Russia’s population speaks languages that represent several language families. Russian is the official language all over the Russian Federation; Republics within the RF (Karelia excluded) enjoy their right to establish their own state languages (so-called “title” languages, e.g. Ingush in the Ingush Republic; see chapter 4.1.8).
Russian remains the basic means of communication and underpins the common cultural space throughout the country: according to the Census of 2010, 99.4% of the population use Russian. In many regions, Russian language courses are provided for gastarbeitern arriving from the former Soviet Republics. In 2009, the national Cyrillic domain zone .РФ was established, which experts believe could replace the .RU zone within Russia in 5 years.
The Russian Language Federal Target Programme (2011-2015) was designed to support, preserve and disseminate Russian language usage, including among compatriots living abroad. Its tasks are as follows:
- to provide for the use of Russian as the state language of the Russian Federation;
- to support Russian as the language of inter-ethnic communication;
- to develop Russian as the means of economic, humane, and juridical integration within the CIS; and
- to meet language and cultural needs of compatriots living abroad.
2007 was declared the Year of the Russian Language, when different agencies – namely the culture, education, and foreign Ministries – collaborated in organising related events in Russia and abroad. Many events were held to stimulate involvement in language learning and use as a means of intercultural communication. The “Russky Mir” Foundation was established the same year to promote the Russian language as a national treasure and a part of Russian and world culture, to support programmes of studying Russian both at home and abroad.
There are more than 150 living and legitimate languages and dialects, ethnic and local ones that in most cases are very different from Russian, but which use the Cyrillic alphabet. Mostly at the regional level, languages of indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities receive state financial support as the languages of education, publishing and media. However, actual support is not enough to create a viable industry. The lack of pedagogical personnel with good minority language training skills, together with the e.g. preserved nomadic way of life of the Nordic indigenous peoples, produce general difficulties in teaching mother tongues, which is leading to their decline.
In 2001, Russia signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, implementation of which was placed within the responsibility of the Ministry for Regional Development. The possibilities of the Charter’s ratification are to be assessed within the joint Programme of the Council of Europe, European Commission and the Ministry on “Ethnic Minorities in Russia – development of languages, cultures, mass media, and civil society” (2009–2010).