In St. Petersburg, publisher “Lema” has released a collection of poems by famous Vepsian poet and journalist Nikolai Abramov, “Ojat-jogjen randal…” (“On the banks of the river Oyat…”). The work was published in Cyrillic, despite the fact that the official orthography for Vepsian is in the Latin alphabet.
Compiler of the collection, Maksim Kuznetsov told the FINUGOR that the book was published with personal funds. “This Vepsian collection is only an experimental run, just 25 books in all. If it becomes necessary, we can print more,” he explained. “To get ahold of one, just contact me directly by email at email@example.com. You can also order one via the feedback form on the site veps-kir.ucoz.ru. I’ll be sending a few books by Russian Post to Petrozavodsk.”
The collection contains over 90 poems by Mr. Abramov. On the cover is a photograph taken by him of the Oyat river flowing through Vepsian land for the exhibition “Reflection of White Countryside.”
Mr. Kuznetsov reported that as far as he knows, it is the third Cyrillic book published in the entire history of the Vepsian language. The first was the P. Uspensky dictionary in 1913, and the second was the R. F. Maksimovaya and E. V. Kottinaya primer in 1992.
Publishing a collection of Vepsian texts in Cyrillic was the goal of the compiler. “It’s not the first year I’m studying Vepsian Cyrillic. Vepsian Wikia and VVICP (Vepsian, Votic, and Izhorian Cyrillic Project) are my projects. The last one, by the way, is always being filled with new interesting materials, not only in Vepsian, but also in Votic. It’s a fact that lots of Vepsians living in villages don’t understand the Latin alphabet, and don’t consider it their native writing system, but rather something foreign, and even alien,” he noted. “In general, I think it’s very strange that a language in Russia should progress in the Latin alphabet. In Karelia, for example, one of the reasons that the Karelian language cannot be used by the state is the fact that it uses the Latin alphabet. The fact that closely related languages use the Latin alphabet is not an argument. An example is the Saami and Eskimo languages, where dialects in Russia use Cyrillic, and foreign ones use the Latin alphabet show the opposite. It is precisely for that reason that I want to make it possible for the Vepsian language to be written in Cyrillic in addition to the Latin alphabet. Achieving that would be a lot more real if Vepsians see that and approve. This being said, it’s important that what’s written in the book is perceived by older people as a lot better than what is written on the Internet. I hope the new publication becomes a pleasant gift for them.”
Also symbolic is the fact that the Abramov’s poems were chosen. “A book of Abramov’s poetry, Koumekümne koume,” in 1994 became the first literary publication in the Vepsian language. The fact that another Abramov collection became the first Vepsian Cyrillic book in the 21st century is very symbolic to me,” highlighted Kuznetsov, explaining where his personal preferences come from in the present situation. “In principle, I don’t like poetry much, but Abramov’s poetry is something I like a lot. Vepsian poetry sounds very beautiful. The epic poem Virantanaz, for example, is just such a beautiful thing. It should be noted that this work was published with Abramov’s personal permission. He even gave advice on what to put on the cover.”