Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Percentage of Native Speakers of Russian Higher in Israel than in Most Former Soviet Republics

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 10 – Fifteen percent of the population of Israel declares Russian to be their native language, a share higher than in Moldova (9.7 percent), Kyrgyzstan (8.7 percent), Lithuania (7.2 percent), Turkmenistan (5.4 percent), Azerbaijan (1.4 percent), Georgia (1.2 percent) and Armenia (less than one percent).

            Only in Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan are these figures great, with 70.2 percent, 33.8 percent, 29.6 percent, 29.6 percent, and 21.2 percent respectively. In the Russian Federation itself, the share is 85.7 percent, according to figures assembled from official publications by Radio Liberty (

            Beyond the borders of the former Soviet space, RFE/RL continues, there are significant native Russian speaker populations in Germany (2.8 percent), Cyprus (2.5 percent), and Finland (1.4 percent), as well as 900,000 in the US and 700,000 in China.  There are, of course, more in both categories of countries who speak Russian as a second or third language.

            But those shares are declining as well in many places, and specialists on this issue tell Moscow’s Kommersant that the Russian language is surviving precisely where it provides its bearers economic benefits. When those disappear, so too, they suggest, Russian does as well (

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