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Online talk by Andrew Jameson on The Riddle of the Two Slavonic Alphabets

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Andrew continues his lecture series on the Russian language. This time the subject is the Russian alphabet.

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Andrew Jameson continues his lecture series on the Russian language. This time the subject is the Russian alphabet - or rather alphabets.

Of course there is only one Russian alphabet, called Cyrillic? Wrong! There were two, one of which was a perfect rendition of a Slav language (although it wasn’t Russian), and one which is a mishmash which was only codified in the last century. Who was Cyril? He wasn’t called Cyril, he was called Constantine. Which alphabet did he invent? The first one. Which alphabet did Russian end up with? The second one. So why is it called Cyrillic? And how did the monk Khrabr let the cat out of the bag?

Andrew Jameson came top of course in Russian language and radio technology at the Joint Service Language School, and served in signals intelligence at Flugplatz Gatow in Berlin. At Oxford he played leading roles in Russian plays and first visited Russia when Khrushchev was in power.

At Essex University he formed part of a group who produced ground-breaking BBC Russian courses. At the same time he worked for the Nuffield-funded Russian Language Project, requiring two long stays in Russia as a sound recordist, collecting samples of different styles of Russian, and also set up a sound archive of Russian recordings.

Still in Russia he met prominent Russian linguists, and a number of well-known dissidents of the time. He was able to make further recordings on his own account of Russian bards, etc., and (most importantly) copies of readings at a Russian literary salon which included prominent writers, including Solzhenitsyn, Akhmatova, Ginzburg and others.

Next he moved to Portsmouth Polytechnic, helped design a new degree in Russian and recruited 25 students at the first intake, before moving to Lancaster University. During a long stay here he created with colleague Mike Kirkwood a well-designed beginners intensive language course to degree level, and developed interests in translation theory, Russian lexicology and substandard Russian (slang). On taking early retirement he worked in Russian AE as before and also as a professional translator, and lectured on English linguistics and English studies for periods of 1-2 months per year in universities in St Petersburg, Moscow and Khabarovsk/Birobidzhan.

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