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September 25, 2017

The word “terrorism” has a twenty-first-century feel for my students and a twentieth-century feel for me, so it’s interesting to see how far террор and терроризм go back in Russian discourse: not just to the 1870s but at least to 1833, when it was used to discuss the aftermath of the French Revolution, where, of course, “terror” is the English word used too.

What I hadn’t realized until this morning was that la terreur wasn’t always rendered in Russian as террор: Pushkin wrote in 1836, “could the sensitive and passionate Radishchev have helped but shudder at the sight of what was taking place in France during the Terror,” but the last three words were во время Ужаса in Russian, using uzhas, the Russian word for terror/horror in other senses, instead of the cognate terror.

From 1836 to the Terror is about the same interval as from 2017 to Watergate.

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