Saturday, January 27, 2024

100 Million Fewer People Will Speak Russian Next Year than Did in 1990, Arefyev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 24 – Vladimir Putin has made promotion of “the Russian world” the centerpiece of his ideological agenda, and he has made the Russian language the defining characteristic of that world. But if that is the metric used, figures show that he and his world aren’t doing very well.

            According to Aleksandr Arefyev, a scholar at the Moscow Institute of Sociology, the number of people in Russia and around the world who speak Russia has been falling for the last 30 years and will continue to decline because of demographic problems at home and image problems abroad (

            In 1990, the year before the Soviet Union collapsed, 321 million people in the USSR and around the world spoke Russian, the sociologist says. As of 2023, that figure had declined to 255 million; and by next year, it is likely to be only 215 million, 106 million or a third less than it was only a generation ago.

            While the Kremlin is doing what it can to promote Russian within the country by undermining non-Russian languages, the declining  number of ethnic Russians helps to explain this decline. But the big fall-offs have come in countries that achieved their independence in 1991 or in others where the Russian language is a less attractive choice.

            During the Cold War, many learned Russian to know the language of the enemy and thus to participate in the fight against Soviet expansionism. But that motivation has declined. And Moscow’s new aggressiveness has meant that even those interested in classical Russian literature are less willing to devote the time to learning Russian than they once did.

            According to some reports assembled by Karina Pronina, a People of Baikal journalist, Moscow has in fact made the problem still further by slashing funding for Russian language instruction abroad that it had earlier supported and by using textbooks which are so out of date that they use Soviet terminology, something that inevitably raises questions and puts people off.

No comments:

Post a Comment