№6 2019

УДК / UDK: 821.111, 821.112.2

Author: Lioudmila Fedorova
About the author:

Lioudmila Fedorova (Ph.D., Associate Professor, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA)

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The present study of Russian writers’ American travelogues (1890s – 1930s) focuses on their “language politics” – the presence of the English language in these texts and deliberate word-choices the authors made while portraying foreign reality in Russian. Vladimir Korolenko, Vladimir Tan (Bogoraz) and Maxim Gorky who visited the United States in 1890s – 1900s, Sergei Esenin and Vladimir Mayakovsky in 1920s, Ilia Ilf and Evgenii Petrov and Boris Pilniak in 1930s had a very limited knowledge of English and experienced America in translation, which inevitably influenced their perception of the country. Typically, the traveling Russians projected their frustration towards the foreign language onto the language itself and blamed it for its incomprehensibility and irrationality. In the Soviet era, the English language of America acquired additional negative connotations in the texts of Russian travelers, determined by their political agenda: while they perceived Russian as the language of the Revolution, English was associated with capitalism. Thus, they constructed America’s ideological alterity through linguistic as well as other means. The speech of the Russian immigrants served as a constant object of irony for many of the traveling writers. At the same time, they constantly used Anglicisms in various degrees of assimilation in their own texts. This study breaks the borrowings into several thematic groups in order to study their semantic and emotional load: the daily life of a traveler, technology, economic and social life. While borrowings for previously unencountered realia are generally emotionally and axiologically neutral, those that refer to concepts that do exist in Russia but for which the writers nevertheless prefer English words, like Pilniak’s “gipokritstvo” (hypocrisy) or Mayakovsky’s “dzhab” (job) and “monei” (money), are semantically and emotionally charged. When they occur, the American word and its Russian counterpart have a difference in meaning that is essential for the writers to underscore. This is how they establish the difference between the Russian (Soviet) and the American on the linguistic level. The article reviews various degrees of adaptation of English borrowings into the Russian texts of the travelogues.

Keywords: American travelogues, language politics, Anglicisms, borrowings, Pilniak, Mayakovsky.

[Andrews 1999] – Andrews, David. Sociocultural Perspectives on Language Change in Diaspora. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1999.

[Bogoraz 1988] – Bogoraz (pseud., Tan), Vladimir. “The Black Student.” Olga Hasty and Susanne Fusso, eds., transl. America Through Russian Eyes. New Haven, CT; London: Yale University, 1988: 111–126.

[Fedorova 2013] – Fedorova, Milla. Yankees in Petrograd, Bolsheviks in New York: America and Americans in Russian Literary Perception. DeKalb, IL: NIU Press, 2013.

[Granovskaia 1995] – Granovskaia, Lidia. Russkii iazyk v “rasseianii”: Ocherki po istorii russkoi emigratsii pervoi volny. [Russian Language in “Dispersion”. Essays on the Language of Russian Emigration of the First Wave.] Moscow: Institut russkogo iazyka RAN Publ., 1995. (In Russ.)

[Ilf, Petrov 1974] – Ilf, Ilia, Petrov, Evgenii. Little Golden America, transl. Charles Malamuth. New York: Arno Press, 1974.

[Ilf, Petrov 2007] – Ilf, Ilia, Petrov, Evgenii. Odnoetazhnaia Amerika. Pis’ma iz Ameriki [Little Golden America. Letters from America], ed. and introduced by Aleksandra Ilf. Moscow: Tekst Publ., 2007. (In Russ.)

[Kiparsky 1964] – Kiparsky, Valery. English and American Characters in Russian Fiction. Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz, 1964.

[Levin 1984] – Levin, Ilia. “Ob evolutsii literaturnogo iazyka v emigratsii.” [“On the Evolution of the Literary Language in Emigration.”] O. Matich, Olga and Heim, Michael H., eds. The Third Wave: Russian Literature in Emigration. Ann Arbor, MI: Ardis, 1984: 263–268.

[Mayakovsky 1957] – Mayakovsky, Vladimir. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii: v 13 tomakh. [Complete Works] in 13 vols. Vol. 7. Moscow: Goslitizdat Publ., 1957. (In Russ.)

[Mayakovsky 1961] – Mayakovsky, Vladimir. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii: v 13 tomakh. [Complete Works] in 13 vols. Vol. 13. Moscow: Goslitizdat Publ., 1961. (In Russ.)

[McLean 1956] – McLean, Hugh. “On Mr. Pont Kic, his Ruptured Russian, and Related Subjects.” Halle, Morris, comp. Festschrift for Roman Jakobson. Essays on the Occasion of his Sixties Birthday. The Hague: Mouton &Co., 1956: 332–343.

[Pilniak 1976] – Pilniak, Boris. “O’kei: Amerikanskii roman.” [“Okay: An American Novel.”] Izbranne proizvedeniia. [Selected Works.] Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura Publ., 1976: 443–675. (In Russ.)

[Ryan 2002] – Ryan, Karen L. “Imagining America: Il’f and Petrov’s ‘Odnoetazhnaia Amerika’ and Ideological Alterity.” Canadian Slavonic Papers: 44 (Sept.-Dec., 2002): 263–277.

[Shukman 1983] – Shukman, Ann. “Taboos, Splits, and Signifiers: Limonov’s ‘Eto ya – Edichka’.” Essays in Poetics 8 (1983): 1–18.