29 minutes into the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, there is a scene where some Russian scientists are speaking to each other in Russian. The subtitles on the DVD don't show what they're saying.

They speak in Russian for a few seconds at the start of the scene, and then for a few more seconds after Heywood leaves, right at the end of the clip above. What are they saying?

This site lists a possible translation, but the wording on that site isn't clear about whether the translations are actually what they said.

  • Great link in your question
    – sfhq_sf
    Apr 17, 2016 at 2:38
  • 1
    @DVK-in-exile Don't we have native Russian speakers here? Doesn't DVK speak Russian?
    – Adamant
    Apr 17, 2016 at 2:39
  • In the book, weren't they talking about the medical quarantine, which was the coverup for TMA1?
    – calccrypto
    Apr 17, 2016 at 3:55
  • Of the three possible translations listed on that site the first is a wild guess, the second is a joke. The third suggestion is close to what was said, though the interpretation is dubious.
    – David42
    Apr 18, 2016 at 22:41
  • Can someone replace the broken video?
    – Laurel
    Jan 28, 2022 at 3:12

3 Answers 3


Their Russian sounds rusty, but it is more or less possible to understand what they say.

Before they meet Floyd:

Dr. Stretyneva: Ну куда он сейчас уедем? (Grammar mistake: mixing 3rd person singular pronoun with a 1st person plural verb)

Dr. Smyslov: Эээ, приблизительно в два часа.

Dr. Kalinin: Может быть, пойдем в обсерваторию?

Elena: Как только <он придет>. (The last two words are barely comprehensible)

Approximate translation:

Stretyneva: But where (when?) can we (he?) possibly go now?

Smyslov: Er, at approximately 2 o'clock.

Kalinin: Perhaps, we should go to the observatory?

Elena: As soon as he arrives.

After Floyd leaves:

Smyslov: Наверное, им очень трудно.

Stretyneva: По видимости.

Kalinin: Да, очень трудно.

Approximate translation:

Smyslov: They must be having a very hard time.

Stretyneva: Apparently.

Kalinin: Yes, they must.

A note about the scientists' last names. Various online and offline sources spell their names as Kalinan and Stretyneva, which does not make much sense, as these last names are pretty much unheard of (try googling the Cyrillic forms Калинан and Стретынева).

When Margaret Tyzack introduces them, I can hear pretty clearly Калинин (Kalinin) and Сретнева (Sretneva), which are both fairly common Russian last names.

One weird thing here is that Tyzack uses the masculine form Kalinin, rather than the appropriate feminine form Kalinina (Калинина).

  • 1
    They are using the present tense, so it sounds more like an ongoing problem. Apr 17, 2016 at 8:30
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    Maybe they assumed fomr the perspective of 1968 that in 2001 the Russian language would change to the effect of (a) female names not necessarily always differing from male names, (b) by the progress of General Relativity Theory, the difference between "where" and "when" are beginning to disappear (c) congruence between subject and verb is no longer fully mandatory. - Or they just had lousy sources for their Russian and thought nobody would notice (hey, this keeps happening with foreign language sequences in Hollywood films) Apr 17, 2016 at 14:44
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    There is a practical non-transgender explanation of the masculine form. By practical I mean that I've seen that in real life. When you as a woman get married to a Russian man and you get his surname you might end up with masculine surname if the marriage was registered in a non Russian-speaking country. Officials refuse to write the feminine form of the surname into your marriage certificate, because they perceive it as a different surname. Apr 17, 2016 at 21:22
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    @Andrew Savinykh: or she might be born in a non-slavic country to a Russian father. Apr 18, 2016 at 5:10
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    To me the first utterance sounds more like "Которым часы идёт?" If we assume the actress is trying to say "Который час идёт." and that the "в" in Dr. Smyslov's answer was erroneously inserted, perhaps by a coach who did not understand the context, the conversation suddenly makes sense. We get something like this: Dr. Stretyneva: How long has it been now? Over an hour. Dr. Smyslov: About two hours. Kalinin: Perhaps we could go to the observatory? Elena: As soon as he gets here.
    – David42
    Apr 18, 2016 at 23:32

I can't find a conclusive answer, but here's what I did find:

The script is no help - it doesn't even mention the conversation between the Russians before Floyd approaches them, and all it says about their conversation after he leaves is:


From the comments on the YouTube video itself:

LEFTCOASTER67: Does anyone know how good the actors [sic] Russian is?

ECONOMIC: To a Russian speaker, it is obvious that he (Rossiter) is not Russian or even eastern European. Having said that, he does pronounce the phrases with correct emphasis, albeit with an overtly English tongue ;)

INGUSMANT: What does he say at the end btw?

ECONOMIC: Not too sure I am interpreting it correctly but it sounds like "Navernoe im ochen trudna" which roughly translates as 'It looks like it's difficult for them' or 'It looks like they're struggling'. The woman then replies and that roughly translates as 'it seems like it'.


DEEPTIME5: What are they saying in Russian at the end of the clip..? I've always wondered.

SUISEISEKI DESU: "I guess it must be difficult for them." "Apparently."

From a scholarly analysis of film effects:

After Dr. Floyd leaves, Dr. Smyslov speaks ill of him. “Наверное, ему очень трудно./Definetly, he has the greatest difficulty.” Dr. Stretyneva responds, “По видимости./Obviously.” Dr. Kalinan does, too, “Да, очень трудно./Yes, the greatest difficulty”.

From IMDb:

Before they meet Floyd, they are considering going to the observation deck while they wait for a flight. After Floyd leaves, they say, "It must be difficult for him."

From the FAQ on a Kubrick fan site:

What does the Russian scientist Smyslov say on the space station in 2001?

[A site member named] Dupavoy answered this one, he translates it as: "These are hard times."

Although, according to Nina Stoessinger, in the German dubbed version Smyslov says: "He knows more"

From a sci-fi fan site:

"Im navernoe ochen' trudno" ("They must have had a very hard time").

"Da, ochen' trudno" ("Yes, they must").

Which suggests the subject of the Russians' concern had less to do with Floyd than with the crew of the Russian rocket bus.

This last translation seems to be based on an earlier post on an extensive 2001: A Space Odyssey fan site:

The female scientist remarks: "Im navernoe ochen' trudno" ("They must have had a very hard time").

Margaret Tyzack replies: "Da, ochen' trudno" ("Yes, they must").

It suggests that the subject of their concern was nothing to do with Floyd, but was the crew of the Russian craft that was denied permission for an emergency landing.

My take on the above:

A YouTube user who speaks Russian well enough to critique Rossiter's enunciation has interpreted it on his or her own, and says it is something like:

'It looks like it's difficult for them' or 'It looks like they're struggling'... 'It seems like it'.

Another YouTube user has a different translation with the same basic meaning:

"I guess it must be difficult for them." "Apparently."

While several other sources (which may be dependent upon one another) say the lines are:

"They must have had a very hard time".

"Yes, they must".

Thus, we have at least three (seemingly) independent translations that say roughly the same thing. Chances are, they are correct.

This conclusion is supported by the fact that at least one other source translates the first line as "These are hard times", which is quite similar to "They must have had a hard time". Most of the translations agree that the first line has something to do with hard times.

  • 2
    +1 nice work. I'll let the question sit for a while to see if anyone wants to translate it themselves, or finds a translation for the first part. Your conclusion is probably right though.
    – Molag Bal
    Apr 17, 2016 at 4:02
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    "[Russian intensifies]" Apr 17, 2016 at 10:02
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    Yes, the second Russian dialog is to the effect that some unspecified present circumstance is difficult for someone. There is disagreement about whether Smyslov said "ему" ("for him") or им ("for them"). They most definitely do not say "These are hard times." or "I think he knows more." Nor can they possibly be referring to something that is over and done with such as the difficulties experienced by the crew of the space bus which was refused an emergency landing.
    – David42
    Apr 19, 2016 at 0:17

I agree that it's bad Russian. My speciality is divining intended texts and emendating them so that they sound idiomatic. I believe this is what the Russians were supposed to be commenting, given Floyd's evasive answers:

Smyslov: There must be a very serious problem.

Stretyneva: Apparently.

Kalinin: Indeed, very serious.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Do you also have a translation for the first part of their conversation (before Floyd arrives)?
    – DavidW
    Jan 28, 2022 at 2:55
  • It is not as straightforward because, as noted above, the original is so grammatically inconsistent. Anyway (in contrast to what is said afterward) the content is banal filler, probably intended merely to establish their foreign credentials. The translation above that has the highest points (46 at the moment) is necessarily vague but adequate. Jan 29, 2022 at 12:33

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