Sunday, August 20, 2023

Translating Bible into Languages of Numerically Small Peoples Can Help Save Them, Russian Scholars Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 16 – It has long been recognized around the world that translations of the Bible are more often than not the first written publications in languages that do not have a literary tradition and also that they can be key to the growth and survival of these languages and the peoples who speak them.

            Many of what are now major languages in the former Soviet space emerged on the basis of translations of the Bible into the tongues of these languages. The author of these lines has a translation of the Bible into Kyrgyz (Kazakh) that was prepared by the Ilminsky Mission in Kazan in the 1890s.

            Now a group of Russian scholars has published an article describing the state of Biblical translations for the numerically small languages of the Russian North and Far East and arguing that such translations in particular can be the basis for the survival and revival of these languages:

            Veronica A. Razumovskaya, Yulia E. Valkovab and Natalia P. Koptseva “The Translation of the Bible into the Languages of the Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East,” Journal of Siberian Federal University. Humanities & Social Sciences 16(4) (2023): 662–676 at

            There is enormous support among Christians elsewhere to support the translation of the Bible, and indigenous peoples often welcome this attention and support. But it is not without its critics among these peoples because some fear that whatever they gain linguistically, they lose culturally as members of their nations are culturally transformed even as their languages survive.

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