Baikal colors

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The analysis of color perception is of important for grasping the images of Baikal and according to Marx Lusher color perception is nation-specific. But modern data indicate that psycho-physiological reflection and perception of different colors vary among nations and it is evidenced by language means. Psychologists found out that color name undergoes a certain dynamics of development among different nations.

The present days contributed much to ethnic and psychological arguments in favor of the accepted truth “Every man to his own taste”. Modern data indicate that psycho-physiological reflection and perception of different colors vary among nations and it is evidenced by linguistic means. Psychologists found out that color name undergoes a certain dynamics of development specific to different nations.

Researchers Berlin and Kei, after they studied 78 languages, came to conclusion that 11 basic colors were coded in the history of any language in the fixed order and stages of terms introduction corresponded to stages of language development: introduction of two colors (black and white) to primitive languages followed by multivariate color range in developed languages. The latter had more than 8 colors including purple, pink, orange, gray etc.

In the context of Siberia, it’s worth recalling in this regard V.L. Seroshevsky’s observations of Yakuts’ color perception. According to this Seroshevsky the Yakuts found it difficult to differentiate colors, to say nothing of their intellectuals. They were insensible to blue, dark blue, purple and green colors. They called this set of colors “kuokh” and despite the fact the Yakuts started differentiating green from blue and dark blue, but however their language did not have names for them; purple still does not come easy to them. The Yakuts consider a rainbow (kustuk) to be tricolor (273, p. 244). On the Asian continent color is perceived differently even among various tribes within one nation. Thus, the language of the Yukagirs (Verkhnyaya Kolyma) does not have a name for “green” and “dark blue” colors; the Yukagirs from Nizhnyaya Kolyma have “green” and “dark blue” colors, but do not have a “yellow” one; Alazeisky Yukagirs have “green” and “yellow” colors but lack a “dark blue”. According to the researchers the latter indicates that the tribes of the Yukagirs have different ethnic origins.

By the way, experimental research of similar facts in respect to specific nationalities was not conducted. Nobody can tell what “surprise” it’ll spring on us. For example, the existence of 6 % color-blind (those who cannot differentiate color hues, particularly, green and red) males is saying something.

A great scientific work “Treatise on color” by a well-known poet and philosopher I.Goethe reveals color preferences and their hues depending on people’s nationality and their cultural background. According to Goethe, love for kenspeckle was typical of savage men, “ill-mannered” nations and kids. The higher the level of human knowledge was, the more they had a distaste for colors, especially for bright ones. Goethe associated the color of clothes with nation’s character at large, and character of an individual. He believed that active, cheerful nations preferred colors like yellow, orange and yellowish-red as they contributed to cheerful, live and active mood. Moderate nations favored straw-color and flame color and juxtaposed them with dark blue clothing. Nations that aspired to display their dignity were attracted to red, although they valued its unemotional aspect. To gain an insight into peculiarities of nations’ color perception, we should be well aware that there are certain cultural and ethnic differences in notional interpretation of colors. In many cases there is an interaction of color symbolism and natural phenomena that are common for a certain nation. Let us refer here to the land of the rising sun and its inhabitants-the Japanese whose ikebanas bring the following sense.

Green color is a personification of spring (Persephone), it reveals the essence of the element called tree and at the same time it symbolizes the east because day and spring as the beginning of year trace their roots to the east. Green is also associated with Jupiter planet which has a mysterious turquois green color.

The element “fire” personifies red color - color of summer, the south and Mars planet.

White color symbolizes autumn – the time for ripening of snow-white rice, it corresponds to the element metal (white-hot) and it is associated with the West, whitish color of the Moon and Venus aurora.

The darkest and the dullest time of year, namely winter is associated with a black color, the element water (with dark, deep waters) and the least bright Mercury planet.

Yellow (gold) color stands for the end of summer which symbolizes life-giving power of the element earth. It materializes the idea of “center” and associates with Saturn.

The color perception and its symbols certainly depend on geographically-determined peculiarities of an area.

V.G.Bolotyuk and E.N.Belaya carried out a research on phraseological units where they laid an emphasis on metaphorical color expressions used by the English and the Russians. English language turned out to have a greater number of phraseological units with dark blue color reference. According to the researchers it results from geographical position and climate as the country is surrounded by the seas. That explains a great number of phraseological units where a dark blue color symbolizes sea, sailors, the sky, melancholy, panic, blues, shock, foul language, pessimism, cruelty and destruction. Russian phraseological units have a blue color as a “trouble”, “contempt” only four times.

There are also differences in red color. In English phraseological units “red” stands for danger, trouble, losses, obstacle, neglect, misapprehension, annoyance. It is quite rare that red color implies courage, bravery, elegance. In Russian phraseological units red color indicates positive aspects, human qualities, facilities and phenomena: red cheeks maiden (bonny lass), red trailbreaker, red area (propaganda room) etc. Apparently, the latter had a red color in its ideological sense specific to Russians. The presence of such unique and original interpretations are also typical of other nations and it enables us to consider color perception of Baikal by people of different ethnic background as a as unique, symbolically curious phenomenon and we can consider specific research examples.

Speaking about Baikal color effect, we should get a view of such a bright phenomenon in the summer and autumn time called-rainbow. Usually we witness the rainbow on the back of the waygoing clouds and it overached one part of it being in water, the other in woody hill or littoral shelf. The multi-colored beauty owes its emersion to water droplets in the air: sun rays that are deflected in the droplets form a solar spectrum where we differentiate red, orange, yellow, green, blue, dark blue and purple color hues. And this harmonious color scheme fills our souls with joy, tranquility and admiration by the beauty of nature. It promotes a deeper awareness of the fact that color is one of the best beauties of Baikal. At present psychologists are well aware that peculiarities of color perception determine attitude to natural phenomena they depend on different factors, including ethnicity of a perceiving agent. This aspect is bidirectional in our questionnaire: 1) perception of colors which a) strike the eye on the Baikal b) are of key value for respondents c) promote a better reflection Baikal symbols; 2) associations of colors with different concepts.

We’ll dwell upon the colors which symbolize the Baikal and associations of different nations that influence rational and sensorial, psychological perception of the sacred lake’s mages.

Now we’ll review the results of our poll which is based on the questionnaire “Baikal” worked out by the author of this book. One of the questions was to find out a color out of 13 which symbolizes Baikal image to the fullest extent. The table below reveals the results of the poll on 6 key value and 2 “problematic” colors.

Table 4

Hierarchy of colors symbolizing an image of Baikal for people of different ethnicities.


% and places according to their importance

In general








81,9 (1)

80,8 (1)

63,2 (2-3)

52,0 (3)


dark blue


67,2 (2)

75,0 (2)

47,4 (4)





63,1 (3)


68,4 (1)

58,0 (2)


light green


38,7 (4)

42,3 (4)

63,2 (2-3)

44, 0 (4)




31,4 (5)

38,5 (5)

26,3 (6)

38,0 (5)




28,4 (6)

23,1 (6)

21,1 (7)

16,0 (7)



13,7 (7-8)

11,4 (8)

17,3 (8)

5,3 (13)

24,0 (6)




8,1 (11-12)

7,7 ( 11-12)


6, 0 (9)

The table shows eight colors, six of which, symbolize Baikal image to a greater extent. The Russians and Buryats residing in the Baikal region show a concurrence (similarity) of opinions. Our foreign respondents reveal variations in the hierarchy of the first 6 colors, but it might result from peculiarities in sampling of the Chinese and the Japanese. But we can’t “write off” the differences in symbols of “problematic” colors revealed by these two nations. For the Japanese it is purple, and for the Chinese it is orange. Such points are associated with peculiarities that are nation-specific and mentioned that above.

These facts should be added by another one: according to our second poll respondents of German ethnicity emphasized gray (47,4 %) and brown (26,3 %) in color evaluation system and the Chinese respondents did not favor a white color. The latter can be explained by the fact that white is a color of mourning and a sign of danger; all villains of their national historical dramas hide under white masks. And for that reason this color is less applicable to Baikal. All this goes to prove that there are symbolic differences related to the same colors in different national and cultural traditions. These differences provide a presumption that every nation has its own “color code” enabling its people genetically and socially emphasize and prefer ethnic color symbols in color range. National color “bouquet” is dear and close to the hearts of people and it foreshadows their perception of the environment to a great extent.

Likewise we cannot disregard the fact that a man grown up in a certain area (taiga, mountains, lowland, steppe etc) developed specific stereotypes (perhaps archetypes) and particular benchmark of perception charm and harmony of the environment. But along with this, there is beauty analogy and contrast effect: the pleasant fact is that it differs completely from habitual landscape. We will deal with detailed color perception of Baikal in a special section.

No doubt, there are variations in general color preferences but however we should admit a psychological priority of some of them and it is reflected in our researches:

Full-brimmed with salty breath

of hot pitch and omul’s scale

It was blue, bluish and green,

Burned with a blackberry and a wild raspberry.

These lines by Y. Levitansky has numerous hues of dark blue and green colors which serve as colors of Baikal’s main attributes: water, taiga, the sky which are “tinctured” by fieriness of the sun.

Speaking about human perception of different colors of Baikal environs, we should take a look at another interesting color effect. It is referred to a phenomenon that enjoys a great popularity among painters and experts and it is called successive contrast. Let us gain an insight into this effect. After one observes a figure of a certain color, there is a successive negative afterimage which is silhouetted against a transpicuous background. Thus, if we turn our gaze from a red paper to a white background, we’ll see it as emerald-green; but if a background is dark blue, then it turns to blue. If we looked at a red color before a green one, then a green one seems more saturated. Similar effect is reached when we place identical squares (for example gray) on different color backgrounds. A gray square placed on red background will turn to green, on green background it’ll turn to red and on dark blue background it’ll turn to yellow. Same phenomena can be observed with shades produced by different objects; the shade colors into a color additional to object color. It is a successive contrast that make Baikal color ranges exceptional, dynamic, ever-changing and therefore more wonderful and impressive. The mobility of Baikal color perception was emphasized by V.A. Obruchev who paid a visit to the Olkhon island in 1890. “Depending on whether a light or saturated blue of the sky, green of littoral trees or glinting, blazing sunrays are reflected in this water prism, it seems that we see afloat treasures of turquoise, lazurite, sapphire, malachite, silver and gold”.

Color diversity is displayed well by I. Molchanov-Sibirsky in his poem “The sunset at the Olkhon gates”.

The sun descended over the hill -

And the creek valley darkened…

The sea expanse became royal blue.

Cloud over that creek valley is scarlet,

Like a golden turban;

Light sea-wave

Tosses the water reflection.

It seems as if goldfish

Scurries under the water...

As if blue waters

Sew with golden ornamental script…

You change your colors every moment-

Silvery, orange, scarlet -

The wizard of the old fairy-tale,

Called Baikal.

M. Zhigmitov revealed an unrivalled combination of Baikal colors through the character of his novel “Podlemorie”: “Ganka is charmed and cannot tear himself away from majestic crests of Baikal ranges tinged with a rosy flush of the setting sun. Beneath the alpine tundra belt there are lilac mountains and at the bottom there are dark ashy ones. And all this against a deep blue sky. Next to the boat there is The sea dazzles with a fantastic pattern near to a boat, as if a dress of a tsarevna from an fairy-tell. He seea absolutely reddish patches of light, hardly more to the left pink nearby dance, further lilac strips narrow leaflets run up in breadth and intertwine with is light - the green.

See also


  1. A.D. Karnyshev "The Many Faces of Multilingual and Mysterious Baikal"© BSU Publishing House, 2011

Выходные данные материала:

Жанр материала: English | Автор(ы): Karnyshev A.D. | Источник(и): The Many Faces of Multilingual and Mysterious Baikal. Ulan-Ude. 2012 | Дата публикации оригинала (хрестоматии): 2011 | Дата последней редакции в Иркипедии: 30 марта 2015

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Тематический указатель: Irkipedia English