#RussianSaying about Death… & Life.

  •                                                                         [see Part II.]

На миру и смерть красна (na miru i smert’ krasna). Literally: death is red in the world.

Andrei Ryabushkin - Khorovod (aka A Young Man Breaking into the Girls' Dance, and the Old Women are in Panic), 1902.
Andrei Ryabushkin – Khorovod (aka A Young Man Breaking into the Girls’ Dance, and the Old Women are in Panic), 1902.

Mir” means either “world” or “peace” in Russian. Also it is an obsolete word which is defined as “[Russian] village community”. Thus, it is better to translate “mir” here as “around people”. “Red” also means “beautiful” in Russian (e.g.: krasna devitsa – literally – “red maiden”, i.e. “beautiful maiden”). Thus, this proverb can be translated as follows: death is beautiful when you are around people. An expalnation being that you can overcome various difficulties when you are not alone, even death is not so frightening when the loved ones are near you.

P.S. Yuri Gulyayev  – Steppe All Around.


Steppe, endless steppe,

The way lies far before us,

And in that dense steppe

A coachman lay dying

He summoned up all his strength,

As he felt death approaching,

And he gave an order

To his comrade:

“My dear friend,

Do not think of the bad times,

But bury me here

In this dense steppe

Give to my wife

A word of farewell;

And give back to her

This wedding ring

And tell her that I died here,

In the freezing steppe,

And that I have taken her love

Away with me.”

6 thoughts on “#RussianSaying about Death… & Life.

  1. Hi, this is a good translation, and that’s how it’s typically translated. But just to clarify a little: “krasna” in this case is better translated not as “krasiva” = “beautiful,” but as “mila” – epmhasis on “a,” in other words, as “nice” = “not scary” + “aggreable” + “acceptable” + “tolerable.” In reality, it’s a very difficult task – translating Russian culture into English. 🙂


    1. Hi, Lada! Thanks for your clarification. You have a point. I gravitated towards literal translation here that’s why I’ve chosen ‘beautiful’. Yes, it’s a difficult task but very interesting also. 🙂

      Kind regards,


  2. I love your elucidation of this saying. It shows how compacted such proverbs may be: a few words but packed with meaning that may only be decodable by those ‘in the know’. I would not have guessed, for instance, the old meaning of mir; the saying would thus have remained opaque to me without your explanation.


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