Thursday, December 10, 2009

Russian as a New Inter-National Language

The Russian language has been neglected for a long time- especially , since the end of the Cold War its significance as a language of diplomacy and military technology has diminished to the point where very few people were still studying it.
Also, after the break-up of the USSR, newly independent countries tried to disassociate themselves from anything Russian, and began promoting their own languages in science, education, movies etc. However, people who had grown up speaking only Russian for several generations, although not being Russians themselves were so used to using Russian in all aspects of their lives that getting rid of the language proved to be a hard proposition. Kind of like asking Mexicans to forget Spanish and start using Aztec or asking Americans to speak in Apache or Sioux.
Now, 18 years after the resolution of the Union, the countries have cooled down the nationalistic rhetoric and have embraced the language as a way to communicate among themselves. Yes, the initial plan was to forget Russian, speak in Ukrainian or Kazakh and make English the second Language. This has worked to a point in Latvia, and maybe in Estonia. However, in other former Soviet republics, introducing English proved to be very hard. The cultures are just not used to it. America and England and the Anglosphere are way to alien and too far. Even China is closer to the Anglosphere with its Hong Kong and a big ethnic Chinese population in former British colonies. The Chinese for years have been fascinated with anything that is related to the English speaking culture. However, places like Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine are so far away from anything English that making them speak it or making them interested in having something to do with the Anglo world is not a quick process. Basically, people did not reject Russian and will be using it more than English from now on, although, in the process, creating a clipped, simplified variety of it, without the fancy and ornate original expressions and the convoluted grammar used by the Russians.
Those who want to learn Russian no longer need to go to Russia. There are now some 120,000,000 speakers of Russian outside of Russia and the number is not really diminishing. In Ukraine for example, you have areas as big as the UK that are only Russian speaking. The government in Kiev passed a law that colleges and universities need to teach in Ukrainian but it was like asking the Scotts to teach in Gaelic- not many people know it properly. So, now everything is taught in Russian and Russian is spoken in daily life. Similar things have happened in the Central Asian republics. Even one half of Baltic capitals are Russian speaking and people have learned to accept the language as a means of inter-republic communication.
Those who want to go to the ex Soviet republics, especially if they are not going to the Baltic republics are well advised not waste their time buying cassettes that teach Turkmen or Kyrgyz. Russian will do just fine. It has become an inter-national language very much like Spanish or French, and a Russophone community embracing many countries has emerged. "Russophone" no longer means "Russian" just as "English-" and "Spanish- speaking" no longer means the person is an Englishman or a Spaniard. Russian is taking its place in the world as a means of communication, and is less and less seen as a hated language of imperialist invaders, but rather, as just as quick way for people to exchange information, in much the same way as any other former colonial language has become a tool for many different nationalities to express themselves to others.

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