“Russian”: what does this word really mean

“Russian”: what does this word really mean

Why are Russians called “Russians”? Why did this happen and where did this word come from? We'll figure out.


“Russian”: what does this word really mean

According to the most popular theory today, the word "Russian" has Scandinavian roots. This assumption is based on the Tale of Bygone Years.

Here is what Nestor wrote about the birth of the state under the name of Rus: “They expelled the Varangian overseas, and did not give them tribute, and began to own themselves, and there was no truth among them, and there was a kind, fight each other. And they said to themselves: “Let us look for a prince who would own us and judge according to the law”. And they went overseas to the Vikings, to Russia. Those Vikings were called Rus, as others are called Swedes, and other Normans and Angles, and still others Gotland, - and so these. The Russians said Chud, Slovenes, Krivichi and all: “Our land is great and rich, but there is no order in it. Come reign and own us. " And three brothers were elected with their families, and they took the whole of Russia with them, and they came and sat down, the eldest, Rurik, in Novgorod, and the other, Sineus, on Beloozer, and the third, Truvor, in Izborsk.And from those Varyags nicknamed the Russian land. "

From this we can conclude that the Russians are the name of the people borrowed from the Scandinavians, who called upon the representatives of the Rus tribe to take over.

But what does this word mean - “Russia”? From ancient times and until now, the Finns have called their Swedish neighbors Ruotsi, which means "rowers, seamen" (from the Norse verb "swim, row"). It is possible that the Vikings-Vikings who came to Russia from Scandinavia, took their name from the same source.

Blonde hair?

Another version of the foreign origin of the word “Russian” is Iranian. Its author, Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky, a scientist, thinker and public figure, believed that the roots of this word go back to the Iranian “ruhs” (or “Rohs”), which means “light, bright, white”.

What is very likely, because the Proto-Slavs for a very long time side by side with Iranian tribes (Scythians, Sarmatians, Alans) in the south of modern Russia - in the Azov and Black Sea regions. Dark-haired and dark-skinned Iranians could easily call their neighbors on the main distinguishing feature - blond hair, eyes and skin.

Red faces?

“Russian”: what does this word really mean

Also, by the outward sign, the Byzantines could call us names. The Arab traveler of the 9th-10th centuries, Al-Masoudi, in his notes, mentions a tribe that the Byzantines call “Rusia”, which means “red, red”.

His colleague Ibn Fadlan, who personally saw these “Rusia”, notes their unprecedented redness. What exactly is meant: the blush, burnt skin from the sun, or even red noses - is still unclear.

Fields, villages?

Looking for roots in Latin. In particular, in the words rus ("village, village, field, arable land") and rusticus ("rural, rural, peasant"). And why, actually, no? The value is consistent with the lifestyle of the then Rus.

True, the second word has several more meanings: “simple, unsightly, unsophisticated, awkward, rude, clumsy”, which is not very encouraging.


There were theories about the native Russian origin of the “Russians”. So the Austrian baron, and at the same time a writer and historian, Sigismund von Herberstein, who lived in the XV-XVI centuries, believed that Russia got its name from the name of one very ancient city near Veliky Novgorod - Russ. The historian Vasily Nikitich Tatishchev, who found the source of the Russian state in Old Rusa, adhered to the same version.

River?“Russian”: what does this word really mean

But business did not stop at Old Rus. Let's go digging further.The Slovak linguist and ethnographer Pavel Šafarik discovered that in the Proto-Slavic language the river was called the word * rusa. From here, in our language, a riverbed was born (a depression in the soil along which the river flows) and a mermaid (a fairy tale inhabitant of the river).

"River" version is actually two. According to the second, the Russians got their name from the name of the right tributary of the Dnieper, located south of Kiev - Ros.

The Bears?

Well, what a Russian without vodka, balalaika and a bear! The most desperate researchers find the origins of the word "Russian" in the Western European root urs ("bear"). The permutation of the letters is explained by the same reasons that they turned the Greek μάρμαρος into “marble”.

So, we have more or less dealt with the sources. It now remains to understand why the British, French, Germans and other nationalities in the Russian language are indicated by nouns, and the Russians themselves are adjectives.

Some explain this by the fact that Russians are a very special, unlike any other people and deserve a “special” name. But here it is worth remembering that a similar situation has developed in other languages: in European, for example, almost all nationalities are expressed by adjectives (German, français).

Others advocate that the Russians are not a nationality, since initially there were many different tribes living in Russia (Polyana, Drevlyans, Chud, Mordovians, Komi, etc.), which united under this common name. It may well be. But you should not forget such a simple fact that in Russian, adjectives have the properties to turn into nouns: scientist, ice cream, canteen, etc.

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