This period in Russian translation is called the experimental period,93 since during this time skills were refined. Throughout the 18th century Russian writers imitated, adapted, and experimented with a wide variety of European genres, and translators encountered new problems for the first time.
The 18th century was the period of Peter the Greatís reign and of Petrine reforms. His radical and rapid Westernization of Russia altered all high culture and promoted translation. Himself an erudite, Peter was the first ruler to sponsor education and to actively promote translation of books from western European languages. It was in 1710 that the Old Church Slavonic alphabet was modernized into a secular script. According to the Russian historian Soloviov,94 Peter the Great not only chose what books were to be translated; he also edited translations and instructed translators on how to translate. His main idea was that a translator should learn a craft or science, whereas a scientist or craftsman should master a foreign language to be able to translate well. Peter I focused mainly on technical subjects: engineering, astronomy, geophysics, and jurisprudence, civil and military. He never included theological literature in the list of books to be translated.
With Russia adopting Western technology and culture, the major challenge for the translators of the time was rendering terms. Historians tell us the tragic story of a Volkov who, in despair at being unable to translate French technical terms, cut his veins, committing suicide.95
There existed at this time several trends for rendering terms: 1) borrowing a foreign term form (which led to term obscurity); 2) translating or substituting by Russian words - which often coined clumsy and cumbersome terms and expressions, such as Trediakovís equivalents: ŠŚÁžŚŮÚŤŚ for French absurdite, śŗū ŤŮÚůÔŽŚŪŤˇ for enthousiasme, ŮŤŽŗ ÍŗÔŚŽŚÍ for essence; 3) combining a loan form and explication (this third way was used by A. Kantemir and M. Lomonosov.)
Beginning in the 1760s, the technical translation boom gave turn to a fiction translation surge. It was at this time that Russia came to know foreign literature. The demand for western European artistic and cultural works grew increasingly in the salons of St. Petersburg. By the 1780s the major classics of European literature had become easily available in translation to any educated person.
Rapid growth of fiction translation marked the reign of Catherine II the Great. That period was called ďthe golden age of translationĒ, since it brought the major European masterpieces to Russia. Much classical and western European literature was translated, read, and assimilated, thus producing a kind of telescopic effect, as works and movements that were centuries apart were absorbed at the same time.96
Catherine's reign saw real accomplishment in translation. In 1768, the empress decreed to grant annually five thousand rubles to translators of foreign books. To control the fund, she established the Society for the Translation of Foreign Books (Sobranije perevodčikov) headed by Counts V.Orlov and A. Shuvalov and Collegiate Councillor G. Kozitsky. The Translatorís Council functioned until 1783. It employed over 110 translators; among them were Trediakovsky, Sumarokov and Radishchev. More than 173 volumes were translated and published, among them works by Voltaire, Charles de Montesquieu, Denis Diderot, Jonathan Swift, Pierre Corneille, Carlo Goldoni, Homer and others.97 Sometimes literary works were not translated from the source text but from other translations; for example, novels by H. Fielding were translated first from English into French, then from French into German, and only then from German into Russian.
The last decade of the 18th century saw the establishment of the Translation Department with the Academy of Sciences, the initiative of its foundation belonging to Princess (Knyaginya) Y. Dashkova. Such undertakings testify to the governmentís attention to translation policy.
The century's major contribution was the development of a literary language. Under the pressure of new subject matter and the influx of foreign expressions, Church Slavonic proved inadequate, and the resulting linguistic chaos required the standardization of literary Russian by combining Russian and Church Slavonic. Translation difficulties of the period were caused by the contradiction between message and style. Old Russian literature was famous for its theological, clerical, rhetorical, chronicle, and folk poetry genres. But literature for pleasure reading was unknown to the Russian reader. Hence, the conflict between word and content.
The theoretical views and practice of Russian translators of that day were influenced by the dominant aesthetics of classicism.
One of the most prominent figures of 18th century literature and translation was Vasily Trediakovsky, a Russian literary theoretician and poet whose writings contributed to the classical foundations of Russian literature. Trediakovsky was a prolific translator of classical authors, medieval philosophers, and French literature. His translations frequently aroused the ire of the censors, and he fell into disfavour with his Academy superiors and conservative court circles.
Trediakovskyís classicist attitude toward translation - to reflect an ideal rather than the source text - was confirmed by his assertion that a translator differs from an author only by name. As a classicist Trediakovsky adapted his translation to the rigorous norms of contemporary aesthetics. Thus he updated translated works, leaving out their historic coloring. His last major work was a translation of Fénelon's Les aventures de Télémaque (1766; Tilemakhida), which he rendered in Russian hexameters.
Another Russian poet and translator, Alexandr Sumarokov,viewed translation in a contradictory way. On the one hand, he attacked translators who, in his opinion, interfered with the development of national literature. On the other hand, as any Russian writer of the 18th century, he made an attempt at translating. Translating Racine, Sumarokov manifested a very delicate approach to the foreign text. Influenced by French drama, he transplanted the conventions of French theater to dramas dealing with Russian history. This earned him the flattering epithet "Racine of the North.Ē98
As the 18th century creator he often followed the classicist track and composed free translation, the example being his adaptation of Hamlet (1748). That work could hardly be regarded as translation (Sumarokov was even offended by Trediakovskyís words about his having translated Shakespeareís tragedy). As a classicist, Sumarokov did not tend to convey in Russian an individual style of a foreign literary work but he was apt to create a new work, close to the ďidealĒ.
The 18th century translatorsí ideal was to adapt a foreign text to the Russian reality and culture by substituting a foreign local coloring with the Russian one (for example, substituting foreign names with their Russian counterparts).
The second third of the century knew another literary trend which also had an influence on translation Ė sentimentalism. The dominant figure of Russian sentimentalism was Nikolay Karamzin, Russian historian, author of the very popular story Bednaya Liza (1792, Poor Liza). Karamzin's importance also lies in his contribution to the Russian literary language.
Karamzin was an advocate of foreign literature. He himself translated a lot and was a translation critic. It was he who familiarized the Russian reader with a number of European authors, especially sentimentalists. The main idea of sentimentalists in translation was the possibility of changing the source text according to the subjective comprehension and taste of the translator, rather than the community aesthetic ethos.