In Death and the Penguin, Viktor interviews the State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Yakornitsky. (He is also referred to simply as a "State Deputy").

I'm aware that the State Duma is the lower chamber of the Russian Legislature. However, what is a "deputy" in this context? I'm hoping that I'm not missing something obvious, but I'm slightly confused as to what the individual's exact position is in the government, especially given that the novel is set in Ukraine rather than Russia.

Can someone clarify?

Edit: It's later stated that all of Viktor's subjects up to that point, including the politician, had been from Kyiv. Why was that particular individual part of the Russian legislature?

2 Answers 2


In some parliaments members are refered to as deputies (the Duma (3rd sentence) being among them). The OED has a relevant definition: "3. A person elected to represent a constituency; a member of a representative legislative assembly."

  • Thanks, that makes sense. Out of curiosity, why is he interviewing a member of the Russian Parliament (given that the novel is set in Ukraine, and he apparently didn't leave the city)? Aug 6, 2022 at 13:01
  • in the Ukrainian translation it doesn't seem that the Ru parliament is meant, google for "а тепер депутата парламенту Олександра Якорницького" - I don't know the translation you are reading but here I would say that he is a member of the Ukrainian parliament
    – Andra
    Aug 6, 2022 at 18:00
  • @Andra Yeah, it would appear so. Is it just a translator error? (Although it's worth noting that Andrey Kurkov writes primarily in Russian rather than Ukrainian, including for this book, so the Ukrainian version is technically a translation too). Aug 8, 2022 at 4:22
  • Generally, the word "deputy" (in the local language) is used for the members of most legislative assemblies throughout the world - except for those that are historically linked to the British (Westminster) system. Hence the rarity of the term in English.
    – Zeus
    Aug 8, 2022 at 4:24

The current Legislature of Ukraine is called the Verkhovna Rada. The State Duma is Russian, not Ukrainian. (Legislatures in both are evidently called Deputies, though).

Given that this book was written in Russian, it's possible that the author simply selected a term that readers would have been familiar with (even though it's technically not correct).

  • does the word "Duma" appear in the translation you are reading (I suppose it's English)?
    – Andra
    Aug 7, 2022 at 19:57
  • @Andra Yes. I can't read Russian, though, so I'm not sure if it's an accurate translation. Aug 7, 2022 at 22:06
  • I doubt it. (But I haven't seen the original). "Duma" is very specifically a Russian legislative assembly (historical or current); the word is never applied to any other chamber. Like, say, Dáil for Ireland or Knesset for Israel. Russians also know "Rada" well enough.
    – Zeus
    Aug 8, 2022 at 4:01
  • @Zeus Yeah - it's used to refer to a Ukrainian living in Kyiv after the fall of the USSR, which appears to be incorrect on the face of it (given that "Duma" doesn't appear to have ever referred to anything other than the Russian legislative body, and the Ukrainian legislature was certainly never called anything like that). Given that I don't read Russian, I'm not 100% sure if it's an obvious error on the translator's part or if the author simply selected a Russian term that would be more familiar to his readers. Aug 8, 2022 at 4:22
  • 1
    "Виктор купил в киоске бутылку "Финляндии" и направился в приемную бывшего писателя, а ныне депутата парламента Александра Якорницкого" (tululu.org/read74873/3) - it is a translation error
    – Andra
    Aug 8, 2022 at 16:50

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