Azerbaijan is considering phasing out Russian in official use and promoting Azeri as the national language, according to a Moscow Times story. The columnist, Chloe Arnold, says:

I can understand why the government is keen to phase out Russian. Just like changing the alphabet, it’s a way of distancing the country from its Soviet past. Children these days learn English, German or Turkish at school—the anti-Russian brigade says—why should Russian be an official language and not any of those?

But it’s a little more complicated than that. Russian is an integral part of the country’s recent history, and generations of people grew up speaking it better than their mother tongue.

At school, lessons were taught in Russian. All the textbooks were in Russian, and children spent as much time studying Russian authors as they did their own. If you go to Baku’s Akhundov Library, the country’s largest book collection, you’ll find that more than two-thirds of the books on the dusty shelves are in Russian.

It’s true that Azeris have retained their own language better than other former Soviet republics. The president doesn’t struggle to speak his mother tongue like other heads of state in the region. But there have been reports of Cabinet meetings where red-faced ministers have asked permission to read their briefs in Russian, because their Azeri isn’t up to scratch….

Azerbaijan’s foreign minister, Vilayat Quliyev, has made it clear that Russian should occupy the same place as English and Turkish. But stamping out Russian is going to be a lot more difficult than he thinks.

Via Taccuino di traduzione. (Personal to BebaManno: When I try to comment on your blog, I get “Scusa ma non ti è permesso lasciare commenti su questo blog.” *cries* And you don’t give an e-mail address.)


  1. Hi LH,
    Now I know why I have (almost) no comments at all on my blog;-)
    Seriously, I tried changing the settings for the comments. It should work now.
    Thanks for letting me know.:-)

  2. Somehow I don’t think de-russification is going to work. Not until Azeris start moving, in search for a better life, to Turkey or Europe instead of Russia.

  3. Wish in one hand… I live in Uzbekistan, where they made this transition a while ago. In the capital of Tashkent, Russian’s certainly primus inter pares. But in the Ferghana Valley, wherre most Uzbeks live, many folks have forgotten nmost of the Russian they knew. The effects on the economy and the education system are interesting, to say the least. Too bad the author of this article didn’t talk about the implications of the changeover. What would English be without loaner words – or, for that matter, Russian?

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