Russian Language Journal


language, Russia, historical context, revolution


In June of 2005 the federal legislation On the national language was signed into law by Vladimir Putin.1 The bill, revised and renamed several times after its initial introduction in the Duma in 2001, proved to be highly controversial, stimulating lively public debate. The law merits discussion as the first major piece of federation legislation focused on language policy and language planning to appear in the Russian Federation in several years. The law addresses both language‐status planning, which concerns the status and function of the Russian language, and language corpus planning, which attempts to affect changes in language forms and structures. The motivation to reaffirm and redefine Russian’s status as the national language through the measures adopted in this law, can best be understood when viewed in historical context, as part of the evolution of language policies since the Soviet revolution. Specifically, the roots of the impetus to grant the Russian language official status can be found in Soviet policies of the post‐war period. Russification policies, which were adopted in the 1950s and continued through the 1970s, provoked a backlash during Perestroika. The union republics, followed by the former autonomous republics, granted titular languages2 legal status beginning in the late 1980s. On the national language was drafted both as a response to language‐status planning efforts in the republics and as a reaction to the changes that have taken place in the Russian language since the dissolution of the USSR.