Tomsk, Russia, June 19, 2019
Representatives of the small indigenous Chulym people of Siberia of Turkic origin, whose name comes from the Chulym River (a tributary of the Ob), mainly live in the Teguldet region of the central Russian Tomsk Province. According to a 2010 census, the number of Chulyms living in Russia does not exceed 360. The Chulym ethnic group was formed in the 13th-14th centuries and was later largely assimilated by the Khakas and Russians.
There are only a few native Chulym speakers left and the language is in danger of entirely dying out. Thus, Fr. Alexei Samsonov, the head of the missionary department of the Tomsk Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, along with native Chulym Vasily Gabov and Tomsk State Pedagogical University linguist Valeria Lemskaya set to work translating the Gospel of Mark into the endangered language, to help teach the Chulym people their own native tongue.
Fr. Alexei received the first edition of the Gospel of Mark in the Chulym language on June 12. With a print run of 400 copies, the majority of the books will go to the library in the village of Novoshumilovo in the Teguldet region, where a cultural center will be created for the villagers to study the language.
A few copies of the translation will be kept in the library at the Tomsk Theological Seminary, and about a dozen will be sent to the village of Pasechnoe in Krasnoyarsk, where a few hundred Chulym also live.
“My greatest joy was when I was translating the Gospel with Vasily Mikhailovich Gabov. It was interesting and exciting, and we have patiently waited for a long time for the release of the first edition,” Fr. Alexei said.
“Now, in addition to the Gospel of Mark, we have already translated the Gospel of John, and Vasily Mikhailovich is translating a third Gospel, of Matthew,” he noted.
The majority of Chulyms profess Orthodoxy, although some shamanistic traditions remain. 12 Chulyms were baptized in the village of Novomushilovo in the spring of 2017, and another 70 were baptized in February 2018 in the villages of Chindat and Pasechnoe.
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