FOR WANT OF A TRANSLATOR.

From my latest reading, Benson Bobrick’s East of the Sun: The Epic Conquest and Tragic History of Siberia, this striking anecdote about early Russian contacts with China:

In pursuit of the commercial bounty that might flow from relations with such a highly developed state, Ivan Petlin, Russia’s first envoy to China in 1618, had returned with a letter of invitation to trade. But unfortunately the Russians were unable to find anyone to translate it until 1675! That lapse in linguistic competence within the Russian foreign service had such drastic consequences for their later relations that seldom has the lack of a little academic knowledge meant so much. For even as hostilities arose, the negotiation of a bilateral trade agreement — the Kremlin’s original objective — remained the principal motive behind Russia’s bellicose acts.

Comments

  1. “small bands of Russians, convinced of their right to dispossess “inferior” peoples, subjugated Turkish and Mongol nomads, fueled intertribal warfare and destroyed native cultures through forced assimilation.”
    ah, that history rewriting with some colonialsit and racist terminology, which i anticipated in a thread not long ago, looks like is happening full-time, no surprise there
    about stolypin, and soviet, stalin reforms russians themselves suffered no less than others, so

  2. Finally, a thread about my dissertation!
    This paragraph–I haven’t read the book–is something of a misrepresentation. It’s true that no one was able to read Petlin’s document, but:
    1) Petlin was basically a clerk who ended up in command of an exploratory mission sent by a local Siberian voevoda under orders from the tsar. Anything he acquired while in China would not have had the same validity as the product of an actual, formal diplomatic mission with recognized bilateral negotiators.
    2) If the Russians had used Petlin’s document to trade–it seems to have been a certificate routinely issued to Chinese tributaries–they would have been implicitly acknowledging themselves as subjects of the Chinese emperor. The reason so many subsequent missions ended in failure was grounded in the fact that the Russians insisted on being recognized as equals to the Chinese, which the latter were unable to accept.
    3) Needless to say, the dynasty Petlin was negotiating with was the Ming, which ceased to exist fifteen years later. The Qing, as Manchus, obviously had a very different attitude to everything related to the northern frontier.
    4) I’m assuming that the hostilities referred to are the Albazinian conflicts. If so, the paragraph is just flat wrong. First, the Chinese initially didn’t even know that the Cossacks who had settled in the Amur region were subjects of the tsar or even ethnically Russian. Second, control of the Amur valley and navigation on the Amur was a major diplomatic objective for the Russians quite independently of the China trade, and Petlin’s mission had absolutely nothing to say about this since the frontier of Russian settlement had not moved that far east at the time of his mission.

    There are lots of bad books about Russia’s colonization of Siberia. I can unreservedly recommend only one of them: Yuri Slezkine’s Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North. It doesn’t have anything to say about the Mongols and the Turkic peoples in southern Siberia, but it’s the only treatment that doesn’t succumb to uncritical and inaccurate descriptions of native Siberians as passive victims of conquistador-style Russian violence.

  3. Oops, I didn’t mean to imply Slezkine’s book was bad! It’s quite, quite good.

  4. (Oh, and two more points:
    1) Petlin almost certainly received the document from a local Ming official who had no sense at all of the kind of state the Russians were. The only source of information that existed in Chinese about Russia during the late Ming (or at any earlier period) was a sort of world gazetteer assembled on the basis of information provided by Jesuits and gathered elsewhere. This included two separate paragraph-long entries, one on Muscovy, one on Russia, without mentioning that these were in fact one entity. I would be distinctly surprised if the local Ming bureaucrat would have been able to match either one up with the country Petlin claimed to be representing.
    2) “Russia’s bellicose acts” is distinctly exaggerated. The quarrel was over which local tribes owed allegiance to whom, and thus who had suzerainty over the territory. It’s far from clear that the Qing had any more right to the territory than the Russians did–they were mostly trying to prevent the Russians from creeping up on their ancestral homelands in Manchuria.

  5. J.W. Brewer says:

    I would tend to assume that the document in question spent most of the time from 1618 to 1675 languishing in a drawer, rather than being brought out once a month for yet another round of fruitless attempts at decipherment. Some of the peoples living in between the Russians and Chinese must have been regularly trading with the Chinese – what language were those transactions conducted in? I suppose it’s entirely possible that there were Buryats or whatever who could speak passable Mandarin but had had no occasion to learn to read hanzi. Wikipedia claims that a subsequent Muscovite delegation to Peking bridged the language problem by including Russians who could communicate in Latin with the Jesuits hanging around the Chinese court.

  6. “Buryats or whatever”
    how strange to read such a construction, do you say “Americans and whatever” and does it sound polite enough? i use “whatever” only with some kind of abstract things, not people
    why couldn’t people learn to read hanzis? bc surely not because of some kind of incapability to learn their language, if they could learn Tibetan and Sanskrit and were producing Ganjuur and Danjuur at that approximately time, but from aversion to learning anything Chinese at the expense of getting enlightened in the things Chinese, of course, but if they searched good enough perhaps they could have found someone who could converse in the languages of the neighbouring countries, i thought lerning languages quick enough was a strong suit of our people

  7. As far as I’ve found in my research, local so-called tolmachi from the Irkutsk area (possibly Buryats) were used quite extensively as Russo-Chinese trade picked up in the late 17th c. It appears that these people were mostly illiterate and therefore were of no help in diplomatic negotiations, hence the need for Latin as an official diplomatic language to mediate between the two courts.

  8. illiterate in Chinese, Russian? how this is so very rude to remark so about other people whom they would have liked to use as translators for their courts!
    well, but it’s a good anecdote, keeping a piece of paper in the drawer for how many years, seems they were not that chinese literate themselves, that’s like that, one’s brevno v glazu
    maybe they were literate in their own language
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Mongolia
    scroll down to the cultural renaissance part and then perhaps see were people illiterate or not at that time, surely that was not their obligation to become chinese literate to translate to whatever courts

  9. J.W. Brewer says:

    read: “had had no occasion to learn” does not, in my variety of English, imply incapability as opposed to lack of opportunity and/or motivation. There are obviously circumstances in which illiterate (in some relevant language) interpreters can be quite useful in mediating direct oral communication between people with no common language; there are other circumstances where the nature of the interaction is more document-driven and thus literacy in one or more relevant languages is necessary.
    It is of course hazardous when the person interpreting between the emissaries of governments A and B is a member of ethnolinguistic/religious/political group C, which may have its own perspective on and agenda relating to A-B relations, but at many times in human history such third-party go-betweens have been necessary. One of my remote ancestors (a Huguenot refugee working for the Dutch West India Co. at the outpost that is now Albany, NY) was supposedly seconded to a group of Mohawks to accompany them as translator on an expedition to negotiate with the French in Montreal (don’t know whether he spoke a little Mohawk or the Mohawks spoke a little Dutch, but apparently they needed a Francophone for those negotiations), so one hopes that the Dutch and/or Huguenot view of appropriate French-Mohawk relations was broadly consonant with the Mohawks’ own view of what they were trying to achieve.

  10. “there are other circumstances where the nature of the interaction is more document-driven and thus literacy in one or more relevant languages is necessary.”
    you explain me that as if like to a child, who questions all that, describing their translators as illiterate isn’t it pretty culturally insensitive, did they the high courtly negotiators then learn themselves even the oral, not written, language first to communicate with those people, if they so up to bringing up others’ literacy and illiteracy in some other third language even
    there is a pretty bitter joke from the russian? “colonization” times, or maybe it’s just one the chukcha jokes, i forget,: so whoever were the robbers they try to rob a man and they interrogate him asking where he had buried his gold or they’ll shoot him, so the poor man not able to bear anymore answers them “under the porch” and the translator translates it “buud, buud” which means he says shoot me, as if like the man himself permits shooting, sounds pretty hilarious in my language

  11. J.W. Brewer says:

    Perhaps hat can share with us other information from the book touching on the extent to which any meaningful number of Russians mastered the local languages as they expanded east, versus (arrogantly?) expecting locals to pick up Russian (or some sort of pidgin/creole compehensible to the relevant Russians) versus the emergence of some specialized group of linguistic intermediaries. It’s not something I know much about. St. Innocent of Irkutsk is said in some sources to have mastered “Mongol” (presumably the Buryat variety?), but he may well have been an exception. Wikipedia says that by the time the empires were in continuous trading contact in the 18th century a Russian-Chinese pidgin emerged that was used by traders around Kyakhta on the current Russo-Mongolian border which was then the Romanov-Qing border.

  12. I recall reading, perhaps in Nicholas Ostler’s Empires of the Word, that a few hundred years ago Italian served as the common language when the British and the Turks had matters to discuss.

  13. Bathrobe says:

    read, I don’t think it unremarkable that Mongols (including Buryats) might have been illiterate in Chinese. My understanding is that literacy wasn’t very high in China itself — I couldn’t find any sources, but it appears to have been 20% or less. It would presumably be even lower in non-Chinese societies where there was no educational system in place for teaching Chinese literacy. (There were also times that the Chinese banned foreigners from learning Chinese, although I assume this would not have been a problem with the Mongols). Aside from this, there is also the problem of how many literate people, assuming they existed in any number, were involved in border trading. Under the Chinese system, trading wasn’t exactly a high-class occupation. So even though the Mongols have a gift for learning foreign languages, it doesn’t necessarily follow that many of them would have been able to read and write Chinese in those days. Mongolian literacy seems to have mostly been in Mongolian, Tibetan, and Sanskrit.
    As for JW Brewer’s ‘Buryats or whatever’, that wasn’t a very felicitous phrasing, but after several threads here it seems that the Buryats have very much been put on the map!

  14. “it doesn’t necessarily follow that many of them would have been able to read and write Chinese in those days. Mongolian literacy seems to have mostly been in Mongolian, Tibetan, and Sanskrit.”
    so i am saying exactly that, that it doesn’t follow that the translators the russians would have employed then should have been literate in chinese, that’s not, as they say, ‘in their job descriptions’ and that doesn’t give the russians occasion to complain about the illiteracy of others in chinese! how it is “those people were mostly illiterate and therefore were of no help in diplomatic negotiations”, one would think mind your own chinese or whatever literacy, i think i use it the expression correctly, people knew three languages to translate them however in pidgin i guess and still were called illiterate, such a biased view, pretty understandable for that time, but said by a nowadays research student it sounds just as if like off-putting

  15. Bathrobe says:

    So the problem is the connotations of the word ‘illiterate’? Yes, ‘illiterate’ or ‘unlettered’ has become a term of contempt, but that’s just a prejudice. The technical meaning is ‘unable to read or write’, and in the past most people in most societies were illiterate!
    Regarding your comment about ‘aversion to learning anything Chinese at the expense of getting enlightened in the things Chinese’, I’d like to point to this quotation from Johan Elverkog’s Being Cosmopolitan:
    “for the Mongols of the twentieth century the standard claim was always that the Mongols have eternally resisted Chinese culture. And this idea is so deeply engrained in Mongol historiography it is important to recall that such resistance was more a twentieth century imagining than anything else.”

  16. just after the forceful inclusion into the manchu ching, one would think it would have been natural for mongols to resist whatever chinese, written language including
    i object to the description of illiterate when people knew their own letters, they were not obliged to know chinese hanzis to that, how the one knowing three languages to translate between the two completely different language speaking sides could be looked down as illiterate by the ones who knew only their own languages, how that is not a biased view, that i don’t get

  17. Bathrobe says:

    just after the forceful inclusion into the manchu ching, one would think it would have been natural for mongols to resist whatever chinese, written language including.
    I don’t think the history was as simple as that (the Manchus weren’t ‘Chinese’, for a start), and the evidence is that the Mongols didn’t necessarily resist ‘whatever Chinese’.
    As for ‘illiterate’, is it fair that the term ‘illiterate’ has become a term of abuse? Perhaps it is time to reflect on the incredible bias that this term implies.

  18. oh, pardon me, 1618 is not yet ching, it’s after 1635 to 1691, the “alliance” to ching, so it’s just before that when all the threat was too real
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongolia_during_Qing_rule

  19. marie-lucie says:

    To be “literate” means to know letters for reading and writing. It is possible to be literate in one language and illiterate in another even though being fully able to speak it.
    In my own family, my grandparents from Southern France had Occitan, not French, as their first language, since that was the language in general use in that part of the country, especially in rural areas. But all the schools were (and still are) in French, the official language of the country, so my grandparents learned to speak, read and write French once they went to school. Most people of their area and generation were in the same situation: even though Occitan was the only language they had heard in their families and spoken until going to the village school, they almost never saw it written, and were never taught to write it. Instead, all the written material they saw and read was in French. So they remained illiterate in their own language, although they became literate in French.
    In this case, the two languages (along with most of Western Europe) used the same writing alphabet, so it should not have been too hard to learn to read and write both, if Occitan had had a place in the schools. In places such as East Asia where many languages use their own system (eg Mongolian, Tibetan, Chinese, Devanagari, Japanese, etc), and some of these systems take a long time to learn (esp. Chinese), it would have been even more difficult for a person to become literate in more than one language, even if that person could speak several. Nowadays most countries have schools for all their children, but several centuries ago it was much less common for the average person anywhere to learn to write even in their own language, let alone in two or three others.

  20. Bathrobe says:

    slawkenbergius, you recommend Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North. Snooping around on Amazon, I noticed a few books relating to the history of Siberia, centring on its colonisation by Russia. How many of these books are worth reading? (Books I noticed included The Conquest of Siberia: An Epic of Human Passions by Yuri Semyonov, The Conquest of a Continent: Siberia and the Russians by Bruce Lincoln, and A History of the Peoples of Siberia: Russia’s North Asian Colony 1581-1990 by James Forsyth. Are these all equally bad?)

  21. i think i should explain the joke so that people wouldn’t get a wrong idea as if like what a sadistic joke to admire, so the translator’s mischief implies that the torturing foreigners will get fooled, the translator’s greed is such an all too recognizable human trait, then the words buud buud is too funny said as if by the man himself as if like carelessly and in good humor, stubbornness and nihilistically not caring much about anything, gold or one’s own life, a very disproportionate attitude, is also pretty recognizable, and as if like believable to accept that as correct translation and of course, the importance of knowing languages as if like emphasized, there is even a proverb, kheltei bol khöltei, if one has the tongue one has the feet – if one knows languages one has places to go

  22. Finally, a thread about my dissertation!
    Heh. I was hoping to attract your attention! Thanks for the informative commentary. I’m pleased to say I got the Slezkine book as a birthday present (brought over several days later, so not mentioned in the post), and now I’m looking forward to it even more eagerly. And I’m curious about your answer to Bathrobe:
    Books I noticed included The Conquest of Siberia: An Epic of Human Passions by Yuri Semyonov, The Conquest of a Continent: Siberia and the Russians by Bruce Lincoln, and A History of the Peoples of Siberia: Russia’s North Asian Colony 1581-1990 by James Forsyth. Are these all equally bad?
    The Forsyth in particular looked interesting to me when I saw it in the bookstore years ago; if you say it’s junk, I’ll stop thinking about it.
    read: I’ve been enjoying your comments here lately, you have a lot of interesting things to say, but please, please try not to be so touchy about people’s wording and phrasing. I promise you no one here looks down on Buryats, and your misplaced indignation tends to derail threads.

  23. Oh, and I liked the “buud buud” joke!

  24. J.W. Brewer says:

    The basic premise of the “buud buud” joke is also extant in the U.S. and I expect lots of other places (perhaps one day corpus linguistics will make it possible to determine its ultimate place/language of origin?). Here’s a version I googled up as told by the economist David Friedman to C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb in a 1996 interview (which I do not guarantee everyone will consider in good taste):
    Jose robbed a bank and fled south across the Rio Grande with the Texas Rangers in hot pursuit. They caught him in a small town in Mexico, only to discover that Jose spoke no English and none of them spoke any Spanish. So they persuaded one of the locals, who knew both languages, to act as translator. And the Rangers say to the translator, `Ask Jose where he has hidden the money.’ `The gringos want to know where you’ve hidden the money.’ `Tell them I will never tell them.’ `Jose says he will never tell you.’ The Rangers pull out their six guns, cock them, point them at Jose’s head and say to the translator, `Tell Jose that if he does not tell us, we will kill him.’ `The gringos say if you do not tell them, they will kill you.’ Jose starts to shake with fear, `I I I hid the the money by the bridge, over the river.’ `Jose says he is not afraid to die.’
    The commenters here come from a variety of geographic/cultural backgrounds and accordingly may have different native (or acquired as L2) varieties of English. This gives rise to a risk that what might be merely an informal register in one variety might be misconstrued as pejorative or infelicitous by those who do not natively speak that variety. But whatever, dude, as we say in AmEng.

  25. “But whatever, dude, as we say in AmEng”.
    Americans or whatever would still sound dismissive, i suppose you wanted to say Buriad or Mongols but substituted the word with whatever which sounded really strange to me, so i think whatever is not used like that, with people, would one say JWB or whatever said or did something something
    as an informal register?

  26. Forsyth is quite good for ethnographic descriptions of the various Siberian peoples, but he bends himself into pretzels trying to make equivalencies between the Russian treatment of Siberians and the Euro-American treatment of Native Americans. No matter how bad the Russians were, the two colonization projects are not even comparable in their brutality and genocidal results. He’s responding mainly to Soviet scholars who really did whitewash Russian eastward expansion, so it’s understandable, but I would definitely read Slezkine first.
    Lincoln is a really engaging yarn. Obviously, it’s not designed to be an academic factual reference, but it’s just SO much fun to read, and it covers an enormous amount of ground. (I think read would be justly offended at his Lord of the Rings-esque portrayal of the Mongols as slavering orcs, though.) The Soviet chapters are weaker than the rest, though.

  27. Actually, the point about Forsyth shouldn’t hinge on whether you agree or disagree with me about the genocide thing. The problem is the accusatory tone that permeates the whole book, swamping the details and making it boring and predictable. (It was a course text in a class I TA’d for last fall, and I’m pretty sure none of my students did the reading because “The Russians exploited the native Siberians” would have been a correct answer to any question, no matter what week it was.)

  28. marie-lucie says:

    Americans or whatever
    I think that this is a little short and that’s what make it sound dismissive. To my mind it would be OK to say, for instance, Canadians or Americans or Australians or whatever, to mean that what you say could apply to a wide range of people seemingly chosen at random, not just to one.
    JWB or whatever
    No, you can’t say that of one person, but you could use it among a series of names not persons, such as It doesn’t matter if he is called ABC or JWB or JFK or whatever, because here you are using names or initials as examples, not as persons (but it could be a cover up for referring to a certain person).

  29. Slezkine – is there a relation with L.Yu.Zlezkin, author of numerous books on the early history of the US and Canada in Russian?

  30. marie-lucie says:

    Slawkenbergius: his Lord of the Rings-esque portrayal of the Mongols as slavering orcs
    Sorry, I have not read Lord of the Rings – it is not the type of literature that appeals to me. I know he invented a lot of words. Slavering orcs? I guess orc in this context does not mean Orca (killer whale), but it is obviously something derogatory, and slavering is rather unappetizing.

  31. why it should be such a basic human need to enslave someone else that history books should be rewritten just to appeal to such newly found appetites?
    the great eurasian landmass is just too vast and unforgiving, russians historically relied on help and cooperation of the native population, look at the map, how one country could spread so, if the “colonization” was that real, and russians themselves suffered exactly the same through siberian katorgas and stalin’s gulags, so what is there to try to elevate themselves as a coloniazing power then
    but if this history rewriting will continue no wonder all the autonomies would want out of russia, if you push too hard to insist on your colonization, just like chechnya, next will be buriads or tuva or yakutia, perhaps

  32. @marie-lucie: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orc says that “[a]n orc (/ˈɔrk/) is one of a race of mythical human-like creatures, generally described as fierce and combative, with grotesque features and often black, grey or greenish skin. This mythology has its origins in the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien.”
    Off-topic: Hat, have you seen the other day’s New York Times article, “He Tells You When It’s Safe to Wawk”? It’s at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/07/nyregion/a-new-york-voice-at-new-york-intersections.html. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on it.

  33. Forsyth is quite good for ethnographic descriptions of the various Siberian peoples, but he bends himself into pretzels trying to make equivalencies between the Russian treatment of Siberians and the Euro-American treatment of Native Americans.
    That’s fine, I’m an old hand at ignoring annoying points of view as long as useful facts are being provided, so I’ll go ahead and read it when I get the chance.
    Lincoln is a really engaging yarn. Obviously, it’s not designed to be an academic factual reference, but it’s just SO much fun to read, and it covers an enormous amount of ground.
    That’s just what I would have expected; I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read of his.
    Hat, have you seen the other day’s New York Times article, “He Tells You When It’s Safe to Wawk“? … I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on it.
    Yes, I enjoyed it a great deal and wished I were still in the city so I could pop down to an intersection and hear his voice.

  34. Marie-Lucie: The Orcs in The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s other works are a separate species from humanity and evil by nature. The OED defines orc as “a devouring monster; an ogre; spec. a member of an imaginary race of subhuman creatures, small and human-like in form but having ogreish features and warlike, malevolent characters.” Tolkien explicitly derives his word Orc from OE orc ‘demon’ < Latin orcus, but he adds that it is for him a matter of sound symbolism: his Orcs are corporeal beings, not spirits.
    Tolkien says explicitly in one of his letters that there are no Orcs in the real world, “that is, folk made bad by the intention of their Maker”. But he also says, or his character says, that the Devil cannot make new things of his own, only mock and ruin existing creatures of God. He never clearly resolved the point. So calling a human being, or a group of them, orcs is indeed very insulting.
    Tolkien invented numerous languages, but he invented very few English words, though he made full use of the standard and dialectal English vocabulary, which may give the impression of coining. Even hobbit, which he did invent (there is a use or two of it before him, but they are semantically unrelated and it’s unlikely that he saw them) is a plausible ModE derivative of a plausible but unrecorded OE compound *hol-bytla ‘hole-dweller’, referring to their custom of living in holes in the ground. A careful search of the text of The Lord Of The Rings turned up only these candidates:
    * smials ‘hobbit-holes’ < OE smygel
    * warg ‘large, savage wolf with human speech’ < OE wearh, wearg ‘outlaw, monster’, ON vargr ‘wolf’
    * the compounds starmoon and truesilver, both names of unknown metals
    * just possibly tweens ‘post-adolescent period’: Hobbits did not come of age until 33, and lived somewhat longer than Men; while this word does appear in other sources, they appear not to predate Tolkien
    Indeed, in the text of the narrative (as opposed to dialogue, recited poetry, singing, etc.) there are only four borrowings from Tolkien’s languages: crebain ‘malevolent crows’, miruvor ‘stimulant cordial’, and ithildin and mithril for starmoon and truesilver above. Many but not all proper names are also derived from Tolkien’s languages.

  35. marie-lucie says:

    Ran, thank you for the explanation of “orc”.
    By sheer coincidence, in today’s Le Monde online I found an article on what has happened and is happening to Tolkien’s work and its derivatives, which are apparently far removed from the actual work. The author of the article has interviewed Tolkien’s family members and others looking after the complete works.
    http://www.lemonde.fr/culture/article/2012/07/05/tolkien-l-anneau-de-la-discorde_1729858_3246.html

  36. marie-lucie says:

    JC, I missed your post while I was writing mine. Thank you. I think you might enjoy the Monde article.

  37. do the author explicitly compare us to orcs? or is it your comparison, slawkenbergius, i didn’t know that the word was that offensive, so why would you bring up the word into the conversation as if like reinforcing the actual or imaginary thought by the author, please don’t say such words first and afterwards complain about my complaints

  38. marie-lucie says:

    JC: * warg ‘large, savage wolf with human speech’

  39. No, the word orcs isn’t mentioned, but all the familiar cliches of European writing about the Mongols are. (and I’m certainly not complaining about that hypothetical complaint, hence the word “justly.”)

  40. oh, so you managed to insult me and my people how many times in one thread calling them illiterate, orcs and enslaved
    i am making a formal complaint here, if i am even allowed to complain justly about those words, so, please do not use those offensive words citing others especially if those words are not formally in your sources too, you are a researcher, you have a responsibility to not harm too

  41. Marie-Lucie:
    Wargs are definitely wolves. There is no suggestion that they are human in any way except that they can speak, and lots of species can speak in Tolkien’s world; there’s even a fox who thinks in words, though he doesn’t talk out loud.
    Thanks for the link to Le Monde. I love this remark of Christopher Tolkien’s: “Pour moi, les villes du Silmarillion ont plus de réalité que Babylone.” I have much the same feeling myself.

  42. marie-lucie says:

    I think that Slawkenbergius was warning you that the view of the Mongols expressed in that book was extremely negative, they were portrayed as some kind of monsters, so you would be very justified if you complained.

  43. let me judge the book myself, don’t feed me “monsters” and “orcs” which are not even written in there, don’t you see that you, as if like, infuse, reinforce, restate such biased views using those words in the comments?

  44. So, read, you don’t want us to deny bad attitudes to groups? That seems very strange. If you understand that slawkenbergius was not trying to insult people, why are you being so defensive (which always makes you insult people yourself, calling them “biased” and so on)? I ask you again, very nicely, to please not be so touchy. It is both depressing and boring to have every thread you enter turn into read vs. the world, with you making accusations of bias and everyone else trying to reassure you. You get mad when people treat you as a child, but if you don’t want that, it is incumbent on you to act like an adult, which in this context means assuming the best of your fellow commenters and not seizing every opportunity to complain.

  45. so you will be very calm when compared to orcs and monsters yourself?
    all i ask is to not use those words referring to our people, language, history, i think it is a reasonable thing to ask and, as slawkenbergius himself says, is justly
    so why it’s so difficult for you to refrain from those words if you don’t want to insult, i understand it’s not your own views, but citing others using those words doesn’t help too

  46. J.W. Brewer says:

    If one limits oneself to the specific context of Petlin’s expedition, apparently (per wikipedia) the Buryats should be left out of it b/c Petlin proceeded via Tuva and then the bit of present-day Mongolia ruled by the Altan or Altyn Khan. Perhaps there were at the court of that khan some people who could read and write Literary Chinese, but Petlin either didn’t think to ask or the khan’s people didn’t think it was in their self-interest to help the Russians in that regard.

  47. Bathrobe says:

    In The Hobbit, Tolkien called the orcs ‘goblins’. The name ‘orc’ appeared in later books.

  48. Bathrobe says:

    At page 63 and following pages of Where Two Worlds Met. The Russian State and the Kalmyk Nomads, 1600-1771 by Michael Khodarkovsky, there is an entire section about Translators and Interpreters.
    In the section Khodarkovsky says: “In the hierarchy of the Russian bureaucracy, a clear distinction was made between staff translators (perevodchiki) and interpreters (tolmachi). The interpreters were less competent and usually translated oral messages and speeches, rather than written documents.”
    The section deals with problems of translation, including comments ranging as far afield as Manchu and Chinese.
    In The Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Peking During the Eighteenth Century by Eric Widmer, there is a footnote (no. 23 at page 231) that says: “With Bratischev were Efim Sakhnovoskii, who had been a student in Peking two years before, in the position of the embassy’s interpreter of Manchu and Chinese. The interpreter of Mongol was a man named Shalin. The Russians distinguished between the two by calling Sakhnovskii a perevodchik, and Shalin a tolmach (from the Mongolian tolmachi, “interpreter”).
    I really do think, read, that you are going a little overboard in your sensitivities. If you read the section of Khodarkovsky’s book you will find a good account of the difficulties of translation as a whole as well as the different competencies of the translators and the ‘illiterate’ interpreters.

  49. there is no a word “tolmachi” in Mongolian,maybe that is a Turkic word, one error and the whole excerpt as if like loses its credibility
    and Khodarkovsky, isn’t he kinda like a questionable authority for me when i disagree with his approach of rewriting history as colonialist and racist as possible?

  50. Bathrobe says:

    Interpret it how you like, read. I was pointing out the systematic difference between a staff translator and an interpreter, which is relevant considering the tizzy you’ve gone into over the (perceived) dismissal of “your people” as “illiterate”.

  51. illiterate in Chinese, i emphasize, not our own letters which is not counted as being literate in the high scientific and diplomatic circles it seems like, as if like the 17th century attitude continues even now, in research

  52. Bathrobe says:

    read, why do you persist in twisting things? The passage was:
    “As far as I’ve found in my research, local so-called tolmachi from the Irkutsk area (possibly Buryats) were used quite extensively as Russo-Chinese trade picked up in the late 17th c. It appears that these people were mostly illiterate and therefore were of no help in diplomatic negotiations, hence the need for Latin as an official diplomatic language to mediate between the two courts.”
    The tolmachi he was talking about were described as basically illiterate interpreters in the Khodarkovsky book. It is not a slight on the entire Mongol race. And I do not see any implications here that they were literate in Sanskrit, Tibetan, or Mongolian, as you seem to be implying. They were illiterate! Is that a problem?

  53. SFReader says:

    A lovely historical anecdote I’ve read in one of the books on Buryatia.
    It goes like this. During Tsarist times, a Russian official is inspecting one of the Buddhist monasteries (datsans) in Buryatia.
    Inspector doesn’t speak Buryat and the lamas don’t speak Russian. Only one young apprentice lama has little Russian, so he is employed to translate what important Russian official says.
    The visit apparently went well, Russian inspector kept smiling and saying “Da, da…”
    Lamas asked young interpreter “What does this “Da, da” mean?”
    “He says I should be made the Da-lama(chief lama of monastery)!”

  54. i twist things? just listen to the sentence
    “local so-called tolmachi from the Irkutsk area (possibly Buryats) were used quite extensively as Russo-Chinese trade picked up in the late 17th c. It appears that these people were mostly illiterate and therefore were of no help in diplomatic negotiations”
    Russo-Chinese trade? those people were mostly illiterate? (in what language is not specified) were useless in diplomatic negotiations?
    i don’t know it sounds to me interpretable how i interpreted it
    and let me just remain at my opinion, do your all scientific discussions end in reaching that, consensus (by what, twisting arms?)

  55. For what it’s worth, I’m not even sure most of the tolmachi were ethnically Mongol/Buryat. They mostly have Russian names, which may or may not mean anything besides the fact that they were baptized. And at least one of them–Ivan Savin–seems to have been literate but for obscure reasons unwilling to help Orthodox missionaries translate Chinese books.
    I suspect that one major reason tolmachi were not used in diplomatic negotiations on a high level was class prejudice–neither Qing bureaucrats nor Russian aristocrats would be willing to trust someone of servile rank with issues of such importance.
    As for “tolmach,” I looked it up recently and apparently it’s actually Old Russian in origin (тълмачь). It must have been one of a package of medieval concepts the Russians took with them as they went east.

  56. Illiterate in Manchu, I would say, and possibly Russian as well. Not sure how that would imply that they were somehow inferior. They certainly had much broader linguistic abilities than almost any of the Russians they worked for.

  57. SFReader says:

    On conquest of Siberia.
    A point which is rarely gets mentioned in Western historiography is that Russian conquest of Siberia was essentially a private enterprize.
    Starting from Yermak’s expedition, the Cossack yasak-collecting gangs went forward deep into unknown lands, privately financed and supplied. They fought local peoples, forced them to submit to the Tsar and pay required yasak tribute in furs, part of which was sent to the tsar, but most of it got redistributed among the gang members.
    Local governors usually issued them some official papers (so that they could be officially regarded as agents of Tsar, not armed bandits) and sometimes lent them funds or supplies, but that was usually the extent of their involvement.
    Essentially they were conquistadores, just like private armies of Cortez and Pizarro.
    And it’s no wonder that they consisted of violent people capable of committing innumerable atrocities.
    But their misrule usually did not last long and in a decade or two, regular Russian rule would be established and brought end to the worst abuses.
    In Buryatia, the end of native resistance and establishment of regular governance dates from 1660s. From then on, Buryats like many others learned that regular Russian rule was better than Cossack gangs and much better than traditional overlordship of Mongol princes.
    The evidence is quite striking – from then on, large streams of Mongol refugees and defectors went to Russian side of border while defections to Mongolia were rare.
    As a result, the numbers of Buryats grew substantially during Russian rule (according to some estimates – 10 to 20 times in just 2 centuries!)

  58. SFReader says:

    –Illiterate in Manchu, I would say, and possibly Russian as well
    Well, they most likely did not speak Manchu, since that language was rarely used in Manchu relations with Mongols (Mongolian was used instead), but they probably could read it since Manchu script is just a modification of Mongol script (improvement actually).

  59. SFReader says:

    Regarding languages used in Russian-Chinese negotiations.
    Languagehat will be delighted to hear, but actually Latin was used a lot.
    Here is a Latin text of Nerchinsk Treaty of 1689 establishing a border between Russia and China
    http://www.archive.org/stream/russiaonpacifics00volp#page/342/mode/2up

  60. okay, that is all what i wanted you to say
    illiterate in manchu, chinese or russian, they were not obligated to know those letters
    we have a saying ooh ogson khuntei ogloo bosood zargaldana – one gets into a suing the host mood after a feast the night before – meaning one doesn’t appreciate other’s help – the same thing seems happened in those high “Russo-Chinese trades”, instead of appreciating the whatever communication was provided by those tolmachi they were called in return illiterate, seems like that was not very grateful, just broadly speaking, of course, as about some any other human experience

  61. SFReader says:

    –Illiterate in Manchu, I would say, and possibly Russian as well
    Not true. There are plenty of letters of Mongol rulers to Russian officials from 17th century (in classical Mongol script, obviously) and they got regularly translated (presumably by these guys)
    I actually have a book where one of such letters was not only translated, but actually transcribed into Russian Cyrillic (which would make it probably one of the oldest Mongol Cyrillic documents)

  62. “The evidence is quite striking – from then on, large streams of Mongol refugees and defectors went to Russian side of border while defections to Mongolia were rare.”
    don’t forget, the country was becoming a part of the Manchu Ching then, from 1635 to 1691, seems it’s telling something too right there

  63. What is “not true”? I wasn’t talking about all Mongols, just these tolmachi (who may or may not have been Mongol, and who may or may not have been literate in that script, the sources I’ve read are silent on that point).

  64. Bathrobe says:

    This whole thing has come about because you’re inordinately sensitive to the word ‘illiterate’.

  65. Bathrobe says:

    There are plenty of letters of Mongol rulers to Russian officials from 17th century (in classical Mongol script, obviously) and they got regularly translated (presumably by these guys)
    Who? The ‘local so-called tolmachi from the Irkutsk area’?

  66. and they got regularly translated (presumably by these guys)
    I don’t think there’s any real reason to assume that. Tolmachi weren’t chosen from a central file or anything–these were people who gained experience traveling with caravans and were most likely hired at markets in places like Irkutsk or Nerchinsk. (The interpreting they did probably had some component of personal “guanxi” as well.) Translators from written Mongol were most likely trained and retained by bureaucratic offices for that purpose, or possibly were Buddhist clergy of one sort or another.

  67. “What is “not true”?”
    i don’t know what you are asking about there and i’m sensitive about those translators being called illiterate in their own language, when most probably they were literate in their own language and if your sources do not say anything on that matter, perhaps it’s better to avoid such, (to put it mildly or maybe too harshly, i don’t know) ‘guesses/speculations’ too

  68. Bathrobe says:

    when most probably they were literate in their own language
    This is also ‘pure guesses and speculation’. What grounds have you got for assuming that these people were literate in their own language? You have nothing except your own sense of umbrage.

  69. Bathrobe says:

    I seem to remember reading somewhere that that use of Latin at Nerchinsk was due to the machinations of the Jesuits. It would have been more natural to use Mongolian in such negotiations. But I forget where I read it.

  70. i missed SFR’s comment and about tolmachi “who may or may not have been Mongol” etc, i feel even more i was right to complain that slawkenbergius brought up ‘possibly Buryats” to just call them illiterate to start all this
    and what is my guess and the guess of a researcher of the subject, should it be even comparable there, shouldn’t it be backed up always, though slawkenbergius seems treats his sources pretty liberally, so, yes, i feel indignant to be called illiterate, orcs, monsters, as citations, all in one thread and i say that

  71. Bathrobe, that’s interesting. There’s good evidence that the Jesuits were anything but neutral and transparent translators (this is in a way the central topic of the dissertation I’m working on), but both sides seem to say that Jesuit interference aided their opponent. Given the circumstances of the negotiations at Nerchinsk, though (the Qing basically bullied the Russians by pulling up an army of tens of thousands and threatening them with it) I doubt the Russians would have gotten the Amur even if the Jesuits weren’t involved.

  72. SFReader says:

    —yes, i feel indignant to be called illiterate, orcs, monsters
    There is a Chinese (but maybe an Inner Mongolian, his name is a bit ambiguous) who claims that Mongol is a plural form of Mangas (Monster)
    “Монгол гэдэг үгийн язгуур үг нь “Мангул”, үүнийг “Монголын нууц товчоон”-д “Мангул”, “Мангас”, “Мангууд” гэхчлэн тэмдэглэгджээ. Язгур нь “Ман-” болно. “Манг-” ба “Ман-” бол авианы соливцол юм. Монголчуудын аймаг бүлгүүд нь эрт дээр үед чоно, нохойн тотемтой байжээ. “Манг-” буюу “Ман” нь ман могойн “ман-“тай адил язгуур үг юм. Монгол гэдэг нэр нь “Мангас” гэдэг шүтлэгээс үүсэлтэй. ”
    http://mongol.cri.cn/21/2005/12/13/43@56267_1.htm

  73. SFReader says:

    Etymology of Buryat is unclear, but most probably it derives from Turkic ‘buri’ (wolf). Lake Baikal area was populated by Turkic speaking Kurykan people before 12th century, who are regarded as ancestors (or one of the ancestors) of Buryats.

  74. i don’t know what this chinese prof says, he says japanese is one of mongolic languages, makes me doubt whatever he says
    and then is it still a surprise, our xenophobia, after this kind of names calling since how ancient times too
    our version of the word meaning is mongol is “true center” with which we surely go

  75. SFReader says:

    But Nogays probably suffered the greatest indignity.
    Not only their ethnic name means “Dog” in Mongolian (Nogays are one of the many Turkic peoples with Mongol tribal names – result of 13th century Mongol conquest), but their Kalmyk neighbours call them Manguud “Monsters” (or possibly “Dimwits”)*
    *According to other sources, manguut/mangyt appears to have been an older name for Nogays. Doesn’t seem much of improvement though…

  76. SFReader says:

    The Kalmyks of course got their name from their Muslim Turkic neighbours. From Old Turkic kal-, from Proto-Turkic *kāl-, *Kiāl- (“to stay behind, remain”).
    That is, the backward people who stayed behind and did not become Muslim like other, more civilized peoples.
    Pretty offensive, I’d say, but astonishingly, Kalmyks meekly accepted this indignity.
    Когда меня в краю далеком
    Однажды спросят: “Кто такой?”
    Тогда послужит мне уроком,
    Как не учить язык родной.
    Конечно, я могу повыше
    Задрав свой нос сказать: “КАЛМЫК!”
    Но испугаюсь, вдруг услышит
    Мой предок то, к чему привык.
    То, как назвали меня тюрки,
    Давно уже не режет слух.
    Когда-нибудь и к слову “чурки”
    Привыкнет мой пра-пра-пра-внук.

  77. SFReader says:

    —and then is it still a surprise, our xenophobia, after this kind of names calling since how ancient times too
    By the way, Mongols call Chinese ‘hyatad’ which is clearly related to word “hyadah” “kill, massacre”.
    And the People’s Republic of China is called in Mongolian ‘Bugd Nairamdah Hyatad Ard Uls’ which can be translated literally as a “Country of All-Friendly Killer People”….

  78. “The name Nogai is derived from Nogai Khan” wiki says
    why do you think nokhoi is the source for Nogai?
    and dogs are not something to be offended by, a true mongol dog with four eyes is a revered being
    manguu means dimwit yes, it’s a reverse usage from chinese calling mongol mangu, due to their inability to pronounce the name correctly, seems pretty that, not mean, there are no that many other pejorative words meaning chinese too, just hujaa which is corrupted from chinese, meaning migrant iirc
    sounds pretty civilized compared to monsters as they called us
    i thought khalimag means really remnants but not from muslim, but mongols, maybe they perceived themselves so to accept the name, wasn’t they originally torguud – the silk people, so i think something is wrong with your etymologies of these tribal names
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torghut

  79. khyatad is ironically from khidan empire, the mongolic people who got cinicized, i really wonder from where you get your sources of such strang explanations

  80. Bathrobe says:

    read, you are twisting things again. slawkenbergius was referring to the ‘local so-called tolmachi from the Irkutsk area’. I didn’t realise you were a 17th century tolmachi from the Irkutsk area, and unless you are, I can hardly see why you should be so insulted by this.
    Incidentally, I notice that ‘between 1901 and 1910, the Chinese government abolished prohibitions against intermarriage among Chinese, Mongols, and Manchus; the speaking of Chinese by Mongols; Chinese officials bringing their families to Mongolia, and Han settlement”. (Mongolia in the Twentieth Century: Landlocked Cosmopolitan, p 30). If this is true, there does appear to have been a prohibition of sorts on Mongolians learning Chinese, not necessarily the other way round (Mongolian resistance to learning Chinese) as read would have us believe.

  81. khyatad is ironically from khidan empire, the mongolic people who got cinicized, i really wonder from where you get your sources of such strange explanations

  82. our version is resistance, believe it or not, what matters we didn’t become like manchus losing their language and identity
    i just wonder why you so want mongols become chinese speaking, what is in there for you?

  83. Bathrobe says:

    After read’s protestations, I’m truly curious how literate in Mongolian the 17th century tolmachi’s of the Irkutsk area were. According to a passage from The Phonology of Mongolian I’ve already quoted: “The Eastern Buriads traditionally used Classical Written Mongolian as their written language. A special Buriad variant of the Mongolian alphabet was devised in 1905 by Agvan Doržiev, who took the Oirad Clear Script as a model. The Cyrillic alphabet was used for writing Buriad from about 1840 in Western Buriatia, but after 1917 the Mongolian alphabet was introduced there as well.” This suggests (although only rather vaguely) that knowledge of the Mongolian script may not have so widespread among these Irkutsk tolmachi. It would be nice to have a bit of detail about this, as opposed to read’s projections of 21st-century assumptions into the past.

  84. SFReader says:

    –why do you think nokhoi is the source for Nogai?
    It’s a rather obvious, I’d think, because, in classical Mongol, the word dog is written ᠨᠣᠬᠠᠢ noqai
    —khyatad is ironically from khidan empire
    I know! But still, if such a bad name got transfered to the Chinese, might it be because they perhaps also had same worrisome qualities?
    —i really wonder from where you get your sources of such strange explanations
    My linguistic erudition and some creative imagination ;-)))

  85. i am not of course the 17th century tolmach from irkutsk, but you are talking about my language and my heritage, so i would have appreciated if no such things like orcs and monsters were mentioned in the discussion, illiterate is so-so, groundless citings though those were all

  86. Bathrobe says:

    our version is resistance
    You obviously didn’t read that link to Johan Elverkog’s Being Cosmopolitan which said that “it is important to recall that such resistance was more a twentieth century imagining than anything else”. Well, maybe not if your entire existence is based on believing your own “version”.
    I have no interest whatsoever in having the Mongols become Chinese-speaking. In fact it quite upsets me that so many so-called Mongols in China have lost their language and culture but still call themselves ‘Mongols’.

  87. SFReader says:

    —And the People’s Republic of China is called in Mongolian ‘Bugd Nairamdah Hyatad Ard Uls’ which can be translated literally as a “Country of All-Friendly Killer People”….
    In case someone is wondering, the funny translation is a result of a bad calque translation from Chinese.
    Republic was translated into Chinese as 共和国 Gònghéguó literally “united country”.
    And then it was calque-translated from Chinese into Mongolian as “Bugd Nairamdah Uls”, which is a literal translation of every character separately
    共Gòng “common, general” – Bugd “all”,
    和hé “sum, peace” – Nairamdah “make peace, get friendly”,
    国guó “country” – Uls “country”

  88. the word traditionally doesn’t say anything to you, you would so want to start things from the clear script, talk after that about being unbiased
    khidan is a bad name? i never heard such a thing, its meaning is obscure, yes, but it didn’t come from khyadah

  89. Bathrobe says:

    you are talking about my language and my heritage
    No, we are talking about your set ideas about your language and your heritage.

  90. Bathrobe says:

    In Inner Mongolia it is called Бүгд Найрамдах Дундад Ард Улс. (In Buryat Хитад Арадай Республика).

  91. SFReader says:

    –In Inner Mongolia it is called Бүгд Найрамдах Дундад Ард Улс
    Exactly! Because they know that it’s an offensive word!

  92. i don’t know, western scholars of china seem so get caught up in their knowledge of the things chinese, in the sense of wonderment before the great chinese culture etc and it’s kinda understandable too, it must be such hard work to learn all those kanjis and read all those scrolls, that they seem to just accept the chinese views without much questioning

  93. SFReader says:

    English name Cathay is also ultimately derived from this word.
    And Cathay Pacific therefore means…

  94. “my set of ideas” are what are officially mongolian views, so you would want to declare all what is being taught in my country in the schools and universities not true, incorrect, illiterate, ignorant and tell us to follow the chinese version of whatever you perceive true and correct?

  95. SFReader says:

    Word “Ard” also deserves some careful examination. It’s related to word “Ar” “back side”, so the meaning “people”, “common people” is deeply offensive on several levels…

  96. Bathrobe says:

    –In Inner Mongolia it is called Бүгд Найрамдах Дундад Ард Улс
    Exactly! Because they know that it’s an offensive word!
    This is incorrect. The reason for the name is the same as that concerning the division between ‘Han’ and ‘Chinese’ in English.
    汉族 = Han = хятад
    中国 = China = дундад улс
    This, incidentally, is what is taught in schools in China.
    The point of this formulation is that ‘the term Chinese should not be used to refer to the Han Chinese only, it refers to all ethnic minorities as well, including Tibetans, Mongolians, etc. They are all Chinese.’
    It’s part of Chinese attempts to reconfigure history so that these territories are integral parts of ‘China’ (as newly defined). The old definition of ‘Chinese’ as purely Han Chinese had the drawback of creating an opposition between the ‘Chinese’ and ‘non-Chinese’, thus legitimising the idea of independence for these territories.

  97. SFReader says:

    —“my set of ideas” are what are officially mongolian views
    Make it current official mongolian views.
    Perhaps you are too young to remember, but less than twenty five years, official Mongolian view held that Genghis Khan was a bad, reactionary feudal oppressor….

  98. Bathrobe says:

    you would want to declare all what is being taught in my country in the schools and universities not true, incorrect, illiterate, ignorant and tell us to follow the chinese version of whatever you perceive true and correct
    Not at all. But the official national ideology is not necessarily correct — in either country.

  99. ard is not offensive, it means just commoner, you have pretty idiosyncratic ideas, backward is a completely different word, buduuleg, or burangui, xaranxui etc, it’s not like an english word translated as it is, backside doesn’t mean anything offensive, ar means north too, not only back

  100. SFReader says:

    –backside doesn’t mean anything offensive, ar means north too, not only back
    Well, in my experience, Mongolians tend to regard term Ar Mongol “Outer Mongolia” as somewhat mildly offensive (and not only because it’s a name given by Chinese)

  101. yes, current views, though deep down what is current now was present during the socialist times too, i remember how parents would go to do subbotniks during our traditional new year, tsagaan sar
    well, nice talking to you all, have to go to sleep now

  102. SFReader says:

    –ard is not offensive, it means just commoner
    Of course, “commoner” is quite an offensive term as it is.
    Though granted, ard is quite an improvement over “kharchuul” literally “black people”, negroes, so to speak!

  103. ar mongol is north to the gobi desert, that is how we call ourselves the country being divided
    what is offensive is the outer and inner names, that we find objectionable, true

  104. see, how biased the western view can be, kharchuul is nothing derogatory, i explained khar khun words in a thread not long ago, on lithuania i recall, so i won’t repeat it here, but SFR i hope you will read my comments there

  105. SFReader says:

    –and dogs are not something to be offended by, a true mongol dog with four eyes is a revered being
    It’s very easy to check. Just find a Mongol and tell in his face “Chi nokhoi!”
    And we will find out whether it’s offensive or not…

  106. SFReader says:

    —汉族 = Han = хятад
    中国 = China = дундад улс
    In Inner Mongolian texts I’ve read, the term Han is always translated either as Хан үндэстэн/Khan nationality (amazingly cheeky, that one) or as Хань үндэстэн/Mate, companion nationality (also problematic, because Mongols are quite likely to find offensive the notion of Chinese being their marital partners)

  107. Bathrobe says:

    I stand corrected. But Хятад is still used for the Chinese language.

  108. SFReader says:

    Perhaps a useful description of linguistic difficulties of Russian-Mongolian diplomacy of the 17th century
    “И Алтына-царя послы Дархан да Урал …. подали грамоту, которую им Алтын-царь приказал подать в Томском государевым воеводам // и дьяком. А писана та грамота мугальским письмом, и в Томском никто мугальской грамоте не умеет.
    И стольник и воеводы и дияк велели тое грамоту честь Алтына-царя послом. И чел тое грамоту
    посол Урал Конзин, а переводил с тое гра¬моты с мугальской речи речью ж томской толмач Фетька Федоров, которой был с Яковом Тухачевским да с подьячим, з Дружиною Огарковым у Алтына-царя, и сказывал речью ж, а грамоте он, толмач Федька, никоторой не умеет. Да тут же был и толмачил с Фетькою толмачем сын боярской Лука Васильев, потому что по-мугальски умеет же, чтоб толмач толмачил и оказывал с мугальской речи по-руски подлинно ” (c) Report of Tomsk Governor N.I.Egupov-Cherkassky on talks with Mongolian envoys, April 25th, 1635.
    Envoys of Altan-khan, Darhan and Ural gave Altan-Khan’s letter written in Mongol script and nobody in Tomsk could read Mongol.
    Then Governor asked Mongol envoys to read this letter aloud, envoy Ural Konzin read the letter and tolmach Fedka Fedorov translated from Mongol speech, and tolmach Fedka Fedorov is illiterate and can’t read in any language, and Russian official Luka Vasiliev who speaks Mongol checked the correctness of translation.
    Rather ingenious solution, I’d say.

  109. Bathrobe says:

    If you’re at the coalface, it’s a fairly obvious solution.

  110. A point which is rarely gets mentioned in Western historiography is that Russian conquest of Siberia was essentially a private enterprise.
    That’s a point Bobrick quite rightly insists on.

  111. read, I don’t know why you ignore all my polite requests for you to change your behavior, but I guess you don’t respond to politeness. When you are a guest at someone’s home, do you argue with all the other guests and then ignore the host when he asks you to stop? At any rate, I’m sick of it. When I go into threads like this and see you wasting everyone’s time with your paranoid nonsense, it makes my heart sink and, frankly, makes me not want to keep the blog going. You may not realize this, but Languagehat is not some official institution and you are not a brave protestor against oppression and injustice; Languagehat is my personal outlet, something I do taking time away from work and family because I enjoy talking about interesting things with interesting people. You are keeping me from enjoying it.
    So if you don’t stop, I’m going to ask you to leave, and if you (impolitely) refuse, I’ll start deleting all your comments again. I hate doing that, but you leave me no choice. And it is not “censorship” any more than it is censorship if a host asks you to leave because you won’t stop insulting the guests and ruining everyone’s evening. It’s your choice.

  112. i understand what you are saying, but i hope you see the points i’m arguing, i wouldn’t hang out here if people were not talking mongol related topics, if it was not a place were your best western intellectuals share their views and i express what mongols nowadays think like anybody else here does, expressing their opinions
    and if people think calling us orcs monsters illiterate is the way to talk about us, i object, so tolmachi were russians in the end, and bringing up ” possibly buryats” who then will be called illiterate, i don’t know, it’s objectionable for me and sounds biased
    there is our old custom naming one’s child a not very auspicious name, to ward off demons who steal little kids, like “nobody”” bad dog” and it’s not child abuse, but a sign of much care and love, so if don’t know the customs of the people you are talking about, why you comment strange comments like SFR’s, call anybody, LH or SFR you dog, you wouldn’t be offended too? why your commenters assume such “dehumanizing” assumptions first and then you complain about my complaints? equal treatment is all i ask, if i get to listen your lessons in politeness maybe you can ask your commenters to not provoke me too

  113. marie-lucie says:

    A point which is rarely gets mentioned in Western historiography is that Russian conquest of Siberia was essentially a private enterprise.
    I learned about this a few years ago when I found the book The Oriental Adventure: Explorers of the East (1976), by Tim Severin. The book deals with European travellers to Asia by land, as a counterpart for the better-known stories of explorations by sea. Since most of the stories in the book were completely new to me, I wanted to ask if others here had read it and could comment on it, especially on the chapters on Siberia and China.

  114. maybe you can ask your commenters to not provoke me too
    It is impossible to know what will provoke you. You very frequently misunderstand what people are saying and then assume the worst. As I said before, you need to assume that people here mean well; if you think something sounds bad, ask if the poster meant what you thought, then you can suggest it was badly expressed. But I would urge you to do so very rarely, since it is a complete distraction from the interesting discussions that make you want to visit LH. It is not your responsibility to patrol the internet making sure that people say only what you would like them to say, in the way you would like them to say it. I am glad to have you participate in discussions and am always interested in what you have to say about the things you know about, but the next time you accuse someone of bias or racism I will start deleting your comments again.
    You say yourself you have been banned from other forums; you probably think this is because they are racist and intolerant, but you should consider whether you may have made yourself intolerable. I can tell you that I do not have these problems with anyone else. I think I have been very patient with you, but you have to get along with people or leave.

  115. Treesong says:

    Re tossing out rude read: the sooner, the better. It’s not just the insults and the whining and the ignorance (and the lowercase), it’s the relentlessness.

  116. “It is impossible to know what will provoke you.”
    it is really not so, just please i ask the commenters don’t say anything debasing, derogatory  and nothing else will provoke me, i am not patroling, i am saying my objections, if i were deleting anybody’s comments, that could be called patroling, perhaps
    “if you think something sounds bad, ask if the poster meant what you thought, then you can suggest it was badly expressed.”
    i think i did exactly the same things in this thread as you suggest, well, hope people understood me and if it will be the last comment i make here, no hard feelings, if i made people to  consider their words before saying something possibly mean and derogatory to someone, that’s enough for me

  117. Apparently you refuse to listen and learn, so I hope that will be your last comment here.

  118. Bathrobe says:

    @SFR
    It’s interesting that you found хан and хань for the Han Chinese in your reading. Chinese-Mongolian dictionaries, printed in China for Inner Mongolian use, all give хятад, not хан. Of course, Chinese-Mongolian dictionaries appear to be largely normative in function. That is, they give the ‘correct’ usage (possibly with a view to maintaining a Mongolian-language standard in China), not necessarily the actual usage as found in Inner Mongolians’ speech and writing. But this suggests, at any rate, that хятад is not regarded as a derogatory or pejorative usage in Inner Mongolia.

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