Now it’s time for the second part of our most popular Russian words list!
The name of the traditional Russian folk instrument appears in Russian language in the 17th century. The word balalaika has a particular folksy sound to it in Russian and alludes to words like bababolit’ or balakat’ – to chatter, to jabber which is connected with the nature of this musical instrument that is quite light and cheerful. Balalaika as a word made its way into different languages in the beginning of the 20th century when Russian folk music was recognized and asked for in Europe.
It is hard to imagine typical Russian way of life without mentioning dacha, especially when warm weather rolls around. Etymologically, dacha is believed to appear in the language in the times of Peter the Great who gave out small estates to his loyal vassals. Dacha is derived from the verb dat’ – to give.
In foreign languages dacha is usually associated with Soviet Union lifestyle, which is not surprising, given that most films depicting life of Soviet people shot for international use contain episodes devoted to gardening at the dacha.
Russian word pogrom meaning persecution, cleansing, massacre spread into other languages in the end of the 19th century with the mass persecution of Jews in Tsarist Russia and resulting emigration. Nowadays pogrom does not necessarily refer to a certain period in the Russian history, but could be used as a synonym for persecution in general.
Bistro is a small café that serves beverages and simple meals. The word and the concept of the café are especially popular in France where the origins of the word bistro are connected with a legend involving Russian soldiers staying in the occupied France in 1814. Russian officers who wanted their food served quickly shouted “bystro!” which literally means quickly in Russian. This led to formation of bistro as a food serving institution where meals are served bystro, i.e. right after ordering. There is even a memorial plaque on one of buildings in the Parisian Montmartre explaining the Russian origins of the bistro. However, it should be mentioned that some French linguists doubt this version.