Russian Translation of Ramayana

Ramayana Russian Translation Prehistory

Russia is perhaps the only European country where the Valmiki Ramayana, the story of Lord Rama written by the Hindu sage Valmiki, has sold tens of thousands of copies, although only partly available in print. The story of the translations done before 2006 is short.

An eminent indologist Alexander Baranikov first translated the Ramayana into Russian in 1948 (Ramcharitmanas from Hindi, nonValmiki edition). Natalia Guseva, another prominent scholar on India, had written the script for a play based on the Indian epic that was staged in Moscow Children’s Theatre in the Soviet Union for the first time in 1957 (for the first time Valmiki).

In 1986 there was a small book with the poetic translation of selected chapters from Valmiki’s Ramayana. The draft translation from Sanskrit was done by Boris Zakharyn, the poetic Russian translation by Vera Potapova.

Sergey Arkhipov (on the left), Maksim Leonov (in the middle), Mārcis Gasūns (on the right), Moscow, Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 2019
Sergey Arkhipov (on the left), Maksim Leonov (in the middle), Mārcis Gasūns (on the right), Moscow, Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 2019

First Full Russian Academic Translation (2006-)

First full Russian translation of Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa from Sanskrit was undertaken by Dr. Pavel Grincer (1928-2009) in Moscow. Until that nobody in Russia did even try to translate Ramayana in full. It was based on Parab’s 1888 Southern edition. Grinceer preferred it to the critical edition, where the story has several gaps left behind. The only other modern translation of Rayamana, finalised in 40 years by the Goldmans, was based on the critical edition instead and done in USA to English language.

Russian translation of Ramayana was done not in prose, as is the almost finished Russian translation of Mahabharata (three out of 19 books still unstranslated, the XII, XIII and Harivamsha, but the translation project of Mahabharata has stopped), but in a poetic form. We, the members of Sanskrit Zealots’ Society are continuing the poetic translation since 2020, receiving no funding at all, but having everymonth expenses. There are no other full poetic translations of Valmiki’s Ramayana to other European languages.

P. Grincer managed to publish first two (out of seven) books in 2006 of this rather voluminous work. It was almost a 1000 pages volume, where the commentaries made a big part of the publication, as it is the standart for «Literaturniye Pamyatniki» (= «Literary Monuments») academic series. Long out of print, it costs a fortune now at bookseller stores, from 11k to 27k rupees per volume. In Russia, similar to India, books are mostly cheap and the 3rd book can be still found, 10 years after printing, for 1-2k rupees. We want to reprint it since 2019, but lack the support from the editorial board at Russian Academy of Sciences.

The prepared translation together with the critical apparatus of the third book of Ramayana was published posthumously in 2014 by Dr. Sergey Serebyaniy and Dr. Nickolai Grincer, son of P. Grincer. Sergey Serebyaniy from Moscow, once a PhD student of P. Grincer, finalized the editing of P. Grincer’s draft translation of the fourth book by 2018, adding commentaries and an introduction. It is yet to be published in 2024, but as there is no goverment support, we can’t be sure if at all. In 2006 almost all of the Atharhvaveda was printed with the support of Indian Embassy in Moscow, but these days are long gone. Before then the full Russian translation of Rigveda was printed, for which it took 30 years of T. Elizarenkova’s labour.

In 2020 the work has been started on continuing the poetic Russian translation of the fifth book, the Sundarakanda by Maksim Leonov (Moscow), Dr. Mārcis Gasūns (Obninsk) will deal with the commentaries, supported by Ekaterina Kostina (St. Petersbourg). Sundarakanda’s Russian translation has been finalised by 2023. Commentaries and indexes are yet to be developed.

A draft translation of the sixth book, the Yuddhakanda has been started in 2023 (supported by Maria Kulik and Vladimir Gerasko), though the commentaries for Sundarakanda still lack. There is no support for the translation from Russia nor India. We are not sure, if we will be able to continue the work after May 2024, but if support received timely, we want to finish Yuddhakanda’s draft translation by end of 2026. We plan to finish the publishing of Russian Rāmāyaṇa by 2040, if any of us will be alive by that time.

Specimen of the Sanskrit-Russian Parallel Corpus can be seen here since 2013.

Selected papers of Mārcis Gasūns, Youtube channel on Sanskrit NLP and linguistics.

Mārcis Gasūns, 22/02/2021, upd. 24/03/2024