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Is there a thumb rule for when to capitalize Родина? Or is it just a free-for-all poetic-license type of thing?

For lack of a better example,

Родина, еду я на Родину,
Пусть кричат — "уродина!",
А она нам нравится,
Хоть и не красавица.

Should it be capitalized here?

And again, this is just an example. Is there a general rule?

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Formally speaking, Справочник по правописанию и стилистике (§ 28. Условные имена собственные) says that such words as Родина, Отчизна, Человек, Вера are capitalized in a special stylistic use. An example of "special stylistic use" is Высокий стиль which implies that a text has some ceremonial, dramatic, theatrical color.

So the word Родина is capitalized when author wants to emphasize patriotic feelings, colorize the word and give to it characteristics of a proper noun (e.g. "Они сражались за Родину.", "Я люблю свою Родину!").

It is not capitalized when author gives no special color to the word and just means "a place where I was born" (e.g. "моя родина - Волгоград" - means just "I was born in Volgograd"). In this case the word родина is a common noun.

But it is not a strict rule. It is more about how author expresses his feelings. Some patriotic people always write Родина capitalized in any context, some people make difference between Родина (my country) and родина (a place where I was born), and some intentionally don't capitalize родина in all cases.

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It is capitalized when person who writes it uses it has strong patriotic feelings about his/her country. The word may also mean just the geographic place where someone was born, and if the patriotic context is not emphasized the word is written non-capitalized.

For instance, in Soviet movie "Garage" one of the characters says "А я за гараж Родину продал". An then it turns out that the "родина" he meant was a house in a village where he was born as a child.

It is interesting that in Ushakov's dictionary, published in Soviet times, examples for родина use non-capitalized letter and Советский is usually capitalized:

РО́ДИНА, родины, жен. 1. Отечество; страна, в которой человек родился и гражданином которой он состоит. «Мы любим свой язык и свою родину…» Ленин. Защищать родину. Весь Советский народ любит свою социалистическую родину и защищает ее грудью от всех посягательств. Советский Союз - вторая родина трудящихся и угнетенных всего мира.
|| «Готовил родине ты честных сыновей.» Некрасов. «О, родина святая, какое сердце не дрожит, тебя благословляя?» Жуковский. Тоска по родине.
|| Место рождения кого-нибудь. Родина Ломоносова - деревня Денисовка близ Холмогор.
|| перен. Место зарождения, происхождения чего-нибудь. Родина картофеля - Америка.
2. перен. Место возникновения чего-нибудь. Советский Союз - родина социалистической революции.

As you can see from the examples the word родина may even mean the geographical origin of anything, from potatoes to a Communism.

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