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At the university I attend, when they have to make a reference to the war in Ukraine, the staff always say "всем известные события..." "... научная конференция не состоится".

It was interesting for me that everybody was using that phrase, as if they were referring to Lord Voldemort.

Is it a sign of an uneducated person to say "спецоперация" or "война на Украине"? What are the reactions those terms generate in a formal scenario -- at a bank or university, or during a job interview?

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    I’m voting to close this question because it's about politics, not linguistics.
    – mustaccio
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 16:31
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    @mustaccio, it's not about politics, it's about culture. Why couldn't you assume it's a good-faith question due to genuine lack of understanding?
    – Zeus
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 23:38
  • I will wait for other moderators to make a consolidated decision - the question seems valid to me - it is about whether "всем известное событие" has something to do with Russian phraseologism of any kind. The fact that it actually does not does not invalidate the question.
    – shabunc
    Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 0:12
  • "cпецоперация" is actually used heavily exactly for the reasons mentioned below
    – shabunc
    Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 0:15
  • @shabunc: I don't think we should close it either
    – Quassnoi
    Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 0:55

3 Answers 3

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Precisely that, the-thing-which-could-not-be-named but which is known to everyone.

Naming it война publicly could cause you serious trouble, whereas saying спецоперация (at least, with a straight face, without an implicit wink) could be viewed as taking side and/or buying the government propaganda. It's not "uneducated" per se, but it may create a feeling that you bought it (the propaganda) cheap.

So, you say neither and make an euphemism of some sort. Saying it this "Voldemort" way has a benefit of creating this sort of bond "you know what I mean".

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    I think that is exactly the case here. By calling it "война" you take one side, and by calling it "спецоперация" you take the opposite side. By using an euphemism "всем известные события", you avoid taking sides and the tone remains neutral.
    – tpimh
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 10:37
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I can think of three plausible reasons.

  1. When talking of war, or sex, or genitals, or drugs, or alcohol, or hell, or other subjects which can trigger emotional response, many people refer to these subjects using euphemisms.

    Известный … is a cliche way of generating such euphemisms:

    • Беседы велись до известных событий 11 сентября.

    • Королева шпагата отказалась и посоветовала Солнцеву самому обратиться к пластическому хирургу, чтобы пришить известный орган на лоб.

    • Думаю, дело в психологическом восприятии — опьяняющий белый порошок уж очень похож на известные субстанции.

  2. They want to avoid polarizing topics. Whichever term they use, it will piss off someone in the audience.

  3. Russia has a law which criminalizes publicly spreading misinformation about use of Russian Armed Forces (Публичное распространение под видом достоверных сообщений заведомо ложной информации, содержащей данные об использовании Вооруженных Сил Российской Федерации).

    The interpretation of what constitutes misinformation is up to the courts, so people tend to err on the side of caution when speaking of anything involving the ongoing activity of Russian Army.

What are the reactions those terms generate in a formal scenario (bank, university, job interview)

Funny looks and, in the case of job interview, most probably a polite goodbye and no job offer.

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  • I appreciate your well-written comment. It really gives me more insight of the word, and how the people perceive them. I am not a native speaker so I perceived them differently. Commented Feb 7, 2023 at 10:50
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    @MaroonRacoon but "well known" was quite in use in American journalistics in same way? Well, Mark Twain used that a few times. In fact, that's him and O'Henry are responsible for existence of "широко известный в узких кругах" cliche in Russian, lit. "widely known in narrow circles" which can be used as a sarcastic joke ("not famous at all, but we know who\what is that") or can refer to a fact or a person both speaker and listener can deduce from context.
    – Swift
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 17:32
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You could get in prison for calling it война. On the other hand, calling it специальная военная операция is a mouthful and might also be something the speaker doesn't agree with (or his potential audience might not). So, the general, more oblique/indirect way of referencing the ongoing event is used.

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