People in Izhevsk, the capital of Russia’s Udmurtia Republic are eagerly awaiting the launch of the first Bible in their own language – Udmurt – on Thursday 21st November.
Amongst the most excited will be the Buranovo Babushki singing group who were the runners up at the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest and became affectionately known as the ‘Russian Grannies’. Members of the group have been using the Udmurt New Testament and Psalms.
“We understand the Bible much better in Udmurt than in Russian,” says Olga Tuktarjova, one of the singers. “We want to teach the young the way of God in their own language.”
“The Bible is needed, very much needed,” adds one of her co-stars, Jelizaveta Zarbatova.
Seppo Sipilä, United Bible Societies Translation Consultant to the project, comments, “Many Udmurts are well aware of the importance of the Bible. The Bible speaks about peace and hope in a way that resonates strongly with the Udmurt people.”
There are about 640,000 Udmurts in the world. Two thirds live in the Udmurt Republic, part of the Russian Federation, where they make up 30% of the republic’s 1.5 million people. Udmurt and Russian are the two official languages. It is estimated that 340,000 people use the Udmurt language.
First Full Bible
This is the very first time the whole Bible is available in the Udmurt language. The history of translation in Udmurt goes back over 160 years to 1847 when the Gospel of Matthew was published. But it wasn’t until 1990 that the translation of the whole Bible was started. The New Testament was published seven years later, in 1997, and now the Bible in 2013.
Over the years, 14 people have contributed to the project at different stages. But two people, translator Michail Atamanov and Exegete/Project Coordinator, Marja Kartano have worked on the translation since the very beginning in 1990 – dedicating 23 years of their life to see this Bible completed.
The project has been co-ordinated by the Institute for Bible Translation, Helsinki. United Bible Societies has provided consultancy support to the project since 2004. This involved regular visits to meet the translators, training to help them handle the complex issues involved in the translation work, helping them to resolve difficult translation questions, and checking the quality of the translation.
The launch will take place on Thursday 21st November at the Udmurt National Theater in Izhevsk, the capital of Udmurtia. The launch is a significant religious and cultural event so will be attended by leading clergy, including Archimandrite Matfij (Russian Orthodox Church) plus the Dean of the Udmurt Language Faculty at Udmurt State University, PhD Nataliya Kondrat’eva and Chairman of the Udmurt Writers Union, Yegor Zagrebin.
United Bible Societies is working, along with other translation partners, on completing 100 Bible translations in the next 1000 days. The completion of the Udmurt Bible marks the 7th Bible that has been published since the beginning of 2013 and a further 44 Bibles are currently being prepared for publication.