[Re perestroika and glasnost] For the first time people begin to express their opinions publicly, to have views, to criticize and postulate. They overdo this, of course… This overabundance of speech, this agitated stream of words, is abetted by the Russian language itself, with its broad phrasing, expansive, unending, like the Russian land. – Ryszard Kapuściński, Imperium (1993, tr. Klara Glowczewska 1994)
Obviously Kapuściński knows infinitely more about Russian than I do. He surely learnt it at school; he comes from Pinsk, which is now in Belarus; his mother tongue is a cognate language. I’m struggling even to view from a distance the language’s foothills.
Still, I am as struck by its terseness as by its overabundance.
I like Russian, I said strugglingly to our teacher Olga. Должен, she said – you have to.