Russia, Versions of

Russia, Versions of, or, rather, VERSIONS IN THE LANGUAGES OF RUSSIA. The praise which has been awarded to ancient Thebes on the Nile by calling it ἑκατόμπυλος, "the hundred gated," may be also given to Russia, which, in its geographical dimensions, variety of races, multiplicity of population, and diversity of languages, is a world in itself, and baffles and bewilders the mind at the bare conception that the millions that owe allegiance to the throne of the czar are to be furnished with the Word of God in their own vernaculars. According to the geographical position, we get the following linguistic groups:

I. East Siberian, or Eastern Group:

a, Jukagir; b, Tchuksht and Coreak; c, Kamtchatkan; d, Giliak.

II. (A.) Altaic Group:

a, Tungusian; b, Mantchu; c, Aino, or Kurile; d, Aleutian.

(B.) Mongolian Languages:

a, Mongol; b, Buriat; c, Kalmuck.

(C.) Tartar:

a, Jakut; b, Siberian Tartar; c, Kirghise Tartar; d, Bashkir and Meshtcherik; e, Nogaian and Kumuk; f, Turkmenian; g, Aderbedshan; h, Kazan Tartar; i, Tchuvash.

(D.) Samoiede:

a, Jarak; b, Tawgy, Samoiede.

(E.) Finnish Family:

α, Ugrian. a, Ostjak; b, Wogul.

β, Bulgarian. a, Tcheremissian; b, Morduin.

γ, Permian. a, Permian; b, Sirenian; c, Wotjakian.

δ, Finnish Branch: a, Finnish in the narrower sense, with 1, Carelian; 2, Tschudian.; 3, Wotian; 4, Olonetzian. b, Esthonian; c, Livian; d, Krewingian; e, Lapponese.

III. Jeniscan Group:

a, Jeniseo, Ostjakian; b, Kottian.

IV. Caucasian Group:

a, Georgic; b, Lesghic; c, Ristic; d, Tcherkess Families.

V. Shemitic Group:

a, Hebrew; b, Arabic.

VI. Asiatic Group:

a, Persian; b, Kurdish;

c, Armenian; d, Ossitirian.

VII. European Group:

(A.) Slavonic Family.

a, Russian; b, Polish; c, Servian; d, Tschechian; e, Bulgarian.

(B.) Lithuanian Family.

a, Lithuanian and Samogitian; b, Lettish.

(C.) Germanic Family.

a, German; b, English; c, Swedish; d, Dutch.

(D.) Grceco-Latin Family.

a, Greek; b, Albanian; c, Latin; d, Italian; e, French; f, Rouman.

These are the representatives of the Russian empire. As to the versions made for these different families, only a few enjoy this privilege. Following our table, we must pass over the East Siberians, or Eastern Group, as none of these people, who are but partially Christians, have the Scriptures in their vernacular. The same must be said of the Ainos, or Kuriles, belonging to the Altaic, and of a great many others belonging to the other groups. For a better view, we will speak of the different versions in alphabetical order; and with the help of the linguistic table the reader will be easily guided as to which family the respective version belongs to. As the most important versions have either been given already, or will be given, in this Cyclopoedia, the reader will be referred to them.

1. Albanian.

2. Aleutian is the language of the inhabitants of the Aleutian Islands. For the most part, they belong to the Greek Church, which had the Gospel of St. Matthew printed for them in the Aleutian, according to the translation prepared by priest John Veniaminoff, in the year 1840, in parallel columns with the Russian version.

3. Arabic.

4. Armenian.


6. Buriat. The Buriats, residing on Lake Baikal, and numbering about 150,000 individuals, are Lamaists; some are Christians. At a very early tine, prince Gallitzin, president of the Russian Bible Society, wrote to the governor of Irkutsk, requesting him to send two learned Beuriats to St. Petersburg for the purpose of assisting Dr. Schmidt in the translation of the New Test. Two saisangs, or Buriat nobles, accordingly repaired to St. Petersburg, and, with the consent of their prince and lama, engaged in the work of translation. The Divine Word was blessed in their conversion, and in a letter addressed to their chief they avowed their faith in Jesus. In 1818 the Gospel of St. Matthew was published, which was soon followed by other parts of the New Test. Since 1840 the British and Foreign Bible Society possesses a translation of the entire Bible, which was prepared at the expense of that society.

7. Dutch.

8. English.

9. Esthonian. Esthonia is a maritime government in the northwest of European Russia, and forms one of the Baltic provinces. The language is spoken in two dialects — the Dorpat and Reval Esthonian. The former is spoken in South Esthouia, and the latter prevails in the North. Almost all the Esthonianis are of the Lutheran persuasion. As early as 1686 they received the entire New Test. in the Esthonian language, translated by John Fischer, a German professor of divinity and general superintendent of Livonia. This translation was executed at the command of Charles XI. A

version of the Old Test., made by the same translator, aided by Gosekenius, appeared in 4to in 1689; but it is uncertain in which dialect these early versions were written, although it was understood throughout Esthonia. Later versions considered both dialects, and thus we have two versions — the Reval Esthonian (q.v.) and the Dorpat Esthonian. As to the latter dialect, a New Test. was printed in Riga in 1727, which edition was soon exhausted. In 1815, through the exertions of Dr. Paterson, 5000 copies of the New Test. were printed by the British and Foreign Bible Society; and in 1824 the Russian Bible Society had 8000 copies printed, while another edition was undertaken in 1836 by the Dorpat Bible Society. In the same year a version of the Psalms, translated from the Hebrew by the Rev. Ferdinand Meyer, of Carolen, was printed by the aid of the parent society, and the number of copies of the New Test. together with the Psalms which has been distributed is, according to the last report of the British and Foreign Bible Society (1878), 35, 000.

10. Finnish. As early as 1548 the New Test. was published at Stockholm. This version was made by Michael Agricola, rector, and afterwards bislop of Abo, a friend of Luther. In 1644 the entire Bible was published under the patronage of queen Christina, to whom the work was also dedicated. Editions of the New Test. from the text of queen Christina's version appeared in 1732, 1740, 1774, and 1776. In 1811 the British and Foreigln Bible Society commenced its operations in Finland, and a Bible society was formed at Abo. In 1815 an edition of 8000 copies of the New Test. was published at Abo, and in the following year 5000 copies of the entire Bible left the press in Abo. A quarto edition of the entire Bible, aided by a grant from the British and Foreign Bible Society, was completed in 1827, but the extensive fire which broke out in the same year at Abo destroyed this edition (consisting of 7500 copies). In consequence, another edition of 5000 copies of the New Test. was immediately undertaken by the same society; and this edition was completed at Stockholm in 1829. In 1832 the Bible Society of Abo was again in active operation, and new editions of the entire Bible, as well as of the New Test., left the press. Apart from the Finnish edition printed at Abo, the St. Petersburg Society undertook some editions for the purpose of supplying the Finns in their own neighborhood. The New Test. was printed in 1814 and again in 1822, and the entire Bible was completed in 1817. Many large editions of the Scriptures have subsequently been issued by the joint agency of the Finnish and the British and Foreign Bible societies. According to the latest report for 1878, the former society had issued since its formation 239, 273, and the latter 409, 743 copies of the Holy Scriptures.

11. French.

12. Georgian. By way of supplement we will add that in 1876 the British and Foreign Bible Society decided to print an edition of the Four Gospels, the work being done at Tiflis.

13. German.

14. Greek.

15. Hebrew New Testament.

16. Italian.

17. Judoeo-Arabic.

18. Judoeo-German.

19. Judoeo-Persic.

20. Judoeo-Polish is a language spoken by the Polish Jews, consisting principally of Old German with a mixture of Hebraisms, or at least phrases peculiar to the Jews, with very little Polish in it. In 1820 a translation of the New Test. into this language was undertaken by the London Society for Promeoting Christianity among the Jews. An edition was published in 1821 by the British and Foreign Bible Society, the characters being the so called Rabbinic. A new edition in the Hebrew square letters was published by the London society in 1869, while in 1872 the British and Foreign Bible Society undertook a new edition in the pointed Hebrew characters, edited by P. Hershon, which was completed in 1878.

21. Kalmuckian. For the Kalmucks near the mouth of the Volga, Mr. Neitz, a missionary of the Moravian Brethren, at the beginning of this century undertook the work of translation, which was continued by Dr. Schmidt, whose version of St. Matthew was printed at St. Petersburg at the expense of the British and Foreign Bible Society. This is the only part which has been translated.

22. Karaite-Tartar.

23. Karelian is the language of a people dwelling in the government of Tver, in European Russia. As early as the 12th century they joined the Church of Rome, but in a bull published March 14, 1351, by Clement IV, we are told that they were obliged to join the Greek Church, to which they still belong. In 1820 the Russian Bible Society published the Gospel according to St. Matthew for the benefit of this tribe in the modern Russian characters.

24. Kirghisian. The Kirghise, belonging to the Tartaric iribes, are the most numerous, their number being given as about 1,500,000. At the expense of the Russian Bible Society at Astrachan, the New Test. was translated in 1818 by Mr. Charles Frazer, a Scottish missionary. Since this mission was abandoned, nothing has been done for the circulation of the Word of God among this people.


26. Lapponese.

27. Latin.



30. Manchu.

31. Mordvinian. The Morduins occupy a locality lower down the Volga, aned their number is, on good authority, supposed to approach 400,000. They are divided into two tribes — the Mokshans and Ersans. The Russian Bible Society translated the New Test. into their language, but the dissolution of that society brought the work to a termination.

32. Olonetzian, which is a sub-dialect of Karelian, had a small portion of the Scriptures translated into that dialect. A specimen of this translation was sent in 1820 to Tver to be compared with the dialect spoken in that government, but the suspension of the Russian Bible Society arrested the progress of this undertaking.

33. Ostjakian is a dialect spoken by one of the most numerous tribes in Siberia. A translation of the Gospel of St. Matthew into this vernacular exists in a collection at London, prepared at the expense of prince Lucien Bonaparte.

34. Ossitinian is the language spoken by the Ossetes, who inhabit the central part of Caucasus, north of Georgia. In 1752 Russian priests established a mission among them, and in 1821 upwards of 30, 000 Ossetes had joined the Greek Church. Among the converts was also a nobleman of the name of Jalguside, who, being anxious to provide his countrymen with a version of the Scriptures in their own tonigue, proposed to the committee of the Russian Bible Society to prepare a translation of the gospels in ihe Ossitiniau dialect. The proplosition was accepted, and in 1824 the work was ordered to be put lo press. While tihe printing was going on, the Russian Bible Society was suspended, and thus the work was discontinued. Forty years later a new translation of the gospels was prepared at Tiflis.

35. Permian. The Permians, occupying the seat of the ancient Bjarmaland, are divided into three divisions — the Permians proper, composed of about 50,000 souls, partially Christianized, but without the Scriptures in their language except the Gospel of St. Matthew, which had been executed for prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte, not with a view to circulation, but to aid linguistic studies. The Sireuian and Wotjak will be mentioned in the proper place.

36. Persian.


38. Roumanian.

39. Russian.

40. Samogitian.

41. Slavonic.

42. Servian.

43. Sirenian. This dialect is spoken by the Sirenians, another section of the Permians; their number is about 70,000. The Russian Bible Society translated the Gospel of St. Matthew into their language, of which 1400 copies were printed in 1823.


45. Syriac in Hebrew Characters.

46. Transcaucasian Tartar.

47. Teheremissian is a dialect spoken by a people dwelling along the banks of the Volga and Kama, in the governments of Kazan and Simbirsk. The complete New Test. appeared in the Tcheremissian language in 1820. being printed at the expense of the Russian Bible Society during the reign of the emperor Alexander. While the work was in progress, the archbishop of Kazan collected a number of the people tanid read to them from one of the books of the New Test. to ascertain whether it was intelligible to them. The people wept aloud for joy that they had received the Word of Jesus in their own tongue. An edition of 3000 copies was printed, but the dissolution of the Russian Bible Society that followed brought the work to a termination.

48. Tchuwaschian is spoken by a people inhabiting both sides of the Volga, numbering about 670,000 individuals, partially Christianized. In 1817 an attempt was made by the Russian Bible Society at Simbirsk to translate the New Test. In 1818 the Four Gospels were translated, and two years later the entire Test., under the care of the archbishop of Kazan, to whose diocese the people belong. The edition, consisting of 5000 copies, was printed in Russian characters.

49. Vogulian is spoken in the governments of Perm and Tobolsk, in a district between the Tobol, the Beresov, the Obi, and the Uralian Mountains. A translation of the Gospel of St. Matthew into Vogeulian is contained in the collection of prince Lucien Bonaparte.

50. Wotjakian. The third section of the Permian race consists of the Wotjaks, about 200,000, located in the Upper Kanma, and generally Christianized. In 1820, Lewandowski, a learned Wotjak, commenced a translation of the New Test. The Russian Bible Society encouraged him to continue; and thus under the care and inspection of the Viatka Branch Bible Society, the gospels of SS. Matthew and Mark were completed during the year 1823. From the first sheets of these gospels some poretions were read in their churches, and it is related that the people demanded to hear more, but a change came; the Russian society became extinct, and all its printing operations were necessarily suspended.

Besides the Annual Reports of the British and Foreign Bible Society, see The Bible of Every Land, but especially Dalton, Das Gebet des Herrn in den Sprachen Russlands (St. Petersburg, 1870). (B.P.)

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