Russian Soul: Unique Concept & Beautiful Useful Word

Russian Soul In Literature

The concept of the “Russian soul” has been explored in literature as a means to depict the distinct national identity of Russia. Numerous Russian writers, including Nikolai Gogol, Leo Tolstoy, and Fyodor Dostoevsky, have provided insights into the Russian soul through their literary works.

The notion of the Russian soul emerged during the 19th century as a literary phenomenon. It gradually gained recognition in Western consciousness, particularly through the influential works of Fyodor Dostoevsky. In his novels and stories, Dostoevsky often expressed an anti-European nationalism by emphasizing the freedom and strength of the Russian soul.

Thanks largely to Dostoevsky, the concept of the “Russian soul” spread to other countries and began to shape foreign perceptions of the Russian people. For many Europeans, this idea offered a positive alternative to the prevailing view of Russians as backward, instead portraying them as embodying the innocence that the West had lost.

The popularity of the “Russian soul” endured into the 20th century but waned as Soviet power grew. By the 1930s, the concept was fading into obscurity, although it would continue to be preserved in the works of the numerous writers who conceived it. Nowadays, some scientists consider Russian soul a myth. However, the word for ‘soul’ (душа) itself is deeply rooted in the language.

Soul In Russian Language: Popular Idioms

The term “soul” has various meanings, including:

  • An individual person, particularly when considered as part of a larger group.

    Там не было ни души́. – There was nobody there.
  • The innermost essence or spirit of a person, often believed to encompass their thoughts and personality, and thought to continue existing after death.

    У неё добрая душа́. – She is kind (good-hearted).
  • The fundamental nature or core essence of anything, life, vitality, and energy.

    Душа́ компа́нии – outgoing person
  • Darling (archaic).

    Душа́ моя́! – Darling! (exclamation)

There are a lot of idioms and fixed expressions using the ДУША word:

russian soul word in 4 popular russian idioms

Some of them convey positive ideas emphasising the importance of being soulful.
от души́ ― sincerely, from the heart
с душо́й ― with spirit/vigorously
души́ не ча́ять ― to adore someone
изли́ть ду́шу ― to tell freely another person about most deeply felt emotions (to pour one’s heart out)
ско́лько душе́ уго́дно ― to one’s heart’s content
душа нараспа́шку ― frank-hearted, open
в глубине́ души́ ― deep in one’s heart
брать за́ душу ― to be touching (the heart)
душа в ду́шу ― without conflicts, in perfect harmony
душа́ не на ме́сте ― nervous, worried
по душе́ ― likeable, enjoyable (this idiom may be used as a synonym of нравиться)

Exercise 1. Match the questions to the answers. Answer the questions about yourself or using your own examples.

1. Что люди говорят от души?A. В моём муже. Я очень его люблю.
2. Что можно делать от всей души?B. Люди так часто говорят “Спасибо!”
3. Когда вы в последний раз видели, что человек делает что-то с душой?C. Моя бабушка. Она обожает меня.
4. В ком вы души не чаете?D. Когда у меня проблемы, я всё рассказываю маме.
5. Кто в вас души не чает?E. Вчера я была на концерте. Музыканты играли просто прекрасно!
6. Кому вы можете излить душу?F. Спать. Я не работаю, поэтому могу спать сколько хочу.
7. Что вы можете делать сколько душе угодно?G. Говорить “Спасибо!” (благодарить).

It’s also possible to express some negative ideas:
не по душе́ ― not liked
криви́ть душо́й ― to not tell the truth, to equivocate
стоя́ть над душо́й ― to distract someone from doing something by constant staring and (or) asking
душа́ в пя́тки ушла́ ― to be frightened
залеза́ть в ду́шу кому́-либо ― to worm oneself into smb.’s confidence
плева́ть в ду́шу ― to trample on someone’s feelings
береди́ть ду́шу ― to stir up old (usually negative) feelings

Exercise 2. Answer the questions about yourself.

  1. Что вам по душе, а что не по душе?
  2. Как часто вам приходится кривить душой?
  3. Кто иногда стоит у вас над душой?
  4. Когда у вас в последний раз душа в пятки ушла?

Exercise 3.

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