In this article, I am going to “make the anatomy” of the beautiful song Синие Сугробы (Blue Snowdrifts) by the poet and bard Ada Yakusheva (Ада Якушева).

Yakusheva’s songs are transparent, sincere, and brave. She is not afraid to openly express her feelings. You can find a nice article about Ada Yakusheva in Russian here.

Синие Сугробы is a “forest romantic” song (typical style for many Soviet poets) and a pure love confession.

The anatomy of cиние сугробы includes vocabulary, grammar points, cultural points, and links to more music. It goes much further than the lyrics themselves. By making associations, I will link the lyrics to everyday language constructions, more vocabulary and grammar. You can imagine the song lyrics as a tree trunk and all the other associated points as its branches and leaves.

Research in cognitive psychology has shown that associations are powerful if you want to remember something for the long run. I’ve also made a video about the importance of associations in language learning.

Finally, I’ll try to read behind the lines and reveal the deeper meaning of the lyrics.

Before we jump to the song though, let’s see why it’s worth learning Russian or any language through songs.

Learn Russian through songs

I strongly believe that one should learn Russian or any language in context. What does “in context” mean? Context can be songs, films, poems, cartoons, radio etc.

Learning in context will make your memories stronger because you add extra layers of information next to new vocabulary. Extra layers can be images, music, video, emotions etc. The more layers you add, the more difficult is to forget.

Learning in context is more fun. How can you stay motivated if you learn Russian through dry and colourless lists of word definitions?

Learning Russian through songs has the following benefits:

  1. Your new vocabulary has melody. You can review your new vocabulary by singing it.
  2. Your new vocabulary has emotions. The more emotions you add to learning, the more effective it becomes.
  3. You end up learning beautiful, poetic words which makes you admire and love the language.
  4. If you are a musician, you can play the song with your guitar, i.e. you add the sense of touch to new vocabulary! The more senses you add to learning, the more effective it becomes. Υou can also share the joy of a song with others. The more “social” you make learning, the more effective it becomes (I’m working on a video about this).
  5. A song reveals elements of the Russian culture. To understand the Russian language, you need to understand the Russian culture.

Синие сугробы – The Song

Синие сугробы – The Lyrics

Слушай, на время время позабудь,
Лучше тебе спою я что- нибудь,
Чтобы теплели строгие глаза
И не оглядывался больше ты назад.

Песню зачем из дома понесу,
Если могу найти ее в лесу –
Знаешь, какой красивый лес зимой –
Ее с мороза принесу тебе домой.

Припев:
В синие сугробы
Убегает день…
Если петь тебе, то надо, чтобы
Песня начиналась здесь.

Хочешь – в ней вспыхнут лунные огни,
К ночи хрустальный лес в ней зазвенит,
Будет в ней дерзость ветра, свежесть щек –
Скажи мне только, что бы ты хотел еще?

Скажешь – поймаю песню на лету,
Наши про нас чего-нибудь сплетут,
Только не в песнях дело тут моих –
Мне просто нравится, как слушаешь ты их.

Припев.
В синие сугробы
Убегает день…
Если петь тебе, то надо, чтобы
Песня начиналась здесь.

Winter Forest - Explore Russian - синие сугробы

Синие сугробы – The Anatomy

Depending on your level, some of the bits below may be easier or harder than others. If you find something too easy or too hard, feel free to skip. On a later read, you can dig deeper and explore all the points discussed here.

The words in bold are in most of the cases the exact words of the song for quick reference. The green boxes refer to grammar rules and the yellow ones to associations.

Let’s start!

 

Слушай – Listen! слушать – to listen

Я слушаю радио каждый день – I listen to the radio every day.

Я слушаю мелодию вальса – I’m listening to the melody of a waltz.

мелодия – melody   вальс – waltz

Я слушаю музыку уже три часа – I’ve been listening to music for 3 hours.

Слушай меня! – Listen to me!

The Cases - Accusative Case

In English relations between any part of speech are expressed mostly with the help of prepositions (e.g. “I am listening to music”). In Russian they are expressed by changing the ending of a part of speech (e.g. Я слушаю музыку). These changes in the ending are called case inflections or just cases. There are six cases in Russian: the Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, Instrumental, and Prepositional. The accusative case is used to denote the object of a verb, e.g. I am listening to music (object). I am listening to you (object). 

So, in the above examples:

Радио is the accusative case of радио (For neuter nouns, e.g. radio, the accusative case is the same as the nominative case).

Мелодию is the accusative case of мелодия.

Музыку is the accusative case of музыка.

Меня is the accusative case of Я – I.

The Present Tense of a Verb

In Russian there is only one form of the Present Tense which corresponds to Present Indefinite, Present Continuous and Present Perfect Continuous in English. So, Я слушаю as we saw in the examples earlier can be used as:

Я слушаю радио каждый день – I listen to the radio every day (Present Indefinite). 

Я слушаю мелодию вальса – I’m listening to the melody of a waltz (Present Continuous).

Я слушаю музыку уже три часа – I’ve been listening to music for 3 hours (Present Perfect Continuous). 

На время – at the time, for a while

Время позабудь – forget the time!

Позабудь – Forget! Позабыть – to forget.

Also to say forget we can use забудь – Forget! забыть – to forget.

Забыть and позабыть are synonyms (meaning is exactly the same). Позабыть is more colloquial or poetic. 

Я позабыл ее имя – I forgot her name (can be said with some nostalgic/romantic tone).

Я забыл ее имя – I forgot her name (more neutral).

Association

Do you see that быть and будь? Быть is the verb – to be.

For example, будь здоров! – Bless you! (Literally be healthy) or будь счастлив – Be happy!

The preposition за in Russian means behind (e.g. за столом – behind the table).

You can imagine something that “is behind”, or “left behind”, or is forgotten. за + быть → to forget. 

На время время позабудь  forget the time for a while!

Лучше тебе спою я что-нибудь  better I’ll sing something to you

Как ты сегодня? – How are you today?

лучше – better ≠ хуже – worse

тебе – indirect object (to whom?)

что-нибудь – direct object (what to sing?)

It’s typical in Russian to change the order of the words in a sentence, especially in poetry. So a more “conservative” я спою тебе что-нибудь (subject first – I will sing to you something) becomes here тебе спою я что-нибудь.

Similar constructions:

Я тебе подарю песню – I will give/dedicate a song to you (This is how a famous song starts by А. Розенбаум – Ау: Я хотел бы подарить тебе песню – I’d like to dedicate a song to you).

Я тебе расскажу сказку – I will tell you a story. 

Я тебе дам книги – I will give books to you.

Association

сказка → сказку (accusative case) just like музыка → музыку (accusative case)

песня → песню (accusative case) just like мелодия → мелодию (accusative case)

To learn the grammar cases, always look for patterns like these! 

Я спою – I will sing Cпеть – to sing (perfective verb)

Mоя песенка спета – My song is sung. This phrase is allegorical and means something like “my life is over” or “game over” – it can refer to biological life, or the end of a love etc.

Спела – sang (for feminine nouns) Спел – sang (for masculine nouns)

Наталия спела песню – Natalia sang a song.

Коля спел песню – Kolya sang a song.

Песенка – little song (diminutive of песня – song)

Wanna speak Russian well?

(Tебе спою я что-нибудь I will sing something to you)

чтобы теплели строгие глаза  so stern eyes get warmed up

тепле́ли – past form (plural) of теплеть – get warmer

Don’t confuse with теплиться – emit some weak light and/or warmth

Both теплеть and теплиться can also have a “figurative” meaning:

Cуровый взгляд теплеет от ее улыбки – The stern look gets warmer from her smile.

В нем еще теплится надежда (где-то в глубине) – (In that) there is still some glimmer of hope (somewhere in the depths). 

строгие глаза – stern, strict eyes

Plural of masculine nouns ending in a consonant

глаз – eye глаза́ – eyes

город – town города́ – towns

дом – house дома́ – houses

I will sing something to you so the stern eyes get warmed up AND…

… чтобы не оглядывался больше ты назад  so you don’t look back anymore

оглядываться – look back

назад – back ≠ вперед – forward, ahead

Note: назад is not necessary here, it’s just for poetic shape and maybe to emphasize оглядывался!

 

When someone wants to do something themselves, we use хотеть + infinitive.

Я хочу пойти в кино – I want to go to the cinema.

Я хочу что-то тебе сказать – I want to tell you something.

BUT

When I want YOU (or somebody else or something else) to do something, we use хотеть + чтобы (so) + ты + past

Я хочу, чтобы ты помыл посуду – I want you to wash the plates.

Я хочу, чтобы ты не оглядывался назад – I don’t want you to look back.

Я хочу, чтобы теплели строгие глаза – I want the eyes to get warmed up.

Note: No matter the eyes are mine or not we use Past Tense!

For more on чтобы – constructions of purpose and reason read here.

много – a lot ≠ мало – little

больше – more ≠ меньше – less

The above are all adverbs and can be use with both countable and uncountable nouns. For example,

Много людей – lots of people

Μало людей – few people

Много сахара – a lot of sugar

Μало сахара – little sugar

 

Compare the above set of adverbs to the following:

хорошо – good ≠ плохо – bad

лучше – better ≠ хуже – worse

 

Песню зачем из дома понесу? – “Song – what for – from home – to carry”?

Another example of a strange word ordering in Russian. A more conservative ordering would be:

Зачем понесу песню из дома?- Why should I carry a song from home?

Also another “everyday life” variation (non-poetic) wouldn’t use понесу but simply нести: 

Зачем мне нести песню из дома?

You can make another association here with what we saw earlier:

Позабыть – to forget (more poetic)  Забыть – to forget (neutral)

Понести – to carry (more poetic) Нести – to carry (neutral) 

For more info on verbs нести/носить, везти/возить, вести/возить read here.

 

Зачем appears as one word here. But there is a two-word construction – «за чем»

– За чем (за какой вещью) ты пришел? – For what (thing) did you come?

– За книгой – For the book.

“За чем” means “what for” too but implies some certain thing and not just “why”.

 

Из + genitive case

из дома – from home 

из школы – from school (школа)

из магазина – from the shop (магазин)

 

You can read a nice article about the prepositions that take genitive case here.

Зачем ты хочешь этого? – Why do you want this? What for?

 

если могу найти её в лесу  since I can find it in the forest.

я могу + infinitive

я могу проводить тебя в аэропорт – I can see you off to the airport.

 

Here “the song” is implied – если могу найти песню в лесу

Я её не знаю – I don’t know her.

В лесу – in the forest

A common use of the preposition case is to answer questions of the type: Where? When? In this case, the prepositional case of masculine nouns ending in a consonant is constructed by adding an in the end. For example,

в городе – in the town (город – town)

в ресторане – at the restaurant (ресторан – restaurant)

However, some masculine nouns, mostly monosyllabic ones, take the ending -у in the prepositional case after the prepositions в and на. For example:

в лесу – in the forest (лес – forest)

в саду – in the garden (сад – garden)

в шкафу – in the cupboard (шкаф)

в углу – in the corner (угол)

 

знаешь – Do you know?

знать – to know

Я тебя знаю – I know you.

Я ничего не знаю – I don’t know anything.

 

какой красивый лес – what a beautiful forest

Какая красивая девушка! – What a beautiful girl!

 

Another common construction:

Какая ты красивая! – How beautiful you are!

 

зимой – in the winter

зима – winter

Зимой в Москве холодно – it’s cold in Moscow in the winter.

 

ее с мороза принесу тебе домой – that – from the frost – I will bring – to you – home”

её – that (again “the song” is implied)

с – from

с мороза – from the frosty outside

с работы – from work

 

принесу тебе – I will bring to you

я принесу тебе (indirect object in the dative case) её (direct object in the accusative case, )

Note: Not always are indirect objects in the dative case. For example:

Я заберу у тебя её – I will take her from you (у тебя – from you – genitive case). 

 

Associate “Я спою тебе песню” and “Я принесу тебе песню”.

Wanna speak Russian well?

When movement is implied we use the form домой:

Я поеду домой – I will go home (through public transport or by car). 

Я иду домой – I am walking home.

BUT

Я дома – I am at home. 

Дома – adverb that means home, not building, it’s a broader concept; дом – house, building.

я дома – I am at home.

я в доме – I am in the house.

It’s like you can say “I’m home” when you step off the international aiport in your country.

In the beautiful song “никого не будет в доме” from the film The Irony of Fate, that literally means “in the house”.

 

в синие сугробы убегает день  “to the blue snowdrifts the day runs away”

What’s the deeper meaning of this phrase?? : Snow looks bluish in the shadow on a sunny day, or in the evening. The day runs away towards the evening, and snow piles become blue. 🙂

сугроб – snowdrift (a pile of snow)

синий – blue (masculine)

синий стул – blue chair

синяя – blue (feminine) 

синяя машина – blue car

синее – blue (neuter)

синее небо – blue sky

 

если петь тебе, то надо, чтобы песня начиналась здесь

A more free translation of this phrase: It’s so beautiful here in the winter forest, and if I want to sing the most beautiful song to you, it must come to the world from here.

You see another construction with чтобы + past tense.

я хочу чтобы теплели строгие глаза.

я хочу чтобы песня начиналась здесь.

Петь and Пить

Don’t confuse петь and пить!!!

петь – to sing WHEREAS пить – to drink

я пою – ты поешь – он поет – мы поем – вы поете – они поют

я пью – ты пьешь – он пьет – мы пьем – вы пьете – они пьют

 

начиналась – simple past of начинаться (for feminine objects)

начинать+ся (the postfix -ся makes the verb reflexive)

 

Pay attention to the following examples:

Я начинаю работу в 8 часов – I start work at 8.

Концерт начинался в 8 часов – The concert started (itself) at 8.

Kонцерт is masculine (ends in a consonant) and that’s why its past form is начинался.

Песня is feminine and that’s why its past form is начиналась.

For neuter nouns the form is начиналось.

For more on the reflective verbs read here.

 

Хочешь, в ней (в песне) вспыхнут лунные огни

Do you want lunar light to flare up (in the song)?

луна – moon

огонь – flame огни – flames

Note: This is a similar construction to the ones we saw earlier with чтобы. However, instead of чтобы, we have here a perfective verb like вспыхнут.  You can hear the same construction (and some more) in the song Хочешь? by Земфира (Russian/Bashkirian female rock star of 2000s).  For example:

Хочешь я отдам все песни? – Do you want me to give away all the songs? Отдать – give away (perfective)

Хочешь я убью соседей? – Do you want me to kill the neighbours? Убить – kill (perfective)

 

к ночи (ночь – night) – towards the night, by night

Preposition К + Dative Case

The preposition К takes dative case. Examples:

к утру (утро – morning) – by morning

ко мне – to/towards me

к тебе – to you

я хочу к тебе – I want to come to you

приходи ко мне – come to me, visit me

(Хочешь) хрустальный лес в ней зазвенит? – Do you want crystal forest to jingle in it?

Have you ever seen trees with ice and snow that hangs on its branches like crystal chandelier (see picture below)? Have you ever heard how crystal chandelier jingles when touched? That’s where this metaphor comes from. 🙂

Синие сугробы - Trees with snow like crystal chandeliers.

Source: http://www.lesnyk.ru

будет в ней дерзость ветра – “will be in the song the audacity of the wind”

If you compose a song with all you see and feel, like this song’s heroine does, it will also contain a touch of the cold winter wind…

ветер – wind

ветра – “of the wind” (genitive)

будет хорошо – it will be all right.

дерзость (audacity) – дерзкий (audacious) – дерза́ть (dare)

 

свежесть – freshness

свежий сок – fresh juice

свежий воздух – fresh air

Also in Russian you can say свежо́ about cool weather or air generally, like when you wake up in the winter and get out of the warm bed. Or when you thought it would be a little warmer when you went outside:

– как там погодка?

– свежо!

That’s why свежесть щёк – when it’s cold, cheeks become pink and bring some fresh fine apples to mind! 🙂 

 

щека́ – cheek щёки – cheeks

щёк – genitive plural of щёки

 

Also щекÓтно – tickling

мне щекотно!

 

скажи мне только, что бы ты хотел еще? – Just tell me what else would you like?

сказать – tell

скажи мне, пожалуйста, который час? – Tell me please, what time is it?

 

скажешь – you will say

я скажý – I’ll say

ты скажешь – you will say

Here если – то pair is implied: если скажешь, то я поймаю… – If you say so, I will catch…

Чтобы and Что бы

Чтобы is different to что бы.

Я ходил в магазин, чтобы купить хлеб.

I went to the shop to buy bread. (чтобы here denotes purpose – to buy bread)

BUT

Что бы вы хотели пить?

What would you like to drink? – A waitress may ask you at a restaurant.

Я бы хотел… or Я хотел бы… – I would like (both are correct).

Remember earlier we saw: Я хотел бы подарить тебе песню – I’d like to dedicate a song to you.

поймать – catch поймать мышь – catch a mouse

Association

поймать sounds like понимать – understand (imperfective)

and понять – пойму – I’ll understand (perfective)

The etymology of the two verbs is somehow related. Think of “understand” as “catch an idea”!

поймаю песню – catch a song

поймаю птицу – catch a bird

на летý – on the fly

 

летать – я летаю – I fly (often in many direction) (to fly usually, as in present simple)

лететь – я лечý (once and in one direction) (to fly now or once in the future)

 

Я лечу в Москву завтра – I am flying to Moscow tomorrow

время летит – time flies (to one direction)

 

Вы часто летаете в снах? – Do you often fly in your dreams?

Птицы умеют летают – летать (Read this interesting article about летать and лететь).

 

наши про нас чего-нибудь сплетут

OK, I’m not sure about this guys. Probably this is something like “наши друзья/близкие про нас [наши отношения] чего-нибудь наговорят/напридумывают”. Наши – can refer to some people that are relative to both, плести – another word for talk or rather gossip.

So, “our people will probably talk some gossip about us”. 

 

только не в песнях дело тут моих – The thing here is not my songs (free translation).

Дело тут не в моих песнях – a more logical order

 

В чем тут дело? – What’s the case/matter here?

And a typical answer: Дело в том, что…

Дело в том, что я заболел – The case is that I got sick.

 

мне просто нравится, как слушаешь ты их – I just like how you listen to them.

я слушаю – I listen

ты слушаешь – You listen

мне нравится плавать – I like swimming.

мне нравится молоко – I like milk.

их – them (“the songs” implied)

Я их не знаю – I don’t know them.

All together, “The case here is not my songs but I just like how you listen to them”. 

Prefixes при- and у- (принести and убегать)

Prefixes при- denotes arrival at some place.

You are ready to have lunch and mom says: Сейчас, салат принесу.

При- denotes that she will bring the salad – she will arrive with the salad. Нести denotes that she will bring the salad «on foot» (she will not bring it to you by any other means, i.e. by car!)

Prefix у- denotes departure from some place. So у+бегать denotes you go away from some place running. У+идти=уйти denotes you go away walking. Уехать denotes you go away by means of transportation like a car, bus, airplane etc. Read more here.

More Songs and Russian “in context” are on the Way

If you managed to read up to this point Well Done! I know it was a lengthy article. I hope that you managed learn lots of new things. More articles like this are on their way. So, subscribe NOW!!!

Wanna speak Russian well?