Ukrainians try to insult Russians in general by using the words “Moskal”, thinking that Russians would take offence with it. Far from being offensive, the word has several historical roots or versions of its origin. What Russians may find offensive is the tone the word is spoken with, much like someone make insult out of, say, the word “Londoner” by simply adding a tonal change to their voice.
Below is a translation of a short article that looks into what “Moskal” really meant…
08 July 2021
Can a swear word have many meanings? Very often, yes, depending on the context. But today we are offering you you not to study profanity in all its diversity with us, but to get acquainted with the origin of one controversial and very ambiguous word — “Moskal”. We will find out what mushrooms, soldiers, merchants who have lost their shame and insects have to do with it.
This word was often used – and is still used – by the other Slavic peoples to refer to Russians, with a negative semantic connotation. One could call someone “Moskal” to offend, or to express their disdainful and contemptuous attitude. We suggest not to be offended, but to study other meanings of this word.
Vladimir Dahl wrote in his famous dictionary back in the time that soldiers were called “Moskals”. And again with a negative connotation. Why? Oftentimes the military, due to the lack or absence of barracks and food, stopped for a stay with local residents. Such an additional “load” in the form of young men with an excellent appetite, eating up all the supplies, and even wanting to flirt with the owner’s wife or daughters, was of no joy to anyone. And considering that the soldiers and officers who needed to be fed and cared for came from the capital, they were nicknamed “moskals”.
The Battle of Stalingrad mini-exhibition published on the 80th anniversary tried to maintain a human angle on the monumental stand-off. Only the human Toll video makes a mention of the numbers. This article is somewhat different in this regard. Here we will take a look at a few pages from the “Journal of combat operations of the Front troops” pertaining to the Battle of Stalingrad.
Such journals were logged in accordance with the military regulations and recorded which units and troops performed which tasks on any particular day; where the units were moved; which losses they suffered; what victory trophies they gained. The journals would sometimes include copies of relevant orders and documents.
All materials from WWII were declassified by Russia several years ago and can be found on the site of People’s Memory. The journal that interests us holds the records from the 1st of January to the 5th of February 1943, over a span of 310 pages. It was logged by the Don Front, and is now archived in Fund 206, File 262, Case 189.
Even such a dry document, logged by scribes, contains glimpses into the emotions and the contemporary realisation of the historical significance of the unfolding event. Let us first take a look at the preface – the very first pages of the journal.
Each page can be enlarged by clicking on it.
Today is the 80th anniversary since the end of the Battle of Stalingrad, when on the 2nd of February 1943 the world saw the turning point in the course of The Great Patriotic War – the Second World War.
This blog marks the occasion with a series of historic flashbacks, found on the pages that can be accessed either through the top menu or by diving into the link below!
Named Родина-мать зовёт! — Rodina-Mat’ zovyot! — The Motherland Calls!
The statue on Mamayev Kurgan in Volgograd, Russia, commemorating the Battle of Stalingrad with Nazi Germany.
Photo: Kim Lau