Russification (in Russian: русификация "rusifikátsiya")is an adoption of the Russian language or some other Russian attribute (whether voluntarily or not) by non-Russian communities. In a narrow sense, Russification is used to denote the influence of the Russian language on Slavic, Baltic and other languages, spoken in areas currently or formerly controlled by Russia, which led to emerging of russianisms, trasianka and surzhyk. In a historical sense, the term refers to both official and unofficial policies of Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union with respect to their national constituents and to national minorities in Russia, aimed at Russian domination.

The major areas of Russification are politics and culture. In politics, an element of Russification is assigning Russian nationals to leading administrative positions in national institutions. In culture, Russification primarily amounts to domination of the Russian language in official business and strong influence of Russian language on the national ones. The shifts in demographics in favour of Russian population are sometimes considered as a form of Russification as well.

"Russification", as a process of changing one's ethnic self-label or identity from a non-Russian ethnonym to Russian has been distinguished from "Russianization", the spread of Russian language, culture, and people into non-Russian cultures and regions, distinct also from Sovietization. [Aspaturian, Vernon V., "The Non-Russian Peoples," in Allen Kassof, Ed., "Prospects for Soviet Society" (New York: Praeger, 1968): 143-198. Aspaturian also distinguished both Russianization and Russification from Sovietization, the process of spreading Soviet institutions and the Soviet socialist restructuring of social and economic relations in accordance with the ruling Communist Party's vision. (Aspaturian was a Soviet studies specialist, Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of political science and former director of the Slavic and Soviet Language and Area Center at Pennsylvania State University.) ] In this sense, Russification is usually conflated across Russification, Russianization, and Russian-led Sovietization with regard to the policies of the former Soviet Union—although each can be considered a distinct process with separate results.


The earliest example of Russification took place in the 16th century in the conquered Khanate of Kazan and other Tatar areas. The main elements of this process were Christianization and implementation of the Russian language as the sole administrative language.

Poland and Lithuania

One example of 19th century Russification was the replacement of the Polish, Lithuanian, and Belarusian languages by Russian in those areas, which became part of the Russian Empire after the Partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It intensified after the 1831 uprising and, in particular, after the January Uprising of 1863.Kevin O'Connor, "The History of the Baltic States", Greenwood Press, ISBN 0313323550, [ Google Print, p.58] ] In 1864, the Polish and Belarusian languages were banned in public places; in the 1880s, Polish was banned in schools and offices of the Congress Kingdom, and research and teaching of Polish language, history or Catholicism were forbidden. This led to the creation of a Polish underground education network, which included the famous Flying University.

A similar development took place in Lithuania. Its Governor General, Mikhail Muravyov, prohibited the public use of spoken Lithuanian and closed Lithuanian and Polish schools; teachers from other parts of Russia who did not speak these languages were moved in to teach pupils. Muravyov also banned the use of Latin and Gothic scripts in publishing. He was reported saying, "What the Russian bayonet didn't accomplish, the Russian school will." ("что не доделал русский штык — доделает русская школа.") This ban, which was only lifted in 1904, was disregarded by the "Knygnešiai", the Lithuanian book smugglers, who brought Lithuanian publications printed in the Latin alphabet, the historic orthography of the Lithuanian language, from Lithuania Minor, a part of East Prussia, and from the United States into the Lithuanian-speaking areas of Imperial Russia. The knygnešiai became a symbol of the resistance of the Lithuanians against Russification.

The campaign also promoted the Russian Orthodox faith over Catholicism. The measures used included closing down Catholic monasteries, officially banning the building of new churches and giving many of the old ones to the Russian Orthodox church, banning Catholic schools and establishing state schools which taught only the Orthodox religion, requiring Catholic priests to preach only officially approved sermons, requiring that Catholics who married members of the Orthodox church convert, requiring Catholic nobles to pay an additional tax in the amount of 10% of their profits, limiting the amount of land a Catholic peasant could own, and switching from the Gregorian calendar (used by Catholics) to the Julian one (used by members of the Orthodox church).

After the uprising, many manors and great chunks of land were confiscated from nobles of Polish and Lithuanian descent who were accused of helping the uprising; these properties were later given or sold to Russian nobles. Villages where supporters of the uprising lived were repopulated by ethnic Russians. Vilnius University, where the language of instruction had been Polish rather than Russian, was closed in 1832. Lithuanians and Poles were banned from holding any public jobs (including professional positions, such as teachers and doctors) in Lithuania; this forced educated Lithuanians to move to other parts of the Russian Empire. The old legal code was dismantled and a new one based on the Russian code and written in the Russian language was enacted; Russian became the only administrative and juridical language in the area. Most of these actions ended at the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War, but others took longer to be reversed; Vilnius University was reopened only after Russia had lost control of the city in 1919.

Another example is the Ems Ukaz of 1876 which banned the Ukrainian language.

Grand Duchy of Finland

The Russification of Finland (1899-1905, 1908-1917, "sortokaudet" (times of oppression) in Finnish) was a governmental policy of the Russian Empire aimed at the termination of Finland’s autonomy.


Bessarabia has been annexed by the Russian Empire in 1812. 1816 Bessarabia became an autonomous status, but only until 1828. In 1829, the use of the Romanian language was forbidden in the administration. In 1833, the use of Romanian language has been forbidden in churches. In 1842, the teaching in Romanian was forbidden for the secondary education schools, as well for elementary schools in 1860. The Russian authorities encouraged the migration the Romanians (Moldovans) to other provinces of the Russian Empire (especially in Kuban, Kazakhstan and Siberia), while foreign ethnic groups (especially Russians and Ukrainians, called in the century "Little Russians") were encouraged to settle here. According to 1817-census, Bessarabia was populated by 86% Romanians (Moldovans), 6.5% Ukrainians, 1.5% Russians (Lipovans) and 6% other ethnic groups. 80 years later, in 1897, the ethnic structure was very different: only 56% Romanians (Moldovans), but 11.7% Ukrainians, 18.9% Russians and 13.4% other ethnic groups. During 80 years, between 1817 and 1897, the share of Romanian (Moldovan) population dropped by 30%.

The Moldovan language introduced then by the Soviet authorities in Moldavian SSR was actually Romanian language but written with a version of the Cyrillic alphabet derived from the Russian alphabet. Proponents of Cyrillic orthography argue that the Romanian language was historically written with the Cyrillic script, albeit a different version of it (see Moldovan alphabet and Romanian Cyrillic alphabet for a discussion of this controversy).

Eastern Bloc

In all countries of the Eastern Bloc Russian language lessons were obligatory for the majority of pupils and students. After 1965, only in Romania the Russian language lessons were not obligatory anymore.

Under the Soviet Union

After the 1917 revolution, authorities in the USSR decided to eradicate the use of the Arabic alphabet in Turkic and Persian languages in Soviet-controlled Central Asia, in the Caucasus, and in the Volga region (including Tatarstan). This detached the local populations from exposure to the language and writing system of the Koran. The new alphabet for these languages was based on the Latin alphabet and was also inspired by the Turkish alphabet. However, by the late 1930s, the policy had changed. In 1939–1940 the Soviets decided that a number of these languages (including Tatar, Kazakh, Uzbek, Turkmen, Tajik, Kyrgyz, Azeri, and Bashkir) would henceforth use variations of the Cyrillic alphabet. It was claimed that the switch was made "by the demands of the working class."

Early 1920s through mid-1930s: Indigenization

The early years of Soviet nationalities policy, from the early 1920s to the mid-1930s, were guided by the policy of korenizatsiya ("indigenization"), during which the new Soviet regime sought to reverse the long-term effects of Russification on the non-Russian populations. [For a general timeline of Soviet policy toward the nationalities, see the Russian-language Wikipedia article on "Nationalities policy of Russia" ().] As the regime was trying to establish its power and legitimacy throughout the former Russian empire, it went about constructing regional administrative units, recruiting non-Russians into leadership positions, and promoting non-Russian languages in government administration, the courts, the schools, and the mass media. The slogan then established was that local cultures should be "socialist in content but national in form." That is, these cultures should be substantively transformed to conform with the Communist Party's socialist project for the Soviet society as a whole but have active participation and leadership by the indigenous nationalities and operate primarily in the local languages.

Late 1930s and wartime: Russian comes to fore

Early nationalities policy shared with later policy the object of assuring control by the Communist Party over all aspects of Soviet political, economic, and social life. The early Soviet policy of promoting what one scholar has described as "ethnic particularism" [Yuri Slezkine, "The USSR as a Communal Apartment, Or How a Socialist State Promoted Ethnic Particularism," "Slavic Review" 53, No. 2 (Summer 1994): 414-452.] and another as "institutionalized multinationality", [Rogers Brubaker, "Nationhood and the National Question in the Soviet Union and Post-Soviet Eurasia: An Institutionalist Account," "Theory and Society" 23 (February, 1994): 47-78.] had a double goal. On the one hand, it had been an effort to counter Russian chauvinism by assuring a place for the non-Russian languages and cultures in the newly formed Soviet Union. On the other hand, it was a means to prevent the formation of alternative ethnically based political movements, including pan-Islamism [This was not focused simply on religion. In the Revolutionary and immediate post-Revolutionary period, after at first coöpting jadidist Tatar Sultan Galiyev into a leadership position in the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), the Soviet regime soon turned to fighting against his project and ideas for uniting Muslim peoples in a broader national liberal movement.] and pan-Turkism. [See Slezkine (1994) and Ronald Wixman, "Language Aspects of Ethnic Patterns and Processes in the North Caucasus," University of Chicago Geography Research Series, No. 19 (1980).] One way of accomplishing this was to promote what some regard as artificial distinctions between ethnic groups and languages rather than promoting amalgamation of these groups and a common set of languages based on Turkish or another regional language. [Wixman (1980). One scholar has pointed out that the basic task of defining "what was a nationality" was assigned to ethnographers immediately after the formation of the USSR in 1924, and that they were asked to work quickly so that a population census could be taken with an accounting by nationality. In contrast, the only complete imperial Russian census in 1897 did not use nationality at all as a category but instead used religion and language as ethnic markers. See Francine Hirsch, "The Soviet Union as a Work in Progress: Ethnographers and Category Nationality in the 1926, 1937, and 1939 Censuses," "Slavic Review" 56 (Summer 1997): 256-278.]

The Soviet nationalities policy from its early years sought to counter these two tendencies by assuring a modicum of cultural autonomy to non-Russian nationalities within a federal system or structure of government, though maintaining that the ruling Communist Party was monolithic, not federal. The federal system conferred highest status to the titular nationalities of union republics, and lower status to titular nationalities of autonomous republics, autonomous provinces, and autonomous okrugs. In all, some 50 nationalities had a republic, province, or okrug of which they held nominal control in the federal system. Federalism and the provision of native-language education ultimately left as a legacy a large non-Russian public that was educated in the languages of their ethnic groups and that identified a particular homeland on the territory of the Soviet Union.

By the late 1930s, however, there was a notable policy shift. Purges in some of the national regions, such as Ukraine, had occurred already in the early 1930s. Before the turnabout in Ukraine in 1933, a purge of Veli Ibrahimov and his leadership in the Crimean ASSR in 1929 for "national deviation" led to Russianization of government, education, and the media and to the creation of a special alphabet for Crimean Tatar to replace the Latin alphabet. [H. B. Paksoy, "Crimean Tatars," in "Modern Encyclopedia of Religions in Russia and Soviet Union" (Academic International Press, 1995), Vol. VI: 135-142.] Of the two dangers that Stalin had identified in 1923, now bourgeois nationalism (local nationalism) was said to be a greater threat than Great Russian chauvinism (great power chauvinism). In 1937, Faizullah Khojaev and Akmal Ikramov were removed as leaders of the Uzbek SSR and in 1938, during the third great Moscow show trial, convicted and subsequently put to death for alleged anti-Soviet nationalist activities.

Russian language gained greater emphasis. In 1938, Russian became a required "subject" of study in every Soviet school, including those in which a non-Russian language was the principal medium of instruction for other subjects (e.g., mathematics, science, and social studies). In 1939, non-Russian languages that had been given Latin-based scripts in the late 1920s were given new scripts based on the Cyrillic alphabet. One likely rationale for these decisions was the sense of impending war and that Russian was the language of command in the Red Army.

Before and during World War II, Stalin deported to Central Asia and Siberia several entire nationalities for their suspected collaboration with the German invaders: Volga Germans, Crimean Tatars, Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, Kalmyks, and others. Shortly after the war, he deported many Ukrainians and Balts to Siberia as well. [Robert Conquest, "The Nation Killers: The Soviet Deportation of Nationalities" (London: MacMillan, 1970) (ISBN 0-333-10575-3); S. Enders Wimbush and Ronald Wixman, "The Meskhetian Turks: A New Voice in Central Asia," "Canadian Slavonic Papers" 27, Nos. 2 and 3 (Summer and Fall, 1975): 320-340; and Alexander Nekrich, "The Punished Peoples: The Deportation and Fate of Soviet Minorities at the End of the Second World War" (New York: W. W. Norton, 1978) (ISBN 0-393-00068-0).]

After the war the leading role of the Russian people in the Soviet family of nations and nationalities was promoted by Stalin and his successors. This shift was most clearly underscored by Communist Party General Secretary Stalin's Victory Day toast to the Russian people in May 1945: [This translation is drawn from]

I would like to raise a toast to the health of our Soviet people and, before all, the Russian people.

I drink, before all, to the health of the Russian people, because in this war they earned general recognition as the leading force of the Soviet Union among all the nationalities of our country.

Naming the Russian nation the primus inter pares was a total turnabout from Stalin's declaration 20 years earlier (heralding the korenizatsiya policy) that "the first immediate task of our Party is vigorously to combat the survivals of Great-Russian chauvinism." Although the official literature on nationalities and languages in subsequent years continued to speak of there being 130 equal languages in the USSR, [For example, M. I. Isaev, Сто тридцать равноправных; о языках народов СССР. [One hundred and thirty with equal rights; on languages of the peoples of the USSR] . Moscow: Nauka, 1970.] in practice a hierarchy was endorsed in which some nationalities and languages were given special roles or viewed as having different long-term futures. [In the specialized literature on sociolinguistics that evolved in the 1960s and later, scholars described such a hierarchy of societal functions by distinguishing Russian at the top of the hierarchy as the "language of inter-nationality communication," then the "national literary languages" of major Soviet nations (Ukrainian, Estonian, Uzbek, etc.), the "literary languages" of smaller nationalities and peoples (Chuvash, Mordvinian, etc.), and the languages of small ethnic groups. (See, "inter alia", Yu. D. Desheriyev and I. F. Protchenko, Равитие языков народов СССР в советскую эпоху [Development of languages of the peoples of the USSR in the Soviet epoch] . Moscow: Prosveshchenie, 1968.) For an analysis by an American scholar of the different "functions" of major nationalities in the Soviet system of rule, see John A. Armstrong, "The Ethnic Scene in the Soviet Union: The View of the Dictatorship,” in Erich Goldhagen, Ed., "Ethnic Minorities in the Soviet Union" (New York: Praeger, 1968): 3-49.]

Late 1950s to 1980s: Advanced Russianization

1958-59 education reform: parents choose language of instruction

An analysis of textbook publishing found that education was offered for at least one year and for at least the first class (grade) in 67 languages between 1934 and 1980. [On the differential and changing roles of Russian and the non-Russian languages in Soviet education over time see Barbara A. Anderson and Brian D. Silver, "Equality, Efficiency, and Politics in Soviet Bilingual Education Policy: 1934-1980," "American Political Science Review" 78 (December, 1984): 1019-1039.] However, the educational reforms undertaken after Nikita Khrushchev became First Secretary of the Communist Party in the late 1950s began a process of replacing non-Russian schools with Russian ones for the nationalities that had lower status in the federal system or whose populations were smaller or displayed widespread bilingualism already. [Yaroslav Bilinsky, "The Soviet Education Laws of 1958-59 and Soviet Nationality Policy," "Soviet Studies" 14 (Oct. 1962): 138-157.] Nominally, this process was guided by the principle of "voluntary parental choice." But other factors also came into play, including the size and formal political status of the group in the Soviet federal hierarchy and the prevailing level of bilingualism among parents. [Brian D. Silver, "The Status of National Minority Languages in Soviet Education: An Assessment of Recent Changes," "Soviet Studies" 26 (Jan. 1974): 28-40; Isabelle Kreindler,"The Changing Status of Russian in the Soviet Union," "International Journal of the Sociology of Language" 33 (1982): 7-39; Anderson and Silver (1984).] By the early 1970s schools in which non-Russian languages served as the principal medium of instruction operated in 45 languages, while seven more indigenous languages were taught as subjects of study for at least one class year. By 1980, instruction was offered in 35 non-Russian languages of the peoples of the USSR, just over half the number in the early 1930s.

Moreover, in most of these languages schooling was not offered for the complete 10-year curriculum. For example, within the RSFSR in 1958-59, full 10-year schooling in the native language was offered in only three languages: Russian, Tatar, and Bashkir. [Silver (1974).] And some nationalities had minimal or no native-language schooling. By 1962–1963, among non-Russian nationalities that were indigenous to the RSFSR, whereas 27% of children in classes I-IV (primary school) studied in Russian-language schools, 53% of those in classes V-VIII (incomplete secondary school) studied in Russian-language schools, and 66% of those in classes IX-X studied in Russian-language schools. Although many non-Russian languages were still offered as a "subject" of study at a higher class level (in some cases through complete general secondary school – the 10th class), the pattern of using Russian language as the main medium of instruction accelerated after Khrushchev's parental choice program got under way.

Pressure to convert the main medium of instruction to Russian was evidently higher in urban areas. For example, in 1961-62, reportedly only 6% of Tatar children living in urban areas attended schools in which Tatar was the main medium of instruction. [Silver (1974).] Similarly in Dagestan in 1965, schools in which the indigenous language was the medium of instruction existed only in rural areas. The pattern was probably similar, if less extreme, in most of the non-Russian union republics, although in Belarus and Ukraine schooling in urban areas was highly Russianized. [Bilinsky (1962).]

Doctrine catches up with practice: "sblizhenie-sliyanie" (rapprochement and fusion of nations)

The promotion of federalism and of non-Russian languages had always been a strategic decision aimed at expanding and maintaining rule by the Communist Party. On the theoretical plane, however, the Communist Party's official doctrine was that eventually nationality differences and nationalities as such would disappear. In official party doctrine as it was reformulated in the Third Program of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union introduced by Nikita Khrushchev at the 22nd Party Congress in 1961, although the program stated that ethnic distinctions will eventually disappear and a single "lingua franca" would be adopted by all nationalities in the Soviet Union, "the obliteration of national distinctions, and especially language distinctions, is a considerably more drawn-out process than the obliteration of class distinctions." At the present time, however, Soviet nations and nationalities were undergoing a dual process of further flowering of their cultures and of rapprochement or drawing together (сближение – sblizhenie) into a stronger union. In his Report on the Program to the Congress, Khrushchev used even stronger language: that the process of further rapprochement (sblizhenie) and greater unity of nations would eventually lead to a merging or fusion (слияние – sliyanie) of nationalities. [Scholars often misattribute the endorsement of "sliyanie" to the Party Program. This word does not appear in the Party Program but only in Khrushchev's Report on the Program (his second speech at the Congress), though it did appear in officially approved literature about nationalities policy in subsequent years.]

Khrushchev's formula of rapprochement-fusing (sblizhenie-sliyanie) was moderated slightly, however, when Leonid Brezhnev replaced Khrushchev as General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1964 (a post he held until his death in 1982). Brezhnev asserted that sblizhenie would lead ultimately to the complete "unity" (единство – yedinstvo) of nationalities. "Unity" was an ambiguous term because it could imply either the maintenance of separate national identities but a higher stage of mutual attraction or similarity between nationalities, or the total disappearance of ethnic differences. In the political context of the time, sblizheniye-yedinstvo was regarded as a softening of the pressure toward Russification that Khrushchev had promoted with his endorsement of sliyanie. The 24th Party Congress in 1971, however, launched the idea that a new "Soviet people" (Советский народ) was forming on the territory of the USSR, a community for which the common language – the language of the "Soviet people" – was the Russian language, consistent with the role that Russian was playing for the fraternal nations and nationalities in the territory already. This new community was labeled a people (народ – narod), not a nation (нация – natsiya), but in that context "narod" implied an "ethnic" community, not just a civic or political community. [Although the word "narod" also can be understood as a civic, or simply a social term ("a people"), given the context of the extensive literature on Soviet nationalities policy and the usage in Soviet statistics, including the censuses in which ethnic groups as a whole were commonly listed as "narody i natsional'nosti," use of the term "narod" in "new Soviet people" implied an ethnic meaning to the concept.]

Thus, until the end of the Soviet era, a doctrinal rationalization had been provided for some of the practical policy steps that were taken in areas of education and the media. First of all, the transfer of many "national schools" (национальные школы) to Russian as a medium of instruction accelerated under Khrushchev in the late 1950s and continued into the 1980s. [See Anderson and Silver (1984). During this period, in most of the non-Russian official regions, the Ministry of Education distributed three main alternative school curricula, for: (1) Russian schools in which all subjects were taught in Russian, except for foreign (non-Soviet) languages; (2) "national schools" in which the native language was used as the main medium of instruction and Russian was taught as a subject of study (which might be termed the traditional national school); and (3) "national schools" in which Russian was the main medium of instruction and the native language was taught only as a separate subject (a new type of "national school" established after the 1958-59 education reforms). There were also some hybrid versions of the latter two types.] Second, the new doctrine was used to justify the special place of the Russian language as the "language of internationality communication" (язык межнационального общения) in the USSR. Use of the term "internationality" (межнациональное) rather than the more conventional "international" (международное) focused on the special "internal" role of Russian language rather than on its role as a language of international discourse. That Russian was the most widely spoken language, and that Russians were the majority of the population of the country, were also cited in justification of the special place of Russian language in government, education, and the media.

At the 27th CPSU Party Congress in 1986, presided over by Mikhail Gorbachev, the 4th Party Program reiterated the formulas of the previous program:

Characteristic of the national relations in our country are both the continued flourishing of the nations and nationalities and the fact that they are steadily and voluntarily drawing closer together on the basis of equality and fraternal cooperation. Neither artificial prodding nor holding back of the objective trends of development is admissible here. In the long term historical perspective this development will lead to complete unity of the nations. . . .

The equal right of all citizens of the USSR to use their native languages and the free development of these languages will be ensured in the future as well. At the same time learning the Russian language, which has been voluntarily accepted by the Soviet people as a medium of communication between different nationalities, besides the language of one's nationality, broadens one's access to the achievements of science and technology and of Soviet and world culture.

Linguistic and ethnic Russification

ome factors favoring Russification

Progress in the spread of Russian language as a second language and the gradual displacement of other languages was monitored in Soviet censuses. The Soviet censuses of 1926, 1937, 1939, and 1959, had included questions on "native language" (родной язык) as well as "nationality." The 1970, 1979, and 1989 censuses added to these questions one on "other language of the peoples of the USSR" that an individual could "freely command" (свободно владеть). The explicit goal of the new question on "second language" was to monitor the spread of Russian as the language of internationality communication. [Brian D. Silver, "“The Ethnic and Language Dimensions in Russian and Soviet Censuses,” in Ralph S. Clem, Ed., "Research Guide to the Russian and Soviet Censuses" (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1986): 70-97.]

Each of the official homelands within the Soviet Union was regarded as the eternal and only homeland of the titular nationality and its language, while the Russian language was regarded as the language for interethnic communication for the whole Soviet Union. As such, for most of the Soviet era, especially after the korenizatsiya (indigenization) policy ended in the 1930s, schools in which non-Russian Soviet languages would be taught were not generally available outside the respective ethnically based administrational units of these ethnicities; the same could be said about the cultural institutions. Some exceptions appeared to involve cases of historic rivalries or patterns of assimilation between neighboring non-Russian groups, such as between Tatars and Bashkirs in Russia or among major Central Asian nationalities. For example, even in the 1970s schooling was offered in at least six languages in Uzbekistan: Russian, Uzbek, Tajik, Kazakh, Turkmenian, and Karakalpak.

While formally all languages were equal, in almost all Soviet republics the Russian/local bilingualism was "asymmetric," as in India: the titular nation learned Russian, whereas immigrant Russians generally did not learn the local language.

In addition, many non-Russians who lived outside their respective administrative units tended to become Russified linguistically; that is, they not only learned Russian as a second language but they also adopted it as their home language or mother tongue – although some still retained their sense of "ethnic" identity or origins even after shifting their native language to Russian. This includes both the traditional communities (e.g. Lithuanians in the northwestern Belarus ("see Eastern Vilnius region") or the Kaliningrad Oblast ("see Lithuania Minor")) and the communities that appeared during Soviet times (e.g. Ukrainian or Belarusian workers in Kazakhstan or Latvia, whose children attended primarily the Russian-language schools and thus the further generations are primarily speaking Russian as their native language; for example, for 57% of Estonia's Ukrainians, 70% of Estonia's Belarusians and 37% of Estonia's Latvians claimed Russian is the native language in the last Soviet census of 1989. Russian language as well changed the Yiddish and other languages as the main language of many Jewish communities inside the Soviet Union.

Another consequence of the mixing of nationalities and the spread of bilingualism and linguistic Russification was the growth of ethnic intermarriage and a process of "ethnic" Russification -- coming to call oneself Russian by nationality or ethnicity, not just speaking Russian as a second language or using it as a primary language. In the last decades of the Soviet Union, ethnic Russification (or ethnic assimilation) was moving very rapidly for a few nationalities such as the Karelians and Mordvinians. [Barbara A. Anderson and Brian D. Silver, "Some Factors in the Linguistic and Ethnic Russification of Soviet Nationalities: Is Everyone Becoming Russian?" in Lubomyr Hajda and Mark Beissinger, Eds., "The Nationality Factor in Soviet Politics and Society" (Boulder: Westview, 1990): 95-130.] However, whether children born in mixed families where one of the parents was Russian were likely to be raised as Russians depended on the context. For example, the majority of children in families where one parent was Russian and the other Ukrainian living in North Kazakstan chose Russian as their nationality on their internal passport at age 16. However, children of mixed Russian and Estonian parents living in Tallinn (the capital city of Estonia), or mixed Russian and Latvian parents living in Riga (the capital of Latvia), or mixed Russian and Lithuanian parents living in Vilnius (the capital of Lithuania) most often chose as their own nationality that of the titular nationality of their republic – not Russian. [For a summary of ethno-linguistic research conducted by Soviet scholars see Rasma Karklins. 1986. "Ethnic Relations in the USSR: The Perspective from Below" (Boston and London: Allen & Unwin).] More generally, patterns of linguistic and ethnic assimilation (Russification) were complex and cannot be accounted for by any single factor such as educational policy. Also relevant were the traditional cultures and religions of the groups, their residence in urban or rural areas, their contact with and exposure to Russian language and to ethnic Russians, and other factors. [Brian Silver, "Social Mobilization and the Russification of Soviet Nationalities," "American Political Science Review" 68 (March, 1974): 45-66; Brian D. Silver, "Language Policy and the Linguistic Russification of Soviet Nationalities," in Jeremy R. Azrael, Ed., "Soviet Nationality Policies and Practices" (New York: Praeger, 1978): 250-306.]

ome factors impeding Russification

A factor that may have retarded the process of ethnic Russification was the long-established practice of using nationality labels on official documents. For example, the "nationality" of Soviet citizens was fixed on their internal passports at age 16, and was essentially determined by the nationality of the parents. Only the children of mixed marriages had a choice: they could choose the nationality of one of their parents. Furthermore, an individual's nationality was inscribed on school enrollment records, military service cards (for men), and labor booklets. Although the census question on nationality was supposed to be only subjective and not determined by the official nationality in an individual's passport, the fixing of official nationality on so many official records may well have reinforced non-Russian identities. [This is the interpretation of the leading Soviet ethnic demographer V. I. Kozlov, in Динамика численности народов (Dynamics in the Number of Peoples) (Moscow: Nauka, 1969).] Among some groups, such as Jews, the ubiquitous use of such an official nationality on identity papers and records was viewed as a factor that fostered discrimination against them.

Another factor that may also have begun to reduce pressure toward ethnic Russification was that beginning in the late 1960s immigration of Russians to some of the non-Russian republics slowed down or reversed. [Barbara A. Anderson and Brian D. Silver, "Growth and Diversity of the Population of the Soviet Union," "Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science" 510 (July 1990): 155-177.] There was a net outmigration of Russians from Armenia and Georgia in the 1960s (though because of natural increase the number of Russians still increased during this decade). There was also essentially no net immigration or outmigration of Russians in Central Asia in the 1970s, and by the 1980s there was a net outmigration. To the Baltic republics and in the Soviet west (Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldavia), there was only a trickle of net immigration of Russians by the 1980s. Furthermore, because of differential fertility rates among ethnic groups, the Russian share of the population of the Soviet Union as a whole declined to just 51 percent by the time of the 1989 census. In the preceding decade Russians had comprised just 33 percent of the net increase in the Soviet population. Assuming that these trends continued, Russians were likely to lose their status as a majority of the Soviet population around the turn of the 21st century.

Present times

While Belarusian and Russian are both official languages of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko's regime has been pursuing a policy to replace Belarusian with Russian through its control of the school curriculum [ [ Belarussian students on a 'freedom summer school' in Poland] - "The Liberal Arts high school from Minsk is the only school in Belarus, whose curriculum is independent from the repressive Belarussian government. Aleksandr Lukashenko himself singled out the school for not teaching in Russian, which he wants to be the only language in Belarus. " retrieved August 19, 2008.] , including replacing Belarusian-language textbooks on Belarusian geography and history with ones in Russian [ [ Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2007] - "Last year, both Russian- and Belarusian-language schools received new textbooks about Belarusian history and geography in Russian, despite prevailing practice that those subjects were taught in Belarusian." Prior years' reports relate similar activities.] .

Tatarstan republic tried to switch its alphabet to Latin, however the Latin alphabet was officially banned for Russia's official languages. This position was officially explained with two reasons:
* switching languages required finances, which are limited,
* it would be difficult to make older generations accept the new language/alphabet.

Russian is the language of higher education, trade and business in all regions of Russia. In Kazakhstan, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan Russian has been declared an official language (in Kazakhstan its official status is "Language of interethnic communication"). In Ukraine, this was an issue in the 2004 presidential election: Viktor Yanukovich supported making Russian a state language while Viktor Yushchenko opposed it. The current government is unwilling to make Russian a state language. However, despite official government policies, the Russian language is widely used on television [] and the circulation of Russian language newspapers is high all over the country (in the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine Russian is the dominant language). The situation is similar in Kazakhstan. In both Ukraine and, to a lesser extent, Kazakhstan, there have been attempts to make the titular languages the main languages for the media and the press (this is referred to as derussification in those countries), but these have had limited success. In Belarus, such attempts stopped in 1994, with the ascent of Alexander Lukashenko; most of the administrative, educational and legislative business in Belarus is carried out in Russian.

Notes and Citations

General References

*Anderson, Barbara A., and Brian D. Silver. 1984. "Equality, Efficiency, and Politics in Soviet Bilingual Education Policy: 1934-1980," "American Political Science Review" 78 (December): 1019-1039.
*Armstrong, John A. 1968. "The Ethnic Scene in the Soviet Union: The View of the Dictatorship,” in Erich Goldhagen, Ed., "Ethnic Minorities in the Soviet Union" (New York: Praeger): 3-49.
*Aspaturian, Vernon V. 1968. "The Non-Russian Peoples," in Allen Kassof, Ed., "Prospects for Soviet Society". New York: Praeger: 143-198.
*Azrael, Jeremy R., Ed. 1978. "Soviet Nationality Policies and Practices." New York: Praeger.
*Bilinsky, Yaroslav. 1962. "The Soviet Education Laws of 1958-59 and Soviet Nationality Policy," "Soviet Studies" 14 (Oct. 1962): 138-157.
*Hajda, Lubomyr, and Mark Beissinger, Eds. 1990. "The Nationality Factor in Soviet Politics and Society." Boulder, CO: Westview.
*Kaiser, Robert, and Jeffrey Chinn. 1996. "The Russians as the New Minority in the Soviet Successor States". Boulder, CO: Westview.
*Karklins, Rasma. 1986. "Ethnic Relations in the USSR: The Perspective from Below". Boston and London: Allen & Unwin.
*Kreindler, Isabelle. 1982. "The Changing Status of Russian in the Soviet Union," "International Journal of the Sociology of Language" 33: 7-39.
*Lewis, E. Glyn. 1972. "Multilingualism in the Soviet Union: Aspects of Language Policy and its Implementation." The Hague: Mouton.
*Silver, Brian D. 1974. "The Status of National Minority Languages in Soviet Education: An Assessment of Recent Changes," "Soviet Studies" 26 (January): 28-40.
*Silver, Brian D. 1986. “The Ethnic and Language Dimensions in Russian and Soviet Censuses,” in Ralph S. Clem, Ed., "Research Guide to the Russian and Soviet Censuses" (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press): 70-97.
*Thaden, Edward C., Ed. 1981. "Russification in the Baltic Provinces and Finland, 1855-1914". Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691053146
*Wixman, Ronald. 1984. "The Peoples of the USSR: An Ethnographic Handbook". New York: M.E. Sharpe and London, Macmillan.

ee also

* Autocracy, Orthodoxy, and National Character
* Education in the Soviet Union
* Korenizatsiya
* Population transfer in the Soviet Union
* Prometheism
* Russophobia
* Sovietization
* Polonization
* Germanization
* Germanisation of Poles during Partitions

External links

* [ De-russification/Tatarization] (PDF)
* [ Russification in Lithuania]
* [ The Civic Identity of Russifying Officials in the Empire’s Northwestern Region after 1863 by Mikhail Dolbilov] (PDF)
* [ Permanent mission of Caucasian Institute for Democracy Foundation opened in Tskhinvali] – Regnum News Agency (Russia), 9 December 2005
* [ Tatarstan Rejects Dominant Role of Russians] – Kommersant, 6 March 2006

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