Why fresh air is public enemy number 1 in Russia

As some of you may have read in this post, there’s plenty of things waiting to kill you in Russia: drivers, zombie pigeons and angry mullets with low self esteem but one thing I failed to mention was perhaps the most deadly of all the killers – the Skvoznyak.

For those of you unfamiliar with this slayer of men, skvoznyak literally translates as ‘draught’ and, according to most Russians, is the cause of almost all ailments. If you have come to Russia for any amount of time, chances are you’ll know all about this silent killer.

                          Skvoznyak strikes again

Russians fear the skvoznyak. Most of the time the windows are kept closed, especially in our office, for fear of, basically, the air. If you open the window for too long, illness will ensue. A lot of illnesses are chalked up to the devil skvoznyak. If you have a cold, you will be told it's because you had the widow open for three minutes last night. If you have Polio that too is because you ingested too much fresh breeze from after opening the window.

The thing is, the devil air that comes in via the window is the same air we all suck in outside and you don't have to be a MD to know that air itself does not make anyone, germs do. Naturally exposure to prolonged low temperatures will slow down immune response and increase the chance of you getting ill, but for all intents and purposes, you are at far greater risk from the hepC hobo spreading tuberculosis around your local metro station.

Russians have a verb (got to love the richness of the Russian language) продуть meaning ‘to get a chill’, i.e. get ill from the cold. Продуть has a few other meanings too (to waste/loose money etc) and there are quite a lot of prefixed meanings with дуть, but I'll save the grammar lessons for another day.
Now I open my window a lot and the one Russian phrase I hear most of all is -“тебя не продует?”

                                                            Russian internet knows what I'm talking about

The answer to the above question is always 'no', in fact I hardly ever get sick (and when I don't have the window open, I have a small fan on my desk blasting in my face all day). I'm clearly some kind of breeze whore.

Speaking of продуть, it reminds me of an old flatmate (a faux creative hipster type). One time, her dad came to leave her rent money while she was away on holiday being creative and appreciating art or something. 
When I answered the door, he was puffing and panting like he was fixing to have a coronary right there on our door step. He had to go and lie down for 20 minutes and, to be honest, he was not looking good. He's middle aged, somewhat overweight and I thought he had run up the stairs or done something stressful.

When I asked him what was wrong, he simply said that he had opened the window at work for 5 minutes it the breeze must have got to him. Usually a Russian might say шею продуло (this is partially why you might see a Russian wearing a scarf when they're sick), but this time, the air being the ninja killer that it is, had managed to get his heart!
Now, I'm no doctor house or anything, but I'm pretty sure breeze doesn't cause heart attacks.

                                                                              House's rapist eyes concur

So, in a sarcastic nutshell, that is the skvoznyak. Also, as a bonus, you should know that in Russia, sitting on cold things, even in summer, will make you infertile - just in case you were wondering. Now go close that window before you catch the AIDS!

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naturesun on February 24, 2014 at 9:08 AM said...

Russians are right they know what they are talking about.

naturesun on February 24, 2014 at 9:23 AM said...

Yes draught is very dangerous. Espacialy when body temperature elevated. Let's say when you been running and than you get into city bus where two cross windows are open you can get very sick due to a draught. I know one lady and her face got twisted very bad, that's what happened to her many years ago. Her face is getting better after massages. What happened is when your muscles are warm and all of the sudden get extremely cold air muscles are pulling and can even turn your face 2 inches and you'll won't be able to turn your head. Its very painful. Trust me not all people get sick because of germs, for instance my friend drew to work on bike and it was very cold in a morning and he forgot to breath the right way air into nose out through mouth, as soon as he got to work couple minutes later his lungs were hearting(big chest pain) had to go to a doctor and he was diagnosed with bronchitis. I could tell u much more but I think now you now what Russians mean by draught

Lt. Columbo on February 24, 2014 at 3:26 PM said...

naturesun, i kind of find that hard to believe, but i'll avoid extreme temperature changes - to be on the safe side :)
it reminds me of being a kid, my nan would always tell me not to make face otherwise 'the wind would change' and i'd be stuck with that face.
it worked too - i never pulled a face again

Investigate on May 11, 2018 at 12:52 PM said...

They refer to when more than one window is open and it makes the cross wind, not when you have one window in a room opened or have a fan blowing.
You might have missed the point because you simply got stuck on the idea of how silly it sounds, and it might sound silly at first, but you might change your mind after some extra research or even try it for yourself ( which I don’t recommend)

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