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Friday, 28 December, 2001, 02:21 GMT
Russian tots amused by sots
A teacher reads nursery rhymes in a nursery class
Nursery rhymes all over the world have violent stories
By Steven Rosenberg in Moscow

If you are three years old - like my daughter Elly - then Russia really is a magical place.

Chizhik Pizhik
Where have you been?
Drinking vodka
On the green!

Russian nursery rhyme

Just think about it - mushroom picking in the autumn, snowballs and sledging in winter, and lazy summers spent in the sun at the dacha.

There is just one little thing that rather worries me about this country when it comes to being a child here - nursery rhymes.

Yes, Russian nursery rhymes. There is just something about them, about the kind of message they send to the younger generation.

Dubious message?

You think I am crazy? Well, here is the one in translation - it happens to be Elly's current favourite.

I dropped my teddy
On the floor
And that detached
His furry paw!

Russian nursery rhyme

"Chizhik Pizhik
Where have you been?
Drinking vodka
On the green!"

See what I mean. I know it is Russia, and people do drink vodka on the green - and anywhere else for that matter - but in a nursery rhyme? And so it goes on.

"Handykins! Handykins!
How are you dears?
We've been round to granny's
For porridge and beers!"

Of course, not all Russian nursery rhymes contain alcohol - some are just downright violent.

Like this little ditty, which starts so innocently.

"Sing a bedtime lullaby
Don't lie down on the edge!
Or else the wolf will nab you
And drag you behind the hedge!"

That caused a few nightmares with Elly, I can tell you.

And all teddy bear lovers beware - you might find this next popular rhyme rather upsetting.

"I dropped my teddy
On the floor
And that detached
His furry paw!"


Now I know what you are thinking.

Nursery rhymes all over the world have their violent streak.

Jack and Jill going up the hill would not be the same without Jack falling down and cracking open his head.

And then there is Humpty Dumpty - of course - falling off his wall and shattering into pieces.

By the way, Humpty is one of a string of British rhymes which the Russians have taken to their hearts.

Over here he is known as Shaltai Baltai, which roughly translates as the Cheeky Dangler.

He still meets the same fate, though, when he slips off that wall.


Maybe I am slightly overreacting, as all fathers tend to do.

After all, despite being bombarded by Russian rhymes Elly is showing no signs of becoming hooked on vodka.

She has not pushed anyone off a wall either, or displayed violence towards her teddy bears. Not yet anyway.

But I will be keeping a close eye on my daughter in the New Year, just in case!

See also:

12 Jan 00 | Education
Nursery rhyme ban scrapped
11 Jun 01 | Europe
Russia's respect for yo
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