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European Francophonie

The Social, Political and Cultural History of an International Prestige Language


Vladislav Rjéoutski, Gesine Argent and Derek Offord

This volume examines the use of French in European language communities outside France from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. The phenomenon of French language usage is explored in a wide variety of communities, namely Bohemian, Dutch, medieval English, German (Prussian), Italian, Piedmontese, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish. Each chapter offers unique insight into the existence of francophonie in a given language community by providing illustrations of language usage and detailed descriptions of various aspects of it. The volume as a whole explores such sociolinguistic matters as bilingualism and multilingualism, the use of French as a lingua franca and prestige language, language choice and code-switching, variations in language usage depending on class or gender, language attitudes and language education. The sociohistorical and sociocultural matters considered include the association of a variety of language with the court, nobility or some other social group; the function of French as a vehicle for the transmission of foreign cultures; and the role of language in the formation of identity of various kinds (national, social and personal).
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13. Francophonie in Imperial Russia

← 370 | 371 →DEREK OFFORD


Lev Tolstoy’s War and Peace, at least in its early versions and in the fifth edition that came to be considered definitive, famously begins with a conversation conducted by Russians in French. ‘Eh bien, mon prince’, begins Anna Scherer, a maid of honour at the court of Alexander I, at a St Petersburg soirée she is hosting in 1805.

‘Gênes et Lucques ne sont plus que des apanages, des поместья, de la famille Buonaparte. Non, je vous previens, que si vous ne me dites pas, que nous avons la guerre, si vous vous permettez encore de pallier toutes les infamies, toutes les atrocités de cet Antichrist (ma parole, j’y crois) – je ne vous connais plus, vous n’êtes plus mon ami, vous n’êtes plus мой верный раб, comme vous dites.’ […]

‘Dieu, quelle virulente sortie!’ отвечал […] князь […]. Он говорил на том изысканном французском языке, на котором не только говорили, но и думали наши деды […].1

[‘Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes. But I warn you, if you don’t tell me that this means war, if you still try to defend the infamies and horrors perpetrated by that Antichrist – I really believe he is Antichrist – I will have nothing more to do with you and you are no longer my friend, no longer my “faithful slave”, as you call yourself!’ [...]

‘Heavens! what a virulent attack!’ replied the prince [Vasilii Kuragin] […]. He spoke in that refined French in which our grandfathers not only spoke but thought [...].]2

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