Centrifugal and Centripetal Forces Driving Russian Language Norms





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



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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