Alphabet reform

Detail of library holdings stamp showing old orthographyIn one of the copies of Nikolai Ashmarin‘s An Attempt at the Study of Chuvash Syntax, Part 1 [Опыт исследования чувашского синтаксиса ч.1] (1903), a the Lobachevsky Library at Kazan Federal University, I encountered the holdings stamp shown here. It reads, “R.S.F.S.R Kazan University Library”. The surprising part is that Kazan University and Library are written with the 10-value [и-десятеричное] letter for /i/, “i”, which was replaced in all cases by the current 8-value [и-восьмеричное] letter, “и” with the orthographic reforms declared by Lunacharsky on January 5, 1918 [December 22, 1917, O.S.].  Thus, a stamp like this shouldn’t have been made long after the decree. But the stamp also includes the name Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (R.S.F.S.R.). The post-revolutionary name of Soviet Russia was not conclusively settled until the first Soviet Constitution was passed on July 19, 1918. In particular, the federative portion really shouldn’t have been there until the middle of 1918.

Cover page of Ashmarin's "Attempt"
Cover page of Ashmarin’s “Attempt”

But the stamp is there, a small testament to how centrally-made decisions may reach various regions at various times. The story is only more complicated by the fact that Kazan was contested by the Whites and Reds during the Civil War– later I’ll post on some writings of Ashmarin’s boss, Nikolai Bobrovnikov, that were published during a short period of White control. We do know that the university was something of a bastion of conservatism in the months following the revolution.

Turning to the document itself, we have some reason to believe it might have entered the university collection in 1918 or early 1919, as the Kazan Teachers’ Seminary was reorganized and Ashmarin left his long-time post there. A confused stamp like this probably wasn’t used for long.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *