Connections Are Everything
Published: May 17, 2014 (Issue # 1810)
Photo: Mark Fischer / Flickr
Back in the old days of Soviet rule, everyone needed one thing to survive: блат. This word, so satisfying to say — try it! — meant pull, an "in," connections. Блат got you tickets to a closed screening of a Hollywood film. Блат got you a tin of powdery but potent instant coffee from India. Блат got your kid a place in a preschool. But when the planned economy fell, it took блат with it. Now if you want something, you go buy it. You don't need блат with the sales clerk.
But if блат disappeared, связи (connections) are eternal. And luckily for all of us language-hoppers, they are pretty universal, too.
Связи — note the plural — are connections, contacts, people you know, relationships. Я хочу устроиться на работу в этой фирме. Нет у тебя там связей? (I'd like to get a job in that company. Do you have any contacts there?)
Sometimes the relationship connoted by связи is one of patronage. As usual, context is everything: Он поддерживает очень хорошие связи с местной администрацией (He's been cultivating an inside track in the local administration).
Связь (singular) is some kind of connection. It might be invisible: На сцене она умела сразу установить связь с аудиторией (On stage she could immediately establish a bond with the audience). It might be a bond of friendship or professional interests between individuals, institutions or countries: Количество внутренних и внешних — межрегиональных и международных — связей нашей компании постоянно возрастает (The number of our firm's domestic and foreign — inter-regional and international — relationships is constantly growing).
Or it might be something more intimate. Связь, sometimes modified with the word любовная (amorous), is any kind of extramarital relationship. Её муж, не зная о прежней нашей связи, старается познакомить нас (Her husband, who doesn't know that we had an affair, is trying to introduce us to each other). When связь is modified by the adjective половая (sexual), we are talking about a physical relationship without much emotional attachment. And случайная связь (literally an incidental contact) is what English speakers call a one-night stand.
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