September 01, 1997

Repeat and Ye Shall Learn

Repeat and Ye Shall Learn

Of all the pieces of “invaluable” advice the founder of the Soviet Union had to give to the younger generation, there was one he made a point to repeat thrice – “to learn, learn and learn” (“учиться, учиться и учиться”).

All the subsequent generations of Russian youth – whether communist or not – had no fundamental problem with this bit of Lenin’s wisdom. After all, many years before Lenin said this, another famous Russian, Field Marshal Alexander Suvorov, had this to say: “тяжел­­о в ученье – легко в бою” (“training is tough, battle is easy”).

Most prominent figures in Russian history from Peter the Great onward agreed on the need to learn. For, as the Russian saying goes – ученье свет, а неученье тьма (learning is light and ignorance is darkness). So, don’t be surprised to come across the word “learn” in many Russian idioms and sayings. And, since we all know that students always follow the advice of their ancestors religiously, it follows that students in Russia have developed a keen interest in learning, along with their own student parlance. It is in secondary school that students learn how to списывать – to copy off of somebody (сдувать, содрать), how to skip classes (прогуливать уроки) and how to write a шпаргалка (cheat-sheet).

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