19.07.2014 1:57 PM views: 2775 CULTURE Pavel Gusterin
Pavel Gusterin Download PDF file

Pavel V. Gusterin

Center for Asia and the Middle East of The Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS)

   It's well-known that the majority of Muslims in Russia belongs to the peoples of the Volga region or to the peoples of the Caucasus. Author of the first published Russian translation of the Koran from Arabic1 Gordij Semenovich Sablukov2 was mentally closer to the peoples of the Volga region, as a native of the region and a person who spent most of his life there.3

   The first translator of the Koran from Arabic to Russian4 Dmitry Boguslavskiy5, of course, is closer to the peoples of the Caucasus, as he was a friend of spiritual leader of the Dagestani peoples Imam Shamil: "After moving of Shamil to Russia and his internment in Kaluga Boguslavskiy was appointed his first bailiff due to his good command of speaking Arabic. Touching details, which prove how close was the friendship of the bailiff and his supervised and how well Boguslavskiy could not only speak Arabic but knew peculiarities of daily routine of the Highland Muslims can be found in the letters of Shamil and memories of people surrounding him6."7

   With the publication of Boguslavskiy translation in 1995 one can hardly say that the Russian-speaking Muslims of the Caucasus now have their "own" translation of the Koran, as it was released in edition of only 100 numbered copies, which were sold at a high price and were not available for the general public (currently the price of one copy in the online stores comes to 300,000 rubles). This publication had been being prepared about 5 years and was published with the double imprint: Publishing company "Eastern literature" Russian Academy of Science (Moscow) and the Center "Petersburg Oriental Studies" (St. Petersburg). The book was printed on special Finnish paper and made in manual bound in calf leather, embossed with gold and silver in the same case. In 1996, on the first competition "Petersburg book" the publishing group of the first Koran translated by Boguslavskiy was awarded the diploma "For unique edition." Unfortunately, the Boguslavskiy translation wasn't published in the mass edition at an affordable price for ordinary people in Russia along with this luxurious one.

   This edition has been published in Turkey, namely in Istanbul, by Kurt Shaban (publishing house “ÇağriYayinlary”). In the frames of program of publishing Koran in various languages, in 2001 he published the first pocket sized edition of Boguslavskiy translation, which to date has been already reprinted five times: in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2012 and 2013. Price of one copy in the Istanbul museum "Hagia Sophia" is only 14 YTL (about 230 rubles). Unfortunately, the circulations of the editions are unknown.

   Publishing of Boguslavskiy translation is carried out by Shaban Kurt along with the best editions of the Karan into other languages. According to the publisher, the translation made by Boguslavskiy has been chosen "as it is a direct translation from Arabic original and contains summaries of all existing (for the time of making translation - P.G.) tafsirs8"9.

   The most important feature of the Turkish edition, in our opinion, is the following: "The copy of the Koran, which was taken as the basis for the translation by D. Boguslavskiy doesn't correspond to the Koran approved for publication today by the quantity and numbering of verses (ayats) in some surahs. In order to avoid confusion caused by this discrepancy and to reflect the Koran, the numbering of ayats and their quantity in eleven surahs (№ 7, 8, 9, 26, 27, 45, 47, 71, 74, 78, 101) was put in order in accordance with generally accepted standards"10.

   It's remarkable that the Turkish edition is featured with "The pointer of proper names" and "The pointer of ethnic names", which makes the scientific study of the Koran quite convenient.

   The text of the translation was made taking in account the rules of modern orthography with preservation of transcription of XIX century.

   In August 1937, Academician Krachkovskiy11, to which the manuscript of the translation was available, making the analysis of the work, wrote that "the translation of Boguslavskiy cannot be called flawless, but here it would be wrong to conclude that it is worse than any other translation, which existed in his time within the frames of set by him goals. It reaches in full its main purpose - to give an idea of Koran understanding in Muslim circles of later epochs."12. Later, approximately in the middle of 1940-s, Krachkovskiy evaluating the translation of Boguslavskiy, noted that is the work "that gives the right to this general to the place in history of our Arabic studies"13.

   Thus, in case of publishing of the Koran translated by Boguslavskiy one Turkish publisher had done for Russian oriental studies in general and in particular for the Russian Koran studies more than two named specialized publishing houses together, thus yet in 2001 it was possible to say that Russian Muslims of the Caucasus have their "own" Koran.


1Translation published in 1878

2Sablukov Gordiy Semenovich (1804-1880) - Russian orientalist. He graduated from the Orenburg Theological Seminary (1826), Moscow Theological Academy (1830). Was a lecturer in Kazan theological Academy. Sablukov is an author of works on archeology, history, numismatics and ethnography of the Volga region people and polovtzy, history of the Golden Horde, translation of the Koran from Arabic.

3Krachkovskii I.Iu. Ocherki po istorii russkoi arabistiki. [Essays on the history of Russian Arabic studies] — V kn.: Akademik I.Iu. Krachkovskii. Izbrannye sochineniia. [In the book: Academician I.Y. Krachkovskiy. Selected works.] — T. V. M.—L., 1958, s. 127–129.

4Translation finished in 1871

5Boguslavskiy Dmitry Nikolaevich (1826–1893) — Russian military orientalist, Lieutenant-General (1878). He graduated from the School of Artillery (1846), was a non-matriculating student of the Faculty of Oriental Languages of St. Petersburg University. In 1847-1861 years served in the Russian Army, in 1862-1870 years in the Asian Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (translator of the Russian Mission in Constantinople) from 1870 had been working in the Military Ministry. Cavalier of Russian orders: St. Anne of the 3rd class (1854), St. Stanislav 1st class (1870), St. Anne 1st class (1873), St. Vladimir 2nd class (1876), White Eagle (1883). Had foreign awards: Persian Order of the Lion and Sun 2nd class with a star (1863), Turkish order Mecidiye 2nd сlass (1867), Commander signs of Spanish Order of Isabel (1867), snuffboxes with diamonds from the Turkish Sultan (1868, 1871).

6Krachkovskii I.Iu. Ocherki po istorii russkoi arabistiki [Essays on the History of Russian Arabic studies]. p. 96.

7Kaziev Sh. Imam Shamil'. [Imam Shamil.] — M., 2001, p. 291.

8Tafsir — interpretation of the Koran. (P.G. note)

9Koran. — Istanbul, 2013, p. IX.

10Koran. — Istanbul, 2013, p. X.

11Krachkovskiy Ignatiy Yulianovich (1883-1951) - domestic orientalist (Arabic studies, Koran studies, Ethiopic studies), a historian of science. One of the founders of the Soviet school of Arabic studies. He graduated from the Faculty of Oriental Languages of St. Petersburg University in 1905. Since 1918 had been working as assistant professor in St. Petersburg University, since 1918 as professor of the University of Petrograd, in 1921 became Academician of Russian Academy of Science. Author of about 500 works.

12Krachkovskii I. Perevod Korana D.N. Boguslavskogo. — V kn.: Sovetskoe vostokovedenie. [Translation of the Koran of D.N. Boguslavskiy. — In the book: Soviet orientalism.] — Vyp. III. M.—L., 1945, p. 300.

13Krachkovskii I.Iu. Nad arabskimi rukopisiami. — V kn.: Akademik I.Iu. Krachkovskii. Izbrannye sochineniia. [About Arabic manuscripts. — In the book: Academician I.Y. Krachkovskiy. Selected works.] — T. I. M.—L., 1955, p. 121.

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