, above all,
focus their attention on tracking the paths of language development and try to fight
against the "barbarization" of language. Study guides for foreigners confine themselves to
stating the fact that slang is an active part of common colloquial language, mass media
productions and "political argot".
         The main sources for borrowing words for contemporary Russian language are
foreign languages (English predominates as such a source) and argots (mob argot is
dominant). "Mob language" is one source for words with original Russian roots. The
semantic zones 'deception' and 'violence' (general semantic zone 'lawlessness') are
especially productive in moblanguage; words from these zones constitute the mob's
particular "contribution" to the thesaurus of contemporary Russian language. An
interesting tendency emerges in contemporary Russian slang lexicography: linguists have
begun to pay greater attention to the research of former prison inmates and underworld
figures on the assumption that a thorough description of slang should draw on extra-
linguistics information. In other words, studying of slang confirms the idea that any
language phenomenon should be approached socio-linguistically, through a study of the
social groups, their subcultures, the typical contexts from which lexemes draw their
unique cultural connotations, as the history of language (in the enlarge sense) has strong
connection with the history of social ideas.

         Words without translation were mentioned and translated (pp. 5-6).
Yatsenko, Russian Mob Slang: dictionaries and non-linguistic description

               Supplement: the Internet resource (gangster slang, "street-language"):

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