Lebedeff, Gerasim Steppanovich

Lebedeff, Gerasim Steppanovich (1749-1817) Russian adventurer, linguist, pioneer of Bengali drama, translator and writer. Born into a farmer's family in Ukraine, Russia, Lebedeff learned English, French and German. His travels began when he journeyed to Naples with the Russian ambassador. Afterwards he travelled to Paris and London. In 1785 he came to Kolkata where he studied Bangla, Sanskrit and Hindustani with Goloknath Das. Lebedeff translated two plays, The Disguise and Love is the Best Doctor, into Bangla. The Disguise was staged successfully on 27 November 1795 and on 21 March 1796 at Bengali Theatre built by him at 25 Domtala, Kolkata. In 1797 he was arrested on a false charge of debt, but was later acquitted.

Lebedeff lived in Kolkata for ten years. Apart from his work in the theatre, Lebedeff established a press for printing Bangla books. He is said to have received fund from the Czar for doing it. He also compiled a Bangla dictionary and wrote a book in Bangla on arithmetic. He translated a portion of bharatchandra's Annadamabgal into Russian. His other works include A Grammar of the Pure and Mixed East Indian Dialects (London, 1801), An Impartial Contemplation of the East Indian Systems of Brahmins (St Petersburg, 1805), A Collection of Hindustani and Bengali Arias. Lebedeff died on 15 July 1817 in Russia.

Lebedeff played a historic role in establishing the first theatre in Bengal and staging Bangla plays in Kolkata and taking Bangla in touch with the Russian language for the first time. [Prodyot Ghosh]