Karachay Bible translator Lyudmila came to the IBT Moscow office from the village of Kyzyl-Pokun in the Karachay-Cherkessia region of the North Caucasus in order to audio record her first translated Bible portion – the book of Jonah. Her younger daughter Farida, who lives in Moscow, read the translation aloud while Lyudmila listened and made suggestions for improving the reading. At the end of their two day working session, I asked the translator to share how she joined the Bible translation project.
“I grew up in the Soviet era, when our Muslim people didn’t particularly flaunt their commitment to traditional religion. Nevertheless, Muslim rituals were present in my childhood in one way or another, and two things always struck me about them: the need to repeat prayers in Arabic without understanding their meaning, and the tradition of standing up respectfully when pronouncing the name of the Prophet Muhammad, even though there was no similar custom to do the same when pronouncing the name of Allah Himself. One more thing I was curious about as a child: what is this mysterious word Amen that is used at the end of Muslim rituals (as well as at the end of Christian prayers)?
The twin-peaked Mount Elbrus is located right on the border of Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia in the North Caucasus region of Russia. Many well-known legends and myths have been reinterpreted by the local peoples and connected with their native lands and this enormous mountain: it was here that the Argonauts searched for the golden fleece, and Prometheus, who gave fire to mankind, was also chained to a cliff on Mt. Elbrus. The Abaza people see Mount Elbrus in the biblical story of the Flood. According to one of their legends, Noah's ark should have stopped on Elbrus. Noah addressed the mountain: “Please stop the ark, let it abide on your top!” But the mountain refused Noah, so the Lord punished it by splitting its top in two, and the ark eventually stopped on Mt. Ararat.
Winter 2021-2022 Newsletter on the Khakass project
The land of Khakassia in south Siberia is unique in many respects. It is rightfully considered the “archaeological Mecca” of Siberia, a land of rich history and ancient culture. More than 30,000 archeological remains have been preserved there. Khakassia is also called “the land of 1,000 lakes” and is well known for the healing properties of the mineral water in several of these lakes. Lake Tus (“salt” in Khakas) is even called “the Khakas Dead Sea.” As in the Dead Sea in Israel, you can float on its salty waters without sinking.
The contemporary Khakas people are descendants of the Yenisei Kyrgyz, who ruled Khakassia in the 7th century A.D. and were later conquered by Mongolian tribes. Today’s Khakas are neither Muslim, like the Kyrgyz of Central Asia, not Buddhist, like their neighbouring Tuvans, who were also dominated by Mongolia for part of their history...
The 1st edition of the Tuvan Bible was highly appreciated by reviewers and the Tuvan public. However, it was recently decided to start a Bible revision project at a meeting of the translation team with Tuvan church representatives. Why is this necessary? The Tuvan project exegete, IBT’s director Vitaly Voinov answers this question:
“Whatver a human being can produce is never perfect. Even if you are highly professional in what you do, there is always the chance that time and a new perspective will show you what could be improved. Moreover, language and culture are never static, so translation too needs to keep up with ongoing developments. As the ancient Greeks used to say, πάντα ρεῖ – ‘everything flows’ – including language and culture. And we as Bible translators need to accept this and adapt to it. Many Bible scholars believe that ideally every generation should have its own Bible translation.”
Nina, a field tester in the Kalmyk Bible translation project, is one of the earliest local workers to get involved in IBT activities in Russia. She started her work with IBT in 1992 and has continued to the present day. When I asked her how she began working on Bible translation and whether she was chosen for this task because she was a language scholar or a Christian believer, she at first could not answer my question. It seemed that the exact reason was still a mystery to Nina herself. We started unravelling the tangle of that period of her life together.