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  • It is a pair of translation questions.

    Can anyone explain why:

    - Soviet infantry units are called “rifle”? In Russian it is called “strelkovyi” and I can translate it as “shooter”. It means “containing shooters”. It is about men and not about their weapon. It is not related to rifles as a shooter can be arned with sub-machine gun, for example.

    - Soviet-German War of 1941-45 is translated in English as “Great Patriotic War”? In Russian it is called “Velikaia Otechestvennaia Voina” and I can translate it as “Great War for the Fatherland” or “Great War for the Motherland”

  • #2
    It is often that translators translate the text diffrently. Sometimes its logical since a direct meaning doesnt make sense, but sometimes they do the darnest things and translate text into something completely diffrent. Dont know why.

    "Otechestvennaia"....forgive me if I look stupid now but I think in the direct meaning it would mean Fatherlandish (not sure though). Since this doesnt work quite well, they then probably decided used the word patriotic. But yes, your version could work too. There is also another Russian name for the war (forgot it), which can only be translated as Patriotic war as Homelandish war doesnt work either.

    EDIT: I do agree about the infantry names. I think they used them beacuse they though the troops in them were only sent with rifles since the Red Army had special SMG squads.
    Last edited by Tom Phoenix; 31 Dec 05, 09:30.
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    • #3
      Originally posted by Tom Phoenix
      "Otechestvennaia"....forgive me if I look stupid now but I think in the direct meaning it would mean Fatherlandish (not sure though).
      Yes. But my dictionary has no "Fatherlandish" word so I used "Fatherland". "Fatherlandish" looks an adjective based on the "Fatherland" noun and it is absolutely correct version of Russian word.

      Since this doesnt work quite well, they then probably decided used the word patriotic. But yes, your version could work too.
      "The Great War for the Fatherland" ("The Great Fatherlandish War") is the most close to the Russian version. But Fatherland isclose to German Fatherland which has a bad image. In Russian Fatherland is the same as Motherland so I suppose it is most correct to call it "the Great War for the Motherland".

      May be, "the Great War for the Motherland" is heard too good for the Cold War time?

      There is also another Russian name for the war (forgot it), which can only be translated as Patriotic war as Homelandish war doesnt work either.
      Hmm... I do not know other name of GPW.

      EDIT: I do agree about the infantry names. I think they used them beacuse they though the troops in them were only sent with rifles since the Red Army had special SMG squads.
      Hmm... I am not an expert in the question how SMG and rifles were divided inside of Soviet infantry units. As I know it depended from the concrete time. I read about special platoons and companies of sub-machine gunners in the beginning of the war. In the end of GPW the most part of the Soviet infantry was armed by SMGs.

      Is "shooter regiment (division, corps and so on)" heard not OK in English?
      Last edited by Andrey; 31 Dec 05, 10:55.

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      • #4
        In my main Russian-English Dictionary published by Izdatel'stvo "Russkii yazyk", Moskva - 1975 it give for otechestvenn//yi native, home; and gives the example Veikaya Otechestvennaya voina as "the Great Patriotic War". So I have always used the Soviet derivation while understanding a the Fatherland connotation.

        In the early Red Army, numbers of troops in units were counted as "sabers" for cavalry and "rifles" (sometimes "bayonets") for infantry. Soviet literature identified armored units as "tank" or "mechanized". Motorized infantry are identified as "motostrelkovye voicka" motorized-rifle forces. Consequently to give distinction to just straight-leg infantry the units have been called rifle.

        Other infantry type forces that required distinction in literature is the "air-desant" (airborne) troops and infantry riding on tanks as desant forces.

        Of course, another interesting designation is Katyusha rocket forces called Guards mortar units--carry-over from the wartime deception.
        Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 31 Dec 05, 13:28.
        Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong
          In my main Russian-English Dictionary published by Izdatel'stvo "Russkii yazyk", Moskva - 1975 it give for otechestvenn//yi native, home; and gives the example Veikaya Otechestvennaya voina as "the Great Patriotic War". So I have always used the Soviet derivation while understanding a the Fatherland connotation.
          Hmmm...

          It is only right now when I see that Otechestvennyi can mean "nation-wide", "of all the people of the Fatherland". The Russian language is a very rich language.

          But I always supposed before (and it still can be correct) that Otechestvennyi mean "for Fatherland".

          In the early Red Army, numbers of troops in units were counted as "sabers" for cavalry and "rifles" (sometimes "bayonets") for infantry.
          I never heard that numbers of troops in units was counted in "rifles", it was counted in "bayonets" if it was about infantry. For example, it can be written "General X. had 10,000 bayonets and 1,000 sabers". To say "General X. had 10,000 rifles and 1,000 sabers" is not good for a Russian ear. In such case rifles means not "soldiers armed by rifles" but "rifles" themselves. "Rifle" unit is translated in Russian as "ruzheinyi (vintovochnyi)" unit, it is heard not OK for a Russian ear.

          Soviet literature identified armored units as "tank" or "mechanized".
          Yes.

          Motorized infantry are identified as "motostrelkovye voicka" motorized-rifle forces. Consequently to give distinction to just straight-leg infantry the units have been called rifle.
          In the June of 1941 Red Army had motorized ("motorizivannyi") divisions in the Mechanized Corps. For example, Rokossovskii's 9th Mech Corps contained in the 131st Motorized Division (the 489th and 743rd "Motostrelkovyi" Regiments, the 58th Tank Regiment andthe 409th Artillery Regiment) in June of 1941. In the same time I read about the 1st Moscow Motostrelkovyi ("Motorized shooters") Division of Colonel Greizer (it was an elite division and fought very well in the Berezina against a German panzer units and stopped them on some days). I do not know the exact difference between motorized and motostrelkovyi division of 1941.

          In Russia the term of "motorized division" has a bad image, it is related with the German invaders.

          "Motostrelkovyi" is the post-WWII time term mainly when each Soviet infantry unit had got BMP or BTR and all the infantry became motorized. It can be translated "Motorized shooters". But as I know this name was very rare in WWII.

          Other infantry type forces that required distinction in literature is the "air-desant" (airborne) troops and infantry riding on tanks as desant forces.
          In Russia there is the term of "desant". My dictionary has no Englidh equavalent. It means the forces which were carried with some transport right in the battlefield. It can be air or sea transport, tanks.

          An air desant is the troops carried by planes right in a battlefield, sea desant is the troops carried by sea transport right in a battlefield, a tank desant means soldiers rided on tanks right in a battlefield. The troops carried by trucks are not desant.

          A member of a "desant" is called a "desantnik". It can be a soldier of any type of troops. There were troops specially prepared for a desant, those are airborne troops and the Marines. But anyone could be called "a desantnik" if to speak about a concrete desant operation. For example, in Manchurian Operation of 1945 the Soviets used an air desant in Japanese rears. BUT it contained ordinary soldiers who were transferred in Japanese rears by planes, they were not airborne soldiers. I had large troubles how to translate in English the term of "desantnik" in this case.

          If an infantry rided on tanks so all those infantrymen were called "desantniks". For example, it is possible to read in a book "30 tanks with a desant...". It means "30 tanks with some soldiers riding on them".

          Commonly a Russian "desantnik" means a soldier of Airborne troops. Also Airborne troops are called "Vozdushno-Desantnye Voiska" ("air-desant troops", "troops prepared for air desant (drop)"). But if it was about a concrete operation so it can be about any participant of the operation.

          For example, D-day was a huge sea desant combined with a huge air desant. All the Allied soldiers who landed in Normady in D-day were desantniks, participants of a desant.

          As I understand an air desant (parachuted soldiers) is called an air drop in English but I do not know how is about an air desant when the soldiers went out from planes landed on enemy territory.

          A sea desant is called a sea landing in English.

          And I do not know how to call a tank desant (soldiers riding on tanks) in English.

          Red Army never had special units prepared to be a tabk desant. Ordinary soldiers were used for a tank desant. Usually it looked by the following way: An infantry commander got an order to send some of his infantrymen in a tank unit to be a tank desant and to operate together with tankmen. Sometimes whole infantry units were placed on tanks andoperated together with them.

          The Soviet movie "Liberation" showed a Soviet tank unit advanced in German rears in Byelorussia in 1944 during Operation "Bagration". An infantry had remained behind and the Soviet tankmen had no any infantry support. Suddenly they had met a partisan unit. And the Soviet tank commander ordered for the partisans: "Climb onto the tanks, you will be our desant." In this case partisans were a tank desant.

          Of course, another interesting designation is Katyusha rocket forces called Guards mortar units--carry-over from the wartime deception.
          In Russia Katyushas rocket launchers were officially called Guards mortars. It was made due to their huge effectiveness. I often read about units of Guards mortars (it means units of Katyushas rocket launchers).

          For example, in a book or a movie a general could speak to a general: "We shall reinforce you by a regiment of Guards mortars." It was about a Katyushas unit.
          Last edited by Andrey; 31 Dec 05, 20:41.

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          • #6
            Andrey,

            You are correct, we have no equivalent for desant--I often stay with a direct transliteration. We also have no equivalent for the word, maskirovka. For us it involves the terms, deception, camouflage and concealment, operations security, disinformation which are all rolled up into maskirovka (which becomes another translation problem).
            Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong
              We also have no equivalent for the word, maskirovka. For us it involves the terms, deception, camouflage and concealment, operations security, disinformation which are all rolled up into maskirovka (which becomes another translation problem).
              As I know the Russian "maskirovka" means camouflage.

              The Russian "maskirovka" means to hide your forces abd plans from an enemy.

              But it doesn't conclude misinformation. It meabs only to hide your real forces from enemy observers.
              Last edited by Andrey; 01 Jan 06, 13:01.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Andrey
                As I know the Russian "maskirovka" means camouflage.

                The Russian "maskirovka" means to hide your forces abd plans from an enemy.

                But it doesn't conclude misinformation. It meabs only to hide your real forces from enemy observers.
                Well, I read e.g. in the Army level book on maskirovka using tank maketts, and e.g. the 20th Guards Corps used false radiocommunication, after regroupping...

                Edit:
                As for rifle vs. shooter, shooter is more precise, but rifle is more common now.

                I never read in reports unit strength is given as only rifle. I think it was common in the First World War only. In WWII, I always read chelovek (man), but it is very misleading as it contains the non-combat parts, too. For that (I assume) they use the average company strength. The German had more sophisticated rating system, so we know the real German strength more precisely than the Soviet ones, even if I can read the strength reports (and I read it ).
                Last edited by laszlo.nemedi; 01 Jan 06, 15:57.
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                • #9
                  Originally posted by laszlo.nemedi
                  As for rifle vs. shooter, shooter is more precise, but rifle is more common now.
                  Interesting - in Portuguese we translate "rifle division" as divisão de atiradores. The word "atiradores" is also used to translate unit names such as the British Rifle Corps or the German Schützen Brigade, but is actually the direct equivalent of the French tireur and the English shooter.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Andrey

                    Is "shooter regiment (division, corps and so on)" heard not OK in English?
                    That just doesn't work in English. 'Shooter' would almost sound derogatory to a infantryman as against 'Rifleman' which has a more praiseworthy tone to it - possibly because early Rifle units were considered to be 'elite'.

                    'Rifle' is often used interchangeably with 'infantry' up to battalion/regimental level but once brigade level and above is reached then 'infantry' is commonly used. Quite why Soviet 'Rifle' divisions are not referred to as 'infantry' I'm not sure.

                    Soviet-German War of 1941-45 is translated in English as “Great Patriotic War”? In Russian it is called “Velikaia Otechestvennaia Voina” and I can translate it as “Great War for the Fatherland” or “Great War for the Motherland”
                    I wonder if the fact that it could be either of those led to it being referred to as the 'Great Patriotic War'? Other than that, GPW sounds better to an English ear than 'Great War for the Motherland' which seems cumbersome by comparison.
                    Signing out.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by laszlo.nemedi
                      Well, I read e.g. in the Army level book on maskirovka using tank maketts, and e.g. the 20th Guards Corps used false radiocommunication, after regroupping...
                      The Russian maskirovka is applied to something, it is not used itself.

                      It is possible to make the maskirovka of a tank, gun, trench and so on. It means to cover it by tree twigs, to paint the object in the color of the ground around and so on.

                      It is possible to make maskirovka of a plan, strategy and so on. In this case "to use tank makkets" means to make a maskirovka of a plan of actions.

                      Edit:
                      As for rifle vs. shooter, shooter is more precise, but rifle is more common now.

                      I never read in reports unit strength is given as only rifle. I think it was common in the First World War only. In WWII, I always read chelovek (man), but it is very misleading as it contains the non-combat parts, too. For that (I assume) they use the average company strength. The German had more sophisticated rating system, so we know the real German strength more precisely than the Soviet ones, even if I can read the strength reports (and I read it ).
                      I supposed that the old counting system "in bayonets and sabers" means common amount of infantry and cavalry units and not ony first line troops having rifles in their hands. To say "General X. had 3,000 bayonets and 200 sabers" means "General X. had 3,000 infatrymen and 200 cavalrymen".

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Corswandt
                        Interesting - in Portuguese we translate "rifle division" as divisão de atiradores. The word "atiradores" is also used to translate unit names such as the British Rifle Corps or the German Schützen Brigade, but is actually the direct equivalent of the French tireur and the English shooter.
                        A Russian "strelkovaia diviziia" means a "shooter division" in word-to-word translation. So it is necessary to translate in Portugese it and not "rifle division" that is the Russian term translated in English.

                        If the Portugese translate it as the equvalent of a English "shooter" so it is more correct.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Full Monty
                          That just doesn't work in English. 'Shooter' would almost sound derogatory to a infantryman as against 'Rifleman' which has a more praiseworthy tone to it - possibly because early Rifle units were considered to be 'elite'.

                          'Rifle' is often used interchangeably with 'infantry' up to battalion/regimental level but once brigade level and above is reached then 'infantry' is commonly used. Quite why Soviet 'Rifle' divisions are not referred to as 'infantry' I'm not sure.
                          A Russian "strelok" means a person who can shoot. He can shoot from a rifle, a machine gun, a sub-machine gun, a bow, an AK-74 and so on. In this case "a shooter" is the most precise.

                          The modern Russian infantry is called "motostrelki" ("motorised shooters").

                          An "Infantry" and "Motorised" name of a unit has a bad image (at least for a modern Russian ear). It is related to German invaders and NATO. Bad guys have Infantry and Motorised divisions, good guys have "Strelkovye" and "Motostrelkovye" divisions.

                          Also for me to call the Soviet "strelkovye" units "rifle" ones is something derogatory. It looks like they were outdated and were armed by rifles while other armies were armed by sub-machine guns.

                          I wonder if the fact that it could be either of those led to it being referred to as the 'Great Patriotic War'? Other than that, GPW sounds better to an English ear than 'Great War for the Motherland' which seems cumbersome by comparison.
                          The English "Patriotic" has the complete Russian equvalent "Patrioticheskii".

                          So it is possible to speak Velikaia Patrioticheskaia Voina (it is a Russian word-to word translation of English GPW) but it is not done.

                          If Russian Otechestvennyi means nation-wide so the war name has to be "the Great Nation-Wide War" or "the Great National War".

                          If Russian Otechestvennyi means for the Fatherland so the war name has to be "the Great War for the Motherland".

                          "Patriotic" and "for the Motherland" are different things, it is not the same, these have other meanings.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Andrey
                            A Russian "strelok" means a person who can shoot. He can shoot from a rifle, a machine gun, a sub-machine gun, a bow, an AK-74 and so on. In this case "a shooter" is the most precise.

                            The modern Russian infantry is called "motostrelki" ("motorised shooters").

                            An "Infantry" and "Motorised" name of a unit has a bad image (at least for a modern Russian ear). It is related to German invaders and NATO. Bad guys have Infantry and Motorised divisions, good guys have "Strelkovye" and "Motostrelkovye" divisions.

                            Also for me to call the Soviet "strelkovye" units "rifle" ones is something derogatory. It looks like they were outdated and were armed by rifles while other armies were armed by sub-machine guns.
                            This is where you not understanding English causes problems with trying to deal with us on here. Shooter may be more precise but that sounds really stupid to us to say a Shooter Division. I would agree with Full Monty though, I don't understand why they don't call Rifle Divisions Infantry Divisions. I would guess they call them Infantry/Rifle and Motorized just to describe to us how the unit is equipped. It has nothing to do with being a bad guy or a good guy. An infantry unit is just that in any army. If they call it motorized that means they didn't walk around like an infantry unit but were driven around and then fought as infantry usually. Tank units were equipped with tanks. Now some tanks could be found in the other units and there were infantry in tank units of course.

                            For those of us that know anything about this stuff we don't think the Rifle Divisions were using outdated weapons and only rifles. For anyone that doesn't follow military history, who cares what they think? They aren't interested in knowing the stuff so it doesn't matter at all if they are mistaken. If they have no interest then I am not going to waste my time explaining details like that to them.



                            Originally posted by Andrey
                            The English "Patriotic" has the complete Russian equvalent "Patrioticheskii".

                            So it is possible to speak Velikaia Patrioticheskaia Voina (it is a Russian word-to word translation of English GPW) but it is not done.

                            If Russian Otechestvennyi means nation-wide so the war name has to be "the Great Nation-Wide War" or "the Great National War".

                            If Russian Otechestvennyi means for the Fatherland so the war name has to be "the Great War for the Motherland".

                            "Patriotic" and "for the Motherland" are different things, it is not the same, these have other meanings.
                            Here is another one that we learned that I was never sure about. I didn't learn this in high school but later in college or when I started playing wargames. In high school they just told us a couple of minor details about the war and just called it World War 2. The only details I recall would be Sep 1, 1939 when Germany attacked Poland, we send some aid to Britain and Russia but didn't actually join the war until Pearl Harbor was bombed. They probably mentioned DDay and then the atomic bombs being dropped and that would be it.

                            Later on I learned that the Eastern Front was called the Great Patriotic War by the Soviets and then later I heard about War For The Motherland. I like the name Eastern Front just because that was the first name I learned for the War In The East. GPW and WFM are still really cool names though.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Psycho1943
                              This is where you not understanding English causes problems with trying to deal with us on here. Shooter may be more precise but that sounds really stupid to us to say a Shooter Division. I would agree with Full Monty though, I don't understand why they don't call Rifle Divisions Infantry Divisions. I would guess they call them Infantry/Rifle and Motorized just to describe to us how the unit is equipped. It has nothing to do with being a bad guy or a good guy. An infantry unit is just that in any army. If they call it motorized that means they didn't walk around like an infantry unit but were driven around and then fought as infantry usually. Tank units were equipped with tanks. Now some tanks could be found in the other units and there were infantry in tank units of course.
                              I agree. But you have to know that a "ruzheinaia diviziia" or "vintovochnaia diviziia" which are the Russian equvalents to a rifle division are heard strange and stupid for a Russian ear.

                              Later on I learned that the Eastern Front was called the Great Patriotic War by the Soviets and then later I heard about War For The Motherland. I like the name Eastern Front just because that was the first name I learned for the War In The East. GPW and WFM are still really cool names though.
                              GREAT War For The Motherland. You have forgot the word of Great.

                              And right now you will know one more name of what you call Eastern Front. - :-). Attention! In USSR/Russia it is called "Soviet-German Front".

                              Eastern Front is a German perspective name. For the Soviets it was to the West from them. The representatives of Allied Nations have to use the perspective of their Allies and not the perspective of their enemies.

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