Thursday, January 27, 2022

Regional Dialects Mean Many Russians Can’t Understand What Other Russian Speakers are Saying

Paul Goble     

            Staunton, Dec. 7 – Soviet and Russian officials have often promoted dialects in non-Russian languages to divide otherwise united peoples and make it easier for Moscow to rule them. But these same officials have been reluctant to acknowledge an important reality: the Russian language contains many dialects and as a result, some Russians can’t understand others.

            Given the centrality of language in the definition of nation and nationality in Russian and Soviet thinking, it is no surprise that Moscow has been concerned when regional groups like the Siberians or proto-national groups like the Cossacks have worked to develop their own distinctive languages (, and

            But Moscow faces a bigger problem than that. Many regions with less developed ethno-national identities have developed distinctive dialects. Even Ryazan which is quite close to the Russian capital has a dialect which is quite different from what the Russian government defines as standard, that is to say, Muscovite, Russian (

            Now, the AdMe portal has offered a collection of more than 60 words used in some regions but not others and that it suggests anyone who wants to travel from one region to another needs to learn if he or she wants to understand and be understood (

            Three things are striking about the AdMe list. First, almost every predominantly ethnic Russian oblast and kray has a sufficiently developed dialect to make understanding by outsiders difficult. Second, many of the dialectal words are substitutes for key nouns and verbs. And third, those who don’t know these words are outsiders whatever their supposedly shared ethnicity.


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