Here’s What Vladimir Putin Really Said About Donald Trump Today

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LA Times reporter Michael Hiltzik has spent time reporting from Russia and speaks the language well. Via email, he offers this explanation of what Vladimir Putin really said about Donald Trump today:

From what I can hear from the video you posted, he calls Trump a “yarkom chelovekom.” In my dictionary, “yarkii” can be “clear, bright, dazzling.” You sometimes hear Russians using the term to denote the bright sky of a bracing, clear morning.

Brilliant I think would be wrong to the extent it connotes intelligence—that’s not what Putin’s driving at. Outstanding is a pretty lazy translation. Bright personality captures the meaning, but not the idiomatic tone, of the word. Very colorful is downplaying the real meaning.

I’d go with something like vivid. The word also could mean garish, but I think Putin was trying to be complimentary, and garish would be criticism.

I’d guess that the reason all the translations agree on “talented” is that —though I can’t hear it in the clip—Putin probably used “talantlivii,” which is a common Russian adjective, stolen from the French.

So Putin was probably just trying to say that Trump is a big personality. Hiltzik says—and I agree—that Putin wasn’t especially trying to say anything either good or bad about Trump—though knowing Putin, it’s a good guess that he approves of big personalities. Basically, he was just trying to state the obvious about Trump. In any case, there you have it.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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