Monday, April 29, 2019

Moscow Patriarchate Reviving Ilminsky System to Attract Non-Russians to Christianity

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 28 – In the 19th century, Russian Turcologist Nikolay Ilminsky promoted the development of national languages and the spread of Orthodoxy by translating the Bible or parts of it into languages which in many cases had never had an agreed-upon alphabet. Now, the Moscow Patriarchate is using these translations to attract non-Russians to Russian Orthodoxy. 

            Some of the translations are the ones Ilminsky and his colleagues prepared more than a century ago. Others are new, but both are being used in religious services which often involve having members of the language community represented from the pulpit dress in national costumes (

            And just as in the 19th century, non-Russians both welcome the appearance of publications in their native languages but fear that they will lose more than they gain if members of their community reidentify in religious terms and thus lose touch with the values that define their nationality.

Some translations of the Bible are the work of enthusiasts, but increasingly, they are the result of the work of the Institute for Translations of the Bible. On its website,, is a list of recent translations into the languages of the peoples in Russia. Particularly important are gospels translated into those who speak “disappearing” languages.

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