Contact: Yvonne French (202) 707-9191

September 18, 1997

Library of Congress Publication Describes Early Relations Between Russian Church and Native Americans in Alaska

The Library of Congress has published a book based on research conducted for the 1994 exhibition "In the Beginning Was the Word: The Russian Church and the Native Alaskan Cultures."

The publication, _The Russian Orthodox Church of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands and Its Relation to Native American Traditions--An Attempt at a Multicultural Society, 1794-1912_, is based on an exhibition at the Library of Congress that celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska. The exhibition showed documents selected from the large archives of the church that are in the collections of the Library. It included translations by missionary priests of the New Testament from Russian and Church Slavonic (the sacred language of the Russian Orthodox Church) into several native languages, including two Aleut dialects, two varieties of Alaskan Eskimo, and Tlingit.

The translations were used in church and school. At some parish schools, as many as four languages were studied: the native tongue, English, Russian and Church Slavonic. Latin was added in high school.

The 61-page publication, by Vyacheslav Ivanov, the curator of the exhibition, includes a 12-page bibliography, and covers such topics as translations into native languages and linguistic studies, multilingual school education, and the social and religious aspects of communication.

"The interaction of coexisting cultures may be seen at different . . . levels. Thus a Christian image of St. John the Baptist was carved by a native Aleut craftsman in his traditional manner," wrote Mr. Ivanov, who reads several hundred languages, ranging from Navaho to the indigenous languages of Siberian tribes. As a member of the Soviet parliament, he represented the liberal Moscow intellectuals, and as a former director of the Library of Foreign Literature in Moscow he promoted in Russia the central role that libraries play in democratic societies. Mr. Ivanov currently is a professor of Slavic languages and literatures at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The Russian Orthodox Church of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands and Its Relation to Native American Traditions--An Attempt at a Multicultural Society, 1794-1912 is available for $4.25 from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. When ordering, cite stock number 030-001-00167-9. Credit card orders are taken at (202) 512-1800 and fax orders at (202) 512-2250.

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PR 97-141
9/18/97
ISSN 0731-3527

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