The bloody and horrible warfare in Ukraine has been accompanied by a confrontation. One of many extra frequent phrases heard within the Russian media is vranyo, which suggests a “lie”. The Russian authorities and media have hurled it at Ukraine and its allies, accusing them of exaggerating the devastating results of its “particular army operation” whereas Ukraine’s Russian audio system have used it to explain Russia’s apparently ad-libbed various explanations for the destruction wrought in Bucha, Mariupol and elsewhere. Vranyo, although, shouldn’t be so simple as only a “lie” – it means greater than that.
Russian has two phrases for reality, istina and pravda, and it additionally has two phrases for lies: lozh (ложь) and vranyo (враньё). Look them up in a dictionary, and also you’ll discover them cross-referencing one another, which isn’t a lot assist. The English press has generally translated the previous simply as a “lie” and the latter as a “bald-faced lie”. That begins to get on the distinction however isn’t fairly there.
Lozh originates with the verb lgat’, the act of mendacity – the noun describes an untruth. Lozh is the phrase the US authorities used to translate Biden’s inaugural pronouncement that: “There’s reality and there are lies,” and to attach it to the “stream of lies” popping out of Russia about Ukraine.
Vranyo is a noun fashioned from a unique verb, vrat’. That verb additionally means “to lie”, however it has a extra colloquial, pejorative flavour. Vranyo has a dismissive really feel: it’s a lie that nobody would take significantly, an excuse or a ducking of accountability. It may be a senseless fib, just like the story of how the canine ate your homework, or a tall story.
So vranyo begins with lozh, the negation of reality, and goes from there. Vranyo shouldn’t be concerning the proposition itself – it focuses consideration on the lie-tellers and why they’re mendacity. As one wag put it on Reddit, vranyo means:
You understand I’m mendacity, and I do know that you realize, and you realize that I do know that you realize, however I’m going forward with a straight face, and also you nod significantly and take notes.
The phrase has spewed persistently from the Russian facet on this that means. Following the lead of Russia’s overseas and defence ministries, Russian media have united to pooh-pooh virtually something in Ukrainian and western sources as blatant invention, whether or not that’s estimates of Russian losses (“propagandistic vranyo”) or particulars of how the Russian military levelled the Kievan suburb of Bucha (“the quantity of vranyo from Kiev”) and bombed the prepare station in Kramatorsk (“they’re steeped in vranyo”), among the many many atrocities already documented.
However when a authorities does vranyo, the character of the fabrication can change. We could be speaking about “the massive lie”, and the rationale for vranyo may not be evasiveness, however contempt. Western and liberal Russian sources have known as vranyo a attribute tactic of the Russian state, even coining a brand new compound gosvranyo, actually “government-vranyo”.
Ukraine actually makes use of it this manner about Russia. The Russian-language Ukrainian media have hit again, implying that Russia is formulating another actuality through which they do no incorrect (“a warfare primarily based on an awesome vranyo”, as one commentator noticed it, or “easy vranyo dressed up as propagandistic cliches”, within the phrases of one other).
Vranyo within the cathedral
Encounters with a high-profile phrase, although, don’t simply join with summary meanings and makes use of; in addition they evoke associations and echoes of different locations we’ve heard and seen them. And vranyo has been a continuing in recent times with Russia within the information.
For instance, when UK police fingered two foreigners as FSB (Russian state safety) brokers who they mentioned had carried out the novichok poisonings in Salisbury in 2018, the pair have been interviewed on Russian state tv. They defined that, fairly on the contrary, they have been easy vacationers who had made a particular journey to Salisbury to see the fabled cathedral with its 123-metre-high spire.
The reason was so far-fetched that it appeared that they had barely put any effort into making it sound credible – liberal Russian commentators mentioned the British have been letting the Kremlin “drown itself in vranyo”. The federal government’s stance itself – denial with out plausibility – will be seen as a show of energy, an indifference to the conventions of rationalization.
However attempt to lookup vranyo and mentions of the Skripal poisoning in Russian, and most of what jumps out is Russian media accounts dismissing the UK authorities’s accusations. Russian overseas ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova instantly fired again about “London’s vranyo”, which was broadly reported throughout the Russian internet. The identical has now occurred with the invasion of Ukraine.
Vranyo is thus each extra particular and extra multifaceted than “mendacity”. It’s a method of the present Russian regime, and a trope the regime makes use of in opposition to its enemies. Vranyo shouldn’t be after all distinctive to Russia; to take only one instance, Trump employed the identical ways within the US election along with his “large steal” claims. However vranyo does neatly encapsulate, in a single phrase, the paradox of truth-telling within the present battle.
Neil Bermel receives funding from the UK Arts and Humanities Analysis Council and has up to now acquired funding from the Leverhulme Belief and the British Academy. Neil needs to gratefully acknowledge using the Araneum Russicum Russicum Maius corpus and the Czech Nationwide Corpus infrastructure.