What Russian word Chancellor Bismarck could not understand

In 1859 - 1862 Otto von Bismarck, a famous German politician who later became the first chancellor of the German Empire, was the ambassador to Russia. Staying in our country had a great influence on the formation of Bismarck as a politician, he often remembered Russia and it is he who is credited with the famous phrase that the Russians are slowly harnessing, but they are going fast.

During the three years spent in Russia, Bismarck learned Russian well, but he could not understand the meaning of one word.

It all started when the German diplomat hired a Russian coachman on his way to Petersburg. His nondescript horses did not inspire confidence in the foreign envoy, and he expressed doubt that the horses would be able to run fast. Bismarck even told the driver that horses are more like rats. "Nothing!" - the driver answered briskly and set off.

To Bismarck's surprise, the horses showed such agility that he expressed his fear to the driver: would they overturn the sled? To which the driver answered his usual: "Nothing!". But soon the fears of the foreign visitor were justified, the sleigh hit the stump, and the German envoy flew out onto the road, severely injuring his face. In anger, he threw himself at the driver with his massive cane, but he was not at a loss here either. He began to wipe Bismarck's face with snow, saying "Nothing!"

Arriving in St. Petersburg, Bismarck ordered a ring from a cane with the inscription "Nothing." The German diplomat assured that in difficult moments he repeated this word and quickly calmed down. By the way, Bismarck was often reproached for being too soft on Russia, to which he replied: "In Germany, only I say" nothing ", but in Russia - the whole people!".

While living in St. Petersburg, Otto von Bismarck decided to study the Russian language. To do this, he hired a student who was supposed to conduct 40 classes in the Russian language with the German ambassador, receiving one ruble for each lesson. But after completing the course, Bismarck gave the student only half of the agreed amount: the unlucky tutor was never able to explain to the German what this mysterious word "nothing" means.

During his stay in Russia, Bismarck became addicted to another Russian pastime - bear hunting. He even managed to shoot two animals. Bismarck was so fond of this hunt that once he even almost froze his feet. True, over time, the German ambassador gave up hunting, saying that it was not humane to go out with a gun against defenseless animals.