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Chapter 8 - Mikhail Zadornov
When I was working as a teacher of Russian, I comforted my students by telling them that complete proficiency in Russian is impossible even for native Russian speakers. Russian grammar is so complicated that only a handful of academics speak and write perfect Russian. Everybody else does their best: Mikhail Gorbachev, for example, came from a peasant background, and his speech was full of mistakes that made educated Russians cringe. Then I would tell my students about a famous 1990s comedy sketch in which the USSR’s first and only president gives his audience a Russian language lesson. The author of the skit was Mikhail Zadornov, a satirical writer and performer, who on that occasion showed that he was a good mimic too, imitating Gorbachev’s soft South Russian accent and peppering his monologue with the president’s idiosyncrasies of speech, adding a few more invented errors for good measure.
Zadornov is slim, tall, elegantly dressed, and he was brought up in Riga, Latvia. He is a former aviation engineer and the son of a writer. As I mention in another chapter, a great proportion of the Soviet “middle class” were engineers, even though their work was mainly administrative. But Zadornov actually worked as an aeronautical engineer. At the Moscow Aviation Institute he was popular with his fellow-students for his story-telling, and this is when he first dreamed of one day being able to earn his living telling funny stories to a bigger audience. The dream came true in the mid-1980s, after he started appearing on TV, and his popularity soared on the wave of perestroika.
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image source: http://zadornov.net/
“Россия — великая страна с непредсказуемым прошлым!” —
“Russia is a great country with an unpredictable past!”
“Россия — государство, победившее разум.” —
“Russia is a state that has defeated common sense.”