Prototypical Notions of Minority Languages in the Soviet Union and Russia: “Native Language” (rodnoj âzyk) and “National Language” (nacional’nij âzyk)

  • Svetlana MoskvitchevaEmail author
Part of the Language Policy book series (LAPO, volume 21)


The categorization of minority languages is a mental construct, and therefore goes back to certain epistemological paradigms and axiological settings. The basis for the national and language policy, laid down by the government immediately after the Bolshevik Revolution, and especially the institutionalization of ethnicity and language, not only remained unchanged at its core during the entire Soviet period, but actually intensified during the Perestroïka era through civil society, thereby entering into the legal and social space of the new Russia. However, the semantic field of naming of languages has undergone multiple changes throughout this period, due to ongoing changes in academic and social discourse. This chapter presents an analysis of the formation and subsequent dynamics of the socio-linguistic categories “native language” (âzyk) and “national language” (nacional′nyj âzyk), considered as prototypical notions of minority languages in Soviet linguistic construction practice (âzykovoe stroitel’stvo) and in modern day Russia. These expressions are considered from the standpoint of epistemological models of linguistic construction and in terms of their functions in the discursive practices of the State. Their role also appears in the institutionalization of ethnic groups and territories.


Minority Language Language categorization Language policy Linguistic construction Native language Nation National language Prototypical notion 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.General and Russian Linguistics Department and of the Foreign Languages Department, Philological FacultyPeoples’ Friendship University of Russia/RUDN UniversityMoscowRussia
  2. 2.Dynamics of Languages in a Minority Situation, Institute of Modern Languages, Intercultural Communication and MigrationRUDN UniversityMoscowRussia

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