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29 March 2019
Reading Komi poet in 47 languages
Project coordinator Olga Demidenko

The new interregional project was launched by the National Library of the Komi Republic. The project will run under the name Poetic video marathon 'Menam Muza' – multinational dialogue about inspiration.  The video marathon is dedicated to 180 years since the birthday of founder of Komi literature Ivan Kuratov (1839 – 1875).

Talented linguist and self-made philosopher, Kuratov was the first to write poetry in Komi, most of which was published posthumously. He also translated Russian and foreign authors into Komi. The pearl of his poetic heritage is the poem Menam Muza (My Muse) written in 1866 году and later translated into 47 languages, including 8 European languages. Menam Muza is the poet’s manifestation of honesty, dignity, courage, and commitment to his calling.

The translations of Menam Muza were published in a miniature pocket-size book 30 years ago when the Komi Republic celebrated the poet’s 150th anniversary. At a time, the problem of preserving numerous languages of the indigenous population of Russia was seen as imperative and acute. The collection of translations of one poem in Komi consolidated texts not only in major Indo-European languages, but also in rare and endangered Finno-Ugric, Caucasian, Tungusic and Turkic languages as a manifestation of the existence of minor national literatures.

The proposed project consists in reciting of one poem, Menam Muza, in multiple languages, recorded as individual short videos and placed online – in social networks and YouTube channel – with common hash tag #MenamMuzaKuratov180. It is suggested that the authors of videos creatively enhance the national and/or regional colouring of their recital and perform against the local background. In the next stage, the received videos will be made into a longer mix to give a thrilling listening experience of the language diversity.

The National Library of the Komi Republic is inviting national communities, cultural centers, national libraries and all interested people to join the initiative in support of minor languages of the world. The project costs nothing; your contribution is your individuality, inspiration and creativity.

A copy of the poem in English - signed by Irwin Weil

The idea for the project emerged from a single encounter. In December last year, the National Library of the Komi Republic hosted a talk on Russian and Soviet literature by well-known American professor of Slavic studies Irwin Weil. Being a connoisseur of Russian classics, Mr. Weil was eager to learn something about Komi authors. He was offered to have a look at a book by Ivan Kuratov – with the English translation. On the same day, an amateurish video was recorded with Professor Weil reciting My Muse in English. In the video you can accidentally see Mr. Weil’s Russian-style fur hat and woolen scarf – December is a fairly cold month in Komi. After the improvised film shooting, our guest pointed at two spelling mistakes and wrote the name ‘Ivan Kuratov’ on a copy of the poem – in neat calligraphic Russian cursive. That is, unofficially, how the project started.

As scientist and philosopher, Kuratov stood up for saving Komi-Zyrian and proposed having early schooling for Komi children in their native language. He was so desperate about the state of things that he wrote: “Cry your heart out, Science! The Komi-Zyrian language is getting closer and closer to its demise, and not a single true notion about it will enter the treasures of knowledge as it will drift away in the gloomy waves of Time!”

Fortunately, after generations of good will and joint effort, Kuratov’s native language has not perished; neither have other languages of indigenous peoples of Russia.

So let us save our mother tongues in poetry!

You can join our marathon right now by recording your reading of the poem and sending the video to ino@nbkromi.ru.

More detailed information about the project, as well as timelines and the texts in 47 languages can be found HERE

Follow the progress of the marathon on Facebook, VKontakte and YouTube by #MenamMuzaKuratov180.

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