What does this awesome 105-year-old Armenian-language Austro-Hungarian postcard say?
August 25, 2010 7:10 AM   Subscribe

I just bought a postcard written in what looks like Armenian sent from what is now Lviv to what is now Chernivtsi (in what is now Ukraine), sometime between 1905 and (I'm guessing from the stamp) the end of the First World War/Austrian rule of Galicia. What does it say?

Here are the largest possible sizes of the front (with date?) and back.

A few notes:

- The "12.-" in pencil under the address is what I paid for the postcard.
- The destination was on the border of Transylvania and East Galicia. Map here.
- The "well-born" Mr. Wenzel Hirschmuller seems to have worked at what is now Chernivtsi University.

Finally, I'm in Lviv now - if anyone's got any information on where I could find some Armenians-in-Lviv resources either here or on the Internet, in English (!), that would be amazing.

Thank you!
posted by mdonley to Writing & Language (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
If it is Armenian I could translate for you but unfortunately the handwriting is not that legible to me.
posted by eatcake at 8:32 AM on August 25, 2010

I can't read Armenian but I know that it used to be a big Armenian community in Lviv. There is still a beautiful ancient Armenian Cathedral there, which is totally worth visiting!
May be staff at the church can point you out to more resources.

Here there are a couple of links you might find useful
posted by ivanka at 9:28 AM on August 25, 2010

I have absolutely no idea, but you might want to try asking on the Omniglot forum (though it's an awful lot of text to translate) or somehow getting it on the Omniglot blog (never figured out how things get on that).

I've seen many odd languages translated on that site, as it seems to be populated by linguists, linguaphiles...language fans.
posted by Fortran at 11:56 AM on August 25, 2010

I spent a lot of time exploring around Chernowitz, as I like to call it. And one of the best places to explore there is the cemetery (the big one) where you can see the incredible and quick transition of ethnicity (based on names and dates of tombstones) go from German to a combination of German and "German" Jewish to more Yiddish speakers, to the disappearance of Yiddish speakers (and all other Jews) to a mix of mostly Romanians with a few Germans to no Germans and some Romanians, with an increasing number of Ukrainians, to near total Ukrainian dominance . . . all within less than a century.

When this postcard was written, the city was dominated by German and Yiddish speakers - based on my informal tombstone study. There were other, smaller populations of people there, so it could be Armenian. But I wonder, based on the time and the name of the addressee, if this couldn't be some form of cursive Yiddish script. It'd make more sense. Unfortunately, though Yiddish isn't hard for me to make out a bit when it's written in Roman script, typewritten Hebraic letters are largely beyond me, and handwriting . . . no way. I'm just not the girl to recognise what this actually is. I myself would ask languagehat, because he'd certainly know a few people who would know.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:26 PM on August 25, 2010

No, it's definitely Armenian handwriting, and pretty legibly written. I'm sure anyone who knows the language could translate it for you. Unfortunately, I am not that person.
posted by languagehat at 1:16 PM on August 25, 2010

Hey there. Late to the party... On vacation. Will start working on a translation for you.
posted by k8t at 9:55 PM on August 25, 2010

BTW, handwriting is pretty messy... I'm going to have to make some guesses.
posted by k8t at 9:59 PM on August 25, 2010

Response by poster: k8t, thanks for your kind offer! Enjoy your vacation! Good work all!

PS: if you haven't been here, you must visit Lviv!
posted by mdonley at 12:23 AM on August 26, 2010

Okay. I was/am on my phone but I posted to twitter and facebook. 8 native Armenian readers agreed not Armenian.

Will ask some people if they think it is messy Georgian.
posted by k8t at 7:48 AM on August 26, 2010

1 person suggested Yiddish with Latinate names. 2 denied Georgian.
posted by k8t at 10:20 AM on August 26, 2010

Messy Greek?
posted by k8t at 11:02 AM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: a friend asked a friend who said it was stenography.
posted by k8t at 2:53 PM on August 26, 2010

Huh, I could have sworn it was Armenian, but then whenever I see something that looks kind of like Georgian but isn't, I assume it's Armenian. Mea culpa!
posted by languagehat at 3:05 PM on August 26, 2010

@languagehat I forgive you ;)
posted by eatcake at 3:36 PM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: Wow, I guess it's not Armenian! I'm really surprised. The shorthand angle is interesting. I did find this article on Wikipedia about Gabelsberger shorthand from a bit before that time period, which linked to this page with a system first designed in 1902, and some of the characters/glyphs look the same, like the first one after the underlined "title" on the back - could it be "ant", near the top of this page? Keep sleuthing!
posted by mdonley at 4:03 PM on August 26, 2010

Response by poster: Hm...might have to ask around at a German department at a local university or something!
posted by mdonley at 11:54 AM on August 28, 2010

It looks like German written in Sütterlin or Kurrent script.
posted by przepla at 2:17 AM on August 29, 2010

Response by poster: OK, I've e-mailed a German professor at the local university...we'll see what happens! I'll post an update.
posted by mdonley at 5:49 AM on August 29, 2010

Response by poster: I also posted the question on the UniLang Scripts/Writing Systems forum here.
posted by mdonley at 12:16 AM on August 31, 2010

Response by poster: OK, the UniLang forum question seems to believe that this is probably a form of German shorthand. The professor I emailed at the local German department at Universytet Kazimierz Wielki here in Bydgoszcz was polite but couldn't help, and is searching for more resources for me! Watch this space!
posted by mdonley at 12:43 PM on August 31, 2010

Best answer: Update! A poster at the UniLang forum has posted a partial translation of the first bit:

Hochgeehrter Herr Hirschmüller! Entschuldigen Sie mir, dass ich so lange an Sie nicht geschrieben habe - erste heute bin ich in der Lage, an Sie diese Karte zu schreiben - ich bin hier schon sehr mit dem Lehren beschäftigt

from Google Translate:

Esteemed dear Mr. Müller! Excuse me that I have not written to you so long - the first day I am able to write to this card - I'm very busy here with the teachings

posted by mdonley at 4:54 AM on November 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: More translation has been posted!
posted by mdonley at 1:30 AM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

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