Languages of Russia
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Languages of Russia

Languages of Russia
OfficialRussian official throughout nation;[1] twenty-seven others co-official in various regions
Foreign13-15% have foreign language knowledge[2][3]
  1. English (80% out of all foreign language speakers or 11% of the population)
  2. German (16%)
  3. French (4%)
  4. Turkish (2%)
SignedRussian Sign Language
Keyboard layout

Of all the languages of Russia, Russian is the only official language at the national level. There are 35 different languages which are considered official languages in various regions of Russia, along with Russian. There are over 100 minority languages spoken in Russia today.[4]


Russian was the sole official language of the Russian Empire which existed until 1917. During the Soviet period, the policy toward the languages of the various other ethnic groups fluctuated in practice. The state helped develop alphabets and grammar for various languages across the country that had previously been lacking a written form. Though each of the constituent republics had its own official language, the unifying role, and superior status was reserved for Russian.

Russian lost its status in many of the new republics that arose following the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union. In Russia, however, the dominating status of the Russian language continued. Today, 97% of the public school students of Russia receive their education only or mostly in Russian, even though Russia is made up of approximately 80% ethnic Russians.

Official languages

Although Russian is the only federally official language of the Russian Federation, there are several other officially recognized languages within Russia's various constituencies - article 68 of the Constitution of Russia only allows the various republics of Russia to establish official (state) languages other than Russian. This is a list of the languages that are recognized as official (state) in constitutions of the republics of Russia:

  1. ^ a b Annexed by Russia in 2014 Voted to join Russian Federation in 2014; recognized as a part of Ukraine by most of the UN Member States.

The Constitution of Dagestan defines "Russian and the languages of the peoples of Dagestan" as the state languages,[26] though no comprehensive list of the languages was given.[][dubious ] In the project of the "Law on the languages of the Republic of Dagestan" 32 languages are listed.[27]

Karelia is the only republic of Russia with Russian as the only official language.[28] However, there exists the special law about state support and protection of the Karelian, Vepsian and Finnish languages in the republic.[29]

The Government of the Republic of Bashkortostan adopted the Law on the Languages of Nations, which is one of the regional laws aimed at protecting and preserving minority languages[30][31][32]. The main provisions of the law include General Provisions, Language names of geographic regions. objects and inscriptions, road and other signs, liability for violations of Bashkortostan in the languages of Bashkortostan. In the Republic of Bashkortostan, equality of languages is recognized. Equality of languages is a combination of the rights of peoples and people to preserve and fully develop their native language, freedom of choice and use of the language of communication. The writing of names of geographical objects and the inscription, road and other signs along with the state language of the Republic of Bashkortostan can be done in the languages of Bashkortostan in the territories where they are concentrated.

The federal law "On the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation" [33] allows the federal subjects to establish additionally official languages in the areas where minority groups live. This is the case, for example, of the Kazakh language in Altai Republic.[8]

Migrant languages

As a result of mass migration to Russia from the former USSR republics (especially from the Caucasus and Central Asia) many non-indigenous languages are spoken by migrant workers. For example, in 2014 2.4 million Uzbek citizens and 1.2 million Tajik citizens entered Russia.[34]

For comparison, Russian citizens with ethnicities matching these of home countries of migrant workers of are much lower (from 2010 Russian Census, in thousands):

Armenian 830
Azerbaijani 515
Kazakh 472
Uzbek 245
Kyrgyz 247
Tajik 177
Georgian 102
Moldovan 90

Endangered languages in Russia

There are many endangered languages in Russia. Some are considered to be near extinction and put on the list of endangered languages in Russia, and some may have gone extinct since data was last reported. On the other hand, some languages may survive even with few speakers.

Some languages have doubtful data, like Serbian whose information in the Ethnologue is based on the 1959 census.

Languages near extinction

Most numbers are according to Michael Krauss, 1995. Given the time that has passed, languages with extremely few speakers might be extinct today. Since 1997, Kerek and Yugh have become extinct.

Other endangered languages

Foreign languages

According to the various studies made in 2005-2008 by Levada-Center[2] 15% of Russians know a foreign language. From those who claim knowledge of at least one language:

"Can speak freely":
English 80%
German 16%
French 4%
Turkish 2%
Others 9%
From 1775 respondents aged 15-29, November 2006
"Know enough to read newspapers":
English 44%
German 15%
Ukrainian, Belarusian and other Slavic languages 19%
Other European languages 10%
All others 29%
From 2100 respondents of every age, January 2005

Knowledge of at least one foreign language is predominant among younger and middle-aged population. Among aged 18-24 38% can read and "translate with a dictionary", 11% can freely read and speak. Among aged 25-39 these numbers are 26% and 4% respectively.

Knowledge of a foreign language varies among social groups. It is most appreciable (15-18%) in big cities with 100,000 and more inhabitants, while in Moscow it rises up to 35%. People with higher education and high economical and social status are most expected to know a foreign language.

The new study by Levada-Center in April 2014[3] reveals such numbers:

Can speak freely at least one language:
English 11
German 2
Spanish 2
Ukrainian 1
French <1
Chinese <1
Others 2
Can speak a foreign language but with difficulty 13
Do not speak a foreign Language at all 70
From 1602 respondents from 18 and older, April 2014

The age and social profiling are the same: knowledge of a foreign language is predominant among the young or middle-aged population with higher education and high social status and who live in big cities.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, French was a common language among upper class Russians. The impetus came from Peter the Great's orientation of Russia towards Europe and accelerated after the French Revolution. After the Russians fought France in the Napoleonic Wars, Russia became less inclined towards French.[35]

Languages of education

Every year the Russian Ministry of Education and Science publishes statistics on the languages used in schools. In 2014/2015 absolute majority[36] (13.1 million or 96%) of 13.7 million Russian students used Russian as a medium of education. Around 1.6 million or 12% students studied their (non-Russian) native language as a subject. The most studied languages are Tatar, Chechen and Chuvash with 347, 253, 107 thousand students respectively.

The most studied foreign languages in 2013/2014 were (students in thousands):

English 11,194.2
German 1,070.5
French 297.8
Spanish 20.1
Chinese 14.9
Arabic 3.4
Italian 2.9
Others 21.7

See also


  1. ^ "The Constitution of the Russian Federation - Chapter 3. The Federal Structure, Article 68". Retrieved 2015.
  2. ^ a b ? [Knowledge of foreign languages in Russia] (in Russian). Levada Centre. 16 September 2008. Retrieved 2015.
  3. ^ a b ? [Command of foreign languages] (in Russian). Levada Centre. 28 May 2014. Retrieved 2015.
  4. ^ "Russia - Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette". Archived from the original on 31 May 2013.
  5. ^ a b c 11. -? ?
  6. ^ 5. ?
  7. ^ 13. ?
  8. ^ a b ? - I. - 4. [Law of the Republic of Altai - Chapter I. General provisions - Article 4. Legal status of languages] (in Russian). Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015.
  9. ^ 1. ?
  10. ^ 67. ? ?
  11. ^ 10. ?
  12. ^ 8. ?
  13. ^ a b "Constitution of the Republic of Crimea". Article 10 (in Russian). State Council, Republic of Crimea. 11 April 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  14. ^ a b 13. ?
  15. ^ 14. ?
  16. ^ a b 76. -? ?
  17. ^ 17. ? () ?
  18. ^ 69. ? ?
  19. ^ 67. ? ?
  20. ^ 15. ?
  21. ^ 15. ? -
  22. ^ 8. ?
  23. ^ 5. ? ?
  24. ^ 8. ? ?
  25. ^ 46. ( ) ? ? ()
  26. ^ 11. ?
  27. ^ ? ? ? 32
  28. ^ 11. ? ?
  29. ^ ? ? «? , ? ? ? ?»
  30. ^ Law of the Republic of Bashkortostan "On the languages of the peoples of the Republic of Bashkortostan» No 216-W on February 15, 1999 (as amended up until 2010)) and amendments of 2014(in Russian)
  31. ^ Gabdrafikov I. The law "On the Languages of the peoples of the Republic of Bashkortostan" is adopted // ? ? ? ?, No. 23, 1999
  32. ^ "? ? ? " ru: 2009(in Russian)
  33. ^ 25 ? 1991 ?. N 1807-I "? ? ? " (? ? )
  34. ^ , ? ? ? ? - 50 ? 2014 () [Countries leading by the number of arrivals to the territory of the Russian Federation - Top 50 by entry into the RF for 2014 (total)] (in Russian). Archived from the original (XLS) on 25 March 2016. Retrieved 2015.
  35. ^ Yegorov, Oleg (25 May 2017). "Why was French spoken in Russia?". Russia Beyond the Headlines.
  36. ^ ? 2014.

Further reading

External links

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