Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Leningrad Oblast Deputy Calls for Creating ‘Alternative Latin Script’ for Russian

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 29 – Vladimir Petrov, a United Russia deputy in the Leningrad oblast legislative assembly, has called on the Russian Academy of Science and Ministry of Education to adopt a Latin script for Russian, not as a substitute for Cyrillic but as a means for Russians to be able to function better online and to attract new attention to their culture.

            Petrov says that what he is proposing is based on the positive experience of Turkey under Ataturk and of the Scandinavian countries which required English-language films to be distributed with original sound and subtitles. The first opened the way to Turkey’s flourishing; the second to the expansion of English (regnum.ru/news/cultura/2314230.html).

            He faces an uphill battle: Not only is Cyrillic required by law for almost all indigenous languages in Russian and is any change in it opposed by Russian nationalists but most linguists are also opposed, in large measure because they argue that any shift would weaken the language and reduce the amount of its use.

            Aleksandr Pokrovsky, a Petersburg writer, tells Regnum’s Inga Slazhinskaite that “for residents of Russia, ‘Latin Russian’ would bring only harm: the sound of letters would be different, and writing in a different language would completely change the sound of familiar Russian words.”

                Great Russian writers didn’t seek to change the alphabet, he continues, and when Dmitry Likhachov proposed dropping the yat, he was sent to the camps. What should Petrov expect if he wants to do away with the entire Cyrillic script?” If Petrov were living in Stalin’s time, think what punishment he would have meted out for that.

            Boris Averin, a philologist at St. Petersburg University, points to the case of Vladimir Nabokov’s Ada, a novel which does use Latin script for Cyrillic. While perhaps theoretically interesting, it was a failure artistically and culturally, he says.  It would be “strange” to move in that direction.

            “Why are there so many alphabets? Because that is how it is supposed to be! There must be variety and not a monoculture … No one wants to have a single language.”  We see the world differently when we use multiple alphabets and learn new languages. Allowing the internet to dominate will only reduce the variety in the world.

            “This is not a new culture: this is the collapse of culture,” Averin says.

            The real fear of Russians, it appears, is that they will suffer the fate of the Serbs, where ever more Serbs are shifting from Cyrillic to Latin script even though the government is fighting back with fines for the use of the latter in official documents.  In Russia, Slazhinskaite says, one can only hope that such measures will never be needed.

No comments:

Post a Comment