Russia is a big place. There are many people living in it and its neighboring countries, especially the ones that were once parts of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Consequentially, there are a lot of people on the planet (quarter billion, according to The Other Wiki) who can speak Russian Language to some extent. It's no surprise then, that non-Russian authors love to put snippets of Russian speech into their characters' mouths, especially if said characters come from Tsarist Russia (in Period Pieces), the Soviet Union (during the Cold War era), or The New Russia.
Very often, however, characters have absolutely no reason to use their (supposedly) native language in the situations the author wants them to, and even when they do, glaring grammatical, semantical, and pronunciation errors render their dialogue absurd and even comical to an actual Russian speaker. Such instances fall squarely under the definition of this particular subtrope of Gratuitous Foreign Language.
See Analysis.Gratuitous Russian for common mistakes and ways to avoid them.
The Russian isn't that bad though, virtue of the singer being Russian.
The ancient OVA Crystal Triangle had an impressive scene where a KGB agent (who was also a direct descendant of Rasputin) gives a passionate speech about mysticism triumphing over rationalism... in almost flawless Russian! Of course, the seiyu's pronunciation is heavily accented but the grammar and wording, however archaic, are on the spot.
The soundtrack to Fullmetal Alchemist has a song in Russian titled "Brothers" ("Братья"), which plays quite a few times throughout the series. However, it's also Surprisingly Good Russian; it's actually sung by Russian children.
Although it IS really schmaltzy and the Russian is still stylistically questionable.
The Sakura Taisen OVA also features a few lines in Russian courtesy of the Russian-Japanese character. The actress's pronunciation is painfully bad, but the grammar is okay.
Balalaika and her boys in Black Lagoon. At least until Rei Hiroe hired an actual Russian as a consultant by the time the second season got to be animated. It turns into a Surprisingly Good Russian afterwards.
In Planetes manga Leonov's mother speaks to Hachimaki in almost perfect Russian. The only possible flaw is calling her son by last name only. Bilingual Bonus is required to understand it, because nobody cared to translate it. Probably justified by the fact that Hachimaki didn't understand her words too.
Durarara!!, with Simon Brezhnev and Orihara Izaya.
Grammatically it's perfect. Their accents are truly deplorable, though.
To the point of being almost unintelligible for actual Russian speaker.
Well, you can forgive Izaya, for Russian is foregin language to him. In Simon's case it's harder to bite.
Axis Powers Hetalia does this with Russia. Justified since he's... well... Russia, but it's usually lmited to "Da" and "Comrade". Fanfic usually takes this Up to Eleven, to the point that mnay hetalia fics have to include translations because he says plot critical things in his own language.
Dunno about other versions of Trapeze, but the very first episode of the anime has a great aversion - one of the foreign trapeze artists speaks perfect Russian (no accent and colloquial too boot - must be a native speaker voicing that)
World Conquest Zvezda Plot. Cue a colossal wince each time Hoshimiya in anime goes and puts lexical stress on that "Vi" syllable in titular "Bouryaku no Zvizda" (it is "Zvizda" in Japanese version of the title – ズヴィズダー). The "e" to "i" vowel reduction could be an amazing being true to natural, major dialect Russian phonetics, yes. But the said reduction occurs in Russian ONLY when the vowel is NOT lexically stressed.note Stress is codifyingly important in Russian, and correct pronunciation of the "звезда" word has the lexical stress exclusively on the last syllable. Wrong stress is bad enough as it is, but this is just digging your own hole deeper.
Colossus of X-Men used this a lot during Chris Claremont's first, long run. Notably, he does prefer 'tovarisch' to 'comrade.'
And he still does, because it caught on.
Nikolai Dante often utters Bozhemoi! which means Oh my God! – and although it is a bit off (should be written as Bozhe moi!) but otherwise it's used correctly.
The 60s comedy The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming has an astounding amount of completely untranslated Russian... no subtitles, even.
In Independence Day, something that appears to be a Russian weather forecast◊ features the nonsensical text "Tucha fznamznon" (maybe they were going for "cloud phenomenon"), and the map shown is the map of... the Soviet Union. In 1997. The three city labels on the map are "Moskva" (correct Russian name of Moscow), "Petrograd" (the name of St. Petersburg between 1914 and 1924), and "Novosyoyrsk" (apparently supposed to be Novosibirsk). To add insult to injury, the locations of Moscow and Novosibirsk on the map are completely off.
At the start of Despicable Me 2, we are shown a top-secret polar research station. Despite all the symbols using English letters, all the people at the station speak Russian without any subtitles. May be justified, as the Anti-Villain League appears to be a multinational organization, although we're never told that the facility is theirs.
So I Married an Axe Murderer features a scene where the protagonist walks with his Love Interest, and they pass several Russian sailors. The sailors comment (in Russian) about her looks, and she replies in kind. Her accent, at least, can be justified because she mentions learning a bit of Russian from an old boyfriend.
Dale Brown loves making characters lapse into untranslated Russian from time to time, even if they are English-literate.
Barrayar in Lois McMaster BujoldVorkosigan Saga was colonized in large part by Russians, and it shows. Unfortunately, while LMB did study some Russian some time ago, it apparently became rather rusty, so we are in for several rather amusing bloopers.
Not as many as you would think. The biggest issue is her choice of honorific suffix. It does not occur to a Russian to pronounce "Vor" as "Phor". And "Vor" with a hard v is "thief" in Russian.
There is also an odd minor character Vorobyev. That is a completely valid Russian last name, means something like Sparrow. "Phor Obyev" does not sound plausible anymore.
Sanya, a black Russian Knight of the Cross from The Dresden Files, often quips simple phrases like "Da" ("Yes") and "Bozhe moy" ("Oh my God") in otherwise English dialogue. This is particularly jarring, since he often uses them in situations where speaking English all the way (and he is a fluent speaker) is most appropriate.
Sanya does say more complex things in Russian on occasion (although he tries not to, since he's well aware none of the rest of the cast speak Russian). When he does, though, it's in narration rather than dialogue (i.e. "Sanya muttered something in Russian" rather than saying what he said) because Harry, who is taking the whole thing down, doesn't know what he's saying.
A Clockwork Orange has Nadsat, which actually is mostly real Russian words altered to look like English ones. For example "pony" ("understand") comes from понимать, and "rabbit" (work) is from работать. Burgess really did do the research... although used it in a very weird way.
The slang's name is itself an example of this. -надцать is the suffix used in Russian numbers from 11-19, i.e. the "teens"; thus, "nadsat" in the slang means teenager.
Several Russian worlds pop up in some episodes of Stargate SG-1, mostly spoken by Daniel Jackson, who is supposed to be a linguist proficient in dozens of languages (not all human). For example, one episode involved O'Neill being upset that he is forced to go on a mission with a Russian team. His comment that he needs someone whom he can trust to "watch [his] six". Jackson remarks that the Russians will watch his "shest'" (Russian for "six"), even though the phrase is meaningless in Russian. A linguist ought to know that.
Another episode features a Russian team going through the gate with SG-1. One of them complains in Russian about the most powerful country in the world making crappy coffee. Unlike the other examples of this trope, the actor in question was Russian, so no atrocious accent.
SG-1 gets many things wrong about the Russian language, such as consistently putting women's surnames in masculine forms. Not to mention spelling errors in signs, such as "Не курять" instead of the proper "Не курить" ("No smoking"). Most egregiously, the two submarine crewmen in the episode "Small Victories" spoke with such incomprehensibly mangled accents that the Russian translators were forced to dub over them.
They kept switching between Russian and Ukrainian. Someone didn't do their homework.
At least they lampshaded the "putting women's surnames in masculine forms" mistake in the episode where Daniel goes to Russia and starts looking for a "Captain Voronkov" only to meet Captain Daria Voronkova who emphasizes the last syllable for him. Of course, the same episode then they go ahead and mangle the name of the Russian Minister of Defense into "Miraslov" (the correct name is "Miroslav" meaning "peaceful glory"). It takes a quick Google search to figure that out.
The episode introducing Dr. Elizabeth Weir has her try to catch a taxi only for a random Russian guy to try to get the same cab and start speaking in Russian. Being a diplomat, she knows the language and speaks a few phrases to him. Nobody asks why a Russian man in Washington, D.C., would try to use his own language to convince a woman he doesn't know that he needs it more.
The X-Files had many occurrences of atrociously accented and grammatically garbled Russian, especially whenever Alex Krycek became involved.
Possibly justified, since it seems Krycek was born in America and Russian is his second language. (He says his parents were Russian Cold War immigrants, but since he's a pathological liar, who knows for sure.)
Law & Order: SVU had an episode called Russian Love Poem. Ironically, none of the actors who portrayed supposedly Russian characters was actually Russian - they were Serbian. The results were... interesting, to say the least.
Criminal Minds surpinsingly averts this in "Honor Among Thieves". The Russian that the characters speak sounds very natural and is, for the most part, free of ridiculous accents. Even Prentiss, who, of course, has an accent, constructs her sentences the way a native Russian speaker would do.
Airwolf featured something Russian fairly regularly and butchered it with wild abandon. The prime example is the Stavograd two-parter where the crew come up against General Kirov. The location itself is quite ridiculous as a Russian place name, and the Russian signage is complete gibberish that is occasionally hilarious. There is a huge dial they constantly look at that indicates dangerously high level of what could be best translated into English as "ariesources". овноурсы, овно- being something related to Aries, the sheep, and -урсы likely the tail end of the word for resources). It's also one letter away from "shitources".
Averted in Sledge Hammer, where Sledge, when assigned to bodyguard a Russian defector and protect him from the KGB, speaks his Catch Phrase "Trust me, I know what I'm doing" in perfect Russian (subtitled for the benefit of the rest of us).
In episode 13 of the first season of Farscape, you can see some Russian names, letters and words on the screen ("А. Новиков", "поэзия наших").
''JAG: Sarah "Mac" Mackenzie speaks Russian and gets the chance to use it several times throughout the course of the series.
In "Silent Service" Sarah Mackenzie is on a submarine as part of a fact-finding mission to determine whether women should be allowed to serve on submarines. An American sailor looks at Mac and says, in Russian, "Do you think they'd look like her?" Another sailor says, also in Russian, "No, more like sperm whales," and they both laugh. Mac, who is fluent in Russian, says, "Let me know if you see any sperm whales. I thought they were rare in these seas."
In "To Russia with Love", where she and Harm travel to Russia, two female hotel clerks make some crude remarks about him 'being able to afford' a woman like Mac (they are in civvies). Mac steps forward and rattles off a quick, untranslated, reply, then tells Harm not to bother trying to look up what she said in his phrasebook.
A Burn Notice episode has Michael pretending to be a member of The Mafiya. Being a former spy, he can speak Russian, but he still has an American accept. So, in order to convince a guy that he really does belong, he explains that he was born in Russia but was raised in the US. In another episode, his accent doesn't matter since he's talking to a South American officer, who isn't likely to notice these things (the officer's own Russian is even worse).
The song "The Khlysti Evangelist" by Therion has a bit of Gratuitous Russian in the beginning. For starters, the word "zapovidil" doesn't seem to exist in Russian language. There is a word "zapovedoval", but it roughly translates to "gave the commandments [to smb]". In context, "zapovidil" is probably supposed to mean "has enchanted". But the Russian for "has enchanted" is "ocharoval". Besides, "on uchil sekretniy um" means literally "he taught the secret mind", or "he learned the secret mind". Either way, doesn't make much sense.
Done by the Soviets in Data East's Secret Service pinball, who even put it on the signs in front of their secret base.
Игра на стол
The Polish in Twilight 2000 is mentioned elsewhere, but some of the Russian is little better. For example, actual Russian for a polar bear is beliy medved (lit. "white bear"), not severnaya medved (lit. "northern bear" with a grammatical error).
BattleTech has a planet called Strana Mechty which in Russian means "land of dreams", it is the most sacred world of the Clans, as it is where their society is founded.
First trailer to Modern Warfare 3, America, featured extremely bad Russian: "Odin. Unichtozhit' vrazhnuyu nadezhdu na pobezdenie!". Some of the forms of the words used do not exist in Russian: "vraznuyu" should be "vrazheskuyu", "enemy's", and "pobezhdenie" should be "pobedu" to get "One. Destroy enemy's hope for victory." The rest were fine, though, even accent was not very heavy.
In addition, the NATO forces are a mix of European forces and as such, the units give out quite a bit of Gratuitous German, French and Italian. And Norwegian in the campaign. There is even some French dialogue in cutscenes.
The Norwegian is actually pretty good, although their English is amusingly bad. Not surprising considering that the developers were Swedish.
Jagged Alliance has an aversion in Ivan Dolvich, who in the first two installments only speaks Russian. By Jagged Alliance 2 he has taken a course and speaks a little English, but mostly Russian. His Russian is always subtitled with Cyrillic letters. His Russian is completely fluent, only occasionally misspelled, e.g. "he sees" is "videt" instead of "vidit".
Well, first off all, the Russian-language signs met in the FMVs... Or are they Russian? Let's see. The post-battle cutscene after the second mission of Allies, a bunch of truck overruns a sign 'АПОСНО! НЕ ВЪХОДИТ!' (lit. DARGEN! KEAEP OU!). Makes the ones who know the language ROFL. note More correct translation. 'DANGER! KEEP OUT!' -> 'ОПАСНАЯ ЗОНА!' (something like this to fit the context) -> 'DANGER ZONE!' Also, did you noticed another sign in the Red Alert 3's trailer, 'ИЗМЕНЕНИЕ' (Changing), when in the current context, 'ИЗМЕНА' (Betrayal) would fit best.
The spoken Russian in FMVs is pretty Яussian as well. The above mentioned fashion of saying 'comrade' instead of 'tovarisch' even in the scenes where the heroes are obviously speaking this language is still here. Seen with Nadya in RA and with general Topolov in Retaliation.
Tim Curry's portrayal of Premier Cherdenko was... interesting. He did use the phrase "do svidania", which roughly means "until we meet again", correctly when he told the player that he will not say "do svidania" because they will not be meeting (only someone who knows the language would understand this). Most American shows and films usually do not do their research and simply use it on par with "da", "nyet", and "na zdorovye", although, considering the above example, EA just didn't do it fully.
There are also funny or outright obscene Russian writings all over the Red Alert series. One of the books in Stalin's study is labeled "БРЭТ ЖОПА" (lit. Brett Ass). The Tesla armor is labeled "БИТЧ" ("Bitch", in English but written in Cyrillic letters).
darkSector features first aid medical kits with "скорая помощь" written on them. "Скорая помощь" means "ambulance" (lit. "rapid aid"). "Аптечка" or "первая помощь" would be the correct label.
The infamous fire alarm button marked with the timeless words: "In an event of fire: steal, kill, fuckgeese, wait for return buzz". Based on an Internet meme popular a few years before the game.
The yacht Pobeda — "victory" — has lost 2 letters making it "beda" — "trouble". A Shout-Out to 1930s novel and 1970s cartoon series "The Adventures of Captain Vrungel", the canon translation is "courage" and "rage".
The inscriptions in Molo-Tech office read "Welcome. No trespassing." which is a name of 1960s comedy about a summer camp run by an Obstructive Bureaucrat.
An unexpected aversion by MechWarrior 4 Mercenaries of all games. Early on, one of the missions introduces a Drop Ship captain named Dashka. He speaks fluent English with a vague Slavic accent, though given the cultural melting pot the Inner Sphere has become this is not unusual. He also uses "do svidaniya" properly, as he is an itinerant captain who departs the planet at the end of the mission where you meet him. Becomes Fore Shadowing when he unexpectedly appears in a later mission to lend you some help, and your player character is clearly surprised by this—the two of you really do meet again.
This may pretty much be zig-zagged, though, since Dashka doesn't seem to be a masculine nameat all, but rather a milder form of a feminine "Darya".
Both Boris and Dolzaev do this in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Boris's vocabulary is of the "simple words that first time learners of the language can pick up, such as tovarich and horosho" variety. Dolzaev, meanwhile, understandably becomes a little more... colorful with his mother language after Raiden ruins his coup and corners him.
The Chaos Timeline has some of this. Teddy bears are mishkas, blitzkrieg is molniya (Russian for 'lightning'). Justified in that Russia became a world power earlier than in our history. But also fell deeper.
Similarly, an episode of Samurai Jack has a character named Boris, who speaks English, but is otherwise a fan of using "Da!"