Pole chudes

Pole chudes (“field of miracles”; in Russian Поле чудес) is the Russian equivalent of Wheel of Fortune. It started in 1990 and is still going, and there are well more than 1,000 episodes.

The game rules are pretty similar to Wheel of Fortune. The contestants guess words or phrases on a given topic, taking turns naming (Russian) letters to see whether they’re in the word. There’s also a wheel that they spin, with the usual special sections—prizes, the ability to ask a friend for help, clues, and of course the dreaded “bankrupt,” in which the player loses all their points, or очки (singular очок). There’s also a studio audience looking on. After the game is finished, the winner cashes in their points for prizes—ranging from a 13-piece set of household appliances, to a Keurig-style coffee machine, to a bicycle, to the all-exciting set of bedsheets.

The process to get onto the show involves sending the producers an original crossword. Thus, according to the show’s official website, “On the show, adults, children, firefighters, milkmaids, policemen, teachers, war veterans, and actors have played—everyone who knows Russian letters and words.”

The show has had its minor influence on culture, with the host’s catchphrase becoming a household expression. A documentary about the show was released in 2015, on the occasion of the show’s 25th anniversary, called There Is Such a Letter! (or, in the much less awkward Russian original, Есть такая буква!). And, of course, KVN has parodied the show on several occasions.

There are also both board and computer games based on the show, and even an SMS game that anyone with a mobile phone can play–though each text costs 18 rubles. The top five players of the SMS game are given the change to appear on the show itself. If you have a ridiculously good vocabulary in Russian, give it a try! (You’ll be proud to know that I won my first round—карьер was the answer to быстрая ходьба, бег. I lost on the second round—the robot wasn’t impressed with the random collection of letters I guessed for “возчик соли (укр.).” Then I ran out of money on my phone.)

 

Current director: Sergey Pavlenko (Сергей Павленко)
Host: Leonid Yakubovich (Леонид Якубович)
Production company: Telekompaniya VID (Телекомпания ВИД)
TV channel: ORT/Perviy Kanal (ОРТ/Первый канал)

 

Тhe show’s official site.

 

A very recent episode of the show, from February 2017:

Julie is currently studying Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk (and before that, Bishkek) with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.