Clash of Civilizations: Latin v Cyrillic Scripts in Belarus
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Violet
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Clash of Civilizations: Latin v Cyrillic Scripts in Belarus
Quote:In November 2012, the newly published Minsk underground system map surprised Minsk residents.

On these maps, Belarusian names of the stations were transliterated into Belarusian using Latin script, or Lacinka. This transliteration seemed incomprehensible to many people and caused a big discussion in media.

For most Belarusians today, Latin script became an attribute of western world. Few of them know that only a century ago it was commonly used along with Cyrillic letters. Yet another group of their more informed country fellows are familiar with Belarusian Lacinka and try to defend its presence in public areas.

In the case of the underground map, one side advocated the comprehensibility of transliteration, while the other defended original national script regardless its practical aspect. While the opponents of Lacinka accuse its advocates of excessive nationalism and impracticability, the advocates argued that the opponents do not know national history and have a complex of superiority of foreigners.

The Minsk Underground Map

Belarus is hosting world hockey championship in 2014. Belarus authorities attempt to make the environment of Belarus cities more friendly to foreign visitors. This is why they introduced Latin letters on the underground map.

The way the station names were transliterated drew a lot of public attention. Instead of usual transliteration system similar to Russian, authorities decided to use Belarusian Lacinka. The reason for such move remains not clear, but nationally oriented part of the society met this phenomenon with rejoicing, while the rest were quite surprised, and some even angry.

Within a few days, a video appeared on the web, where a foreigner tries to read the names and fails to do so. This fact became the main argument of the opponents of Belarusian Lacinka: it is unintelligible for foreigners.

Their opponents see the problem from the other angle. More “English” type of transliteration can be used when a country has no tradition of Latin script of its own. Belarus had one for centuries, so it can be reasonably used in transliteration of Belarusian language.

They point to the languages of other East European nations, like Czechs, Slovenians, Lithuanians and Latvians, who have similar systems of script with diacritical signs, but do not bother whether a visitor from another country will be able to read their words properly. Therefore, the defenders of English-friendly transliteration seem to have a complex of superiority of the English civilization.

The History of Latin Script in Belarus

Belarus is located on the borderland of two major civilizations, the East and the West, Catholic and Orthodox, no wonder both Cyrillic and Latin scripts developed here abreast since Middle Ages.

In the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the predecessor of modern Belarus, Latin script was used for recording Latin and Polish languages. From the 16th century on, Latin script started to be used for recording Old Belarusian language as well.

Lacinka became the script of the first literary works in Belarusian languages that appeared in 19th century, when a few intellectuals and writers started to promote Belarusain, which was then mostly the language of peasants. Russian Empire rulers considered Latin Script as a threat that could separate “ethnographic groups” such as Belarusians and Ukrainians from the single Russian nation. They formally banned Lacinka, yet Belarusian intellectuals continued to use it in their works.

-Vadzim Smok

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2013 Mar 02 17:51
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RE: Clash of Civilizations: Latin v Cyrillic Scripts in Belarus
Quote:However, Belarusian Lacinka became not only the passion of a bunch of enthusiasts. In 2000, Institute of Language of National Academy of Sciences established it as a base for transliteration of Belarusian proper names in foreign languages.

Doing it wrong, Belarusian style.

But it may have something to do with our politics of memory. They remind of the Soviet politics of memory quite much: it is not particularly welcomed to stress facts of the Belarusian history and culture, that show the Western influences. It is also not welcomed to dig out things that contradict the idea that from the East Belarusians could expect only help and support.

It's like this. You read in a newspaper something like: "The fate of our town was difficult. It was conquered and destroyed many times: by the French, by Germans, by Swedes, by Tatars, but its people always..." And you think: wait a minute why are Muscovites not mentioned? They did destroy the town in the XVII century, and quite a few civilians were slaughtered. It's not about old grudges, but why the French who just occupied the town for a certain time are mentioned, but Muscovites are omitted?

And yet it appears you can (should?) omit them. It is some local mutation of political correctness that has been alive since the Soviet times.

The same issue is with the 'traditional' Latin script. Why not say: hey, let's pull out of our closet our good old łacinica; we can use it today for many things, it can be handy. No, Belarusian specialists invent the roundabout: they make up a new system of transliteration that looks pretty much like łacinica (with the exception of one goddamn letter), and when defending it they carefully say: but you see, a similar writing system was used in our lands.

That's stupid. In my opinion what was necessary was the campaign "Łacinica is part of our heritage. Let's give it a new life!" instead. Unfortunately it's hardly possible to imagine such a campaign carried out wit the help of our łukašist state, it would contradict the current politics of memory.

[...] just as it is not left unto us to choose our ancestors, so we may not choose our nation; we can only fulfil, or not fulfil, the obligations that come from being a member of our people’.
© Dr. Jan Stankievič ‘From the History of Belarus’

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2013 Mar 07 21:28
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RE: Clash of Civilizations: Latin v Cyrillic Scripts in Belarus
(2012 Sep 14 13:07)W. R. Wrote:  …[A] book in “new” Belarusian was published only in 1835, that was a small Catholic cathechism.

(2012 Sep 20 17:39)W. R. Wrote:  The letter Ŭŭ in the alphabet is called "nonsyllabic U", as Jj is called "nonsyllabic I".

I guess I am having a fit of autism which causes me to write on this topic now.

Anyway.

For some reason the systems of consonants in Polish and in Belarusian are quite similar. (I may write on this phenomenon later.) Because of that it is possible to write Belarusian texts using the Polish-Latin alphabet. (You will not even need all the letters.) That was what the publishers of the mentioned above Catholic cathechism (1835) did. Later the leaders of the January Uprising (1863–1864) in Belarus did the same.

The first “serious” Belarusian writer (who wrote in Belarusian not occasionally and not as an experiment) was probably Wincenty Dunin-Marcinkiewicz. And he might have been the first one who decided that the nonsyllabic “u” needs a letter on its own. In his translation of “Pan Tadeusz” (1859) he used the italic “u” for the nonsyllabic “u”: napisau, piarawiarnuu.

Franciszek Bohuszewicz continued the tradition. He published his books (or rather booklets) outside of the Russian Empire and had the opportunity to introduce a separate letter for the nonsyllabic “u”: narodaŭ, hadoŭ (”Dudka białaruskaja”, 1891).

The next step was taken by the newspaper “Naša Niwa” (it was published in two alphabets until 31.10.1912). The newspaper replaced Polish sz, ż, cz with š, ž, č for reasons unknown to me. Feel free to speculate on that.

And the last step was replacing Polish-German “w” with “v”. The initiative came from a group of students who sent a letter to the magazine “Šlach moładzi” at the beginning in 1930-ies (Western Belarus, then a part of Poland). The magazine started the trend of using “v”. That completed the evolution of the Belarusian-Latin alphabet. Such a version of the alphabet was used during the German occupation (1941-1944), alongside the Cyrillic alphabet, and later by Belarusian émigrés.

As for the last step, it seems more rational if “Vv” replaced “Ŭŭ”. Then instead of the triad Uu→Ŭŭ→Vv we would have Uu→Vv→Ww. Perfect, is it not? And surely in 1930-ies it would have been much easier to find types with “v” than types with such an unusual letter as “ŭ” for typography.

But I guess they just wanted to keep the cute and adorable letter “Ŭŭ” in the alphabet.

Anyway. As I said the evolution of the alphabet was completed in 1930-ies and the final version was blessed by Doctor Jan Stankievič Himself: “We agreed that he [German Slavicist Max Vasmer] will report to the German authorities our shared opinion that the Belarusian-Latin alphabet does not need reforming.

[...] just as it is not left unto us to choose our ancestors, so we may not choose our nation; we can only fulfil, or not fulfil, the obligations that come from being a member of our people’.
© Dr. Jan Stankievič ‘From the History of Belarus’

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2017 Dec 31 14:19
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RE: Clash of Civilizations: Latin v Cyrillic Scripts in Belarus
This is a pass to home games by Tarpeda (Minsk). The slogan reads Našym honaram jość viernaść — i.e. Our honour is loyalty.

Wew, lads.

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[...] just as it is not left unto us to choose our ancestors, so we may not choose our nation; we can only fulfil, or not fulfil, the obligations that come from being a member of our people’.
© Dr. Jan Stankievič ‘From the History of Belarus’

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2018 Mar 21 18:35
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