Centrifugal and Centripetal Forces Driving Russian Language Norms

Keywords: Russian language studies, bilingualism, linguistic variation, diaspora, language policy, the official norm


Russian, as a pluricentric language, demonstrates differences in pronunciation, lexis, syntactical structures, and regional specificity of grammar deviations. The imposition of a norm, which is difficult even in the metropolis, is hardly possible in the diaspora, where host countries’ realities have a strong impact on the Russian language spoken outside of Russian borders. Even support of the Russian language turns into a double-edged sword, as Russian institutions offering it to the diasporic communities refuse to admit the growing pluricentricity of the Russian language. Although almost 30 years have passed since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russian heritage remains strong in the post-Soviet space, and many countries continue using Russian in public settings and in education. Regional varieties of Russian increasingly drift away from the “Moscow norm”, although it still dominates culturally. New European borders and economic conditions stipulate new regulations in the use of traditional international languages. The debate on the norm and the struggle for bi- and multilingualism characterize the current situation with the Russian language in the world. At the same time, it is important to point out that due to diasporans’ transnational ties, globalization of Russian electronic media, and growing commodification of Russian, it is often used as a lingua franca on the territory of the former Soviet Union and in immigrants’ host countries. This requires a high degree of stability of the main linguistic features to ensure mutual understanding in communication. Russian speakers stick to their language and elevate its status whenever they feel mistreated or underrepresented in their countries of residence, or when they see economic benefits in its use.

Author Biographies

Arto Mustajoki

PhD, Professor, University of Helsinki; Chief Researcher, HSE University.

3, Yliopistonkatu, 00014, Helsinki, Finland.

20, Myasnitskaya Str., 101000, Moscow, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-6609-7090


Ekaterina Protassova

PhD, Dr. Hab. (Pedagogy), Adjunct Professor, University of Helsinki.

3, Yliopistonkatu, 00014, Helsinki, Finland.

ORCID 0000-0002-8271-4909


Maria Yelenevskaya

PhD, Senior Researcher, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

3200003, Haifa, Israel.

ORCID 0000-0001-7155-8755



Bakhtin, M. M. (2017). Slovo v romane [Word in the Novel]. Moscow, Pal'mira. 229 p.

Berdy, M. A. (2019). Is Your Language Sordid and Gross? In Moscow Times [website]. Nov. 15. URL: https://themoscowtimes.com/2019/11/15/is-your-language-sordid-andgross-a68197 (accessed: 04.06.2020)

Bezyaeva, M. G. (2017). Kommunikativnoe pole normy v zvuchashchem tekste [Communicative Field of the Norm in the Sounding Language]. In Russkii yazyk za rubezhom. No. 2, pp. 24–30.

Clyne, M. (1992). Pluricentric Languages. Different Norms in Different Countries. Berlin, Mouton de Gruyter. 481 p.

Comrie, B., Stone, G., Polinsky, M. (1996). The Russian Language in the Twentieth Century. Oxford, Clarendon Press. XI, 385 p.

Coupland, N., Kristiansen, T. (2011). SLICE: Critical Perspectives on Language (De) Standardisation. In Kristiansen, T., Coupland, N. (Eds.). Standard Languages and Language Standards in Changing Europe. Oslo, Novus, pp. 11−35.

Emel'yanenko, V. (2020). Esli ne russkii yazyk – kak nam rodnit'sya? [If Not the Russian Language, How Could We Be Related?]. In Rossiiskaya gazeta. No. 48. March 4. URL: https://rg.ru/2020/03/04/pochemu-v-konstitucii-neobhodima-popravka-o-russkomiazyke.html (accessed: 04.06.2020).

Goodman, K. S., Goodman, Y. M. (2014). Making Sense of Learners, Making Sense of Written Language. N. Y., Routledge. 288 p.

Guseinov, G. Ch. (2003). D. S. P. Sovetskie ideologemy v russkom diskurse 1990-kh [D. S. P. Soviet Ideologemes in the Russian Discourse]. Moscow, Tri kvadrata. 272 p.

Guseinov, G. Ch. (2012a). Novaya rol' russkogo yazyka v mire kak predmet izucheniya i prepodavaniya [The New Role of the Russian Language in the World as an Object of Learning and Teaching]. In Gefter [website]. May 10. URL: http://gefter.ru/archive/4359 (accessed: 04.06.2020).

Guseinov, G. Ch. (2012b). Nulevye na konchike yazyka: kratkii putevoditel' po russkomu diskursu [The 2000s on the Tip of the Tongue: A Short Guide on Russian Discourse]. Moscow, Izdatel'skii dom “Delo” Rossiiskoi akademii narodnogo khozyaistva i gosudarstvennoi sluzhby pri Prezidente Rossiiskoi Federatsii. 240 p.

Isurin, L. (2011). Russian Diaspora: Culture, Identity, and Language Change. Gottingen, Walter de Gruyter. 249 p.

Kamusella, T. (2018). Russian: A Monocentric or Pluricentric Language? In Colloquia Humanistica, No. 7, pp. 153–196. DOI 10.11649/ch.2018.010.

Karasik, V. I., Dmitrieva, O. A. (2005). Lingvo-kul'turnyi tipazh: k opredeleniyu ponyatiya [Linguo-Cultural Type: Toward the Definition of the Term]. In Karasik, V. I. (Ed.). Aksiologicheskaya lingvistika: lingvokul'turnye tipazhi. Volgograd, Paradigma, pp. 5−25.

Katona, É. (2019). Russian Pluricentricity in Development: Russian in Estonia as an Example. In Muhr, R., Mas Castells, J. A., Rueter, J. (Eds.). European Pluricentric Languages in Contact and Conflict. Berlin, Lang, pp. 11–25.

Kolesnikov, A. (2019). Zakonno russkie [Legally Russian]. In Kommersant''. No. 203. URL: https://kommersant.ru/doc/4149158 (accessed: 04.06.2020).

Kolesov, V. V. (1998). Russkaya rech': vchera, segodnya, zavtra [Russian Speech: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow]. St Petersburg, Yuna. 248 p.

Krongauz, M. (2008). Russkii yazyk na grani nervnogo sryva [The Russian Language on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown]. Moscow, Znak, Yazyki slavyanskikh kul'tur. 232 p.

Krysin, L. P. (2007). Russkaya literaturnaya norma i sovremennaya rechevaya praktika [Russian Literary Norm and the Contemporary Speech Practice]. In Russkii yazyk v nauchnom osveshchenii, No. 2, pp. 5–17.

Krysin, L. P. (2011). Variativnost' normy kak estestvennoe svoistvo literaturnogo yazyka [Variability of the Norms as a Natural Characteristic of the Literary Language]. In Izvestiya RAN. Seriya literatury i yazyka. Vol. 70. No. 4, pp. 3–8.

Krysin, L. P. (2012). Kul'tura rechi i funktsional'naya sotsiolingvistika [Culture of Speech and the Functional Sociolinguistics]. In Voprosy kul'tury rechi. Sbornik statei. Moscow, Institut russkogo yazyka imeni V. V. Vinogradova RAN, pp. 38–44.

Larina, T., Mustajoki, A., Protassova, E. (2017). Dimensions of Russian Culture and Mind. In Mustajoki, A., Lehtisaari, K. (Eds.). Philosophical and Cultural Interpretations of Russian Modernisation. N. Y., Routledge, pp. 7–19.

Maiorov, A. P. (Ed.). (2013). Regional'nye varianty natsional'nogo yazyka [Regional Varieties of the National Language]. Ulan-Ude, Izdatel'stvo Buryatskogo universiteta. 295 p.

Muhr, R. (2012). Linguistic Dominance and Non-Dominance in Pluricentric Languages: A Typology. In Muhr, R. (Ed.). Non-Dominant Varieties of Pluricentric Languages. Getting the Picture. In Memory of Michael Clyne. Frankfurt a/M, Lang, pp. 23–48.

Mustajoki, A. (2013). Raznovidnosti russkogo yazyka: analiz i klassifikatsiya [Varieties of the Russian Language: Analysis and Classification]. In Voprosy yazykoznaniya. No. 5, pp. 3−17.

Mustajoki, A. (2016). Challenges in the Standardisation of Contemporary Russian. In Tieken-Boon van Ostade, I., Percy. C. (Eds.). Prescription and Tradition in Language. Establishing Standards across Time and Space. Bristol, Multilingual Matters, pp. 288−302.

Mustajoki, A. (2019). Chto takoe “vladenie yazykom” i kakovy istoki sovremennoi metodiki prepodavaniya russkogo yazyka kak inostrannogo [What is “Language Proficiency” and What Are the Sources of the Modern Methods of Teaching Russian as a Foreign Language]. In Karasik, V. I. (Ed.). No my sokhranim tebya, russkii yazyk! Moscow, Flinta, pp. 353−361.

Mustajoki, A., Protassova, E. (2012). Russification of Western Concepts: Political Will and Crisis in a Russian Way. In Alapuro, R., Mustajoki, A., Pesonen, P. (Eds.). Understanding Russianness. N. Y., Routledge, pp. 32–52.

Mustajoki, A., Protassova, E., Yelenevskaya, M. (Eds.). (2020). The Soft Power of the Russian Language: Pluricentricity, Politics and Policies. L., Routledge. 262 p.

Muth, S. (2017). Russian Language Abroad: Viewing Language through the Lens of Commodification (Introduction to a Special Issue). In Russian J. of Linguistics. No. 3, pp. 463–675. DOI 10.22363/2312-9182-2017-21-3-463-492.

Natitnik, A. (2019). “Esli lyudi govoryat ne kak my, nam kazhetsya, chto oni plokhie” [“If people do not speak like us, it seems to us that they are bad”]. In Harvard Business Rev. – Rossiya [website]. December 24. URL: https://hbr-russia.ru/biznes-i-obshchestvo/fenomeny/817433 (accessed: 04.06.2020).

Nikolko, M., Carment, D. (Eds.). (2017). Post-Soviet Migration and Diasporas: From Global Perspectives to Everyday Practices. L., Palgrave Macmillan. 179 p.

Nikunlassi, A., Protassova, E. (Eds.). (2019). Russian Language in the Multilingual World. Helsinki, Univ. of Helsinki. 401 p.

Noyanzina, O. E., Omel'chenko, V. A., Surtaeva, O. V. (2018). Prioritety gosudarstvennoi politiki Rossiiskoi Federatsii v oblasti sfer ispol'zovaniya russkogo yazyka [Priorities of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Sphere of the Russian Language]. In Society and Security Insights. Vol. 1. No. 4, pp. 125–140. DOI 10.14258/ssi(2018)4-09.

O Strategii gosudarstvennoi natsional'noi politiki Rossiiskoi Federatsii na period do 2025 goda. Ukaz Prezidenta RF ot 19 dekabrya. No. 1666. [About the Strategy of the State National Policy of the Russian Federation for the Period till the Year 2025. Decree of the President of the Russian Federation. December 19]. (2012). In Garant.Ru. Informatsionno-pravovoi portal. URL: https://www.garant.ru/products/ipo/prime/doc/70184810 (accessed: 04.06.2020).

Ob utverzhdenii vedomstvennoi tselevoi programmy “Nauchno-metodicheskoe, metodicheskoe i kadrovoe obespechenie obucheniya russkomu yazyku i yazykam narodov Rossiiskoi Federatsii”. Rasporyazhenie Minprosveshcheniya Rossii ot 16.05.2019 No. R-60 [About the Endorsement of the Branch Targeted Programme “Scholarly, Methodical, and Personnel Provision of Teaching of the Russian Language and Languages of the Peoples of the Russian Federation”. Order of the Ministry of Education of Russia as of May 16, 2019. No. R-60]. (2019). In Konsul'tantPlyus [website]. URL: http://www.consultant.ru/document/cons_doc_LAW_356191 (accessed: 04.06.2020).

Pletneva, A. A. (2017). Narodnoe pravopisanie i reforma orfografii 1917–1918 godov [Popular Spelling and the Orthography Reform 2017–2018]. In Trudy Instituta russkogo yazyka imeni V. V. Vinogradova. Vol. 13, pp. 466–473.

Ritzau, U., Madsen, L. M. (2019). Speaker Perspectives, Linguistic Hybridity, and Language Learning. In Jaspers, J., Madsen, L. M. (Eds.). Critical Perspectives on Linguistic Fixity and Fluidity: Languagised Lives. N. Y., Routledge, pp. 192–213.

Rozhkova, E. (2019). Edinyi zhurnalistskii ekzamen [Unified Journalist Examination]. In Kommersant''. November 23. URL: https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/4170171 (accessed: 04.06.2020).

Ryazanova-Clarke, L. (Ed.). (2014). The Russian Language Outside the Nation: Speakers and Identities. Edinburgh, Edinburgh Univ. Press. 304 p.

Savel'eva, L. V. (2000). Russkoe slovo: konets XX veka [Russian Word: The End of the 20th Century]. St Petersburg, Logos. 213 p.

Severskaya, O. I. (2018). Orfograficheskie normy skvoz' prizmu paronimii i skhodnozvuchiya [Spelling Norms through the Prism of Paronymy and Similar-Sounding]. In Verbitskaya, L. A. (Ed.). Yazykovaya norma. Vidy i problem. St Petersburg, Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi pedagogicheskii universitet imeni A. I. Gertsena, pp. 191–200.

Shaibakova, D. D., Maimakova, A. D., Meiramova, S. A. (Eds.). (2016). Plyuritsentricheskie yazyki [Pluricentric Languages]. Almaty, Ұlaғat. 244 p.

Turkova, K. (2019). Kakie slova besyat russkikh i amerikantsev? [What Kind of Words Drive Russians and Americans Crazy?]. In Golos Ameriki. November 27. In Facebook [website]. URL: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=445762846124011 (accessed: 30.04.2021).

Yelenevskaya, M., Protassova, E. (2015). Global Russian: Between Decline and Revitalization. In Russian J. of Communication. No. 2, pp. 139–149. DOI 0.1080/19409419.2015.1044599.

Zagorovskaya, O. V. (2016). Normy russkogo literaturnogo yazyka: tipologiya i osnovaniya dlya klassifikatsii [The Norms of the Russian Literary Language: Typology and Grounds for Classification]. In Izvestiya Voronezhskogo gosudarstvennogo pedagogicheskogo universiteta. Seriya: Pedagogicheskie nauki. No. 3, pp. 121–126.

Zelenin, A. (2007). Yazyk russkoi emigrantskoi pressy (1919–1939) [The Language of the Emigrant Press (1919–1939)]. Tampere, Univ. of Tampere. 663 p.

How to Cite
Mustajoki, A., Protassova, E., & Yelenevskaya, M. (2021). Centrifugal and Centripetal Forces Driving Russian Language Norms. Quaestio Rossica, 9(2), 715–732. https://doi.org/10.15826/qr.2021.2.605