Liturgical translation is nothing new to the Russian Orthodox Church. It has been carried out in the multinational Russian Orthodox lands for centuries, notably first into Zyrian under St Stephen of Perm. More recently, as Russian Orthodox have come into contact with other nationalities, they have translated into ever more languages. Thus, it is now over one hundred years since large amounts of liturgical material were translated into English by Orlov and Hapgood and into German by Archpriest Maltsev.
However, even before this, Russian Orthodox had already come into contact with peoples closer to them, the Finns and the Swedes. Translation into Finnish began in 1845 under F. Friman, a seminarist and later teacher of the St Petersburg Seminary, and gathered great speed after 1865, when it was decided that all parishes in Finland could hold services in the local language. By the early twentieth century, huge amounts had been translated and materials for singing the texts had been prepared. This was the key to the foundation of genuine Finnish Orthodoxy. What can we say of liturgical translation into Swedish?
This began in 1852 when Archpriest Arseny Sudakov, priest at the Russian Embassy in Stockholm, translated the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom into Swedish. In the 1887, when a ‘Commission for the Translation of Liturgical Books into Finnish’ was first established, so too was one for translation into Swedish, a language also used in Finland, then part of the Russian Empire.
Parts of the Book of Needs and other books were translated and published in 1889 and 1891. These were carried out, it seems, by a priest in the Riga Diocese, called Orlov. In 1908 a Fr Lisovsky from the Cathedral in Helsinki translated a compilation of essential Orthodox texts, with explanations, into Swedish. From the same Cathedral Archpriest M.N. Kazansky also encouraged translation into Swedish from 1909 and 1910 on. The foundations of contemporary Swedish Orthodoxy had been laid.
We are indebted for the above to the article of K. I. Logachov ‘On the History of the Translation of Orthodox Liturgical Books into Finnish and Swedish’, in ‘From the History of Orthodoxy to the North and West of Novgorod the Great’, Leningrad, 1989.