Pereverzev, Ivan

Pereverzev, Ivan [Переверзєв, Іван; Pjerjevjerzjev], b 1745 probably in the Kursk region, Russian Empire, d summer 1796 in Kharkiv. Educator and scholar. A graduate of Kharkiv College (1769), he taught there history and geography until 1775, and then spent 13 years teaching at the Orthodox theological seminary in Voronezh, situated in a region with mixed Russian and Ukrainian population. After 1780 he again worked in Kharkiv, heading the regional system of popular education.

Albeit a descendant of Great Russian gentry, Pereverzev deeply sympathised with the Ukrainians whom he described as a people in whom ‘the spirit of European humanism, altogether alien to the Asian savagery, nourishes the inner feelings with a sort of profound delight, while the spirit of dignity, having become a hereditary quality of the locals, precludes slavish humility and baseness, and obeys the voice of the authorities in a self-conscious way, without any servility.’ At the same time, Pereverzev pointed out that the Ukrainians’ ‘general spirit of competition impedes the ways to despotism and monopoly.’ He offered an interesting portrayal of the local population in his Topograficheskoe opisanie Khar'kovskago naměstnitstva ... (Topographic Description of Kharkiv Vicegerency ...; Moscow, 1788; republished Kharkiv, 1865 and 1888; Kyiv, 1991; Moscow 2012), a work that also contains valuable information on the region’s history, geography, demography, and economy.

The term Ukrainian was applied by Pereverzev to what is now called Slobidska Ukraine, whereas he used the designation Little Russians to refer to the totality of the population inhabiting the lands from the Don River to the Zbruch River, historically known as Ruthenians (Rusyny).

A prolonged separation of the Little Russian lands from the Northern or Great Russia produced, according to Pereverzev, a complete transformation of its population, forming from it ‘a sort of foreign nation,’ speaking a specific idiom to be considered as ‘a particular language of the Slavic race.’ As such, he directly contrasted their speech to the Northern or Great Russian idiom, claiming that the difference between them had been caused by the diverse circumstances of various foreign rules (Tatar, Lithuanian, Polish and Hungarian). On the other hand, he recognized the existence of internal differences within the Little Russian speech that was comprised of two large dialectal zones—Northern and Southern—easily distinguishable to the ear by their different reflexes of o in the so-called newly closed syllables: uo and i respectively (eg, stuol versus stil ‘table’). Consequently, the Ukrainian (ie, Slobidska Ukraine) dialect (see Slobidska Ukraine dialects) belonged, in his view, to the Southern Little Russian zone.

Pereverzev’s duties in the system of popular education pressed upon him the expediency of issuing a language manual to serve the needs of local pupils, entitled Kratkija pravila Rossijskago pravopisanija, is raznykh Grammatik vybrannyja i po svojstvu Malorossijskago dialekta dlja upotrebljenija Malorossian dopolnennyja v Khar'kově (Brief Rules of Russian Spelling Selected from Various Grammars and Completed in Kharkiv for the Use of Little Russians Following the Nature of the Ukrainian Dialect; Moscow 1782; republished Moscow 1787 and Paris 2010). In reality, he took into consideration, apart from Ukrainian, some features proper to the Great Russian dialect spoken in Moscow and on the surrounding territories, and warned his readers that none of them is identical with the common standard language as used in the entire country. Yet neither was this standard (and rather recent) language variety identical with the traditional Church Slavonic, due to the clerical character of the latter and the secular character of the former. In broad outline, the standard Pereverzev wished his pupils to master had to follow, for the most part, the grammatical properties of Great Russian and the phonetic properties of Ukrainian.

Pereverzev’s comparativist approach to language teaching induced him to come up with a pioneering contribution to the scholarly description of some prominent features of the Ukrainian (Slobidska Ukraine) dialect. In phonology, these included the non-distinction of the etymological i and ̌y (both pronounced as a mid-way sound y); the realization of the etymological o as i ‘in some words,’ and of the etymological ě (the so-called jat') as a still sharper i in all positions; the pronunciation of the Greek θ as ft in Greek loan words; the dispalatalization of some (labial) consonants and the non-devoicing of the voiced consonants word-finally. In accentuation, Pereverzev also indicated some peculiarities of the Ukrainian (Slobidska Ukraine) dialect, differing in this respect both from the Great Russian dialect and from the common standard. His observations in the field of morphology, although of a sporadic nature, included some important points concerning, especially, the conjugation of verbs. He noted the existence of desinences such as -e and et' (bere ‘takes’, idet' ‘goes’) in 3rd person singular; and -emo (ědemo ‘[we] ride’) in 1st person plural; and of -v (pysav ‘[I/you/he] wrote) in the past tense masculine singular, while in the imperfective future tense he draw attention to the innovative forms with the suffix –ym-, of the type pysatymu ‘I will write’ and smiiatymus' ‘I will laugh.’ With respect to adjectives, he mentioned the use of their contracted feminine forms like synia ‘blue.’ Another distinctive feature of Ukrainian he drew attention to was the non-distinction of the prepositional values ‘from inside’ and ‘from a surface’ (cf. Russian iz and s respectively), as both these meanings were expressed with the help of one preposition z. A partly syntactic issue is touched upon in his remark about the inconsistencies in the expression of animateness of nouns by the Ukrainians who had the habit of saying, eg, kupil voly ‘[He] bought some oxen’ instead of the correct standard form volov.

Although the scope of actual influence of Pereverzev’s Brief Rules… is difficult to determine, it is worth noting that Hryhorii Skovoroda, for example, took them into account while re-writing the manuscript of his dialogue Silenus Alcibiadis (in the second half of the 1780s).

Vakulenko, Serhii. ‘Ivan Pereverzev i pochatky porivnial'noho doslidzhennia rosiis'koi ta ukraïns'koi mov,’ Zasoby navchal'noï ta naukovo-doslidnoï roboty, 1998, vyp. 5
Wakulenko, Serhij. ‘Sprachvergleich und Sprachkonstruktion bei Iwan Perewersjew,’ Sprachdiskussion und Beschreibung von Sprachen im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert, ed. by G. Haßler, P. Schmitter (Münster 1999)
Archaimbault, Sylvie; Wakoulenko, Serhii. Un comparatiste avant la lettre: Ivan Pereverzev et ses ‘Préceptes de la rectitude grammatical russe… à l’usage des Ukrainiens’ (1782) (Paris 2010)
Masliichuk, Volodymyr. ‘Do biohrafiï Ivana Pereverzieva, kharkivs'koho istoryka ta movoznavtsia kintsia XVIII st.,’ Visnyk Natsional'noho tekhnichnoho universytetu ‘KhPI’, 2015, no. 56 (1165)
———. ‘Uchylyshchna reforma ta pershi uchylyshcha v Kharkivs'komu namisnytstvi (Slobids'ko-Ukraïns'kii huberniï) u 1788–1798 rr.,’ Ukraïns'kyi arkheohrafichyi shchorichnyk, 2016, vol. 22–23
Naumov, Serhii. ‘Pro “patrїotyzm” Ivana Pereverzieva,’ Visnyk Kharkivs'koho natsional'noho universytetu im. V. N. Karazina 2020, seriia Istoriia Ukraïny. Ukraïnoznavstvo: istorychni ta filosofs'ki nauky, vyp. 30 (2020)

Serhii Vakulenko

[This article was written in 2022.]

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