Slavic Saturday

I do not think I could make this a regular feature, but possibly an irregular one – some random snippets from the Slavophone world whenever I notice something interesting – be it art, traditions, languages, politics. Let me know if you would be interested.

I instantly fell in love this song (and some others from this band). It is so cheery and silly. And I love violin.

And yes, the text is silly, although my Russian is not so good so I could understand it all instantly. But I was able to parse some and with help of online translators translate the first half for you. Unfortunately I cannot translate all, because translating it into English was not only much more time consuming than I expected it to be  – but above all I started hiting on phrases that are probably Russian idioms whose meaning I do not know. Being able to understand the gist of something and translating it into another language is not the same thing I am afraid.

I ain’t no poet in addition to my rusty Russian, so take the translation with a grain of salt. The Skobari (скобари) is an ethnic group in Russia and I could not find any proper anglicized word for them. And you probably won’t be able to sing along the translation with the original.

Who goes there, who goes there
have a look at who goes there
riding on a crippled mare
that sems to be our Skobari.

Skobari are a jolly nation
going home from a fare
one bare naked, one bare footed
and one with an injured head.

Play me such one
Skobar funny
so my tummy doesn’t hurt
tummy mine, the sinner’s one.

Play me such one
thats good for dancing
but not for every
snot nose prancing.

Smashhing up, smashing up
I feel like smashing up.
And truth be told you
I feel like brawling too.

Who’s that lad
prancing knees
hasn’t got hands on
aspen sticks.

Pennies for a party one
daddy collects his loot.
Mom whispers in his ear:
“Don’t you get drunk you silly fool!”

I was born hopeless
with no respect too –
should the heads roll
I’ll tie the rope.

I am breaking, back is arching,
I’m not really feeling well,
give ne just one half a litre
and I no doctor is needed.

We saw the grave of the one
who called us drunkards.
We did drink for our own money
nobody was serving us.






  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    Almost reads like a Jethro Tull song.

    In the interest of equal time, I think rq should do a Baltic Sunday, or Monday, or…
    No pressure.

  2. Ice Swimmer says

    Good music.

    The name of the band (Otava Yo) is interesting. Otava is the Finnish name for the asterism Big Dipper, used since times immemorial. While Slavic-speaking peoples use different words for Big Dipper, AFAIK Russian language has a Fenno-Ugric substrate, people in Moscow area spoke a language related to Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian before Slavs conquered it.

    Also, the Skobari seem to live in Pskov, Tver and Veliky Novgorod area, not far from Estonia, still Finnic-speaking and Ingria, which was a Finnic-language speaking area before the founding of St. Petersburg (1703) and there are still small Finnic-speaking minorities (Izhorians and Votes) there, which aren’t descendants of Finnish immigrants (Ingrian Finns, who settled in Ingria in the 17th century). So it isn’t impossible that the Skobari also have a Finnic substrate in their language. That doesn’t make them any less Slavic, however.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    Ice Swimmer @2: There’s definitely a Finnic influence on Latvian, probably(?) from the Livonians. For example, “boy” is “puika”; Finnish “poika”, Estonian “poeg”, but no cognate (AFAIK) in Lithuanian. Not just vocabulary, either. I think Latvian gets its word stress (initial syllable) from Finnic.

  4. rq says

    Yep, what Rob said. The Baltic tribes pushed the resident Livs to the coastline, where about 300 speakers of Livonian still remain. Lots of similarities to other Finno-Ugric languages.
    Incidentally, Otava is how we say Ottawa in Latvian. :D
    As for Baltic days, alas, I am not on the roster of bloggers, but I can certainly send in materials! Share some election coverage with y’all…

  5. rq says

    Also, re: the last chorus of the song, the unofficial Latvian anthem is one whose melody, incidentally, is of Livonian origin, about a young man who is refused by his betrothed’s parents, because he drinks too much (also races horses too much) -- and his response is that he only ever drinks for his own money and races his own horse. And, in the end, marries his own bride, too.

  6. says

    @Ice Swimmer, that is interesting.
    I do not know why the band is named Otava Yo and what (if anything) that means in Russian. In Czech the word “otava” and russian “ота́ва” means “aftermath” (second hay making). I do not know whether the accent over a makes any difference to the word in Russian.

    I do recommend more of their music. They have wonderful songs.

  7. says

    @rq, Caine expressed herself more than one time that she would want you to be a co-blogger here. Have you considered it? I think four people team would still be manageable.

    BTW the last verse translated is about in the middle of the song, that is where my translating muse left me.

  8. lumipuna says

    There’s also lots of old Baltic influence in Finnic languages -- I understand that the more recent layers of loans are more heavily Germanic and Slavic.

    Last year, rq asked me about the origin of the filler word “liigua” in Finnish folk lyrics. I didn’t find any real sources, but saw an anonymous online commenter assert that some (?) Baltic origin words are indeed used that way, more or less stripped of their original meaning.

Leave a Reply