Dukhobor Russian.

Ben Dalton writes for the Jordan Russian Center about a colloquium discussion on the Canadian Dukhobors; I thought this passage was interesting enough to post:

After the Russian Revolution and again after World War II, some Canadian Dukhobors returned to the Soviet Union, where they faced repression. Those that remained in Canada retained a distinct culture, even speaking Russian into the 1950s and 60s. [David] McDonald [of the University of Wisconsin-Madison] recalled growing up around Dukhobors and, as a high school senior, speaking Russian with Dukhobor women as they sold bread at a local fair. However, any words that post-dated the Dukhobor migrations at the turn of the century would use an English loan word-for example, “car” rather than the Russian “mashina.” Active Russian use disappeared only in the 1970s, McDonald said.

McDonald also mentioned that, in their private correspondence, Dukhobors emulated official Russian state discourse, a “chancellery” language, even years after their move to Canada.

Comments

  1. Incidentally, I have no idea what the title, “Dreaming of Duskobor’e,” means; googling “Duskobor’e” in English gets this conference, and googling in Russian gets “Your search – Дускоборье – did not match any documents.”

  2. I’m surprised there weren’t more Cold War spies of minority Canadian background. Loads of German-speaking Mennonites, loads of Russian speakers, reasonably well-integrated, ideologically quite far away from their mother countries’ regimes. Or maybe there were and they were just so successful we never heard about them!

  3. Oh, Christian nudists!

  4. There was a story on NPR about the joint North Korean/South Korean ping pong team and what it was like for the two sets of athletes to meet. One thing that was said by the South Koreans – they thought that the North Koreans spoke a weird, antiquated version of Korean, “like the way my grandmother would speak”. I wonder if that’s accurate, and if so, why that would be?

  5. Incidentally, I have no idea what the title, “Dreaming of Duskobor’e,” means

    I assume it’s a typo for “Dreaming of Dukhobor’e”, which was the actual name of the colloquium.

  6. Jeffry House says:

    Canadian Doukhobors retain deeply pacifist beliefs and traditions that would make them unlikely Cold Warriors, despite native Russian (with archaisms). So much so that they were one of the most important supports for US military draftees who fled to Canada in the 1970s, as well as of a later movement of US soldiers refusing to participate in the Iraq War. A celebration of this pacifist tradition was held at Castlegar, British Columbia (a majority Doukhobor town) in 2006. The most famous participants in the conference were George McGovern and Daniel Ellsberg, and the main entertainment a mass Russian-style Doukhobor chorus singing songs from the Russian steppes.

  7. I assume it’s a typo for “Dreaming of Dukhobor’e”, which was the actual name of the colloquium.

    D’oh! Seems obvious in retrospect; thanks.

  8. However, any words that post-dated the Dukhobor migrations at the turn of the century would use an English loan word-for example, “car” rather than the Russian “mashina.”

    That’s probably the kind of Russian they speak in the province of Estoty on Antiterra, and definitely the kind of Russian they speak in the independent nation of Alyaska in Ill Bethisad (the People’s Democratic and Ecotopic Republic of Oregon to the south speaks English, but writes it in Cyrillic, a typically Oregonian compromise).

  9. marie-lucie says:

    In the late 60’s the linguistics program at the newly built Simon Fraser University (just outside Vancouver BC) had a graduate student from a Doukhobor community (perhaps indeed Castlegar) whose goal was to write a dictionary of Doukhobor Russian. At the time there was still some political agitation among the Doukhobors, a number of whom had emigrated to Mexico with their leader as the Canadian government strongly disapproved (a euphemism) of some of their customs.

  10. marie-lucie says:

    e-k: One thing that was said by the South Koreans – they thought that the North Koreans spoke a weird, antiquated version of Korean, “like the way my grandmother would speak”. I wonder if that’s accurate, and if so, why that would be?

    It is probably quite accurate, because of the isolation of North Korea for several decades, while South Korea has been not only open to the rest of the world but especially influenced by the US. Such conditions are well-known in sociolinguistic studies.

  11. Are there any Molokan communities outside of Russia which still speak Russian?

  12. Molokans in Armenia speak Russian – dialect, not standard Russian. No danger of assimilation whatsoever – they live in 100% Molokan villages, no intermarriage or contacts with Armenian population or Armenian state.

    They even refuse to receive old age pensions from the state, because their religion forbids taking unearned money.

  13. SFReader, do you know if the Armenian Molokan dialect is just old-fashioned (like that of Canadian Dukhobors), or if it reflects some older regional features?

  14. I wonder if that’s accurate, and if so, why that would be?

    Oh, when speakers of two related languages talk to each other, both side generally feel that the other side talks in an archaic/literary way. Where you evolve and we don’t, your way is simply weird or incomprehensible, with no impact on the old-new scale. Where we evolve and you don’t, your way is archaic or literary. It’s only in the statistically unlikely case where the other side is ahead in an evolution partially shared by this side that the other side can actually feel new.

  15. The Mongolians feel that Inner Mongolian is 1) weird, 2) uses old-fashioned language (one person told me their language is exactly the way shamans speak!), 3) heavily influenced by Chinese and weird Chinese-inspired vocabulary.

  16. Molokan dialect is characterized by heavy akan’ye and yaka­n’ye – vyala (vela), nyasla (nesla), pyakut’ (pekut), slyapyya (slepyye), syastra (sestra), vyadro (vedro), zyarno (zerno), marya (morya), palya (polya) and so on. Also they pronounce zhana (zhena), pchala (pchela), zhaludok (zheludok) and use “kh” for “kt” – trakhtor (traktor), dokhtor (doktor), khto (kto).

    Their names also differ: Tan’kya (Tan’ka), Van’kya (Van’ka), Vas’kya (Vas’ka).

  17. The Mongolians feel that Inner Mongolian is 1) weird, 2) uses old-fashioned language (one person told me their language is exactly the way shamans speak!)

    I think they mean that Inner Mongolians use many Classical Mongolian words and expressions in ordinary speech.

  18. David Marjanović says:

    It’s only in the statistically unlikely case where the other side is ahead in an evolution partially shared by this side that the other side can actually feel new.

    That happens with Dutch from the German point of view pretty often, in that various features that are widespread in colloquial and nonstandard German (e.g. avoidance of the genitive) are standard in Dutch. Somewhat similarly, Dutch spelling is more regular than German, but often indicates the same pronunciation (or at least plausibly looks as if it did). And then, of course, every once in a while they casually throw in a verb that is so archaic/literary anywhere in German that we’re not even sure how to conjugate it.

  19. No danger of assimilation whatsoever – they live in 100% Molokan villages, no intermarriage or contacts with Armenian population or Armenian state. They even refuse to receive old age pensions from the state, because their religion forbids taking unearned money.

    It speaks well of the Armenian state (from my point of view) that they allow this situation. States usually are completely intolerant of unassimilable minorities who refuse to be counted, classified, and made use of for state purposes.

  20. As my maternal grandmother told me, her father had regularly gone to the Caucasus to work as a herdsman for Molokans, the family being large and growing. He learned to speak Russian from them as well.

  21. I remember TV reports about Dukhobors protesting naked, but I don’t remember what they were protesting about. My Google searches have not been very forthcoming. I think it might have been that they had to send their children to public schools?

  22. marie-lucie says:

    When I arrived in British Columbia several decades ago the Doukhobors were often in the news, although most of the salient events were already past and I did not follow them especially. But the leaders were well known, whether in and out of jail or fleeing to Latin America.

    With the backing of Tolstoy the Doukhobors emigrated to Southeastern British Columbia in order to be freer than in Russia to live according to their beliefs, but after a while things started to sour as they obviously “refused to assimilate” (as would be said nowadays). They built very large communal houses in the middle of community farmlands, while their neighbours lived in single-family houses, either in small towns or on their own lands. Their “communistic” ethos and practices were not popular in the area, let alone with the British-oriented governments, for which they also caused administrative problems such as in taxation. I think the breaking point came when the provincial government insisted that they sent their children to public schools – no “home schooling” then – and actually took children away. The naked street protests which occurred on several occasions were meant to say to the government “You are taking everything from us, we have nothing left, go ahead and take even the clothes on our backs!”. Public nakedness certainly got everyone’s attention, but this lack of prudishness, especially by older people, horrified average Canadians. With the removal of their leaders and the rise of new, locally-educated generations, the Doukhobors eventually adapted to local conditions.

Speak Your Mind

*