Languages of Ukraine.

Those of you who are following events in and around Ukraine may find this map as interesting as I do; it shows the distribution of languages by locality (if you click on it, you can see a much larger version). The legend is in Ukrainian; from top to bottom, the languages are Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian/Moldavian, Crimean Tatar, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Gagauz, Polish, and Albanian.

Update. Here‘s an English version of the map (thanks, Christopher!).

Comments

  1. It’s weird how there’s such a gulf between native language identification and primary language usage (also in Belarus). The distinctions between «ethnic Ukrainians who mostly use Ukrainian», «ethnic Ukrainians who mostly use Russian but whose professed native language is Ukrainian», «ethnic Ukrainians whose native language is Russian» and «ethnic Russians» seem to be too much for a lot of Western commentators to wrap their heads around.

    Also, back in the day there would have been a lot more Yiddish, Polish, German, Greek and Crimean Tatar on the map.

  2. Note that the map is based on 2001 data, and presumably reflects what languages people say they use rather than what they actually do use.

  3. rootlesscosmo says:

    Yiddish isn’t listed, but it’s what my mother and her parents (my maternal grandmother was a member of the Social-Democratic Bund) spoke, and read and wrote, in Berezdov and Shepetivka–the Novohrad-Volynsk region. Is it cynical of me not to find this omission surprising?

  4. @rootlesscosmo: My grandfather came from a shtetl near Zhitomir, not too far from there – sadly I never got to meet him. Regarding the omission of Yiddish, I don’t think the mapmakers can be blamed; I’m reasonably sure that there isn’t a single locality in Ukraine with a Yiddish-speaking majority. Most of Ukraine’s post-war Jewish population has emigrated, and retention of language, religion and culture among those who remain is very poor. The 2001 census found it to be Ukraine’s 22nd most spoken language, with only 3,213 speakers – fewer than Thai or Uzbek.

  5. The map does not reflect the real picture, not one bit. The South-East (Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk, Lugansk, Zaporozhye, Kharkov, Odessa and Crimea) – ALL speak Russian. 9 out of 10 people there speak Russian in their daily lives. And most certainly, 98% of the whole population perfectly understands Russian. The map is a hoax.

  6. Note that the map does not show languages _people_ speak in their everyday lives, but languages of delegates of local (municipal and rural) boards, i. e. Soviets, chambers — “rada” in Ukranian. The title says: “The most used languages in Soviets of cities, towns, settlements, and villages, according to All-Ukranian Census 2001”.

  7. I take it the two gray areas on the northern edge are around Chernobyl and have no inhabitants?

  8. J. W. Brewer says:

    Beyond the hazards always present in census data (unreliability of self-reporting, blurriness of categories, concern at least in places with historically oppressive governments that people may skew their answers based on perceptions of what answer the government wants to hear, etc. — although in many/most contexts it’s not like we necessarily have alternative data on language use that has fewer problems with it), if this is data generated by the sort of question where everyone only filled in the blank/checked the box with *one* language, it is going to show something less than the full picture in areas where bilingualism is common. For understanding the interplay between language and politics there are several different questions you’d like to know the answers to (and it may be hard to graphically display the answers to all pertinent questions on a single map). For example, in Quebec it is useful for some purposes to know what percentage of the population is capable of functioning well in English (and the regional variation in that percentage), but it is also useful to know what subpercentage of that percentage would prefer (in-such-and-such context, because the answer may vary) to interact in French, feels resentful when obligated to deploy (again, in such-and-such context) their English fluency, and wants the government to Do Something about it.

  9. Christopher says:

    Not that’s it really critical to understanding the picture, but here’s an English version of the map.

  10. it is going to show something less than the full picture in areas where bilingualism is common.

    Well, yes, but I thought it was a useful first approximation.

  11. J. W. Brewer says:

    Oh I didn’t mean to suggest the map was not interesting/worthwhile in its own right just because it did not cover all potentially relevant issues. Note the extreme variousness of languages in the little bit poking out southwest of Odessa (the area historically called Budjak among other things). That was traditionally part of Bessarabia, but post-WW2 the Commies assigned it to the Ukrainian SSR rather than the Moldavian SSR for reasons of their own. That means now-independent Moldova has fewer ethnolinguistic minorities to deal with in return for losing access to the sea, and I don’t know how Moldovan nationalists feel about that tradeoff.

  12. For example, in Quebec it is useful for some purposes to know what percentage of the population is capable of functioning well in English (and the regional variation in that percentage), but it is also useful to know what subpercentage of that percentage would prefer (in-such-and-such context, because the answer may vary) to interact in French, feels resentful when obligated to deploy (again, in such-and-such context) their English fluency, and wants the government to Do Something about it.

    In Welsh-speaking Wales, I understand, it is the other way around: people who are highly fluent in Welsh don’t want to admit it to the government, for fear it will Do Something, namely start sending them government paperwork in incomprehensible bureaucratic Welsh. It’s quite bad enough in English, they reckon.

  13. a useful first approximation

    Now that we know it’s the languages used by local councils, I would say “zeroth approximation” instead.

  14. J. W. Brewer says:

    Well, with no disrespect to kabir, I’m not sure if that’s the only plausible interpretation of the map’s caption, so I would await further information before being entirely confident about what the map does and doesn’t purport to show. (I do suspect that “majority” is a bad translation in the English version since there must be pockets where there is no 50%+ linguistic majority, with the color representing the language that is in some sense preferred by a plurality of some relevant set of people in that district.)

  15. I’m not an expert or anything, but here’s another one without an army or navy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rusyn_language

  16. John Emerson says:

    Rusyn = Ruthenian, though I’m sure that’s controversial too. I met the Ruthenians as one of the populations of Austro-Hingarian Galicia.

    I don’t see Gothic on the map, alas.

  17. John Cowan –
    In Wales, the authorities do send out papers in two languages. If it’s a form to fill out, you just choose whichever language is closer to you. But you are right about the suspicions. I had a friend, a native Welsh speaker, who had to choose between English and Welsh when writing her college dissertation. She looked at instructions in Welsh and in English, realised that Welsh requirements were ‘too hard’ and chose English.

  18. The blue map feels strange indeed. And I agree with Lazar, where is Yiddish? I’ve seen reports of Jewish revival in some Ukrainian towns. I just looked up Chernobyl, I didn’t know it was, until 1920, mainly Jewish, 7,000 out 10,000 population, and a major Hasidic centre.

    Here’s another linguistic map, based on the same 2001 census but perhaps making more sense. The legend in English seems to me slightly misleading. What it says in Ukrainian is that the shades of green-yellow show the proportion of people who regard Ukrainian as their native/mother tongue, and the purple (Ukrainian) and blue (Russian) bars show the percentage of people who claim to be fluent in corresponding languages, without indicating preferences in daily usage. It supports what I understand to be the actual situation. Crimea is the only region where there is a marked dominance of Russian in the sense that much fewer people know Ukraininan. In other Russian speaking regions, i.e. Donetsk and Odessa, a very high proportion of people have a good grasp of Ukrainian.

  19. And I agree with Lazar, where is Yiddish?

    I think you’re agreeing with rootlesscosmo. Lazar wrote:

    Regarding the omission of Yiddish, I don’t think the mapmakers can be blamed; I’m reasonably sure that there isn’t a single locality in Ukraine with a Yiddish-speaking majority.

    I agree with Lazar.

  20. oops, sorry

  21. Greg Pandatshang says:

    The distinctions between «ethnic Ukrainians who mostly use Ukrainian», «ethnic Ukrainians who mostly use Russian but whose professed native language is Ukrainian», «ethnic Ukrainians whose native language is Russian» and «ethnic Russians» seem to be too much for a lot of Western commentators to wrap their heads around.

    Not only that, but I find that journalists have a hard time understanding that «people in Ukraine who are politically sympathetic to Russia» are not the same as «ethnic Russians». In the Ukraine crisis, the east-west political divide does not map cleanly to any linguistic or ethnic identity, so far as I’m aware.

    I’ve heard conflicting things about the sympathies of the Qırım Tatars. I don’t suppose anybody has a really reliable way to find out right now.

  22. J. W. Brewer says:

    My impression is that whatever might have been the case X decades or Y generations back, the percentage of Jews currently living in the territory of the former Soviet Union who actually speak Yiddish is not notably higher than it is for Jews currently living in the U.S., i.e. in the low single digits, with the further wrinkle that I don’t have the impression that either the Ukraine or any other post-Soviet polity has surviving pockets of full-on Hasidim/Haredim such that in a narrow enough geographical radius Yiddish might still be the local majority/plurality language (as it remains in a few locales in New York state).

  23. There must be an interesting story behind any pocket of Albanian speakers in the Ukraine, likely involving the Ottoman occupation.

  24. J. W. Brewer says:

    Phil J.: Dmitry Pruss asserted in a thread earlier in the month (“Catherine, Empress of Byzantium”) that Potemkin had imported a bunch of Albanian speakers to the region of Odessa in the 18th century as part of building up the Russian presence on the Black Sea coast, but had palmed them off to the Empress as Greeks. (These would have been from the Christian minority of Albanian-speakers, who would presumably be hoped to be sympathetic to the Russians’ anti-Ottoman policies.) Whether any current Albanian-speakers are descendents of that group or something else, I couldn’t say.

  25. Of course in those pre-nationalist days, people defined themselves largely by religion, so Orthodox Albanians were in fact thought of as “Greek.” (A number of the heroes of Greek independence were native speakers of Albanian — as was, for that matter, Muhammad Ali of Egypt.)

  26. But aren’t the Albanians Catholic and Muslim, but not Greek?

  27. J. W. Brewer says:

    One of the most colorful figures in Albanian politics in the first half of the 20th century was, among other things, an Orthodox bishop: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fan_Noli.

  28. Depends on which Albanians you mean. The Albanians of Greece identify as Greeks, not Albanians, though theirhome language is or was Arvanitika/Arbereshe Albanian (language shift towards Greek is underway). They’ve been in Greece since the 13th century. Until about 1900, Athens was a Greek-speaking island in a sea of Arvanitika-speakers covering Attica, southern Boeotia, and the northern Peloponnese.

    It would be more accurate to say that the Arvanites/Arberor consider themselves “Hellenes” but not “Greeks”. In their national discourse, Hellenes can be either Greeks or Arvanites; in the discourse of Greek-speaking Greeks, Greeks and Hellenes are the same thing.

  29. J. W. Brewer says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albanians_in_Ukraine notes varying self-identifications, one of which might be Englished as “Albanian” and the other as “Arvanite”? I’m not sure if “do you identify as Greek or Albanian” would have been viewed as a coherent question by their 18th-century ancestors, at a time when neither “Greece” nor “Albania” was a thing, in the modern nation-state/citizenship/passport-issuing-and-tax-collecting sense.

  30. Until about 1900, Athens was a Greek-speaking island in a sea of Arvanitika-speakers covering Attica, southern Boeotia, and the northern Peloponnese.

    Fascinating!

  31. It definitely would not. The Arvanites don’t become “Greek” until about 1815, when there is a Greek nation-state to become part of, at least conceptually if not yet in hard reality. “What is now proved was once only imagin’d.” (Blake)

  32. Albania is about 60% Muslim, 10% Catholic, 7% Orthodox, and the rest either irreligious or adherents of minority religions. It is considered one of the least intensely religious countries in Europe. Essentially all Arvanites are Orthodox, at least nominally.

    Consistently with what I said about national discourse, the word “Arvanite” does not appear in the WP article on the Greek War of Independence, whereas the article on the Arvanites links to four prominent Arvanites who fought in it and are actually mentioned by name in the previous article. The Arvanites have contributed presidents, prime ministers, and military leaders to Greece far in excess of their proportion in the population.

  33. Quite the character, this Fan Noli. Theofanus Stylianos Mavromatis was the name given him at birth. It looks all Greek to me, suggesting that his family was fairly well assimilated into the Greek-speaking and Orthodox community. Interesting too that his birthplace, so far into Eastern Thrace that it today is within Turkey, had an Albanian name — and has non-English Wiki entries only in Turkish and Bulgarian.

  34. J. W. Brewer says:

    I see that Putin has indicated that the Crimea will going forward have 3 official languages of equal status: Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean Tatar. (Albanian, Greek, Yiddish, etc. all out of luck.) I guess we’ll have to see how that works out in practice.

  35. J. W. Brewer says:

    Possibly important: “For what it’s worth, the Ukrainian alphabet doesn’t include Ы, though this is the first I’ve heard of it being an explanation for the country’s political divide.” http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_world_/2014/03/12/_russian_politician_vladimir_zhirinovsky_blames_hard_to_pronounce_cyrillic.html

  36. how that works out in practice

    Probably much like target practice.

  37. Paul, Albanian wikipedia links to a different Qyteza, which is in Albania near Devolli (on the Greek border) and was characterized as “Greek” in Synvet’s 1878 “Les Grecs de l’Empire Ottoman. Etude Statistique et Ethnographique”. Hard to say which Qyteza is right, but at least it explains the absence of Albanian-language entry for the Turkish Ibrik Tepe (the name means “Kettle Hill” and might have been relativelt common?)

  38. the Ukrainian alphabet doesn’t include Ы

    True. But it does include the sound (more or less) written with Ы in Russian, and that’s what Zhirinovsky is complaining about: the sound, not the letter. Of course it’s used in lots of other languages too, including some accents of English.

  39. Paul, Albanian wikipedia links to a different Qyteza

    Yes, I noticed that a few moments ago. There’s a Qyteza website too, and it carries a photo of our friend Fan Noli. I ran the home-page paragraph, plus a few sentences from the Albanian Wiki entry, through Google Translate and discovered that ‘qyteza’ seems to mean ‘town.’ Running ‘town’ through an online English-Albanian dictionary produced ‘qytet.’ Ditto for ‘ville’ through a French-Albanian dictionary.

  40. Aha!
    _______________________

    Although the village is called “town”

    We do not know to this day why the village is called Town?

    We know that residents and Pilkatit Slimnices, Greek villages near the border with Slav origin-Maqedhone, our village called Gradishtë *. The question arises: are a little Ia name in their onslaughts of time, or is appointed Town later? How old is the village?

    I remember very well that Bozhigrad east of the village, just where the river joins the river Vidohoves Devolli there wearing a plateau oak me with my grandpa and a laborer by Cetta, Faith GEGA, have made ​​eatables oak for winter for sheep and goats.
    _________________________________

    Above via Google Translate from the Qyteza website. A bit of Google Map work settles the question: Qyteza is in today’s Albania, near the Greek border.

  41. Gradishtë, town or perhaps townsite, that strikes very close to home: the Prusses’ ancestral town is called Gorodok (Haradok in Belarussian) and it means “town”, too.

  42. the Prusses’ ancestral town is called Gorodok (Haradok in Belarussian) and it means “town”, too.

    If memory serves, Russian ‘gorod’ is related to English yard. A late cousin (by marriage) was born in Gorodok.

  43. Rodger C says:

    Is “qytet” one of the many early Latin borrowings in Albanian?

  44. Yup, it’s from civitas (i.e., civitat-).

  45. Indeed, gorod (native Russian) and grad (from Church Slavonic gradŭ) both descend from a borrowing into Proto-Slavic of Proto-Germanic *gardaz-, whose English descendant is yard. Frankish *gardo was borrowed into Proto-Romance, giving both Central French jardin > Italian giardino, Spanish jardin and Norman French gardin > English garden. I don’t know if German Garten is native or a borrowing from Proto-Romance prior to the High German consonant shift.

    The common semantic element between towns and gardens is enclosure. Note that the grassy field, often now only notionally enclosed, around a house is a {front,back} yard in AmE and {front,back} garden in BrE. Americans hearing the British usage tend to assume that Britons are all heavy-duty horticulturalists, whereas Brits no doubt tend to assume that Americans embed their houses in pavement (brick, macadam, concrete, or what have you).

  46. In Russian, the cognate relation of town / garden / enclosure remains perfectly transparent: gorod / ogorod / ograda.
    But is “gard” (town) of Norse sagas and rune-stones a Slavic borrowing or a Germanic word? As in “Garðaríki” Russia, “Miklagard” Byzantium

  47. Greece . . . the modern nation-state/citizenship/passport-issuing-and-tax-collecting sense.

    The tax collecting bit continues to bedevil Ελλάδα.

  48. Of course almost every good question has been discussed on LH before, doh! in this old thread, which touched on Slavic vs. Germanic origins / borrowings of torg and grad, Trond Engen mentioned that the linguistic paths of “grad” words are intertwined in complicated ways and it may be impossible to decipher where they began to designate towns, in Germanic or in Slavic languages.

  49. Stefan Holm says:

    Dmitry: Old Norse ‘gard’, modern Swedish ‘gård’ (enclosure, yard), is inherited into Germanic from PIE *ghordh- or *gharto- (enclosure). So is Slavic grad/gorod (Leningrad, Novgorod) and probably Latin hortus (garden). French jardin (garden) is however borrowed from Germanic and returned as English garden or German Garten.

  50. Stefan Holm says:

    In fact, ’town’ has the same semantic meaning as yard/gård/grad. In practically all recorded old Germanic languages it appears as ‘tun’ (and still does in Swedish). In the Germanic and Slavic part of the world towns or cities are after all a relatively late phenomenon, while enclosed yards are not.

    Scandinavian ‘torg’ (square, marketplace) is among Swedish linguists almost unanimously considered as borrowed from Slavic.

    Btw. The viking word for Novgorod was Holmgard. Of course not from an ancestor of mine but maybe archeologists could find an enclosure on a small island in a nearby lake or river?

  51. Dmitry: Gard in Old Norse is surely native. It is unlikely that pagan Vikings would have borrowed the word in its Church Slavonic form.

    Stefan: Wikipedia says “Originally, Holmgård referred only to the stronghold southeast of the present-day city, Rurikovo Gorodische (named in comparatively modern times after the Varangian chieftain Rurik, who supposedly made it his “capital” around 860).” This fortress stands at the mouth of a river, which might well have been an island when it was first settled. But it seems that holmgård in a Russian context just means ‘settlement’, whether on an island or on the coastline.

  52. ’town’ has the same semantic meaning as yard/gård/grad. In practically all recorded old Germanic languages it appears as ‘tun’ (and still does in Swedish). In the Germanic and Slavic part of the world towns or cities are after all a relatively late phenomenon, while enclosed yards are not.
    Apparently W. Slavic tyn “enclosure, fortification’ is an early Germanic borrowing; its Russian equivalent тын seems to be largely regional – either an Ukrainism (most likely by the way of Polish), or a Northern dialectism in the former outlying domains of Great Novgorod, perhaps by the way of Norse.

  53. town

    Citing Pokorny (4. dheu- 261.), AHD says ‘town’ is “from Old English tūn, enclosed place, homestead, village, from Germanic *tūnaz, fortified place, borrowed from Celtic *dū-no-, hill, stronghold.” It also says that the PIE root dheuə- is “probably related to dheu-2, ‘to die.’” The common notion is “(t)o close, finish, come full circle.”

  54. Stefan Holm says:

    My Русско-Шведский Словарь (Russian-Swedish Dictionary – from 1968) translates тын (tyn) as fence or palisade. Semantically pretty close to town, yard or enclosure I would say.

    As for gard-grad I think, that the Slavic faiblesse for metathesis (shift of place between a consonant and a vowel) speaks against that word being a loanword from Slavic into Germanic. Gold is in Slavic zlot- (as in the Polish pre-EU currency zloty), dear is drag-, tree is derevo, the river Elbe is Laba and so on. Maybe it’s a Russian attempt to ‘correct’ this, that lead to the specific Russian varieties gorod (town), zolot (gold) and dorogiy (dear, expensive)?

  55. Those are normal Russian sound changes; when they’re not there, you can tell the word was borrowed from Church Slavic (e.g. град versus the native город).

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