Can you tell an orc from a Macronite?
With Russia’s war on Ukraine nearing its fifth month, a litany of new words have entered the local lexicon to describe the invading forces, their collaborators and frenemies.
Here’s POLITICO’s English-language guide to Ukrainian war slang — just don’t show Emmanuel Macron.
The French president may have given his blessing to Ukraine’s bid to join the EU during a visit to Kyiv last week, but Emmanuel Macron still isn’t going to win any popularity contests in the war-torn country.
Ukrainians have taken to using the term “Macronite” — no prizes for guessing its origins — to describe someone who makes a big show of being very concerned about something but refuses to do anything tangible to help.
Or as one Russian-language humor website put it, to be a Macronite is to have a “special skill, talent to construct a phrase so that it begins with an insult, continues with a threat, and ends with a request.”
Orcs (орки) from Mordor (Мордор)
In J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” novels, orc are the vicious foot-soldiers who serve the Dark Lord Sauron in his quest to rule Middle-earth. In Ukraine, an “orc” is a member of Russia’s invading forces, who have been looting, pillaging and terrorizing in service of President Vladimir Putin.
In Tolkien’s books, Mordor is Sauron’s evil realm; in Ukraine, Mordor is slang for Russia.
Both words have been used by everyone from Volodymyr Zelenskyy down. “Justice,” the Ukrainian president said earlier this month, will be served after the temporary words “‘occupation,’ ‘Mordor,’ ‘orcs’ … leave our lexicon. We will definitely drive them out of our land.”
‘We will definitely drive them out of our land,’ said President Zelenskyy, referring to invading Russian forces, commonly described by Ukrainians as orcs, rather than the Middle-earth battle re-enactors pictured | Michal Cizek /AFP via Getty Images
A disparaging word used by Ukrainians to describe Russians, it’s a portmanteau of “Russian,” “racist” and “fascist” that pre-dates the February 24 invasion, but has gained renewed traction over the past months. Particularly popular in response to Putin’s baseless justification of his war on the grounds he’s de-Nazifying Ukraine.
Slang for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, who at times wear orange-and-black-striped paraphernalia in a nod to the Order of St. George, one of Russia’s highest military honors. The term Koloradi is inspired by the Colorado potato beetle, an invasive pest whose orange and black stripes resemble St. George colors.
Wordplay on the Ukrainian term for a NATO member, a “Native” is someone who fails to keep their promises, according to a meme doing the rounds on social media.
A term used to describe Kremlin-friendly mayors and collaborator officials installed to govern occupied Ukrainian towns. The origin of the term is the German word for Nazi officials installed to govern annexed regions during World War II. Often used interchangeably with “Polizei,” the German word for police.
A pejorative term to describe people who repeat the same mistake but expect a different result. It’s inspired by the Ukrainian village of Chornobaivka in the Kherson region, which Russian forces repeatedly tried and failed to take during the course of the war. In intercepted conversations released by the Ukrainian security services, Russian forces refer to the village as “purgatory” for them and a “cemetery” for their equipment.
Shoiguing — named after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu — describes the act of pretending everything at work is going according to plan … while the shit hits the fan.
Tractor troops (Тракторні війська)
A nickname for the Ukrainian farmers who’ve famously used their tractors to tow Russian tanks and other weaponry from the battlefield. Now immortalized on a postage stamp.
Related term: To “start the tractor” — meaning to introduce a most unexpected point to win an argument, or to use a surprising tool in a fight.