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Here, in Bolivia, Old Believers perfectly preserve the Russian language
Here, in Bolivia, Old Believers perfectly preserve the Russian language

Video: Here, in Bolivia, Old Believers perfectly preserve the Russian language

Video: Here, in Bolivia, Old Believers perfectly preserve the Russian language
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This is just a photojournalist's dream: the jungle, "many, many wild monkeys" and against this outlandish background - she, a blue-eyed girl in a sundress and with a fair-haired braid to the waist.

And here is the village, where fair-haired boys in embroidered shirts run through the streets, and women always put their hair under shashmura - a special headdress. Unless the huts are not log cabins, but instead of birch trees, palm trees. Russia, which we have lost, has survived in South America.

There, after long wanderings, the Old Believers found refuge in their desire to preserve the faith and the foundations of their ancestors. As a result, they managed to preserve not only this, but also the Russian language of past centuries, for which, like a treasure, linguists go to South America. Olga Rovnova, senior researcher at the Institute of the Russian Language of the Russian Academy of Sciences, has recently returned from her ninth expedition to South America. This time she visited Bolivia, in the village of Toborochi, founded by Old Believers in the 1980s. The linguist told the Russian Planet portal about the life of the Russian language on the other side of the earth.

How did Old Believers end up in South America in a nutshell?

Their ancestors fled from Russia in the late 1920s and early 1930s to China from the Soviet regime. They lived in China until the end of the 1950s, until they began to build communism there and drive everyone to collective farms.


The Old Believers took off again and moved to South America - to Brazil and Argentina.

Why did they move to Bolivia?

Not everyone was able to settle down in Brazil on the lands that the government allocated them. It was a jungle that had to be uprooted by hand, plus the soil had a very thin fertile layer - hellish conditions awaited them. Therefore, after a few years, some of the Old Believers began to look for new territories. Someone went to Bolivia and Uruguay: here they were also offered jungle plots, but the soil in Bolivia is more fertile. Someone found out that the United States, in the state of Oregon, is also selling land.


They sent a delegation for reconnaissance, they returned with the most favorable impressions, and some of the Old Believers moved to Oregon. But since the Old Believers' families are large and they need a lot of living space, they eventually went from Oregon to Minnesota and further to Alaska, where a certain number of the Russian population lived for a long time. Some even went to Australia. The proverb “A fish is looking for where it is deeper, and a man - where is better” is very suitable for our Old Believers.

What are they doing in new places?

In Bolivia and in Latin America in general - agriculture. In the village of Toborochi, where we were this year, they grow wheat, beans, corn, and in artificial ponds they breed Amazonian fish pacu. And you know, they are good at it. Working on the land gives them a good income. Of course, there are different situations, but mainly Latin American Old Believers are very wealthy people. In the United States, the situation is slightly different - there some families work in factories and in the service sector.

What is the Russian language of Latin American Old Believers?

It is a living dialectal Russian language, which was spoken in Russia in the 19th century. Clean, without an accent, but this is precisely a dialect, not a literary language. This is a rare situation: linguists are well aware that in the event of emigration, people lose their native language already in the third generation. That is, the grandchildren of those who have left usually no longer speak the native language of their grandparents. We see this in the examples of both the first and second waves of emigration. And here, in Bolivia, Old Believers perfectly preserve their language: the fourth generation speaks pure Russian. This time we recorded a 10-year-old boy. His name is Di, at school he studies in Spanish, but at home he speaks Russian dialect.

At the same time, it is important that the language of the Old Believers is not conserved. He is alive, he is developing. True, in isolation from Russia, it develops in a different way. In their speech there are a lot of words borrowed from Spanish. But they build them into the system of the Russian language - lexically, morphologically. For example, they call a gas station "gasoline" from the Spanish word gasolinera. They do not have the phrase "agriculture", so they say to themselves: "We are engaged in agriculture, we are agricultural cultivators." And these borrowings are mixed in their speech with outdated words that can no longer be found in our language. For example, their tree is a forest.


This situation is typical for all Old Believers living in South America. While in the USA or Australia, the situation is reversed. There, the second generation is completely switching over to English. For example, if the grandmother lives in Bolivia, and the grandson lives in Oregon or Alaska, then they can no longer communicate directly.

And why is the Russian language better preserved in South America than in North America?

There is a general tendency: the richer a country is, the more powerful influence it has on Old Believers - both economically and linguistically.


In the same Oregon, women are involved in economic activities. As a rule, they work - in the service sector or in manufacturing. And, of course, they themselves are actively learning the language of the host country. Children go to an English-speaking school, watch TV in English. The native language is gradually disappearing.

Not so in Latin America. The task of making money lies entirely with the man. Women are not required to work and, therefore, they communicate less with the local population. The task of a woman is to run a household and raise children. They are not only the keepers of the hearth, but also the keepers of the language.

The settlement where the Old Believers live is also important. Here in Bolivia, Old Believers live in their village, completely in their own environment. Their children attend a school where they are taught in Spanish, but what is typical: in both Bolivia and Brazil, Old Believers try to build a school in their village - often at their own expense - and arrange for teachers to visit them, instead of send children to someone else's village or city. Therefore, the children are constantly in the village, in which - with the exception of the school - they speak only Russian everywhere. By the way, in Russia, too, the keepers of dialects are rural women. Men lose their dialect much faster.

After all, what dialect of the area do the Old Believers speak?

Basically, they took with them the language of the area from which they fled abroad. For example, in Estonia, on the shores of Lake Peipsi, there are Old Believers who once came from the Pskov region. And the Pskov dialect can still be traced in their speech.

Bolivian Old Believers entered China through two corridors. One group came to Xinjiang province from Altai. The second group fled from Primorye. They crossed the Amur and settled in Harbin, and there are differences in their speech, which I will talk about a little later.

But what is interesting is that both Xinjiang and Harbin, as they call themselves, in their bulk are Kerzhaks, descendants of Old Believers from the Nizhny Novgorod province. Under Peter I, they were forced to flee to Siberia, and the dialect of the Nizhny Novgorod province can be traced in their speech.

And what is this dialect?

I will have to tell you literally in a couple of words about Russian dialects. There are two large groups of dialects - Northern dialect and Southern dialect. The most famous differences in pronunciation are as follows: in the north “okayut”, and in the south - “akayut”, in the north the sound [r] is explosive, and in the south it is fricative, in a weak position it is pronounced as [x]. And between these two dialects there is a wide strip of Central Russian dialects. They are very colorful, but each took something from the Northern dialect, and something from the Southern. For example, the Moscow dialect, which formed the basis of the Russian literary language, is also a Central Russian dialect. It is characterized by the southern "akanya" and at the same time the northern explosive [g]. The dialect of the South American Old Believers is Central Russian, but it differs from the Moscow one.

They also "akayut", but from the northern dialect they took, for example, the so-called contraction of vowels, that is, they say "Such a beautiful girl", "Taka took a beautiful girl to wife."

Are there differences in language among different communities of American Old Believers?

There is. And these differences are not due to who in what area now lives, but from which part of China they left for America. Although their speech is very similar, there are features in the speech of the Xinjiang people that make the Harbin people laugh. For example, Xinjiang people say [s] instead of the sound [q]. Instead of a chicken, they have a "roll", "sar" instead of a tsar. And they pronounce [h] as [u]: son, sonny, shop. It really hurts the ear, especially at the beginning of communication. And Harbinians, who do not have all this, consider their speech more correct, more similar to Russian. In general, it is very important for Old Believers to realize their closeness to Russia.

By the way, what do Old Believers think about our Russian language?

They are very worried about him. They do not understand many words that have appeared in Russia in recent years. A typical example, we were in the same house, and there relatives from Alaska came to the owners. One of them asks what language is now spoken in Russia. In Russian, I answer. "What kind of Russian is this if they call kufayka sweater!"


Old Believers have no respect for TV, but they still watch Russian films, and then they start asking me questions. Once they ask me: "What is a mistress?" I explain to them, and they say: “Ah! So this is our "boyfriend"! " Or a girl who loves to cook, having looked at our culinary forums, asks me what cakes are - “I know pies, and pies, but I don’t know cakes”.

Indeed, it would seem that Old Believers should avoid all these modern technologies, but do they even use the Internet?

This is discouraged, but not prohibited either. In their work, they use modern technology: in their fields, they have tractors and John Deer combines. And at home - Skype, with the help of which they keep in touch with their families around the world, and also find brides and grooms for their children - in both the Americas and Australia.

I just wanted to ask about marriages, because closed communities are characterized by closely related unions and, as a result, an increase in genetic problems

This is not about Old Believers. Not knowing genetics, their ancestors established the rule of the eighth generation: marriages between relatives up to the eighth generation are prohibited. They know very well their ancestry to such a depth, all their relatives. And the Internet is important to them in order to find new families in conditions when Old Believers have settled all over the world.

However, they also allow marriages with strangers, provided that they accept the faith and learn prayers. On this visit, we saw a young local man who was courting a girl from the village. He speaks very interestingly: in dialectal Russian with a Spanish accent.

And to what extent do Old Believers themselves speak Spanish?

Sufficient to live in the country. As a rule, men speak the language better. But when I went into the store with one of the women and realized that my Spanish was clearly not enough to talk to the saleswoman, my companion turned out to be a very lively translator.

What, in your opinion, is the future fate of the Russian dialect language in South America? Will he live on?

I would very much like to come to them in 20 years and see what their Russian language will be like. Of course it will be different. But you know, I have no anxiety about the Russian language in Bolivia. They speak without an accent. Their dialect is extremely tenacious. This is a completely unique combination of archaism and innovation. When they need to name a new phenomenon, they easily invent new words. For example, they call cartoons the word "skipping", garlands of light bulbs - "winks", the headband on the hair - "dressing up". They know the word "loan", but they themselves say "take for payment."

Old Believers use metaphors very widely to refer to new objects or concepts. For example, I show a boy a tree in their village - a large tree with large fragrant bright red bunches of flowers. I ask: what is it called? “I don’t know, my sister is calling lilac,” the boy answers me. Other flowers, another scent, but a similar shape of bunches - and here's a lilac. And they call tangerines "mimosa". Apparently for their round shape and bright color. I ask the girl where her brother is. “Fadeyka? They will clean the mimosa. "Look, peels tangerines …

Without knowing anything about such a science as sociolinguistics, Old Believers in Bolivia do exactly what must be done to preserve the language. They live apart and demand that only Russian be spoken at home in the village. And I really hope that the Russian language will be heard in Bolivia for a long time.