Languages of the Soviet Union

Languages of the Soviet Union

Languages of the Soviet Union were defined as languages natively spoken in the Soviet Union which weren't the official languages of another state.Fact|date=November 2007

The USSR was a multilingual state, with over 120 languages spoken natively.Fact|date=November 2007 Although discrimination on the basis of language was illegal under the Soviet Constitution, the status of all these languages was far from being the same.Fact|date=November 2007

Although the USSR did not have "de jure" an official language over most of its history, [In early 1900s there had been a discussion over the need to introduce Russian as the official language of Russian Empire. The dominant view among Bolsheviks at that time was that there is no need for state language. See: by Lenin (1914). Staying with the Lenin's view, not state language was declared in the Soviet state.
Russian language was declared as the official language of USSR in 1990. See Article 4 of the Law on Languages of Nations of USSR. []
] and Russian was merely defined as the "language of interethnic communication" ( _ru. язык межнационального общения), it assumed "de facto" the role of official language.Fact|date=January 2008 For its role and influence in the USSR, see Russification.

On a second level were the languages of the other 14 Union Republics. In line with their "de jure" status in a federal state, they had a small formal role at the Union level (being e.g. present in the Coat of arms of the USSR and its banknotes) and as the main language of its republic. Their effective weight, however, varied with the republic (from strong in places like the Armenian SSR to weak in places like the Byelorussian SSR), or even inside it.Fact|date=November 2007

Of these fourteen languages, three are often considered dialects of other languages: (Azerbaijani of Turkish, Tajik of Persian, and Moldovan, which is seen almost universally as little different from Romanian).Fact|date=November 2007 Strongly promoted use of the Cyrillic alphabet in many republics however, combined with lack of contact, led to the separate development of the literary languages. Some of the former Soviet republics, now independent states, continue to use the Cyrillic alphabet at present (such as Kyrgizia), while others have opted to use the Latin alphabet instead (such as Turkmenistan) or are actively attempting to adopt is (Moldova, where the official switch to Latin met with strong controversy and contributed to War of Transnistria; the unrecognized Transnistria officially uses the Cyrillic alphabet).

The Autonomous republics of the Soviet Union and other subdivision of the USSR lacked even this "de jure" autonomy, and their languages had virtually no presence at the national level (and often, not even in the urban areas of the republic itself). They were, however, present in education (although often only at lower grades).Fact|date=November 2007

Some smaller languages with very dwindling small communities, like Livonian, were neglected, and weren't present either in education or in publishing.Fact|date=November 2007

Finally, several languages, like German, Korean or Polish, although having sizable communities in the USSR, and in some cases being present in education and in publishing, weren't considered to be Soviet languages, since they were official languages of other states.

Particular cases are:
* Finnish: although not generally considered a language of the USSR, since it was an official language of Finland, it was an official language of the Karelian ASSR and its predecessor, the Karelo-Finnish SSR.Fact|date=January 2008
* Yiddish and Romany: although having the bulk of their speakers outside the USSR, they were considered Soviet languages, since they weren't official languages of another state.

ee also

*Education in the Soviet Union



* Bernard Comrie. "The Languages of the Soviet Union." CUP 1981. ISBN 0-521-23230-9 (hb), ISBN 0-521-29877-6 (pb)
* E. Glyn Lewis. "Multilingualism in the Soviet Union: Aspects of Language Policy and Its Implementation". The Hague: Mouton, 1971.
* Языки народов СССР. 1967. Москва: Наука 5т.

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