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Bread and Salt – A Russian Tradition

Russian Expression: “Владимир на Шее”

Let's have a look at the expression “Владимир на шее” (Vladimir on the neck). It has to do with Orders. Until the revolution, rewards in Russia were called with the names of saints. The oldest one was Орден Святого апостола Андрея Первозванного (the Order of St. Andrew). It was the highest order of chivalry of the Russian Empire, abolished under the USSR and re-established as the top Russian Order in 1998.

The next most important Order in Russia is Орден Святого Георгия (Order of St. George). This reward is a purely military decoration divided into four classes. Those who were decorated with all four of them were called “полным георгиевским кавалером” (full Knight of St. George).



Орден Святого Владимира был третьим по значимости (the Order of St. Vladimir was the third one in importance) and also had four classes. Then came Орден Белого Орла (the Order of the White Eagle), Орден Святой Анны (the Order of St. Anne). Both of them were divided into four classes.

Орден Святого Станислава (Order of St. Stanislaus) had only three classes. Not to be forgotten Орден Святой Екатерины (the Order of St. Catherine) that was instituted in 1714 by Peter the Great on the occasion of his marriage to Catherine I of Russia.

Each Order has a specific place designed where to wear it, either on a special ленте голубого или красного цвета (blue or red ribbon), either в петлgt;ице (on a buttonhole) or на шее (on the neck).

By the way, there is a pun in the title of Chekhov's novel “Анна на шее” (Anna on the neck). The heroine's husband dreamed of the Order of Saint Ann, that had to be worn on the neck, and that he hoped to receive by using the beauty and youth of his wife, Anna. As a result, he received both the Order and his wife on his neck. And Anna being young and beautiful demanded from him more and more money to enjoy her life. About such a situation we say: “сидит у него на шее” (be a burden to somebody, to live at somebody's expense). And that is another idiom.

Тамара Мелентьева

Russian Expression: “Владимир на Шее”…