Today concluding my translation of the VZGLIAD interview with Ukrainian archaeologist/historian Peter Tolochko. Recall that Tolochko’s book-signing had been disrupted by Ukrainian nationalists belonging to the neo-Nazi Svoboda political party. Tolochko had explained some of the points covered in his book; the issue of the historical origins of “Rus” or “Russia”; the concept of “Ukraine” as a nationality; and why some Ukrainian nationalists get bent sideways at the tiniest fact which challenges their own simplistic and racialistic view of their country’s history.
Although Ukrainian nationalists differ among themselves on some of the finer points of their ideology, I believe it is safe to state that the majority of them believe in these core precepts of their twisted worldview: (1) Ukry are an ancient Aryan race, and (2) therefore racially superior to Russians, who are intermingled with Mongol blood, (3) Mongols being, by definition, an inferior race. Why? Because Hitler said so. Yes, I just dropped the H-word. Gasp!
Moving to a sidebar: When I was searching the internet for this photo of Peter Tolochko, I found this other “translation” of his interview. In fact, a translation of the entire VZGLIAD piece (without attribution) from Russian into pidgin English. This translator, whose name I believe is HAL Mark II comes up with gems such as:
OPINION: Peter, as the presentation you blew off, could you now explain what your new book differ from the previous?
Peter Shcheglov: I Have a book of authorities in Ancient Rus’, but to the subject of the origin of Russia, I got only recently. In the new book considers the perennial question posed by another chronicler Nestor: “where have gone the Russian land”.
Wait a minute! Peter Shcheglov?? Who he? I thought the guy’s name was Tolochko.
Also interesting in this pidgin rendering, and relevant to a discussion with one of my commentators, Alexey, is the translation of the Russian word “pogrom”, while describing the Svoboda actions to disrupt Professor Tolochko’s book presentation. HAL chose to translate “pogrom” as “massacre”. Which is a bit extreme, considering that nobody actually died at the event, unpleasant as it was.
Now, amusing as these computer-generated translations are (and I am actually a huge connoisseur, I like to read them for a good laugh), I sort of disapprove of them, because they are so inaccurate. Some people say, “Better than nothing.” Maybe, and I admit to using Google translate sometimes myself. But just for individual words and phrases. Not for whole stories! Because these are worse than inaccurate. People reading the above will come away thinking there is this man named Peter Shcheglov who was massacred because a woman named Olga worked as a maid in Pskov. Sort of like a twisted murder mystery told by a demented schizophrenic.
In other words, I don’t feel threatened and I am not quite ready yet to shut down my blog and hand this job over to computers. I may not be the greatest writer in the English language — that laurel would have to go to Charles Dickens — but I can certainly do better than penning such gems as: “The Vikings are essentially built into the system.”
Oh, and please do not riposte me with, “Well, computer translations will get better over time.”
No, they won’t. Digital Computers (aka big bloated Turing Machines) are great with regular expressions and fairly good with context-free regular languages. As for human language: Gibberish is as good as they will ever get. If you don’t believe me, then please read up on Alan Turing’s theory of automata and languages.
But enough of this ineffectual and self-indulgent ranting. It is time to continue with a real translation, done by a real, if highly flawed, human being, of Professor Tolochko’s final thoughts on this unpleasant matter of Russian history.
But What About Them Damn Mongols?
VZGLIAD: The Secretary of the Security Council (of Ukrainian government), Alexander Turchinov, declared back in April: “The Ukrainians had their own state with its capital in Kiev long before the appearance of the Moscow Ulus of the Golden Horde.
Professor Tolochko: When these “Ulusy” appeared, then Kiev was also an Ulus, so to speak. And we, indeed, for a certain period of time, were (also) under the Golden Horde. And, as to the essence of the matter, were Turchinov an historian, rather than an economist and Protestant Pastor, then he would have known, that Moscow was, in its time, a component of an overall Russian state space. Moscow arose in the 12th century, later, of course, than Kiev, and it was not the capital at that time, but it acquired its governmental authority not because of the Tatars, but due to its own internal development. Later than Kiev, okay. But what’s so bad about that?
VZGLIAD: Does the current politcal and moral atmosphere (in Ukraine) hamper your scientific work?
Professor Tolochko: My convictions come from knowledge of the subject matter, knowledge of the sources. For many years now I have dwelled more in the world of Kievan Rus than even in the present. I study the ancient manuscripts, I track the Mongols, I journey with princes, I accompany them on their military campaigns and their battles, I converse with the chroniclers….
None of any of this (that is happening) can have any bearing on my professional work. But it will affect the work of the younger generation. I myself am not young any more, and I have acquired a name and a reputation. I am a (respected) Academician, and not just in Ukraine. But can you imagine what would happen if they start to pressure a young historian in such a way? They will simply break him. And by tomorrow he will be writing only the things that they want to hear. This is all very tragic! As a result of this we might lose an entire younger generation of academics.
VZGLIAD: The attackers also accused you of publishing your book “with Russian financing”.
Professor Tolochko: This is actually true, to a large degree. Well, and if I had published it with English financing, what would they have screamed then? They themselves live on American money, they publish a mass of literature (on that money). And they don’t see anything wrong with that. The fact is, that the theme of my book is a general one, it concerns all Eastern Slavs, therefore it is of interest to Russians, as well as Belorussians and Ukrainians. I see nothing shameful in that. If somebody in Ukraine had wanted to finance (the publication of my) book, then please do so! But nobody wanted to.
And just one more word about my book: Whether it is bad, or good, that is the issue. not whose money paid for its publication. These guys were screaming at me: “Why didn’t you present your book in the Ukraine Palace? Are they insane? The “Palace” is a concert hall seating 4,000 people. Can a scholar really be expected to present his book there? And in reality, these (attackers) just came together in their single point of hatred towards me, and towards Russia.
(of all culture as we know it)