Lost in Translation?

In the very public row over Russia’s refusal to extradite a suspect to Britain in the poisoning murder of Alexander Litvinenko, the headlines in the western press are focusing solely on Putin’s statement that Russia is not Britain’s colony:

  • Russia’s not your colony, says Putin - Times Online
  • Putin Attacks UK `Colonial Thinking’ in Murder Row (Update2) - Bloomberg
  • Putin lambasts Britain’s ‘colonial mindset’ as spy row escalates - Forbes, NY
  • And the “colonial” quip appears throughout all the articles:

    Mr Putin said Britain’s behaviour was “clearly a remnant of a colonial mindset”… “They don’t have any colonies. And Russia, thank God, has never been a colony of Great Britain,” he said.

    I find it interesting that the same story in Japan makes no mention of the colonial quote in either its headline or the contents of the story.

  • 「脳ã?¿ã??å?–ã‚Šæ?›ã?ˆã‚?ã€? ロシア大統領ã€?毒殺事件ã?§ - 中日新è?ž
    (“Replace Your Brain” Says Russian President in Poison Murder Indident, Chunichi Shinbun)
  • 元スパイ毒殺ã€?ロシア「証拠ä¸?å??分ã€?”•”•è‹±å›½ã?®å¯¾å¿œé?žé›£ - 日本経済新è?ž
    (In Former Spy Poison Murder, Russia Says Evidence Insufficient, Criticizes UK Response, Nikkei Shinbun)
  • ロシア大統領ã€?「英国ã?¯è„³å…¥ã‚Œæ›¿ã?ˆã‚‹å¿…è¦?ã€? æ¿€ã?—ã??批判 - æœ?日新è?ž
    (Russian President “Britain Must Change Its Brain”, Strong Criticism – Asahi Shinbun)
  • I wonder why the change in focus on what Putin said. Or was the Russian simply translated differently into English and Japanese? Did western media outlets see the colonialism quote as a good way to sell newspapers?

    About Curzon

    Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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    4 Responses to Lost in Translation?

    1. IJ says:

      Headlines in the international media aside, the Russian government are really pointing out that nations have a choice when it comes to extradition of citizens to other judicial systems. For example, the United States refuses extradition to over fifty nations, including the People’s Republic of China, Namibia and North Korea. But even where an extradition treaty exists the parties to it can rarely be compelled to observe its terms – such is the unenforceability of international rules at present.

      More significantly Russia’s refusal to act against a nation in the global order – Burma – worries the United Nations about the enforceability of its new doctrine: ‘Responsibility to Protect’ populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

    2. Adamu says:


      I am not sure why Britain’s prosecutors are being so bellicose… They apparently did not follow the normal extradition protocols, and that is a kind of colonial mindset. I mean, if Russia has to hand over whoever Britain wants for a trial, then Rumsfeld should be immediately extradited to Germany to stand trial for war crimes.

    3. Jimm says:

      The implication is that Russian officials were involved in the murder and Britain will not stand for state assassinations on its territory. Poisoned with Polonium, anyone? If the Russians want to get away with murder, they will have to put up with at least a diplomatic whinge-binge.

      2004 article on Russian state poisonings: http://www.stpetersburgtimes.com/2004/12/15/Worldandnation/Poison__Russia_s_poli.shtml
      An extract:
      “…critics of the Kremlin say poisoning is a Soviet-era practice that seems to have reappeared since ex-KGB officer Vladimir Putin became president and put colleagues from the spy agency into positions of power.”

    4. Jimm says:

      Oh, and Litvinenko himself (the victim) blamed Putin for poisoning him on his deathbed.