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Russia Guide > Languages spoken in Russia

Languages spoken in Russia

When you think of Russia, you would expect its people to speak the national language as well as maybe a smattering of some English. Additionally, because of the country’s history and its role at the centre of the former Soviet Union, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that languages from those former Soviet countries are also spoken to some degree. Furthermore, because of the sheer size of population, a range of different languages should be expected but, it may come as a bit of a shock to learn just how many languages are spoken in Russia.

A huge range of different sounds

It is estimated that over 80% of the country’s population speak Russian as their first language. While that figure may be as expected, the surprise comes when you learn that over 100 minority languages are spoken across the country.

The history of Tatar

Of the minority languages spoken in Russia, Tatar is the most common and it is used by around 3% of the country’s population. It originated with the Tatars of historical Kazan and was passed down through the centuries to the present day where it is currently spoken by around 5.3 million people. As well as being fairly widely spoken in Russia, you can hear Tatar in Poland, China, The Ukraine, Finland and Turkey.

Tatar remains the official language of the Republic of Tatarstan and while it is largely based on the traditional Cyrillic alphabet, it contains additional letters.

Other minority languages.

Moving down the list of minority languages spoken in Russia, Ukrainian comes just after Tatar.

Ukrainian is spoken by around 1% of the total population and as for actual numbers of people speaking the language it comes slightly ahead of Chechen, Chudvash, Bashir and Mordvin.

Dying Out

Of the full list of languages spoken in Russia, many are near extinction and with records so hard to collate, it is believed that some of these rare tongues may have already died out.

The list of languages that are under threat includes Vod, Ainu, Enets and Udege. Even if they are still in existence, these are languages that could be spoken by numbers of people that stay in single figures.

Making it official

While Russian remains the country’s only official language, there are many others that are recognised to be popular in certain regions of Russia and as such they tend to be given semi-official status.

Included in the secondary list are Chechen, Ingush and Mari, although the list extends to 24 ‘semi-official’ languages in total.

Other languages that you might not expect include Polish, Finnish, German and Korean but when you consider how vast Russia is and how many borders it possesses, perhaps this shouldn’t be a great surprise.

The fact that there are over 100 languages spoken in Russia does serve to emphasise what a fascinating mix of cultures and people exist here. It is actually quite a proud statistic and many people will hope that the smallest of languages survive and the figure remains where it currently stands.

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