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Political Terms Get New Meaning in British Work : Dictionary Altered to Fit Soviet Doctrine

April 09, 1985|From Times Wire Services

LONDON — Soviet editors of special editions of the Oxford English Dictionary have changed the definitions of key political words to conform with Communist Party doctrine, the dictionary's publisher said Monday.

George Richardson, chief executive of the Oxford University Press, said in a radio interview that he regretted the changes in the Soviet editions.

"I think it's rather unfortunate that it's turned out this way," Richardson said. "I think that its political overtones should have been thought about more carefully."

In the Soviet edition of the Oxford Student's Dictionary of Current English, "socialism" is defined as "a social and economic system which is replacing capitalism."

The Soviet edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English defines "capitalism" as the system "replacing feudalism and preceding communism."

Both dictionaries changed the definitions of other political words. Communism is defined as "a theory revealing the historical necessity for the revolutionary replacement of capitalism by communism."

The standard British edition defines "imperialism" as "the rule of an emperor. . . . The principle or spirit of empire, advocacy or imperial interests." The Soviet version defines imperialism as "the highest and last stage of capitalism."

"Fascism" is defined in the Soviet version as "a form of reactionary, nationalistic, anti-democratic, anti-communist, bourgeois movement and regime, typical of the era of imperialism."

Richardson said Oxford University Press gave the Soviet Union permission to print the dictionaries in 1982 and 1983. He said both were available to foreign diplomats in Moscow and were marked "Special edition for the U.S.S.R."

Richardson said that dictionaries are often adjusted to suit individual countries and that the publisher has a responsibility to make sure the definitions do not offend anyone.

However, he added, "I think we have a higher responsibility and in this case it has not been adequately discharged."

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