Russian Language Blog

5 Non-Russian Languages of Russia Posted by on Jan 15, 2018 in News

Russian is not the only language spoken in Russia. According to Wikipedia, there are more than 150 languages speaking in Russia, with varying numbers of speakers. It is impossible to cover all languages of Russia in one post, so let us look at five common ones and their current status. This post is not meant to endorse any policies by the Russian government towards ethnic or linguistic minorities.

1. Tatar

bilingual sign in Russian and Tatar

By SergeVS (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Tatar (татарский язык; Tatar: татар теле, татарча) is a Turkic language spoken in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and a few other countries in the region. Along with Russian, Tatar is an official language in the Republic of Tatarstan (Республика Татарстан, an entity within Russia). As of 2010, there were around 4.28 million speakers of Tatar living in Russia.

Tatar has been in the news recently because this language, which used to be a compulsory subject in schools in Tatarstan, was demoted to the status of an elective. This was spurred by alleged complaints from parents of Russian children who did not speak Tatar natively. The decision was criticized for undermining the cultural and linguistic heritage of ethnic non-Russians.

To let you get a taste of the Tatar language, here is a song by Guzel Urazova (Гузель Уразова).

2. Chechen

Chechen (чеченский языкНохчийн Мотт / Noxçiyn Mott / نَاخچیین موٓتت / ნახჩიე მუოთთ) is a language spoken by around 1.35 million people in Russia. Most speakers live in the Chechen Republic, a territory annexed to Russia in the 19th century. Chechen belongs to the Northeast Caucasian language family and is an official language in Chechnya (Чечня).

Below is a song by Markha Makayeva (Марха Макаева).

3. Bashkir

bilingual sign in Bashkir and Russian

By Максим Нусенкис (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Bashkir (башкирский язык; Башҡорт теле, Başqort tele) is another Turkic language and has around 1.15 million speakers in Russia. Bashkir is an official language in the Republic of Bashkortostan.  It is also spoken in other regions of Russia, such as Tatarstan and Chelyabinsk, Orenburg, Tyumen, Sverdlovsk and Kurgan Oblasts (regions). Bashkir was recognized as a “vulnerable” language by UNESCO in 2009.

As a nod to my hometown Chelyabinsk (Челябинск), I have to feature this song by Madina and MC Ranis Akkuzhin (Мадина и МС Ранис Аккужин).

4. Ukrainian

Ukrainian (украинский язык; українська мова) is an East Slavic language related to Russian and Belorussian. All three developed on the basis of the Old East Slavic language. Ukrainian is, of course, the state language of Ukraine. Some 1.13 million people in Russia said they knew Ukrainian in 2010.

Listen to this song by the Ukrainian band Okean Elzy (Океан Ельзи in Ukrainian).

5. Chuvash

Chuvash (чувашский язык; Чӑваш чӗлхи, Чӑвашла) is spoken by 1.04 million people, mainly in Chuvashia. Although it is a Turkic language, it is not mutually intelligible with other languages in that family. Chuvash is also considered vulnerable by UNESCO.

Listen to the Tarai (Тарай) band from Estonia sing in Chuvash.

This is just a sampling of a few common languages spoken in Russia. There are many other languages spoken in Russia. Unfortunately, I do not speak any of the languages in this post, so I’d love to hear from you!

Do you speak any of the languages mentioned in this post or any other languages that have speakers in Russia? What is the status of the language you speak? How did the singers sound? I read a comment that the performer singing in Bashkir must have learned it later in life. Do you agree?

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About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available in English on her website and Twitter and in Russian on Telegram.


  1. Charles Laster:

    Loved the Tatar, Ukrainian, and Estonian music choices!

    • Maria:

      @Charles Laster Glad to hear that! I tried to have a good mix of pop, rock, and folk.

  2. Lois:

    I speak Ukrainian, although not as well as Russian. Great song choice of Okean Elzi!

    • Maria:

      @Lois I enjoy their music a lot!