Celebrities who speak Russian Posted by Maria on Jul 3, 2014 in Culture
You might have read my previous post about famous foreigners who learned Russian. A reader commented that these people moved to Russia (or what is now Russia) and had plenty of opportunities to master the language. Today I’d like to talk about some celebrities living outside Russia who can speak Russian. Luckily, they are all living, so we can watch them speak Russian. Granted, some of them were raised with Russian-speaking parents, albeit abroad, but I think it’s still encouraging to find a celebrity role model for learning the language. I will be highlighting those who actually have some degree of fluency as opposed to memorizing a couple of lines for a part.
1. Milla Jovovich
Hollywood actress Milla Jovovich (Мила Йовович) was born in Kiev, then USSR, to a Russian mother and a Serbian father. Her family left Ukraine when she was 5 and eventually ended up in the US, but Milla still sometimes wows Russian audiences by speaking Russian during her visits to the country. She even starred in a Russian-speaking role in the film Lucky Trouble (“Выкрутасы”). Listen to her brave the almost forgotten language in Ivan Urgant‘s talk show.
2. Mila Kunis
Another actress, Mila Kunis (Мила Кунис) was born in Ukraine and moved to the US when she was in the second grade. She recalls having a hard time adapting to the English language and culture, to the point of “blocking” her first year in the US from her memory. The actress says she speaks the language with her parents and can read it a little but cannot really write it.
3. Regina Spektor
Singer-songwriter Regina Spektor (Регина Спектор) moved to the US from Moscow at the age of nine. She grew up in a Russian-speaking family, but didn’t visit Russia again until 2012. She recently covered two songs by the Russian folk singer-songwriter (“bard”) Bulat Okudzhava.
4. Michelle Trachtenberg
Actress Michelle Trachtenberg (Мишель Трахтенберг) was born to a German dad and a Russian mom. For her recent role as Lee Harvey Oswald‘s Russian-born wife Marina, she had to speak Russian in the movie. She said the language part was easy, but she needed to consult her mom about proper register and vocabulary.
There are a few others, including Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and the actress Kate Beckinsale. Can you think of other examples?
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Alan Arkin who coached Russian dialect to actors in 1966 “The Russians are Coming.”
I just wanted to say how much I love and look forward to your blog. My family emigrated to New York from Belarus in 1905, and while they spoke Yiddish, I always felt an amazing connection to Russian culture, art, music, and amazing sense of humor and pride in their traditions. Thank you for all the work that you put into this blog!
@Liz Cousins Hi Liz,
Thanks for you comment. I’m glad to hear people who read this blog can connect to some of the stories! Yes, same for me, my great-grandparents and partly grandparents on one side likely spoke Yiddish as their first language, and I sometimes feel like that’s an untapped legacy for me.
I hope you check this blog out again!
@Brooke Brooke, interesting; I didn’t know her. Sounds like Russian is somewhat popular in UK universities.
For the movie “Moscow on the Hudson”, Robin Williams learned Russian to a moderate degree in about three months by practicing with a native speaker two to four hours a day.
Great column! Just to say, according to news reports, Ashton Kutcher is learning Russian and he and Mila Kunis plan to speak Russian to their baby.
@Tammy Thank you, Tammy.
I’m curious to hear that.
I love the way they speak Russian!
Ralph Fiennes now can be included to the list as well 🙂
Condi Rice speaks fluent Russian