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Why in the 18th century in Russia the Russian language was expelled from high society and how it was returned
Why in the 18th century in Russia the Russian language was expelled from high society and how it was returned

Respect for the native language, its enrichment and development is all the guarantee for the preservation of the Russian heritage and the development of culture. At certain periods in Russian speech and writing, there was a borrowing of foreign words, expressions and models. First, the main source of foreign words in Russian was Polish, then German and Dutch, then French and English. The lexical fund was enriched through the development of science, culture, politics, and international relations. In different periods, the attitude towards the Russian language has changed. There were times when the Russian language was literally expelled from the salons, it was shameful to speak it, but it happened that, on the contrary, the tsars, by order, forced them to speak exclusively in it.

Reforms of Peter I

Before Peter I came to the throne, foreign languages ​​in Russia were not particularly popular either among ordinary people or among the educated elite of society. The philologist and literary critic Lev Petrovich Yakubinsky wrote in his works that during this period they treated foreign language lessons with caution, as they were afraid that various Lutheran and Catholic trends could penetrate into the heads of Russians. But Tsar Peter I studied German from an early age, over time he also studied French, English and Dutch, and according to some sources he understood several other languages.

Peter I tried to improve speech etiquette in accordance with the challenges of the time, bringing it closer to the practice of European communication

At the beginning of the 18th century, after language reforms, a large number of foreign citizens began to come to Russia, and children of noble origin began to be sent to study in European countries. From that moment on, the great and mighty Russian language acquired countless foreign words, for example, ballast, globe, varnish, optics, navy and others. Now people were not afraid and did not consider it shameful to learn foreign languages. Moreover, they wanted to be equal to His Majesty, who knows many different languages, so it became a kind of fashion.

But Elizaveta Petrovna, the future empress, was taught French not because of fashion, but because of the father's calculation to marry his daughter to a representative of the French Bourbon dynasty. This was, one might say, the main reason for training with such a deep bias, because titled girls at that time only needed to be able to write and read.

Until the 18th century, primers were written in the traditional Slavic church language, in which children studied the Divine Book of Hours and the Psalter. They started learning after memorizing individual syllables. The Russian literary language began to develop as a separate branch from the church only after the reform of the alphabet, where, so to speak, the civil script was approved.

And in 1710, Peter I approved the first edition of the newest alphabet. And already in the 1730s, collections on Russian philology began to appear in German and Latin. Such languages ​​were chosen for a reason, because it was so accepted in scientific circles. It was only in 1755 that encyclopedic scientist Mikhail Vasilyevich Lermontov wrote Russian grammar in his native language. And in the 1820s, the philologist and prose writer Grech Nikolai Ivanovich was the first to publish detailed textbooks of the Russian literary language.

What language did the elite of society speak

An obligatory program for future and newly-made rulers' wives was to study the language of the country where they will now live. The most striking example was the German woman Sophia Frederica Augusta, daughter of the Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, the future Empress Catherine II, who immediately upon arrival in Russia began to study this country: language, history, traditions, Orthodoxy, and so on. After all, now this huge power has become its homeland. Three teachers were immediately assigned to the future empress: teacher Vasily Adadurov taught her the Russian language, choreographer Lange taught her dances, and Bishop of the Russian Church Simon Todorsky taught Orthodoxy.

German woman Sofia Frederika Augusta is an example of a diligent student who could ideally learn Russian

The student was so diligent that she studied even at night, memorizing her notes in order to get to know Russia faster. An interesting fact is that such a zeal for learning almost ruined her. Sophia Frederica August was engaged in frosty nights at an open window, as a result of which she got pneumonia. Her condition was so bad that her mother wanted to call a Lutheran pastor, but her daughter asked to bring her teacher Simon Todorsky. By this act, she earned respect at court. And soon, having adopted Orthodoxy, she was named Catherine.

At the court of Russia, there was another worthy example of the transformation from a German into a Russian woman - the wife of Alexander I, Elizaveta Alekseevna. It was said about her that she knows our language, history, customs and religion, perhaps better than all the women of Russia.

But Alexandra Fedorovna, the wife of Nicholas I, on the contrary, failed to perfectly learn Russian. Perhaps the reason for this was the Russian poet Vasily Andreevich Zhukovsky, who was her teacher. The poet devoted more time to highly spiritual and cultural values ​​than, for example, conjugation and declension of words. Therefore, the girl was embarrassed for a long time to speak Russian because of her accent and grammatical errors, especially with regard to social events.

But already at the beginning of the 19th century, the main language of living rooms was not Russian, but French. Moreover, he so supplanted the native language that girls of aristocratic titles knew Russian, one might say, at the everyday level, and some did not speak it at all.

But the guys from noble families studied Russian quite diligently. This was justified by the fact that they were soon to serve in the army and command soldiers from ordinary families who understand only their native language. An interesting fact is that teachers from Europe taught children foreign languages, but Russian children were often taught by their servants. As a result, the aristocrats often slipped distorted or illiterate words, such as "entot", "egoy" and many others. But no one paid much attention to such mistakes in speech, but if you make mistakes in speaking French, then society could ridicule the speaker or take it for ignorance.

By the way, the family of Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin spoke exclusively in French. So as a child, the future poet spoke his native language only with his beloved nanny and grandmother. But soon Aleksandr Sergeevich was hired as teachers of the Russian language, which helped him a lot during his studies at the Tsar's Lyceum, since they taught there in his native language.

The golden age of Russian literature

The tendency to popularize European languages ​​was rapidly gaining momentum, and already in 1820 at court, especially in the presence of ladies, it was, so to speak, uncivilized to speak Russian. But literally a dozen years later, a new round in the history of the native language began - the golden age of Russian literature. Moreover, it was prepared back in the 17th-18th centuries, but it became firmly established in the 19th century, mainly thanks to Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin, who made the main contribution to the formation of the Russian literary language.

Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin made the main contribution to the formation of the Russian literary language

The beginning was laid at one of the balls, where the maid of honor Ekaterina Tizengauzen read a poem by Alexander Pushkin, which he composed specifically for this event.By the way, only seventeen poems were read at the ball, only three of which were in Russian, and the rest in French.

Emperor Nicholas I spoke out in defense of the Russian language. During his reign, all documents were again kept in their native language, with the exception of diplomatic letters. All foreign citizens who came to serve in Russia now took an exam in the Russian language. The favorite language also changed at court. Now everyone spoke Russian, regardless of rank and gender.

Under Emperor Nicholas I, all office work began to be conducted in Russian

Since most of the ladies from high society did not know Russian, they went for tricks. Often, some girl was on guard for the sovereign, giving a sign to others when he approached. Conversations in French immediately ended and conversations in Russian began. Moreover, the girls often memorized just a couple of phrases in Russian, so that they would last for a while while the emperor passed by. And the sovereign, passing next to the girls, was proud of himself that he had returned his native language at court.

Emperor Alexander III was also an adherent of the Russian, who ordered to address him only in Russian. He made an exception only when his wife Maria Fedorovna, born in Denmark, was next to him. Although she was fluent in Russian, French was spoken in her presence.

Only in the presence of his wife Maria Feodorovna did Alexander III allow to speak French

The only thing that remained unchanged was the hired overseas governess for the children of high society. By the way, at the end of the 19th century, English became the favorite language of the aristocracy. Moreover, the most chic was the ability to speak French, but with an English accent. In the family of Nicholas II, English literally became the home language, the sovereign had an ideal pronunciation, but in conversations in Russian he still heard a slight accent.

While the nobles were learning European languages, changing their preferences, the situation with the language barrier reached the point of absurdity. Already at the beginning of the 20th century, aristocrats were often unable to understand the speech of ordinary people and their subjects. So literary Russian began to be used in all spheres of life, not only among the middle nobility, but also in the upper strata of society.

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