Category Archives: Languaж

(2017) Declining use of Russian in post-Soviet states

Russian has lost more ground than any other language over the past 20 years as newly independent former Soviet states have attempted to assert their linguistic sovereignty.

The fading influence of the tongue highlights the fading influence of Moscow amid efforts by Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, to reassert the former superpower’s importance on the world stage with its military interventions in Ukraine and Syria.

The use of Russian has retreated fastest in Kazakhstan, where in 2016 just 20.7 per cent of people said they typically spoke Russian at home, compared with 33.7 per cent in 1994, according to data from national censuses and the UN, collated by Euromonitor International, a research group.

The findings come in the week that Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan, said the central Asian country would convert the Kazakh alphabet to Latin script, arguing that the transition to a Russian-style Cyrillic script in 1940 was motivated by “political reasons”.

Estonia and Latvia, two of the three former Soviet Baltic states, have each seen drops of about 10 percentage points in the proportion of their population citing Russian as their first language since 1994, with Russian speakers in Latvia falling from 40.5 per cent to 29.8 per cent, and those in Estonia from 33.3 per cent to 23.4 per cent, as the first chart shows.

How Different Are Ukrainian and Russian?

Incredible analysis from Lang focus:

Ukrainian “Lexical Similarity” with

Russian: 62%
Polish: 70%
Slovak: 66%
Belarusian: 84%

Russian vocabulary – from Lativ via Old Church Slavonic
Ukrainian vocabulary – Original vernacular slavic words

I think the last fact of vocabulary origin speaks to the socio-political difference that defines the two cultures: centralized and authoritarian vs individualistic and free

A Confession by Leo Tolstoy

At the age of 26 he started to mix with poets and writers and share with them a role that was bestowed upon them at the time of faith in “evolution”; the role of teaching people. “This faith in the meaning of poetry and in the evolution of life was a religion and I was one of its priests…..for a considerable length of time I lived in this faith without doubting its validity.”

He began to doubt the sincerity of his circle when he noticed that each group term themselves as “the finest and most useful teachers” and “others teach falsely”. Something very deep in him was telling him that if ever someone was carrying such a great mission of “teaching people” he should not seek personal esteem as first priority. But still he shared with them their “genuine, sincere concern” of “how to gain as much money and fame as possible” by writing books and journals. When he remembers this stage in his life Tolstoy says,

At the time we were all convinced that we must talk and talk and write and publish as quickly as possible, and as much as possible, and that this was all necessary for the good of mankind. And thousands of us, contradicting and abusing one another, published and wrote with the aim of teaching others. Failing to notice that we knew nothing, that we did not know the answer to the most basic question of life — what is good and what is evil — we all spoke at the same time, never listening to one another. At times we indulged and praised each other in order to be indulged and praised in return, at other times we grew angry and shrieked at each other, just as if we were in a madhouse.


I discovered this word when reading a Ukrainian translation of a Peppa Pig story book. It means almost nothing. It’s the equivalent of clearing your throat loudly. It means “pay attention to me, I’m going to speak now,” and maybe also “what I’m about to say is an extension of the moments which just transpired.”

The word is just obscure enough that I, as a foreigner in Ukraine, achieve some comedic value when I use it. In the story, the self-important Daddy Pig reads from a shopping list upon arrival in a grocery store, so when I say it in front of my son, he’ll immediately speak the next line from the story book: “five tomatoes.”

Tomos becomes word of year in Ukraine

“Tomos” was chosen as the word of the year in 2018 by the dictionary of modern Ukrainian language and slang “Myslovo”.

“The word is the symbol of the creation of Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and further withdrawal from the ideological influence of Moscow,” the message said.

Related: Christmas liturgy takes place in Kyiv’s Saint Sophia Cathedral

Greek word “Tomos”, which was known only by a narrow range of people dedicated to the religious terminology arouse the public interest last year.

Firstly, it appeared in the Ukrainian public space in April 2018, when President Petro Poroshenko asked the parliament to support his appeal to Ecumenical Patriarch on the provision of Tomos on Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

Yesterday, January 5, the ceremony of signing the Tomos of autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine took place in Istanbul.

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko took part in the ceremony of the Tomos delivery and the divine liturgy said by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and the primate of the OCU.

I assume “Tomos” is a proper noun that refers to the holy document pictured above.

Monkeys and Apes — same word in Ukrainian

No wonder I couldn’t explain.

Screenshot - 01172016 - 03:43:51 PM

There are a number of places where English has two words and Ukrainian just one.

monkey, ape == mavpa
pumpkin, squash = harbuz

There are a number of places where it’s the opposite

blueberry, wild blueberry == chronytsia, loxyna
strawberry, wild strawberry == polunytsia, sunytsia
cherry, sour cherry == chereshnia, vyshnia

Умом Россию не понять — “Intelligently you cannot understand Russia”

ное 28 ноября 1866 года поэтом Фёдором Тютчевым:

This famous line is from a quatrain written in 1866 by Russian poet Fyodor Tyutchev.

Умом Россию не понять,
Аршином общим не измерить:
У ней особенная стать —
В Россию можно только верить.

It ends “in Russia, you can only believe.”

Their bias against understanding is deep seeded.

If you want to see some crazy pictures, do a Google image search for Умом Россию не понять.

Books Published by European Country per population

Fascinating! # of books published per year per capita in Europe.

Britain and Spanish are expected leaders — publishing for the entire English / Spanish market.

Czech, Belarus and Slovenia (!?) are surprisingly prominent.

Ukraine is last :-(. The market here is probably served by Russian and Belarussian publishers — same reason that Belgium ranks poorly — it’s served by German or French publishers.

Screenshot - 01062016 - 07:47:20 PM