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The Russian-Hebrew Connection
At first glance, it is difficult to see how Hebrew can be translated into Russia. The two different sets of letters and symbols reflect two totally divergent cultures. However, the two languages have a connection that dates back many centuries and spans several continents.
The Jews of Russia immigrated to the Caucases in the seventh century from Greece, Babylonia, Persia and the Middle East, bringing with them a cacophony of different languages, and a smattering of Hebrew gleaned from biblical texts. During the 1700’s, the Hasidic movements moved eastwards from Europe bringing with them a new language—Yiddish, a combination of Hebrew and various
European languages used as lingua franca by the European Jews of that time.
The Jews who arrived in Russia during this period were part of the “Haskala” or Jewish enlightenment movement. The “maskilim” or enlightened ones used Russian as their language, and a Jewish press existed using Hebrew, Yiddish, and Russian.
Towards the end of the 19th Century, after decades of pogroms, expulsions and forced conversions, the Zionist movement gained a massive following among all segments of Russian Jewish society. This led to the spread of Hebrew as a spoken language and was accompanied by a tremendous growth in both Yiddish and Hebrew literature, including great writers such Chayim Nachman Bialik, Ahad Ha’am, Saul Tchernichowsky, and the Yiddish/Russian writer Shalom Aleichem. Herein was the beginning of the Russian-Hebrew-Yiddish language blend that accompanied the Jews of Russia straight through to the 20th Century.
By the end of World War II in Russia, Yiddish had been completely replaced by Russian. Hebrew continued to be used for learning Talmud and clandestine classes in the Hebrew language were taught. When the Jews were allowed to finally leave, most of them immigrated to Israel where, at long last, the Russian and Hebrew languages finally came together.
Since the influx of Russian immigration in the 1980’s, many words in Modern Hebrew have emerged. Israel’s “Russification” has altered English words which in turn have become part of the Hebrew lexicon. One such alteration is the Russian suffix—acia—which replaces the English suffix—ation in words such as “industrializacia” for industrialization and “ratacia” for rotation.