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Friedrich Engels

“The bourgeoisie have raised monuments to the classics. If they’d read them, they’d have burned them.”

- Friedrich Engels

The musician, musicologist and classical scholar, Yulyan Dreyzin (1879–1942), was a prolific translator — turning into his native Belarusian numerous canonical opera libretti and plays and poems from ancient Greece. His dictionary, Muzychnya Terminy (1926), literally set the terms for musicology in the Belarusian language. He also established the first ever public symphonic orchestra in the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR) and penned the groundbreaking book Music and Revolution (1927).

Dreyzin graduated first from the medical faculty at the University of Tartu, before going on to study Classics in Moscow. In 1908 he graduated from Moscow University’s historical-philological faculty, before moving back to the Belarusian city of Mahilyow, where he taught Latin and Greek. Later he continued to teach the classical languages in Minsk, but his interests and efforts increasingly shifted towards Musicology, which he taught in various establishments including the Belarusian Pedagogical College, Belarusian State Conservatory, Belarusian State University, and the Institute of Belarusian Culture. As such he was an extremely important promotor of Belarusian language and culture, as well as of Greek and Latin culture.

He translated the Sophoclean tragedies Antigone and Oedipus Rex, Euripides’ Bacchae, Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, the first book of Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura, and the first book of Homer’s Odyssey (with Mikhayla Hramyka). These were the first translations from Greek and Latin into Belarusian, and remain to this day the main translations of the classical texts. Only Antigone and extracts of Homer was published during the life of Yulyan Dreyzin.[1] His translation of The Bacchae appeared in print only in 2012.[2]

On the wave of anti-Belarusian repression (Stalin considered belarusization and other politics of nationalization in the USSR “counter-revolutionary”), Dreyzin moved in 1935 to Nemchinovka on the outskirts of Moscow. In the last years of his life he taught ancient Greek at Moscow State University and Moscow Pedagogical Institute.

This profile was written by Hanna Paulouskaya

[1] Sophocles, Antyhona, transl. Yulyan Dreyzin (Minsk: CB Maladnyak, 1926); Homer, “Razvitane Hektara z Andromakhay, Iliada VI, 390–496″ [The parting of Hector and Andromache, Ilias, VI, 390–496], transl. Yulyan Dreyzin, Uzvyshsha  3 (1928) 113–115.

[2] Euripides, “Bakkhanki”, transl. Yulyan Dreyzin, Ales Zhlutka, ed., Dzeyaslow 61 (2012) 222–258.

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