Friday, 13 March 2009

The Tatar Kiss

Krupenichka, originally uploaded by punalippu.

Interesting tidbit of trivia about Russian ethnic jokes:

Totally invented accusations in these folkloric items show the same folk tendency to ascribe negative behavior to 'the other,' as is the case, for example, in British and American cultures. For instance, what is called a 'French kiss' in contemporary British and American cultures was named 'Tartar kiss' in medieval Russia [...]

Now, in what way is French (or Tatar!) kissing a "negative behavior", we may ask...

From Emil Draitser, Taking Penguins To The Movies: Ethnic Humor in Russia, Wayne State University Press 1998 (GoogleBooks)

For further study, Draitser is quoting Eve Levin, Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700, Cornell University Press 1989.

And the illustration? It's from the Russian fairytale "Krupenichka", as told by Nikolai Teleshov. The fair maiden Krupenichka is stolen by Tatars, who want to marry her off to their Khan. A wizard rescues her by changing her into a buckwheat seed - known as "tatar" in many languages (e.g. "tattari" in Finnish). (Found in the book Tulilind ("Firebird"), an Estonian collection of fairytales published in Tallinn 1951)

1 comment:

Rozmin said...

That's interesting. I didn't realize that the term "French kiss" in English has a derogatory origin, but if I *think* about it, of course it does. I guess that's what happens when something (habits, word meanings) is so culturally ingrained in you.

I understand, from my limited study of Russian slang, that in Russian, "French kissing" refers to oral sex, something highly taboo in Russian culture. From what I've seen, French culture is somewhat ... venerated ... among Russians. Maybe that's an exaggeration based on my personal experience, but I think that we could at least go with "highly respected." It's strange, that "improper", "filthy" or taboo behaviours would be ascribed, not only to a group seen as "other" in a negative/fearful way, but also to a group seen as "other" in a positive/adoring way.

I guess in my mind I relate it to the fascination with celebrities ... we secretly love to condemn their immoral behaviour, while simultaneously idolizing them.