Is Russian losing ground?

Since the break up of the Soveit Union, Russian has been losing ground in many of the former Soviet Republics, according to an article I found the other day. The “Year of the Russian Language”, which was officially opened in Paris in August, is an effort to address this trend by promoting the Russian language and culture outside Russia.

Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are the only former Soviet Republics where Russian is still has official status, alongside their own languages. Even in these countries Russian remains a contentious issue and there have been calls to make Belarusian to sole official language in Belarus. In Turkmenistan many Russian schools have been closed, and in Uzbekistan the number of Russian speakers has decreased significantly.

In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, English has replaced Russian as the most widely taught foreign language. The same is possibly true in other countries in Eastern Europe, though it has gained ground in Poland recently.

This entry was posted in Language, Language learning, Russian.

13 Responses to Is Russian losing ground?

  1. Polly says:

    Is Russian losing ground?
    Yes, according to an article (in Russian) from a Russian news site discussing the decline of the Russian language in the former satellites and even in Russia itself. Part of the reason was resentment. Those nations never wanted Russian imposed on them to begin with. And now that the pressure is off, the language is being abandoned with gusto. The article compared the situation of Russian to English, where the populations of world nations are learning it in droves, including the former eastern bloc nations.
    It was about a year ago that I saw the article.

  2. Josh D. says:

    It’s perfectly understandable that the satelite nations would want there own languages to be dominant; it’s important that those smaller, overrun ones be preserved. Russian will take care of itself.
    And how is it losing ground in Russia itself? Are native Russians choosing to use other languages in their everyday lives?

  3. Polly says:

    I don’t remember the article that well. It was in Russian and it’s been over a year.
    But, I think it was partly a fear of immigrants using their own languages in various self-contained ghettos and not being interested in learning Russian.

    Also, the desire to learn English among Russians.

    It’s a bit confusing because I couldn’t always tell whether the writer was referring to actual Russian territory or former former CCCP republics. Some areas dominated by non-Russians seem to be returning to their own language while the Russian population shrinks.

  4. AR says:

    I visited Armenia a few years back and Russian was still taught in schools as the dominant foreign language. Now I think English is also taught and is becoming a higher priority than Russian. Most adults, though are still fluent in Russian.

  5. Polly says:

    At the risk of derailing the thread….AR, How was Armenia?

    um…red light activity:

  6. AR says:

    Cleanliness: Ok. they were redoing the sidewalks (made of fancy shaped bricks) and the workers laying them are very lazy

    Crime: the lady who rents you a room might steal your underwear if she offers to do the laundry for you

    Poverty: “beggars” with shopping bags will attack any foreigner

    Red light activity: wasn’t very happy to see young women loitering around the streets for no reason.

  7. Polly says:


    Sounds like what I expected. Oh well, guess my wife has a point about not wanting to go there, even for a visit. I still wouldn’t mind, though. This was in the capital, Yerevan, I assume.

  8. Life in Armenia blog is quite interesting though it tends to give the impressions of diaspora Armenians who’ve settled in the country:

  9. Polly says:


    That’s an interesting link. I got a real laugh out of a couple posts, already.


  10. Colm says:

    @ Josh D.: “And how is it losing ground in Russia itself? Are native Russians choosing to use other languages in their everyday lives?”

    You seem to forget that “white Russians” form the minority of the Russia state. Most of Russia is non-European and is semi-autonomous and is not controlled directly by Moscow. They have their own languages, cultures and histories and in some of these areas Russian use is decreasing. However in other areas it is increasing.

    At any rate Russian is in no danger of dying out. Just like French is under no threat either. It is the small languages without official recognition that deserve special attention.

    I would like to draw your attention to The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire: which deals with many of the peoples and cultures supressed by Moscow.

  11. Mark S. says:

    I taught at a university in China at which the professors of Russian were simply reassigned to teach English — the fact most of them didn’t speak English notwithstanding.

    I doubt that’s an isolated example.

  12. Sivan I. says:

    Well, the Russians will always be speaking Russian! I think that their surrounding countries will inevitabley start learning English (due to the Cold War and the dissolution of the USSR).
    And also, I believe Belarus and Uzbekistan should be speaking their own languages and I’m glad that theyve begun…though they sohuldn’t stop learning Russian.

  13. Erik says:

    Sorry, I know this is an old post, but I just stumbled upon it.

    Aside from its declining popularity in education in former Soviet countries and losing status as an official language in those same countries, Russia itself is experiencing a terrible demographic crisis: simply, the birth rate can not conceivably keep pace with the death rate. Inability to maintain the population is actually currently the number one killer of Russian (though as others have pointed out, Russian is in no danger of actually dying).


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