Of all the languages of Russia, Russian, the most widely spoken language, is the only official language at the national level. There are 35 languages which are considered official languages in various regions of Russia, along with Russian. There are over 100 minority languages spoken in Russia today. The new approved amendments to the Russian Constitution stipulate that Russian is the language of the “state forming people”. With president Vladimir Putin’s signing of an executive order on July 3, 2020 to officially insert the amendments into the Russian Constitution, they took effect on July 4, 2020.


Russian lost its status in many of the new republics that arose following the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union. In Russia, however, the dominating status of the Russian language continued. Today, 97% of the public school students of Russia receive their education only or mostly in Russian, even though Russia is made up of approximately 80% ethnic Russians.

Official languages

Although Russian is the only federally official language of Russia, there are several other officially recognized languages within Russia's various constituencies – article 68 of the Constitution of Russia only allows the various republics of Russia to establish official (state) languages other than Russian. This is a list of the languages that are recognized as official (state) in constitutions of the republics of Russia: The Constitution of Dagestan defines "Russian and the languages of the peoples of Dagestan" as the state languages, though no comprehensive list of the languages was given. 14 of these languages (including Russian) are literary written languages; therefore they are commonly considered to be the official languages of Dagestan. These are, besides Russian, the following: Aghul, Avar, Azerbaijani, Chechen, Dargwa, Kumyk, Lak, Lezgian, Nogai, Rutul, Tabasaran, Tat and Tsakhur. All of these, except Russian, Chechen and Nogai, are official only in Dagestan and in no other Russian republic. In the project of the "Law on the languages of the Republic of Dagestan" 32 languages are listed; however, this law project never came to life. Karelia is the only republic of Russia with Russian as the only official language. However, there exists the special law about state support and protection of the Karelian, Vepsian and Finnish languages in the republic, see next section.

Other recognized languages

The Government of the Republic of Bashkortostan adopted the Law on the Languages of Nations, which is one of the regional laws aimed at protecting and preserving minority languages. The main provisions of the law include General Provisions, Language names of geographic regions. objects and inscriptions, road and other signs, liability for violations of Bashkortostan in the languages of Bashkortostan. In the Republic of Bashkortostan, equality of languages is recognized. Equality of languages is a combination of the rights of peoples and people to preserve and fully develop their native language, freedom of choice and use of the language of communication. The writing of names of geographical objects and the inscription, road and other signs along with the state language of the Republic of Bashkortostan can be done in the languages of Bashkortostan in the territories where they are concentrated. Similar laws were adopted in Mari El, Tatarstan, Udmurtia, Khakassia and the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. The federal law "On the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation" allows the federal subjects to establish additionally official languages in the areas where minority groups live. The following 15 languages benefit from various degrees of recognition in various regions under this law: * Buryat in the Agin-Buryat Okrug * Chukchi in Yakutia * Dolgan in Yakutia * Even in Yakutia * Evenki in Yakutia * Finnish in Karelia * Karelian in Karelia * Kazakh in Altai * Khanty in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug and the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug * Komi-Permyak in the Komi-Permyak Okrug * Mansi in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug * Nenets in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, the Nenets Autonomous Okrug and the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug * Selkup in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug * Veps in Karelia * The Yukaghir languages in Yakutia

Migrant languages

As a result of mass migration to Russia from the former USSR republics (especially from the Caucasus and Central Asia) many non-indigenous languages are spoken by migrant workers. For example, in 2014 2.4 million Uzbek citizens and 1.2 million Tajik citizens entered Russia. For comparison, Russian citizens with ethnicities matching these of home countries of migrant workers of are much lower (from 2010 Russian Census, in thousands):

Endangered languages in Russia

There are many endangered languages in Russia. Some are considered to be near extinction and put on the list of endangered languages in Russia, and some may have gone extinct since data was last reported. On the other hand, some languages may survive even with few speakers. Some languages have doubtful data, like Serbian whose information in the Ethnologue is based on the 1959 census.

Languages near extinction

Most numbers are according to Michael Krauss, 1995. Given the time that has passed, languages with extremely few speakers might be extinct today. Since 1997, Kerek and Yugh have become extinct. * Ainu (''extinct in Russia since 1994, still spoken in Japan'') * Aleut (45 in Russia) * Enets (70) * Ingrian * Medny Aleut (2–10) (an Aleut–Russian mixed language) * Negidal * Orok (30–82) * Sami, Akkala (''extinct since 2003'') * Sami, Ter (2) * Tofalar (25–30) * Udege (100) * Votic (8, 60-non native) * Yukaghir, Northern (30–150) * Yukaghir, Southern (10–50) * Yupik

Foreign languages

According to the various studies made in 2005-2008 by Levada-Center 15% of Russians know a foreign language. From those who claim knowledge of at least one language: Knowledge of at least one foreign language is predominant among younger and middle-aged population. Among aged 18–24 38% can read and "translate with a dictionary", 11% can freely read and speak. Among aged 25–39 these numbers are 26% and 4% respectively. Knowledge of a foreign language varies among social groups. It is most appreciable (15-18%) in big cities with 100,000 and more inhabitants, while in Moscow it rises up to 35%. People with higher education and high economical and social status are most expected to know a foreign language. The new study by Levada-Center in April 2014 reveals such numbers: The age and social profiling are the same: knowledge of a foreign language is predominant among the young or middle-aged population with higher education and high social status and who live in big cities. In the 18th and 19th centuries, French was a common language among upper class Russians. The impetus came from Peter the Great's orientation of Russia towards Europe and accelerated after the French Revolution. After the Russians fought France in the Napoleonic Wars, Russia became less inclined towards French.

Languages of education

Every year the Russian Ministry of Education and Science publishes statistics on the languages used in schools. In 2014/2015 the absolute majority (13.1 million or 96%) of 13.7 million Russian students used Russian as a medium of education. Around 1.6 million or 12% students studied their (non-Russian) native language as a subject. The most studied languages are Tatar, Chechen and Chuvash with 347,000, 253,000 and 107,000 students respectively. The most studied foreign languages in 2013/2014 were (students in thousands):

See also

*Demography of Russia *List of languages of Russia *Languages of the Caucasus *Russian Academy of Sciences, the language regulator in Russia


Further reading

* Offord, Derek, Lara Ryazanova-Clarke, Vladislav Rjéoutski, and Gesine Argent. ''French and Russian in Imperial Russia: Language Use among the Russian Elite''. Edinburgh University Press, 2015
Available at

External links

Languages of European Russia
Languages of Asian Russia
Minority languages of Russia on the Net
project, which aims at presenting the languages of Russia to the Web and at facilitating their usage on the Web (most information is in Russian; it provides scientific references on each individual language as well as links to online language descriptions, educational and scientific institutions related to the language, resources on computer-processing of the language and some sites written in this language)
Population by mother tongue and districts in 50 Governorates of the European Russia in 1897

The History of the French Language in Russia
" University of Bristol {{Asia in topic|Languages of Category:Language policy in the Russian Empire, Soviet Union and Russian Federation