Archive for May 2011

Translation 30. Condoleezza Rice’s Knowledge of Russian. Addendum

12 May 2011

My 22 March 2009 blog (Translation 8) speculated at some length on the topic of Condoleezza Rice’s alleged prowess in Russian.

I have since come across an interesting media reference which I would like to add here as an addendum to that blog.

In April 2005, in his New York Times report from Lithuania on Dr Rice’s meeting with Vladimir Putin and other prominent Russian officials, Steven R. Weisman states:

“Ms. Rice held meetings at the Kremlin and the Foreign Ministry, but she also made a direct appeal to Russians in an interview on Ekho Moskvy, an independent radio station that frequently broadcasts criticism of the government and that says it reaches two million people across Russia.

In a half-hour interview, she answered questions about the expanding American military presence on Russia’s periphery and about the role American support for democracy might have played in the ousting of governments in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

Alexei Venediktov, editor in chief and the host, asked her pointedly if the United States was trying to export democracy the way the Soviet Union sought to export socialist revolution. “There’s an important difference here,” she said. “You do not actually have to export democracy.”

She said democracy rose from within a state, though the United States had supported private organizations and institutions in some countries to move the process along. “We see this as not a zero-sum game but one in which everyone has much to gain,” she said.

Ms. Rice bantered occasionally with Mr. Venediktov in Russian, which she has studied, but she apologized for speaking largely in English, saying she felt too intimidated by Russian grammar to feel comfortable speaking Russian for the whole interview.”

That reported statement of Dr Rice’s words is the closest to an admission of non-fluency in Russian that I have seen.