Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Languages of Russia, Part 2

Yesterday, we covered the half of Russia's co-official languages that come from the Turkic and Mongolic language families. Today we are finishing the list off with the remaining languages from the Caucasian, Uralic, and Iranian language families. Let's get to it!

The Northeast Caucasian Languages

Following the Boston bombings this year, Chechen was the word on the tip of everybody's tongue. Chechen (which is unrelated to the Czech Republic or the Czech language) is spoken in Chechnya by around 1.36 million people.

Chechnya's Lake Kezenoy-am, near the Dagestan border.
Avar is spoken in the Republic of Dagestan. Although it is also spoken in Azerbaijan,  Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Turkey, the majority of its speakers are found in Russia.

The Ingush language of Ingushetia was originally written using an Arabic abjad before being replaced by a Latin alphabet during the October Revolution, but nowadays is written using Cyrillic. The language has around 400,000 native speakers and can be found in Kazakhstan, Chechnya, and Ingushetia, of course.

Lezgi, which can also be known as Lezgian, is another of Dagestan's co-official languages with Russian. The language has around 800,000 speakers and is considered "vulnerable" according to UNESCO.

The Northwest Caucasian Languages

The languages known as Kabardian and Adyghe are closely related. Kabardian has around 1.5 million speakers and holds its co-official status in both the Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia regions of Russia. It's also spoken in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Jordan.

Mount Elbrus in Karachay-Cherkessia is a dormant volcano
and the highest mountain in all of Europe.
The Adyghe language is the co-official language of Adygea, has around 500,000 speakers and can also be heard in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Israel, and Macedonia. It is disputed whether Kabardian is a dialect of Adyghe or not.

Our third Northwest Caucasian language is Abaza, another co-official language of Karachay-Cherkessia and a language spoken natively by a meagre 48,000 people, 35,000 of whom live in Russia. Interestingly, in Russia the language is written using the Cyrillic alphabet, whereas in Turkey where it is also spoken, it is written using the Latin alphabet.

The Uralic Languages

Our first Uralic language is Mari. It is spoken by nearly 500,000 people across several regions of Russia, prominently so in the Mari El Republic, where it is the co-official language with Russian.

The Udmurt language is also estimated to have around 500,000 speakers. It is principally spoken in Udmurtia and frequently borrows words from both the Russian and Tatar vocabularies.

Pushkin Park in Saransk, capital of Mordovia. It is named after
Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, depicted here in plants.
Our next two Uralic languages, Moksha and Erzya, have around 432,000 speakers combined and are considered to be Mordvinic languages. Independently, both languages hold co-official status with Russian in Mordovia.

Komi-Zyrian, which is also known as either Komi or Zyrian, is another Uralic language with just under 300,000 native speakers. It's the co-official language of the Komi region in Russia.  

Mansi is spoken only by about 7,500 people in the region of Khanty-Mansi. The four main dialect groups of Mansi are so distinct that there is little to no mutual intelligibility between them.

And One Iranian Language...

The only Iranian language to have co-official language status in Russia is Ossetic. It is spoken in the region of North Ossetia in Russia and the disputed region of South Ossetia, which many nations consider to be part of Georgia. There are between 500,000 and 640,000 speakers of this language, though estimates vary.

There you have it! That is the last of the 26 co-official languages of Russia! We hope your vodka-induced hangover from yesterday's celebrations has finally subsided!

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