- Languages of the Soviet Union
Languages of the Soviet Union were defined as
languages natively spoken in the Soviet Unionwhich 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
USSRin 1990. See Article 4 of the Law on Languages of Nations of USSR. [http://pravo.levonevsky.org/baza/soviet/sssr0935.htm] ] 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 USSRand 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 SSRto 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 alphabetin 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 alphabetinstead (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 Transnistriaofficially uses the Cyrillic alphabet).
Autonomous republics of the Soviet Unionand 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 ASSRand 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.
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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