Ralph Russell is no more

Ralph Russell, the British Urdu scholar in the tradition of VG Kiernan and who is well known, among other things, for his perceptive writings on Mirza Ghalib, has moved on (source).

A self- description from his website:

I was born in 1918. I became a communist at the age of 16 and am still content to call myself one despite the traumatic experiences from 1946 onwards of the corruption and eventual collapse of the communist movement and the Soviet Union, because I still hold to the humanist values which made me a communist. I believe that true communism is not only consistent with these values but is a logical development from them.

Urdu was the language of the army and that is how I came to learn it, achieving considerable fluency at the level of everyday communication with my sepoys. But it was not primarily to meet the requirements of Indian army life that motivated me to learn Urdu well. As a communist I wanted to meet the needs of the people whom the communist movement is supposed to exist to serve. In the army this meant first of all instilling some degree of political consciousness in the unpolitical village boys who were my sepoys – unpolitical because the army would not recruit anyone who showed any signs of political awareness. By the end of my time with them I had a group of them who read communist literature and contributed money from their very meagre pay to the Communist Party of India. All of this is described in Findings Keepings. Victor Kiernan later wrote to this, ‘You deserve high praise for what you did in India. I could not have done it.’

Review of his book on Mirza Ghalib: The Famous Ghalib.

Ralph Russell, communist and Urdu scholar who added much to our reading of Mirza Ghalib. RIP.


Author: bhupinder singh

an occasional blogger

2 thoughts on “Ralph Russell is no more”

    Bartanvi Baba e Urdu Janab Ralph Russel bhi eis Duniya main aub
    nahein rahai.
    Ralph Russel ki wafat ki khaber perhker bohut afsos hua.
    Duniya main Urdu sai Mohabbat kernai walai logoon main
    eis khabar sai bohut afsos hua hai.
    Urdu World is definitely very sad after hearing the news of passing
    away of ‘British Ba Ba e URDU’ RALPH RUSSEL.
    Marhoom Ralph ki Urdu sai Mohabbat aur Urdu kai lieay khidmat
    hamaisha yaad rahaingee.

    Saghier Ahmed Jafri,
    Urdu Manzil

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