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Zinky Boys refers to the following (rather morbid in my opinion) poem:

Women and wine are fine
But a real man needs more
The sweet taste of war

The interviewee mentioned that that bit of verse was part of the inspiration for him going in the first place, but that he didn't remember who wrote it.

Who did write that and why? Why did people find it inspiring?

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  • I found another Russian source (about admiral Kolchak) where it says that it's from a Kipling's poem.
    – Andra
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 19:54
  • Closest Kipling's quote I am aware of is Four things greater than all things are, Women and Horses and Power and War. @Andra Could you please share the source you mentioned? Commented Sep 18, 2021 at 0:25
  • google "Две вещи на свете, словно одно" "Колчак" "Киплинга". It may well be a legend - both that it was Kolchak's favorite saying and that its original author was Kipling.
    – Andra
    Commented Sep 18, 2021 at 13:12
  • Could you please add in which chapter this poem is quoted?
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Sep 19, 2021 at 22:53
  • @Tsundoku This is towards the end of Day 1 (track 5 in the audiobook). Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 13:08

1 Answer 1

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This is mostly based on the comments.

Original text and auto-translation:

Я сам себя спрашивал: «Почему поехал?» Ответов сто, но главный — вот в этих стихах, не запомнил только, чьи они:

Две вещи на свете, словно одно:
Во-первых, женщины, во-вторых, вино.
Но слаще женщин, вкуснее вина
Есть для мужчины — война.

I asked myself: “Why did I go?” There are a hundred answers, but the main one is in these verses, I just don’t remember whose they are:

Two things in the world, as if one:
First, women, and secondly, wine.
But sweeter than women, tastier than wine
There is a war for a man.

The comments suggest that the poem relates to Admiral Kolchak and Kipling’s The Ballad of the King's Jest. Last four lines:

Two things greater than all things are,
The first is Love, and the second War.
And since we know not how War may prove,
Heart of my heart, let us talk of Love!

Its Russian translation by Ada Onoshkowich-Jatzina ends this way:

Великие вещи, две, как одна:
Во-первых - Любовь, во-вторых - Война,
Но конец Войны затерялся в крови -
Мое сердце, давай говорить о Любви!

Auto-translation:

Great things, two, as one:
First - Love, secondly - War,
But the end of the War is lost in the blood -
My heart, let's talk of Love!

So, there are similarities: “two things as one”, “first” and “secondly”, women/Love and War. However, Kipling’s poem wants to talk of Love, and Zinky Boys poem says War is much better. Someone decided to make Kipling more pro-war.

Googling and searching in National Corpus of Russian Language site provided only one source before the Soviet–Afghan War: a novel about Admiral Kolchak Red and White (Красные и Белые) by Andrey Aldan-Semenov, a work of fiction. (At least some chapters were published in the journal Around the Globe (Вокруг света) in 1967-1968, then printed as a book in 1979.)

The quote:

Адмирал не только прекрасно говорил, но и часто мыслил по-английски. Вот и сейчас, думая об Анне Васильевне, он процитировал Редьярда Киплинга — любимого поэта: «Две вещи на свете словно одно: во-первых — женщины, во-вторых — вино; но слаще женщин, вкуснее вина есть для мужчин — война…» «Война прекрасна, война везде и всегда хороша. Я верю только в войну, она стала моим религиозным убеждением. А любовь высшая награда мужчине, занятому ремеслом войны».

Auto-translation:

The admiral not only spoke excellently, but often thought in English. And now, thinking about Anna Vasilievna, he quoted Rudyard Kipling, his favorite poet: “Two things in the world are as one: firstly, women, secondly, wine; but sweeter than women, tastier than wine is for men - war ... " «War is beautiful, war is everywhere and always good. I only believe in war, it has become my religious belief. And love is the highest reward for a man engaged in the craft of war.»

It is possible that there is some earlier, harder to find source, obviously.

Even if Aldan-Semenov is responsible for the mistranslation, it’s hard to figure out the reason. Maybe he wanted the character to sound more aggressive? It’s also possible that Aldan-Semenov misremembered Kipling – he was close to sixty when first chapters appeared (and had spent fifteen years in Gulag).

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