Leningrad: izdaniye Tsentrizdata, 1930.
109 pp.,  pp.: ads. 12.6x17.5 cm. In original publisher’s wrappers. Loss of the pieces of the spine and a few tiny pieces of the front wrapper (with text affected). Otherwise in a good condition.
Scarce. First edition of the Russian-German phrasebook compiled by the German Soviet writer and translator Thea Schnittke (1889-1970).
This Russian-German phrasebook was published in 1930, and as indicated in the introduction to the edition, was intended “to give those traveling to Germany the opportunity to speak German on topics that are urgent on the road”.
The publication came out at the time when the Soviet citizens still had a chance, although limited (permission was granted mostly to party members, the costs of travel could rarely be afforded by the ordinary citizens), to visit foreign countries. Interestingly, already a year after the phrasebook was published, the Soviet government introduced the following norm in the Instruction on entry into and exit from the USSR: «Permits to travel abroad, for travel on private business, are issued to Soviet citizens in exceptional cases.» The Instruction became a precursor of the Iron Curtain (1946) which lasted until May 20, 1991.
Apparently, the phrasebook was also published for Volga Germans, who were recruited as immigrants to Russia in the 18th century and were allowed to maintain their culture, language, traditions, and churches. By the mid-1930s, the population of the Volga German ASSR consisted of more than 300,000 Germans, which amounted to over 55% of the whole population. Before the outbreak of the Second World War, the Volga German Soviet Socialist Republic was dissolved, with most of the Germans being expelled and sent to Siberia and the Kazakh SSR.
The edition consists of over 25 sections organized in accordance with different travel topics: Before the departure, At the station, At the post office, At the hairdresser, Geographical names, Water, Conversation in a cabin, At a hotel, etc. The phrasebook also includes a brief review of phonetics and a vocabulary that is systemized according to Russian alphabet. Each section of the edition starts with a dialogue. Some of the chapters were compiled by A. Zhabotinsky and M. Rozenfel’d.
Overall, an interesting document of the time when German was not considered the language of the enemy in the USSR.
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