Sunday, June 18, 2023

Non-Russian Publishers Increasingly Translating Directly from Languages of the Original rather than from Russian-Language Versions

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 15 – In Soviet times, publishing houses in the non-Russian republics typically translated foreign authors not directly from their original language but from Russian versions of their works. But now that is changing and changing fast – and non-Russian countries are increasingly publishing translations from the original rather than from the Russian.

            That not only increases the range of books that these publishers can release while reducing Russian influence on what people in the former Soviet republics read but also provides additional incentives for non-Russians to retain and use their own national languages even if they know Russian.

            In Kazakhstan, for example, three major publishing houses are committed to direct translations from the author’s original rather than going through Russian versions (

            These direct translations are reducing the share of Russian translations on offer in bookstores there and also changing attitudes among Kazakhs who may know Russian about how much better it is to read books from third countries that are directly translated from the original rather than via Russians.

            A majority of these books are sold in urban areas rather than in rural ones, and nearly three out of four are of books directed at children, a pattern that is creating a new generation of readers. Translators working for these companies say that they feel that the share of people in Kazakhstan using Kazakh is growing and that their work is helping to promote that change.

            The appearance of such direct translations is having another positive development: it is leading more publishers in other countries to issue books published in Kazakh because there is an increasingly large cadre of people who can translate them into foreign languages. 

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