Reading Methodius in Russian

Today I got hold of photocopies of the pages of Bogoslovskie Trudy that contained materials from the Old Slavonic text of Methodius of Olympus (died 311 AD).  I don’t know any Russian, but my theory was that I ought to be able to work with them anyway, thanks to Google translate.

My first task was to convert the photocopies into a PDF file.  I scanned it as greyscale at 400 dpi.  Since the photocopies were A3 (the journal being slightly too high to fit two pages on an A4 piece of paper), I had to use a guillotine to cut the paper in half, and wallpaper scissors to trim the odd page as I fed them into the sheet feeder of my Fujitsu Scansnap.

The PDF’s created, I then opened them in Finereader 11 Pro, and ran the OCR on it using Language = Russian.  It worked fine!  Indeed it worked nearly perfectly, as far as I could tell!

Then I copied a page to Google translate, and … it produced a very decent translation!  Easily good enough to work out what was being said.  Thus I started with this:

Ознакомление с содержанием этой — славянской — части литературного наследства св. Мефодия до настоящего времени было возможно только по изданиям проф. Н. Г. Бонвеча5. Но эти издания, при всех своих исключительных научных достоинствах, имеют одну своеобразную особенность: если греческий текст дается здесь в подлиннике — на основании наиболее авторитетных рукописей, — то для славянского текста имеется лишь немецкий перевод. Перевод этот сделан весьма тщательно, с хорошим знанием особенностей древнего славянского языка. Однако никто не станет оспаривать тот факт, что, как бы далеко ни ушел в своем развитии современный русский язык от того языка, на котором написаны уже не раз упоминающиеся здесь славянские рукописи, созвучность русского и древнеславянского языков (в самом обширном значении этого выражения) значительно больше, чем созвучность немецкого языка с языком славянским. Во всяком случае, для успеха перевода это обстоятельство имеет большое значение. Для русского читателя узнавать содержание творений св. Мефодия, сохранившихся только в славянском тексте, из немецкого перевода— значит, по меньшей мере, снижать познавательную ценность изучаемого материала. Таковы те соображения, которые явились побудительной причиной, заставившей автора этих строк заняться работой над славянскими рукописями творений св. Мефодия и предпринять опыт перевода некоторой части вышеназванных славянских текстов на современный русский язык.

And the output was this:

Familiarization with the content of this – Slavic – part of the literary heritage of St. Methodius so far been possible only on publications of Professor. NG Bonwetsch 5. But these books, for all their exceptional academic merit, have a peculiar feature: if the Greek text is given here in the script – based on the most authoritative manuscripts – something for Slavonic text, there is only a German translation. This translation is made very carefully, with good knowledge of the characteristics of the ancient Slavic language. However, no one will dispute the fact that, no matter how far gone in its development the modern Russian language from the language of the written many times referred to herein Slavic manuscripts, the consonance of the Russian and Old Slavic languages ​​(in the broadest sense of the expression) is significantly more than the harmony of the German language with the language of the Slav. In any case, the success of translating this fact is of great importance. For the Russian reader to learn the content of the works of St. Methodius, preserved only in Slavonic text of the German translation, then, at least, reduce the informative value of the studied material. Such are the considerations that were motive that made the author of these lines to do work on Slavic manuscripts of St. creations. Methodius and experience to undertake the translation of some parts of the foregoing Slavonic texts of the modern Russian language.

Now that isn’t perfect — but I think we can all, with a bit of concentration, work out what is being said, bar a word here or there.

In this way, a non-Russian speaker like me can read part of the preface of Chub’s publication.

As someone said, doubtless in a similar context, “I love it when a plan comes together!”

UPDATE: Reading a few more pages, I come across a discussion of the manuscripts.  I think, on the whole, it would probably be a good idea if I could attempt a translation of Chub’s preface in toto, by smoothing out the Google output.  But not tonight!

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