Department of European Languages and Cultures

Translations of Robert Burns into Russian: from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Century

The talk will focus on the tradition of translating Burns into Russian starting from the nineteenth century up to the twenty-first century, addressing the question of the extraordinary cultural dominance in Russian literary consciousness achieved by Burns through translations.

The first translations made in the nineteenth century were characterized by a tendency to recast Burns’ poems in order to conform to the prevailing sentimental style. Among the first translators of Burns’ poetry were Kozlov, Minaev, Chyumina-Mikhailova, Mikhailov and Kostomarov. Though these early translators were the first to introduce Burns to Russian readers, the poet’s popularity reached its peak in the Soviet Union when he was first translated by Tat’yana Shchepkina-Kupernik and Burns’ most famous Russian translator, Samuil Marshak. As ideology played a key role in the translation process in the Soviet Union, translations of Burns did not avoid severe ideological interpretation. Soviet translations of Burns are characterized by numerous adaptations, deletions and omissions, which are likely to be ideologically motivated deviations. However, the undeniable literary quality of these translations raises the question of the potential of combining literary value with purely ideological formations. To illustrate how strict ideological control functioned in practice, I will look at extracts from reviews and prefaces that accompanied translations of Robert Burns.

Although the process of re-evaluating the old system’s values, including cultural and literary values, began after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Burns’ position did not change much. Publishing houses continued to trust in Marshak’s name as a magnet for readers, which was and continues to be confirmed by the fact that Marshak’s translations of Burns still dominate the Russian market even after the start of the twenty-first century. Nevertheless, we can now begin to discuss the start of the slow process of the liberation of Burns from Marshak’s seminal translations. For this purpose, we will discuss those translators who offered Russian readers new alternatives to the canonical Soviet versions and somehow succeeded in breaking through Marshak’s tradition (e.g. Vitkovsky, Kniazev, Feldman)


Dr Kaloh is an Associate Professor in the Department of Translations Studies at the University of Maribor, Slovenia. She holds a PhD in English Literature and Translation Studies, which focuses on the influence of ideology on translations of Robert Burns’ poetry into Russian. Her second PhD is in Contemporary Russian Literature and focuses on apocalyptic motives in Mikhail Bulgakov’s prose. She is the author of the books Ideological Translations of Robert Burns' Poetry in Russia and in the Soviet Union, published in 2011, Rol´ apokaliptičeskogo otkrovenija v tvorčestve Mihaila Bulgakova (The Role of Revelation in Mikhail Bulgakov’s Prose), published in 2012, and Sovietisms in English Translations of M. Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, published in 2016. She is also co-editor of M. J. Lermontov. Sanje: izbrano delo (M. J. Lermontov. Dreams: Selected works) (2015), a book of translations of Mikhail Leromontov’s poetry and prose, as well as the editor of Творчество М. Ю. Лермонтова: Мотивы, темы, переводы (The Work of M. J. Lermontov: Motifs, Themes, Translations), a scientific monography published in 2015.

She has lectured as a visiting professor at universities in Glasgow, Innsbruck, Dublin, Sofia, Graz and Poznan.

The list of her publications includes articles on various aspects of literary translations, especially translations of Burns into Russian, the influence of ideology on literary translations, translating culturally specific elements and retranslations. Her articles have been published in Meta, Slavistična revija, The Slavic and East European Journal, Cadernos de Tradução, International Research in Children’s Literature, etc.

USSR commemorative stamp of Robert Burns
Jan 22 2018 -

Translations of Robert Burns into Russian: from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Century

A free seminar by guest speaker, Dr Natalia Kaloh Vid (University of Maribor, Slovenia).

Project room (1.06)
50 George Square