MOSCOW, April 15 (RIA Novosti) - A new translation of the Koran has just come off the press in Russia. It was presented to the media at a news conference on the RIA premises Thursday.

The Russian Council of Muftis believes that the new translation, made from Arabic by the Russian-speaking Azeri scholar Elmir Kuliyev, is a new step on the path toward the word of Allah, Council Chair Narat Khazrat Murtazin pointed out. Kuliyev relied on traditional sources, trying to preserve the Islamic spirit carried by the revelation of the Almighty. The translation is made by a Moslem and is intended precisely for Russian-speaking Moslems, not just for general readerships.

Any translation not distorting the essence of the Koran has the right to exist, Murtazin said. He singled out four Russian-language translations, including the latest, as the most adequate and authoritative ones.

"My approach to translation is special in that I sought to comprehend Allah's message through the prism of faith," Kuliyev said. Until now, the approach has been purely scholarly, so earlier translations are of a descriptive nature, he claimed. He believes that to be able to translate the Koran, one should be a faithful Moslem, otherwise there is a risk that the meaning and the spirit of the Book will be misinterpreted. He acknowledged, however, that his own translation was not perfect and promised to continue working on it.

Kuliyev's translation of the Koran has been published by Umma Press. Aslan Ezhayev, director of this publishing house, reminded his audience that the very first Russian-language translation had been released back in 1716, during Peter the Great's reign. That translation, attributed to Prince Kantemir, was made from a French version of the Koran.

The publishers refer to the edition as an interpretation of the Koran's meanings, arguing that the Holy Book of Islam defies accurate translation into a foreign language.

The edition, complete with the original Arabic text and commentaries, has come out in 10,000 copies, Umma Press officials said. An additional five thousand copies have been published in a pocket format; more are forthcoming. The book will hit store shelves as soon as next week, they promised.

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