HISTORY OF THE FRENCH LANGUAGE IN RUSSIA.

Another amazing site, putting scholarship online in exemplary fashion, is History of the French Language in Russia, hosted by the University of Bristol:

A cultural and social history of language cannot be written without a broad range of primary sources. For a history of French in Russia, some documents are already available in published form, but a great number of relevant documents from Russian and some other archives are still to be published. Even documents which have been published have rarely been analysed in terms of the cultural and social history of French understood as a lingua franca, a prestige language, a medium for new cultural values and notions, a tool of cultural propaganda and so forth.
Our purpose in this documents section of our project website is therefore to provide the beginnings of a corpus on which such a history can be based. The section contains pairs of documents. In each pair there is (i) a text, or excerpts from a text, or a set of texts or excerpts (with our editorial notes) and (ii) an essay (also with notes) which introduces the text(s) in question.

That’s the documents section; the Project home has English, French, and Russian versions, and says:

The research team will explore the impact that French had not only on the use of Russian, but also on Russians’ thinking about their own language and, more broadly, on Russian social and political attitudes and on the formation of a sense of national identity. Their findings will have resonance in the fields of social, political, cultural, and intellectual history as well as sociolinguistics. The project will also contribute to a field of historical scholarship which is still in its infancy: by treating language as not merely a useful tool for historians but also a subject worthy of historians’ attention in its own right, the team will demonstrate that language is itself an aspect of culture, a social institution, a key factor in the conceptions that peoples or groups have of themselves, a political instrument, and a potent force in national life.

It’s really very nicely done, and anyone who’s wondered about all that French in War and Peace should check it out. (Hat tip to Greg Afinogenov for the link.)

Comments

  1. The French were the biggest subscribers to the soon to be worthless Russian Nationalist bonds of the early 20th century. The aristocrats were, as ever, caught with their wigs on, knickers off and powder in their eyes. Noblesse oblige, they theretofore could wipe their arses with said worthless paper.

  2. Theretofore doesn’t mean what you think it means: it is the form of hitherto used in the pluperfect.

  3. A certain Count Andrei Rostopchin, in his Catalogue anecdotique, bibliographique, biographique plus chronologique qu’alphabétique et facétieux accompagné d’une vinaigrette de notes, la plupart mal-sonnantes, pour les morts comme pour les vivants, des livres de la bibliothèque du Comte André Rostoptchine. 1861, has these choice words to say about AJP’s homeland:
    Cette nation est au moment de clore sa carrière. Le continent attend avec impatience le moment où la France abattra, pour le bonheur du monde entier, la force et la puissance de ce peuple astucieux, impudent, égoiste, inhumain, insatiable de richesses et charlatan, refuge de tous les brigands de l’Europe.
    As for Germany:
    Ces beaux pays, si richement doués par la nature, se trouvent actuellement dans un etat de confusion inexprimable, et ils n’en sortiront que quand la providance leur accorda un homme supérieur, surtout conquérant, qui en réunissant sous son sceptre les petits états, fera la loi à tout le monde. Bien des causes ont contribué à faire de l’Allemagne une tour de Babel au moral. En premier lieu il faut placer la réforme, qui amena les différences de religions et la grande quantité de sectes qui se haïssent entre elles. Elle amena à la aussi à sa suite de la séparation, la division dans les esprits, dont il résulta le morcellement territorial,[4] par conséquent la faiblesse. En second lieu et comme cause finale, je n’hésite pas à placer les Juifs, qui sont à présent dans presque[5] toutes les universités à la tête de l’enseignement, et qui corrompent par leurs doctrines toute la jeunesse actuelle. Dans tout autre pays un état pareil aurait amené depuis longtemps des luttes sanglantes, mais les allemands ont heureusement pour eux un calmant pour l’excitation des esprits et des nerfs. Ce calmant, tout puissant, c’est la bierre, qui les alourdit tant au physique qu’au moral, amortit la fougue de leurs pay passions et les rend capables seulement de crier, sans [illegible]les [illegible] à toute extrémité casser les vitres.
    I don’t know whether it is really terribly ennobling having a window into this man’s thoughts…

  4. Those passages struck me too, but I’m afraid they’re easily paralleled by people of every European nation talking about every other European nation. We’re a tribal lot, we humans. (Present company excepted, of course.)

  5. (I didn’t mean to imply that non-European nations don’t blackguard each other, of course.)

  6. marie-lucie says:

    Rostopchin’s remarks on France are the longest of the lot, and although his French is very good, his opinions on the inhabitants are more critical as well as more detailed than those on the other countries he considers. He makes an exception for upper class life in the pre-revolutionary period.
    He must have been asked for his opinions of Russia and the Russians, because he gives as his reason not to mention them the fact that he does not want to expose his country to the view of the whole of Europe, which he says has no business learning about Russia. But he is prescient in so far as he foresees a revolution.
    The site shows a picture of a handwritten page. In the transcription I noticed a couple of places where the transcribers seem to have misunderstood the handwriting. How can I contact them with a possible correction?

  7. marie-lucie says:

    Hozo: The French were the biggest subscribers to the soon to be worthless Russian Nationalist bonds of the early 20th century
    It was not just aristocrats who subscribed to those bonds, large numbers of middle-class people did so. Literature and other documents of the period are full of references to l’emprunt russe, which looked like a foolproof investment until the revolution refused to honour it.

  8. Hmmm. Count Rostopchin starts his comments with:
    Кто жил и мыслил, тот не может в душе своей не презирать людей.
    He who has lived and reflected cannot but despise people in his heart.
    I thought Pushkin was a good guy…

  9. He who has lived and reflected cannot but despise people in his heart.
    In other words, life and reflection together encourage grumpiness. Thus, to be a nice guy, either you must live less or think less. To die young and naive would be the easiest way to maintain good humor, according to this insight.
    Conclusion: if you have such insights, you’ve outstayed your welcome.

  10. Grumbly, I like your conclusion. That was what worried me: I found myself agreeing with the sentiment expressed.
    I forgot to mention that line in question opened ‘stanza XLVI of the first canto of Eugene Onegin (Евгений Онегин), the novel in verse by Aleksandr Pushkin (1799-1837).’ Perhaps it wasn’t Pushkin’s personal thoughts?

  11. these days it would be he who reads the twitter feed news will be disillusioned in humanity thoroughly enough to agree with Pushkin’s quote wholeheartedly
    i dont get why you doubt that it was Pushkin’s own personal thoughts, one doesnt doubt Shakespeare’s quotes as his own thoughts, right? surely Pushkin was a genius mind who knew the whole depth of the human heart experience and despair, he surely was not all that always cheerful sunny singing about love poet
    it shows like the working of the average anglophone western mind to hold even foreign geniuses to some like lower standards than their own i guess, to doubt their thoughts in their own works

  12. it shows like the working of the average anglophone western mind to hold even foreign geniuses to some like lower standards than their own
    What bullshit! You do make the most outrageous statements.
    It is the mark of a great poet or playwright to be able to put words that he/she does not necessarily him/herself believe into the mouths of characters. I’m not familiar with Eugene Onegin; therefore I’m unable to judge whether these words represent the thinking of a misanthropic character (perhaps the ‘I’ of the novel?), or whether they indeed represent the thoughts of Pushkin himself. That was the meaning of my surmise.
    If I said that it shows the working of the a paranoid woman from a Third-world country to hold that Westerners are always looking down other peoples, would you take offence? If you did, you have no right to. You yourself are totally insulting in the way you twist other people’s thoughts to fit your own tortured mindset.

  13. Incidentally, this is why you find yourself being disliked on this forum and others, as you’ve complained.
    This time you’ve been caught in the act: you made a totally baseless attack based on nothing other than your own weird perceptions of ‘the average anglophone western mind ‘. Please don’t complain in future about other people using insulting language. In most cases you are the one who starts tossing out the insults, as your comment above so admirably demonstrates.

  14. your question sounded as if like if one would doubt whether “to be or not to be etc. ” was Shakespeare’s own thoughts surely those are Hamlet’s, but it’s Shakespeare who speaks through him
    in Onegin the sentence was the narrator Pushkin’s own thoughts, so doubting the thought sounded as if like as Russians would say “koshunstvenno”, close to sacrilegious something
    if you didnt read the novel then it’s okay i guess to ask like that, sorry for the too quick assumption, sure, just your counter attack is kind of like of the same nature as why would you take offense for assumptions about the average western mind like

  15. sorry for the too quick assumption
    I’ll take that as an apology. Accepted.
    just your counter attack is kind of like of the same nature as why would you take offense for assumptions about the average western mind like
    My ‘counter attack’ was of the same nature because I was trying to show you why what you said was so objectionable.

  16. paranoid or what, i am in the situations you surmise as hypothetical not very hypothetically and often enough to be a bit defensive i guess, but seriously would you doubt Shakespeare’s quotes the same way especially the misathropically sounding ones, would you picture him always like all that always objective always positively thinking author whose mastership shows through how he makes believable his villains, completely separately from his own mind work, i think even his villains are his own creations so must be he would have felt like them too creating them, some kind of self-identification with them should be in there i guess, in the author’s mind

  17. your counter attack is kind of like of the same nature as why would you take offense for assumptions about the average western mind like
    read, “taking offense” is not necessarily an accurate description of why someone gets irritable at your comments. Taking and giving offense does however seem to be your own speciality. You read offense into almost anything, and write off almost anything (“the Western mind”) at a moment’s notice.
    I sometimes wonder whether you know quite what you are saying – I sure don’t, often enough. On many occasions, the stream-of-consciousness style of your comments resembles the script of a confused dream.
    A bit more attention to sentence structure and full stops might help you and others better understand what you’re saying, and why you’re saying it. Western minds are perhaps more demanding in that respect than other kinds of mind.

  18. ooh, demanding minds! that’s like totally adorable
    to not comply to demands is the specialty of this mind i guess
    you first could maybe answer on my question about the Shakespeare’s quotes whether the same question you would ask about them, before demanding, no?
    demanding is soo like the western mind that’s like soo true, what’s true is true

  19. marie-lucie says:

    Hamlet’s To be or not to be:
    I read something on this topic not too long ago, I forget where, but here is the gist of it: we first meet Hamlet as he is reading a book of philosophy and mumbling to himself about what he is reading. “To be or not to be” is the philosophical question, or problem, dealt with in the text he is reading, so it is neither his own thought nor Shakespeare’s, but a philosophical topic which was considered important at the time and which Hamlet tries to understand (the topic is still alive, or was recently: recall Sartre’s L’être et le néant (Being and Nothingness)).

  20. how that being a philosophical topic cant be Hamlet’s and through him Shakespeare’s thoughts? his trying to understand means his thinking those thoughts most directly, himself, i guess, i mean the author through his hero, he is not quoting there other people’s thoughts

  21. In this case I was simply surprised at the misanthropy of the Pushkin quote, which is why I tossed out the surmise that it represented the thoughts of one of his characters. I wasn’t doubting that Pushkin wrote it, any more than I would doubt that Shakespeare wrote “Look like the innocent flower but be the serpent undert’.” or “Out, damned spot!”
    But when Lady Macbeth says “Look like the innocent flower but be the serpent undert’”, I wouldn’t see it as an expression of Shakespeare’s thinking, even if I happened to admire it as a line.

  22. Voltaire’s translation of the start of the monologue:

    Demeure, il faut choisir
    Et passer a l’instant
    De la vie a la mort
    Et de l’être au néant

  23. i didnt think you doubted the sentence as plagiarism, i thought you doubted Pushkin as if he wouldnt have thought misanthropic thoughts as he says “he who lived and reflected etc. and then you say you agree with the sentiment as if like with surprise, that sounded all a bit like a little strange that it brought this my reaction
    an author imagines whole characters and what the characters think and say, sometimes perhaps they could have prototypes but to be a believable character he must be should have put his own thoughts and observations into the lines the character says too, be it a serial killer even

  24. All of which is fine. The problem is when you started saying that it “shows like the working of the average anglophone western mind to hold even foreign geniuses to some like lower standards than their own”.

  25. Had you expressed your ideas without the attack, you would have got a very different reaction.

  26. so i apologized for that assumption
    and asked about Shakespeare, would you doubt any of his thoughts, when you can be surprised with Pushkin’s misanthropic quote which would seem like natural for a genius of his level to be doubted

  27. I guess I made the unconscious assumption that truly great writers (of the Olympian kind) have a broader ‘humanity’ that transcends the bitterness of the pettier writer. I would have thought that a truly misanthropic writer, one who despised mankind, would have trouble attracting much of a reading public. But as I said, I haven’t read Pushkin, which is why the quote somewhat surprised me. I’m quite happy to be corrected on this.
    But I’m not sure why this has to turn into a discussion of my views on Shakespeare, as though I’m discriminating against Pushkin but not Shakespeare.

  28. exactly, you are discriminating ” pettier” Pushkin against Shakespeare the truly transcending as you say
    so that was my perception, incorrect i thought, but it seems not that far from your perception of Pushkin, no?
    cz truly humanist “transcending” great writers maybe dont exist, their work creations are the reflections of their own minds, so the great minds are great bc they wouldnt go killing people but describe the impulses and motivations of the killers real enough, Raskolnikov maybe is Dostoevsky himself, who knows

  29. recall Sartre’s L’être et le néant (Being and Nothingness)
    I’ve been toying with lighter translations: Being and Nothing, say, or Being and Noing. Roughly put, one of Sartre’s main theses is that thought amounts to driving little wedges of nothing into the something. Humans are fainéants, they know how to say no. That’s their existential distinction (almost wrote “essential” there, how embarrassing !)

  30. you are discriminating ” pettier” Pushkin against Shakespeare the truly transcending as you say
    Why do you constantly twist things?
    I wasn’t comparing Pushkin with Shakespeare, it is you who decided to do that. Shakespeare couldn’t have been further from my mind when you grabbed him from out of the blue. (If anyone had occurred to me as being ‘equivalent’ to Pushkin, rightly or wrongly, it might have been Goethe or Du Fu.)
    I also didn’t say I thought Pushkin was petty, it is you is imputing that meaning to my words.
    I was simply surprised at the quote, that is all. Is it not possible to say anything without being attacked?
    And is there any need to extrapolate so many bullshit assumptions from a chance observation?

  31. Everything that you are saying represents what YOU want to think, based on some kind of prejudice about ‘the average anglophone western mind’. Nothing represents what I think.
    My reaction was quite simple. Without having read anything that he wrote, I had vaguely assumed that Pushkin was some kind of broad, humanistic writer. On the other hand, the quote was quite misanthropic. So I wondered, quite innocently, does the quote represent Pushkin’s own voice or that of one of his characters?
    To assume on the basis of that simple surmise that I’m “discriminating ‘pettier’ Pushkin against Shakespeare the truly transcending” is truly a breathtaking leap that says more about your insecurities than it does about anything else.
    To be honest, you’ve rather put me off ever reading Pushkin. I don’t think I could read a single word of his without thinking about your ridiculous comments.

  32. My guess is that “Кто жил и мыслил” is a paraphrase of, or an argument with some author that interested Pushkin at that time. Russian sources point at Goethe’s “Wonach soll man am Ende trachten? // Die Welt zu kennen und sie nicht verachten.” Pushkin wrote this in 1823, at 23 or 24; the Goethe poem apparently appeared in 1820.
    Note that the two first lines in Pushkin’s stanza, apparently cynical, are followed by lines rather different in sentiment:
    Кто чувствовал, того тревожит
    Призрак невозвратимых дней:
    Тому уж нет очарований.
    Того змия воспоминаний,
    Того раскаянье грызет.
    (“He who has experienced feeling is troubled by a specter of days which cannot return; there are no more enchantments for him; a snake of recollections, and repentance are gnawing at him.”) That snake would crawl into one of Pushkin’s most disturbing poems, “Когда для смертного умолкнет шумный день” (1828).
    And then the defensive irony is back:
    Все это часто придает
    Большую прелесть разговору.

  33. marie-lucie: “‘To be or not to be’ is the philosophical question, or problem, dealt with in the text he is reading, so it is neither his own thought nor Shakespeare’s, but a philosophical topic which was considered important at the time and which Hamlet tries to understand.” Agreed, and likewise Pushkin is discoursing with himself, with Onegin and with the reader rather than insisting on a fixed view of humankind.
    By the way, marie-lucie, since you mentioned Sophie Rostopchine (Ségur) a few posts ago, I understand she was an elder sister of Andrei Rostopchine, the author of the “Catalogue anecdotique.” Their father was the Fyodor Rostopchine of War and Peace infamy. Count Andrei was married to Evdokiya “Dodo” née Soushkova, a critically acclaimed poet.

  34. so without having read anything he wrote you feel free to pass a judgment whether the sentiments Pushkin wrote about were true or not, a pretty free attitude imo
    “To be honest, you’ve rather put me off ever reading Pushkin. I don’t think I could read a single word of his without thinking about your ridiculous comments.”
    your loss, that would be a pity, but maybe without learning russian it’s maybe almost the same as not reading him reading him in translations
    and i compared him with Shakespeare bc he is of the same importance to the russian language and culture as Shakespeare is for the anglophone world
    but it seems, russians themselves know him as “the truly transcending humanist” when i believe nothing human was alien for him which doesnt make him any that lesser in my eyes at least or maybe even elevate
    and my reaction was also to your remarks about count Rostopchin’s remarks, whatever he writes he is entitled to his observations too, i don’t think your perception of him is the same as with Sterne for example, him you just read i guess without bringing your judgements about the soul windows though i cant say how they compare to each other regarding their respective talents of course not having read both of them too, so must be he was just an anti-semite russian aristocrat who still could have his own thoughts about the western world of his time, not in all that “culture is european” like attitude

  35. Sir JCass says:

    DFTT

  36. Everything you write just goes gets you in deeper. Don’t you know when to quit?
    so without having read anything he wrote you feel free to pass a judgment whether the sentiments Pushkin wrote about were true or not, a pretty free attitude imo
    I didn’t pass a judgement, I posed a query. Don’t misrepresent the facts.
    your loss, that would be a pity
    Totally true. But if you would learn to express yourself without being disagreeable, everyone would be better off.
    i compared him with Shakespeare bc he is of the same importance to the russian language and culture as Shakespeare is for the anglophone world
    You are free to compare him to Shakespeare. Just don’t accuse ME of having notions about Shakespeare that I haven’t got.
    whatever he writes he is entitled to his observations too
    Fine, but in your eagerness to defend his entitlement to have an opinion, you seem to be implying that I’m not entitled to have one. This really is a silly kneejerk reaction — you are so habitually sensitive about your own entitlement to an opinion that you come out and attack other people for expressing one.
    (I assume you are not defending statements like Secondly, and as a final cause (of Germany being a moral Tower of Babel), I do not hesitate to place the Jews, who are present at the top of education in almost all universities and corrupt all of today’s youth with their doctrines.)
    read, you haven’t got a leg to stand on. Nothing you’ve said makes your initial response reasonable or justified. You’re just flailing around for ways to justify what was a stupid and ill-considered comment. Wouldn’t it be better to just stop there?

  37. And thank you Alexei K. Your comment is not only enlightening, it also confirms that the Pushkin sentence was something other than just the expression of his own personal thoughts.

  38. trolling or what, but it must be was kinda like truthful observation if you feel ‘defensive’ like this
    and it’s maybe important to try to remind people of possible different points of view too, not all anglocentric in this case

  39. There is no truth in your observations; they are simply offensive, pure and simple. You are laughable if you think that your comments are helping dispel ‘anglocentric’ attitudes. All you have done is dispel any suspicions that you might have something useful to say.
    In future I intend to treat you as a troll.

  40. For decades that was a favorite “Freudian” Catch-22: “You violently reject [or are defensive about] what I have just told you about yourself. That you repress acknowledgement of it is even clearer proof that it’s true”. read is still living in the Zeitalter des Verdachts.

  41. well, what is considered old and obsolete tends to come back reinvented

  42. SFReader says:

    Pushkin’s political views would be considered today quite politically incorrect by “average Western anglophone mind”.
    Pushkin on freedom and democracy

  43. I guess I made the unconscious assumption that truly great writers (of the Olympian kind) have a broader ‘humanity’ that transcends the bitterness of the pettier writer.
    Well, in one sense yes, in another sense no. Frye nailed this one: the art of a poet/writer, like any art, comes from the total personality of the creator, whereas what an artist writes deliberately and consciously comes only from what we now call the ego, and what Blake called the Selfhood, which is just as petty and selfish as any other human being’s. Dostoyevsky is the poster child for this: there is not a Hattic who is not morally superior to this paranoid reactionary Antisemite, and yet there is (probably) not a Hattic capable of writing works as great as his. (This is my true complaint about Pound, that he doesn’t write, most of the time, from his total personality: he is just fooling around. This might also be said of me, to be sure, but I don’t set up as a poet.)
    In future I intend to treat you as a troll.
    Please do, for Ghu’s sake. You’ve said this before, but you tend to relapse into troll-feeding with each new rumble from beneath the bridge.

  44. ooh, from beneath the bridge! that’s your true face and attitude and what one wouldnt have expected from the “liberal, progressive, left, etc. etc. most flattering adjectives bearing, but most of all of course “the first world” intellectuals
    any word if disagreement coming from someone not your own kind and it’s of course “from beneath the bridge”

  45. marie-lucie says:

    trolls
    Wikipedia (troll – not the Internet kind):
    “In the fairy tale called The Three Billy Goats Gruff, a Troll resided under a bridge that the three goats had to cross to get to the fields.”
    This is because the original trolls of Scandinavian mythology could not stand sunlight and therefore sought refuge in dark places.
    Under “troll (Internet)” Wiki explains that the new meaning for “a troll” has nothing to do with the mythological trolls but comes from the verb “to troll” (or “trawl”), a verb referring to dragging a type of fishing net behind a boat in order to catch fish. But the old meaning of the noun “troll” has influenced this new meaning.

  46. Indeed, it’s a wonderful example of semantic fusion. Another is enormity, which originally just meant ‘deviation from a norm’, but was clearly influenced by enormous ‘large’, so that it most often means simply ‘largeness’ now, though prescriptivists want to keep it to one of the intermediate meanings: ‘great wickedness’.

  47. Please do, for Ghu’s sake.
    I stand suitably admonished. But what does ‘Ghu’ mean?
    Well, in one sense yes, in another sense no.
    I realised when I wrote it that the comment would come across as jejune (see latest post) since it’s a pretty superficial way of looking at ‘Great Writers’. Still, a Great Writer (as defined by later generations) has to have a much broader appeal than lesser or pettier writers. I’m sure you could make a career as a misanthropic novelist, but I doubt you would ever be regarded as a ‘Great Writer’.

  48. But what does ‘Ghu’ mean?
    From here: “Ghu (aka Ghu-Ghu, the Great Ghu) is the god-figure of fandom.”

  49. Although I may seem frustratingly thick to have continued engaging with read, it was basically because I hadn’t given up hope on her. Unfortunately the inanity of the latest exchange has brought home to me what everyone else realised a long time ago, that it’s next to useless talking to her. Writing her off as a troll is the only way to break free from the pointless exchanges. It may not matter to read that she’s being treated as a troll but it’s a bit sad for me, because treating someone as a troll is to tantamount to treating them as less than human. Well, so be it. Have fun, read, our resident troll.

  50. And not just (fantasy and science fiction) fans, but (benign, non-cracker) hackers, too. Of course I’m both.

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