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In the second half of the 20th century there were a large number of English-language journals published in the West that carried only translations by Western academics of Russian-language articles. The original versions of these articles were written by Soviet academics and had appeared in Russian-language journals published in the Soviet Union. The English journals were commonly known as "translation journals" (not to be confused with translation studies journals, which are about the art and science of translation). Perhaps the most famous translation journal was Soviet Physics Uspekhi, though Physics Today once listed sixteen further translation journals published by the American Institue of Physics and associated societies, and there may have been many many more in other scientific fields (and humanistic ones too, for all I know).

Were such translation journals unique to the Cold War, or do they still exist today? A successor to Soviet Physics Uspekhi is still published today, under the name Physics-Uspekhi, but I think it operates quite differently and for quite different purposes nowadays. In particular, its editorial office is in Russia, not in the USA, and it seems that it is Russian academics (possibly the authors, or someone working at their direction) who are supplying the English translations. So rather than serving the interests of English-speaking academics who wish to discover or disseminate the work of their Russian-speaking counterparts, the journal today seems to be serving Russian-language academics who want to bring their work to a wider English audience.

Are there any scholarly fields today where a lot of research is being published in non-English journals, where these articles are being routinely translated into English by translators unconnected with the original authors, and where these translations are being published in dedicated journals?

  • I'll note that there is less need for such journals today since research is pretty collaborative internationally. There is no longer a perceived need to cut out researchers from other countries as was done in the Soviet era. There are some rumblings, however, of unhappiness in high circles about collaboration between Chinese researchers and those in the "west". Mathematics, for example, was carried out independently in such places as (then) Leningrad and Princeton. Different ideas were explored. People driven by ideas, rather than politics, found this to be an unhappy situation. – Buffy Oct 14 at 12:02
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In mathematics there are still regularly published English language translations of Russian language journals. Examples:

There are quite a few others.

For most (if not all) of these journals it is often now the authors themselves who supply the translation (I believe this was sometimes the case long ago, although various US professional societies organized formal translation programs, sometimes with funding from agencies like the NSF; the issue is that translating research articles requires substantial understanding of the content, and this greatly limits the pool of potential translators).

Here is a Japanese source journal: Sugaku Expositions

  • I'm quite skeptical that the Soviet leadership allowed Soviet mathematicians to regularly translate their own work into English. – RonJohn Oct 14 at 2:15
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    @RonJohn They even had a whole publishing house "Mir Publishers" to sell translated scientific works into the west. After all, doing so not only help to convince the west that soviet science is clearly superior, selling the stuff also brings in hard western currency which always was in high demand. So why would they stop their mathematicians from helping out with that? – mlk Oct 14 at 11:30
  • @mlk well, I guess it would have been somewhat plausible for them to only translate abstracts, but not full articles. That would still “help to convince the West that Soviet science is clearly superior”, but also encourage Western scientists to actually learn Russian. And they could still have sold the Russian-language articles to Western libraries and/or translation journals. – leftaroundabout Oct 14 at 12:21
  • @leftaroundabout That is true, but there are many examples of Soviet authors actually translating the full articles and sending them to the West, whether something else might be plausible or not. – Carl-Fredrik Nyberg Brodda Oct 14 at 14:27
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Cover-to-cover translation journals continue to exist. There seems to have been a major loss of translation journals when the USSR broke up, but many of those journals still operate today. To give some Russian examples from fluid dynamics:

My impression is that the translations are made by professionals with limited domain knowledge. I've noticed plenty of minor translation errors that would have been avoided if the translator had domain knowledge.

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    My OP also assumes that modern-day translation journals use translations supplied by the authors. Note that I didn't mean to imply that the authors themselves are necessarily performing the translation, just that they are arranging it. Does this jibe with your knowledge of the modern-day journals you posted? For example, do the translators tend to have Russian-sounding names or English-sounding ones? (Browsing old issues of Soviet Physics Uspekhi, it seems most translators were not Russian.) – Psychonaut Oct 14 at 6:02
  • Fair points about translations being supplied by the authors by not necessary performed by. I checked some articles listed in Fluid Dynamics, and it appears that the entire issue I checked was translated by a single person with an ambiguous sounding name. I've seen both Russian-seeming and non-Russian-seeming translators listed in the past, as I recall. – Ben Trettel Oct 14 at 22:23
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    The identity of the translators of the older Soviet journals published through the American Institute of Physics appear to be somewhat ambiguous. (My impression immediately post-1989 is that it is unlikely that the original authors were able to produce the fairly consistently high level of English in the translations.) Those journals ceased by 2005. The (replacement?) Russian journals now published by Springer call for submissions in English with some links to editorial/translation service providers. – Jon Custer Oct 16 at 15:27
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In chemistry, Angewandte Chemie (German, "applied chemistry") and Angewandte Chemie International Edition are twin journals having the same articles, Angewandte in German* (example) and the International Edition in English (same example).

Nowadays, one submits in English so the translation process is English -> German. AFAIK this is done by the publisher with the exception of communications which stay in English also for the German edition unless the authors supply a German version.

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