The Institute for Bible Translation (IBT), in partnership with the Bible Society in Russia (BSR), SIL International and the United Bible Societies, recently published the complete Bible in the Bashkir language, titled (in translation from Bashkir) “Holy Scripture (Taurat, Zebur, Injil)”.
The full canonical Bible has by now been translated into about 728 languages (about 10% of the 7000 or so languages spoken in the world today). Bashkir, the fourth-largest language in the Russian Federation by number of speakers (approximately 1.3 million), is one of the official languages of the Republic of Bashkortostan in central Russia. It too has now joined the ranks of languages with a complete translation of the Bible, the Book of Books, the most translated text in the world.
The Bashkir Scripture translation project was initiated by IBT in 1975 with a facsimile reprint of the Four Gospels, translated by a group of Russian Orthodox students from Kazan Theological Seminary and originally published in 1902. Beginning in the early 1990s, IBT organized a new translation project involving well-known Bashkir writers and language scholars. The first fruit of their work was a trial publication of the Gospel of Luke, published in 1996. This was followed by the Gospel of John in 1998 (re-printed in 2000), a re-translation of John together with the Acts of the Apostles in 2002, the Gospel of Mark in 2003, and all the books of the New Testament in 2014.
Parallel to IBT’s work on the New Testament, the Bible Society in Russia began its labor on translating the Old Testament in the 1990s. The BSR project published the book of Genesis in 2010, followed by a reprint edition in 2013.
At the end of 2015, BSR and IBT began collaborating to combine their respective translations of the Old and New Testaments into a single Bible. In order to bring all the books of the Bible together, much work had to be done to unify the key Biblical terms and to edit all the texts stylistically. An extensive scholarly apparatus was produced, consisting of an introduction to each book, a glossary, footnotes, maps of biblical places, a table of measures and weights, etc.
In preparation for the publication of the complete Bible, a scholarly review of the translation was carried out by the Institute of History, Language and Literature of the Ufa Federal Research Center. This opened the door for the Bashkir Bible to be printed with a scholarly stamp of approval from the Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
On June 19, an official presentation of the book was held for the Bashkir cultural and scholarly community. The presentation was attended by more than 150 people. The director of the Institute of History, Language and Literature, which hosted the event, noted that this labor by the Bashkir translation team is sure to become an important foundation for future work and research by scholars of religion, theologians, social scientists, historians, and philologists, as well as all who study religious worldviews, history, language, and spirituality.
In his welcoming speech, Orthodox Metropolitan Nikon of Bashkortostan said: "The books of the Bible are a source of spirituality that feed the cultures of humankind with eternal meanings and moral ideals. Reading the Holy Scripture, the supernatural revelation of God, one hears the words of God Himself, since He is the true Author of this Book… Familiarizing Bashkir Muslims with the Bible in their native language will help them better understand and feel a deep respect for Russian culture and world culture, the faith of their compatriots and neighbors, as well as their relatives. In other words, it will further strengthen interethnic and interreligious peace, harmony and mutual understanding in the region.”
IBT’s director Bronwen Cleaver presented the IBT Bashkir Bible translation project, and Elena Mosolova, the IBT Bashkir project coordinator, reported on some of the interesting aspects of work on the Bashkir text. Dr. Teija Greed (SIL), the Bashkir project’s exegetical advisor, addressed the audience with a video greeting. Actors from the Bashkir Academic Drama Theater read Scripture excerpts in Bashkir.
The following day, June 20, "House of Prayer for All Nations" Evangelical Baptist Church in Ufa gathered representatives of various Protestant churches to celebrate this significant event for Bashkir Christians and to dedicate the published edition of the Bible to God.
Senior pastor Nail Ayupov, who organized this Bible dedication, thanked the Lord for His love for the Bashkir people, for giving them this bread of heaven, His Word in its entirety. "The Bashkir believers have been praying for the blessing of this translation, that it would bear fruit for the salvation of the Bashkir nation, for the change of many hearts.”
Everyone who participated in these events received a copy of the Bashkir Bible. Thus started the process of distributing the Bible’s print-run of 3,800 copies, which will go to churches, educational and scholarly organizations, and libraries throughout Bashkortostan.