5

Article Learning Russian via Latin in the 17th Century suggests that in the 17th century Russian existed in a state of diglossia, where the vernacular Russian significantly differed from the written Slavonic - not unlike the situation in Europe of that period, where local spoken languages coexisted with written Latin (this state of affairs in Russia is also referred to in this question.)^1 This was apparently followed by a period where the literary language (at least for unofficial purposes) was French.

I am looking for a short timeline/recap of the evolution of Russian from its medieval diglossia to modern single spoken and literary language (either as an answer or as a reference.)

Update
Wikipedia article History of the Russian Language gives limited information on the official status and proportion of Russian vs. Slavonic:

The official language in Russia remained a kind of Church Slavonic until the close of the 18th century, but, despite attempts at standardization, as by Meletius Smotrytsky c. 1620, its purity was by then strongly compromised by an incipient secular literature.

Regarding the development of literary language it says:

At the same time, there began explicit attempts to fashion a modern literary language as a compromise between Church Slavonic, the native vernacular, and the style of Western Europe. The writers Lomonosov, Derzhavin, and Karamzin made notable efforts in this respect, but, as per the received notion, the final synthesis belongs to Pushkin and his contemporaries in the first third of the 19th century.


^1 See also Wikipedia on Old Church Slavonic:

Church Slavonic maintained a prestigious status, particularly in Russia, for many centuries – among Slavs in the East it had a status analogous to that of Latin in Western Europe, but had the advantage of being substantially less divergent from the vernacular tongues of average parishioners.

and Wikipedia on Old East Slavic:

The political unification of the region into the state called Kievan Rus', from which modern Belarus, Russia and Ukraine trace their origins, occurred approximately a century before the adoption of Christianity in 988 and the establishment of the South Slavic Old Church Slavonic as the liturgical and literary language. Documentation of the Old East Slavic language of this period is scanty, making it difficult at best fully to determine the relationship between the literary language and its spoken dialects.

2
  • 2
    I strongly recommend Argent, G., Rjéoutski, V., & Offord, D. (2018). The French Language in Russia: A Social, Political, Cultural, and Literary History. Amsterdam University Press. doi:10.1017/9789048532766 - see very detailed summaries online, esp. The Conclusion cambridge.org/core/books/abs/french-language-in-russia/…
    – Alex B.
    Dec 7, 2022 at 15:48
  • 2
    And Offord, D., Ryazanova-Clarke, L., Rjeoutski, V., & Argent, G. (Eds.). (2015). French and Russian in Imperial Russia: Language Attitudes and Identity. Edinburgh University Press. jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt16r0hzc
    – Alex B.
    Dec 7, 2022 at 15:51

1 Answer 1

2

In the imperial period the upper classes were largely bilingual in Russian and French, with French as the prestige language. In the early Soviet period the prestige language was German, the official medium of the Communist International. With the rise of Hitler the prestige of German took a nosedive.

5
  • Please take no offense, but this is a low quality answer - arguably less informed than the question itself. It completely misses Slavonic period, whereas German, although prestigious as a foreign language, was never practiced in Russia as a dominant written or spoken language.
    – Roger V.
    Dec 7, 2022 at 6:48
  • 1
    @RogerVadim please take no offense as well but you vision of diglossia in 17th century is also imprecise.
    – shabunc
    Dec 7, 2022 at 8:54
  • @shabunc I cited the reference from which my knowledge comes from. If you can support your assertion by (preferably accessible) references, it merits to be written as an answer.
    – Roger V.
    Dec 7, 2022 at 8:57
  • 1
    @RogerVadim. Are you really asking about diglossia and not about bilingualsim? These terms are somewhat contested, e.g. here: academia.edu/49393012/MULTILINGUALISM_AND_POLYGLOSSIA
    – fdb
    Dec 7, 2022 at 12:08
  • 2
    Thank you for the interesting link. What interest me is the state where Russians spoke one language (or dialect) and wrote in another, and the subsequent emergence of Russian as a standardized written language. I mention French, but I am not certain whether it ever had any official use in Russia. Same I think applies to German in the first half of the XXth century - Russian scientists wrote and spoke in German, just like today many scientist speak and write in English; but it never had the status of an official/dominant written language in Russia (thanks for bringing it up though.)
    – Roger V.
    Dec 7, 2022 at 12:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.