Language group: Turkic
Location: Kabardino-Balkaria, North Caucasus (Russian Federation)
Religion: Sunni Muslim
Bible publications: Life of Jesus (1981), Luke (1993, 1999), NT+Psalms (1994, 2000), Children’s Bible (1996);
Not by IBT: Proverbs (2000), Genesis, Exodus (2008), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Jonah (2011), Job + Proverbs reprint (2016)
Status of team: Full active team
Current work: Leviticus, Numbers, Song of Songs.
Short term plans: Zephaniah, Joel, Haggai.
Long term plans: OT
The Balkars, a Turkic-speaking people whose ethnogenesis remains unclear, currently constitute approximately 10 percent of the total population of the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic in southern Russia. Kabardians and Balkars are not one people, though they live in one area. Even their language groups are different. The Balkar language is a Turkic language and is related to Turkish, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, etc., while Kabardian is a Circassian language, related to Adyghe and more distantly, Abkhaz.
For centuries, the historically Muslim Balkar people have lived in the highlands of the Caucasus Mountains, shepherding their flocks. This livelihood was passed from father to son, beginning at a very young age. Expanding their property to accommodate increased herds is something shepherds strive for, since a man’s fortune is ranked by the number of cattle or sheep he owns. In the 19th century Russian ethnographers spoke about the Balkars as “the most civilized among the mountain dwellers of the Caucasus.” They were admired for their industry, mild character, directness and honesty. Under Stalin the Balkars were deported to Central Asia and many of them perished on their way and in exile. When they were allowed to return to their homes in Russia in late 1950s, they were resettled in the mountain plains where their pastures used to be. Balkars settled in four gorges. People speak one dialect of the Balkar language in three of these gorges, and another dialect in the fourth. Nowadays there is no work to be found in Balkar villages. Only those who work in schools and hospitals have official jobs. Up to 80% of the population is unemployed. Though the Balkar people are traditionally mountain dwellers, the scarcity of usable land has forced many to move to the capital city Nalchik to trade in the market, or further on, to Moscow, in order to gain education and jobs.
The very small group of Balkar Christians struggles to practice their faith in a culture where every aspect of life from birth, to marriage, to death, is governed by folk-Islamic and Balkar traditions.
IBT, which translated the Balkar NT in the 1990s, has restarted its involvement in this project, which was co-ordinated by another organization in previous years. They translated and published nine OT books, but these texts need serious revision.
The team: By now the IBT Old Testament translation team has been fully set up to complete the translation of the Old Testament, though we continue praying that more people would find their way to this translation project. The local project co-ordinator is a Balkar Christian and a very dedicated person. The story of his conversion is a classic example of the return of the prodigal son. In his youth he was imprisoned 5 times, became addicted to drugs and alcohol. After encountering Christ 20 years ago he became a totally new man, and now he is a pastor, the head of the local evangelical group, and even Muslims of the neighborhood turn to him for advice and prayer. He is successfully helping people to be healed from drug addiction, and their church is an example of warm family relations. The independent translator (one who doesn’t need the assistance of an exegetical advisor in his work), also a pastor, is checking his own translations against the Hebrew original. This became possible after he was trained at half-year intensive course in Israel in January-June 2018, organized by the Jerusalem Center for Bible Translators. Besides this he is also helping as an exegetical advisor in the newly resumed Karachay project, as the Karachay language is closely related to Balkar. A new philological joined the team in 2019. We would like to find an additional translator.
Current work: The team has decided to revise (not re-translate) OT texts translated by another organization before IBT’s involvement. We hope to accomplish this task over the next several years in parallel with translating new OT books. The work in this project has gained a good pace.
Ruth, Esther and Daniel will be printed in early 2020. All the work on Numbers has been completed and checked by the translation consultant. Work is in progress on Genesis (philological editing, field-testing and back translation). The independent translator has started revising Exodus. Leviticus and Deuteronomy are being exegetically checked and philologically edited. The team is planning to complete all the work on the Pentateuch in 2020. Publication of the whole Pentateuch is in the short-term plans for this project, hopefully in 2021. Besides this exegetical checking of Nehemiah will start in June. Joel, Zephaniah and Haggai were drafted during the workshop on Minor Prophets in 2019. All three books have already been philologically edited, and now their field-testing and back translation is in process. They are being prepared for a consultant checking session in May. Due to coronavirus quarantine this consultant checking session is planned by Skype. We hope that in October 2020 the team members will take part in the Ezekiel workshop.
In 2019 the Prodigal Son video was dubbed in Balkar and a promo video has been produced about the Balkar ethnic group and the Balkar Bible translation project. In summer 2019 the son of the independent translator took part in the app-building workshop in Nalchik, and his first ever Balkar Bible app for Android is now being finalized.
Your donation of $9 will help to publish and deliver to Kabardio-Balkaria 1 copy of Ruth, Esther & Jonah (Print run - 500 copies)