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How they wanted to replace the Russian alphabet with Latin
How they wanted to replace the Russian alphabet with Latin

After the revolution of 1917 in Russia, the foundations of the old life were rapidly breaking down - the Gregorian calendar, daylight saving time, a new system of measures and weights were introduced, and a spelling reform was adopted. However, the new, Soviet culture demanded a different, "non-reactionary" alphabet - Latin.

This is how the movement for the Romanization of the Russian language began.

The wave of romanization

In the modern world, the predominant graphic systems are the Cyrillic, Latin and Arabic alphabets, which are used, respectively, by the largest world religions - Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Islam.

The choice of one spelling or another is never neutral. it carries an ideological and political content, refers us to one or another historical tradition. This was well understood by the Bolsheviks, who made the first attempt to translate the Russian language from Cyrillic into Latin as early as 1919.


A.V. Lunacharsky, who lived for 18 years abroad - in Switzerland, where he received his legal education, as well as in Italy, France, Germany and Spain - initiated the reform. However, as Anatoly Vasilyevich himself later recalled, Lenin advised him "not to act hastily," because it took time to "adapt the Latin script to ours," so that later they would not talk about "our barbarism." And the preparation began …

In the 1920s-1930s, a wave of romanization swept across the country - 50 of the 72 languages ​​of the USSR were exposed to it. Azerbaijan switched to the Latin script. North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Kabarda, Moldova, Uzbekistan and many other republics and peoples. It was the turn of the Russian language. In 1929, the People's Commissariat of Education (People's Commissariat for Education) of the RSFSR formed a special commission to develop the question of the romanization of the Russian alphabet. It was headed by Professor Nikolai Feofanovich Yakovlev.

He was a well-known specialist in oriental languages, who participated in the creation of many alphabets. Tall, with a large build, who loved to drink, he was distinguished by his harshness of behavior, a sharp tongue, a dislike for the observance of canons and decency.

Despite his noble origins, Yakovlev always remained a "red professor", striving to create Marxist linguistics. Yakovlev's convictions were not even influenced by the fact that during the Civil War revolutionary-minded peasants buried his mother, Alexandra Konstantinovna, alive in the ground, and his brother fought on the side of the whites and later emigrated to Turkey. By the way, the grandfather's philological talent was passed on to his granddaughter - the famous writer Lyudmila Petrushevskaya.

Saving paper and movement

Since on the territory of the USSR - and in Siberia, and in Central Asia, and in the Caucasus, and in the Volga region - the Latin alphabet was already used everywhere, Yakovlev had every right to write: “The territory of the Russian alphabet is currently a kind of wedge hammered between countries where adopted the Latin alphabet of the October Revolution, and the countries of Western Europe. " For Professor Yakovlev, the existence of the Russian alphabet represented "an unconditional anachronism", "a kind of graphic barrier separating the most numerous group of the peoples of the Union from both the revolutionary East and the working masses and the proletariat of the West."

Lunacharsky supported the work of the commission in every possible way, proving the benefits of the coming revolutionary changes. Even a simple listing of them seems to the modern reader as a joke or slyness of the author: it will be easier to teach people to read and write, because the number of letters will decrease; Latin letters take up less space on paper, so the cost of paper, printing, and transport will decrease. And in general, according to Professor Yakovlev, the Latin script has a large graphic variety of letters, allows the eye to quickly cover the image of the whole word and it is easier to achieve fluent reading, and the savings in hand movements when writing will be 14-15%.

Minister of Education A.S.Shishkov (1754-1841) was against the dominance of the Russian language by foreign words.


Opponents of the reform had their own arguments: the transition to a new alphabet would lead to the loss of cultural continuity and historical heritage; huge sums of money will be required to re-equip the printing industry; expensive retraining of the literate population will lead to a drop in the rate of reading and writing of people associated with mental work.

These arguments, however, were viewed by the supporters of the transition to the Latin alphabet as a manifestation of the backwardness of views and - a misunderstanding."

The fight continues

So, the transition to the Latin alphabet should have been included in the general plan for the reconstruction and industrialization of the USSR for the next five-year plan. However, on January 25, 1930, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b), chaired by Stalin, ordered the Glavnauka to stop the development of a plan for the romanization of the Russian alphabet. This came as a complete surprise to all the members of the commission, because the “great revolution in the East,” as Lenin once called Latinization, had already taken place.

Why did the USSR leadership change its course? What led to the change in the national language policy? This becomes clear if you carefully study the biography of I.V. Stalin. After Lenin's death in 1924, Stalin was actively involved in the struggle for power, until January 1, 1926, he was again confirmed as General Secretary of the CPSU (b). Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev, who relied on the world revolution and did not believe in building socialism in one country, were defeated.

By 1930-1932, Stalin achieved the sole power in the party and began to lead the USSR without the "help" of the Politburo. Companions call him "master" and are afraid. Thus, by 1930, Stalin was able to personally influence the situation related to the romanization of the Russian language.

Nevertheless, the most courageous supporters of the world revolution continued to fight for the "international" Latin alphabet. On June 29, 1931, Vechernyaya Moskva published the results of the All-Union Spelling Conference, at which, in particular, it was proposed to introduce a new letter j, to abolish the letters e, and, d, b, and a free hyphenation of words (s-ovet) was established. In this regard, a special resolution of the Politburo of the Central Committee of July 5, 1931 was adopted, prohibiting "any reform" and discussion of "reform of the Russian alphabet" as creating "a threat to fruitless and wasted waste of the state's forces and resources."

Cyrillic approval

Since 1935, the process of translating languages ​​into Cyrillic began in the Soviet Union. The newspapers published numerous letters of appeal from workers and collective farmers, calling for a switch from the Latin alphabet to the Cyrillic alphabet. By 1940, the process was almost completed. Dozens of languages ​​received a written language that united them with the Russian cultural space and became the basis for the existence of a multinational state.

In conclusion, it should be said that the fact of the widespread use of the Latin alphabet and attempts to translate the Russian language into it in the 20-30s of the XX century was not included in the course of school history, and the philological faculties did not talk about this either. The book "Culture and Writing of the East", which published articles devoted to the romanization of A.V. Lunacharsky, N.F. Yakovleva, M.I. Idrisov, A. Kamchin-Bek's report on "The victory of the new alphabet in the Soviet Union", was banned and kept in libraries under the stamp "Not issued".

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