Street Writing in Smolensk

language education on the walls

I just moved to Smolensk, a small, old city on the west side of the country, near Belarus. I’m new to the Russian language, but it turns out I could learn a lot about my new home looking at what all is written on the walls.

What to do with Your Car

and other conversations

Park your car near doors!

“Park your car near doors!” it says. Most often, outside these residential buildings in Smolensk, the warning is не ставь or не ставить : “Do not park cars at doors!” as it used below. In both places, some prankster at some point or other has removed the piece essential to the seriousness.


Access to joined and independent electrical rooms is marked well with these yellow, bolted triangles. In the image below, “упс” (pronounced “oops”) seems to play with the warning.

Stop the War!

Russians in Smolensk and elsewhere have a mixed reaction to the annexation of Crimea. Some are glad for the ethnic Russians living there but, on the other hand, see that the support of Crimea will be costly.


Messages from the foot tunnels are wet, ratty, and faded from the summer. A signpost speaks more simply.

So Much That
I Can Offer You

sales and services in Smolensk.


“Head (of some concern) Immediately! Requires a Helper! (male or female).” Offers like these are often scams, meant to collect fees from their attendees.


This таймкредит (pronounced “tyme kredeet”) add offers a loan. Underneath, an advertisement for a garage sale is meant to sell the garage literally.

Part-time Work

Work part-time, “at the office 4–6 hours a day.” The wage is mentioned in a thought from some off the page person.

Capacity (to install) Silk Eyelashes

It costs 500 rubles. Looks like Lucida sans.

Fast Money

“(We) Give Quickly” is the slogan of таймкредит, from above.

A Man Can Do That

“Porters Transportation.” It’s the maybe most common sign in this residential part of Smolensk.


and what else about us


Who is it? These four are within one quarter of a mile from one another. On the top, in blue, it says “мед” That means honey, but my eyes first saw “meat”.


From the top, азагул, прок, [illegible], Ati, and Dec. English writing is as common as Russian writing. Some characters are shared between the two languages. Others are formed nearly the same, adding to the play.

The youth are exclusively responsible for graffiti in Smolensk. In a small city such as this, they are the only ones capable of using English language, and their education in English language is in progress. They are a youth empowered in an imposed study of secret code. Their messages live long because of the lack of interest or funds for their removal. The fantastic results follow.

For the Kids

and others

Hit With the Kids

Some writing is for adults. Repeated names or cryptic codes speak to someone more specific. Some writing seems to be for the kids. The bottoms of the numbers streak down to the ground. They’re short, playful and provocative like a cadence in a game.


Fresh paint and fall colors go together in Smolensk.



I’ve never been in such a place with so many hearts drawn on walls.

I Love You

надюшка (pronounced “Nadyushka”) is a pet name. The rest: “Yah tebya lyublyu.” “I love you.”

From M.

Андреевна (pronounced “Andre-evna”) is a surname. ты одно в моем (pronounced “Tee odna v moyem”) means “You are the only one in my…” and you can tell the rest.

To Dima

I love you!


and other vulgarities


MIX is drugs, and the numbers that follow form realistic telephone numbers. I don’t know anything about the reality of drugs in Smolensk, but the use and sell of “spice” and “smoking mixes” by the youth has been reported about and not studied systematically in Russia. In the bottom image, a conversation plays out. “спайс отрава!” pronounced “spice otrava” means “spice is a bane!”

Kids Kill

The following is somewhat misspelled
on the wall underneath an apartment.

“Jeff’s a killer”

“and he’s cool”

End, but not all

I saw these that first one-hour walk around my neighborhood. There’s much more still to understand.

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