Academic journal article Scottish Literary Review

Robert Burns's 'The Twa Dogs': Ideological Aspects of Translation into Russian

Academic journal article Scottish Literary Review

Robert Burns's 'The Twa Dogs': Ideological Aspects of Translation into Russian

Article excerpt

There is hardly any other foreign poet who is as admired and beloved in Russia as Robert Burns. Translations of Burns's poems have been republished and have sold millions of copies, and his songs in Russian translations can be heard in famous films, on TV and on the radio. It is well-known that the first commemorative stamp with Burns's portrait was issued in Russia in 1956. Burns could have never achieved such extraordinary assimilation in a foreign cultural milieu without successful translations. Starting with the nineteenth century when the first translations introduced Robert Burns to Russian readers as a sentimental pastoral poet, Russian and Soviet translators continued translating Burns throughout the twentieth century, interpreting his poetry according to the ideologies of the time. Burns's apparently insignificant place in Russian literary consciousness in the nineteenth century contrasts strongly with his reception in the Soviet Union, which reached its climax in the outstanding celebration of the 200th anniversary of Burns's birth in 1959. Ever since, Robert Burns has remained one of the most famous foreign poets translated into Russian. (1)

While the status of other foreign poets changed throughout the tumultuous periods of Russian history, Burns's high profile did not change much. He is still popular and beloved among Russian readers. However, Burns's poetry in translations underwent numerous adaptations and changes caused by editorial politics and by the overwhelming influence of ideology on literary production. If in tsarist Russia Burns's revolutionary and democratic lyrics were mainly ignored, he achieved an extraordinary cultural dominance in the time of the Soviet Union (2) as a 'poet of the common people' Shortly after the establishment of the Soviet regime, Burns became one of the most famous European poets in the Soviet Union, but in the Soviet cultural environment, his poetry suffered from severe ideologically influenced transformations.

The question of ideological influence on translation has always accompanied translation studies. Any translation, literary translation in particular, is an ideologically-embedded undertaking. As an essential part of a larger social discourse, no literary work is entirely free from ideological influence, and poetic translation is no exception. I share the perspective of J. Stephens in his Language and Ideology in Children's Fiction that every book has an implicit ideology, usually in the form of beliefs and values taken for granted in society and shared collectively by social groups. (3) In the case of translation, the question of ideological influence is even more important, as it is the translator who interprets (and potentially changes) the author's ideology in the process of creation. Behind all choices made by a translator is a voluntary act that reveals the translator's socio-political and cultural surrounding. A translator always creates 'under pressure of different constraints, ideological, poetical, economical etc, typical of the culture to which he/ she belongs. (4) Ideological influence does not contradict the essence of literature until the moment it starts to dominate literary context or to intentionally direct a reader to ideological doctrines.

Unfortunately, ideological dominance was one of the main criteria that defined translation process in the former Soviet Union where the totalitarian regime was established shortly after the October Revolution of 1917. The Soviet state was characterised by centralised state control over all aspects of private and public life, including economy, politics and arts. Literary production, including translations, was also subordinated to the state, occupying a formal place in the official culture of the Soviet era. Its propagandistic role was to educate people in the goals and meaning of communism. (5) Any criticism of the current regime was subjected to Soviet censorship, which remained the longest lasting and the most comprehensive state censorship in the twentieth century. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.