Russian Language Blog

How many languages does Russia know? Posted by on Mar 16, 2008 in History, language, News

Always the faithful reader of «Русский репортёр» [Russian reporter], I came across a rather fascinating article in the latest number (Nr. 9, 13-20 March 2008) under the headline of «Сколько языков знает Россия?» The article focuses on the 150 small languages being spoken by different nationalities in Russia, and their fate in the future of globalization, since some of them are currently in desperate danger of extinction. Yes, it’s sometimes far too easy to forget that Russia is in fact not really ‘Russian’ at all, but a dynamic merge of many peoples, cultures, traditions and languages. The article, which was written in the light of the year 2008 being the year of languages, as decided by UN, is interesting not just because it contains information about languages you’re not likely to hear about anywhere else, but because it explains why any language that ‘dies’ is a tragedy. «Изчесновение малых языков России – настоящая трагедия: гибнет не просто набор слов и грамматических правил – умирает целый космос», the article says, and further explains how it is not the way we look at the world that’s reflected in our language, but that what is reflected in our language determines how we look at the world.


This sculpture in the center of Челябинск [Chelyabinsk, southern Urals] is not the only reminder of the Turkish speaking people who originally inhabited this area. So is the name of the city itsef.

Everywhere in Russia you can find traces of other languages than Russian, some of whom have been extinct since many years, some of which are still in use by small nationalities in rural areas. That makes road tripping in the Russian countryside linguistically compelling, though it may not alone make up for the condition of the roads in such areas. Here’s an example from the article in Russian: «На территории европейской России о былом разнообразии наречий легко можно догадаться по географическим названиям. Вятка, Вязьма, Ока и даже Москва – все это слова из балтийских и финно-угорских языков, которых в настоящий момент нет ни на территории самой Прибалтики, ни где бы то ни было ещё». [On the territory of the European part of Russia it is easy to guess the former diversity of languages by the geographical names. Vyatka, Vyaz’ma, Oka and even Moskva (Moscow) – all of them are words from Baltic and Finno-Ugric languages, which at the moment no longer exists in the territory of the Baltic countries themselves or anywhere else].

To read the entire article in Russian, which I truly recommend for those who are curious about ‘real Russia’ and for those who want to broaden their linguistic horizons (and who doesn’t?), visit this website:

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  1. Joe:

    Hi Josefina,
    I’m always happy to receive the email telling me of an update to your Russian blog. It always has some great pictures, links, interesting news or information with every update. I’m including a link to my new Russian Journal page. It’s mostly just links to some really good Russian language sites that I have found in my travels on the web looking for information on learning this language. It’s also links to some really great Russian music and singers that I have found on YouTube. Here’s the link
    If you get a chance to look at it let me know what you think.
    Thanks for a great Russian blogsite Joe

  2. BakinskiyAvtos:

    Хорошая идея, но надо бы подумать о количестве реламы на сайте. По-моему ее слишком много 🙂 Хотя, конечно – это не мое дело 🙂

  3. natasha:

    It is not really ads, more like helpful links, though.

  4. Rebekah parish:

    How fascinating.very interesting and refreshing to see so many languages in Russia. SUKa!!!!!!