The girl says something like:

Наверноe я бы свободу отнесла бы к числу известных испытаний наряду с огнём, водой и медными трубами. И причём такое испытание, наверное более легко для отдельной личности, чем для народа, для государства в целом!

She's referring to an old movie, comparing the challenges or something. What does she mean?

4 Answers 4


The idiom "through fire, water and brass pipes" came into Russian through other languages reflecting ancient traditions of trials by ordeal. Trials by "fire and water" is a popular subject, which can be googled to find a ton of references. The brass part sounds original but it also came from ancient tradition, particularly Egyptian cult of Isis. See this reference to Heckerthorn's "The Secret Societies of All Ages and Countries (1897)" book, pp.72-73. He describes the trials by fire, water and air (in correct order). The air part includes the brass rings.

I think in the Russian namesake movie, and in modern understanding "brass pipes" became "trumpets" completely changing the meaning of the last part from an ordeal to "fame". I think that this substitution happened relatively recently, maybe in past 50 years. Also, say 100 years ago, the meaning of the whole idiom had a negative connotation, which is lost these days. It used to refer to a shrewd person, who can get his way.

  • +1 The article on gramota.ru states that there are many versions of what "медные трубы" mean.
    – Artemix
    Apr 22, 2014 at 15:11
  • So she is saying that freedom comes through such trials? Why does she say that it's easier for the individual than for the nation?
    – EtTuBrute
    Apr 25, 2014 at 1:55
  • 1
    She compares freedom with trials by ordeal, and suggests that an individual can pass this trial easier than a nation. As to why would she say such a thing has nothing to do with Russian language, and it's simply her opinion, which is not uncommon in her country. I really don't think we should get into this subject though. Personally I don't think that freedom is a trial. Freedom is a treasure that's why everyone wants to take it away from us and we always have to fight for it. Apr 25, 2014 at 2:06

"Медные трубы" in this context is not "brass pipes" but "trumpets". This trial refers to the challenges caused by sudden fame and popularity with the people or the government.


She's not referring to a movie, it's just that movie's name is an idiom - page on wikipedia provides more information.


Fire, Water, and Brass Pipes (Russian: Огонь, вода и… медные трубы, Ogon', voda i... mednye truby) is a Soviet fantasy film directed by Aleksandr Rou. Its story and characters are derived from Slavic folklore. 1968 starring Natalya Sedykh

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.