A Ban on Foreign Words

The Russian Parliament has passed a law imposing fines for the “unjustified use of foreign words in mass media.”

Words such as blogger, promotion, manager, PR, vintage, boutique, online, email, and countless others entered the Russian language recently simply because they denote the realities that are new to the Russian- speaking world.

In his brilliant novel The First Circle, Solzhenitsyn ridiculed precisely these kind of fruitless efforts to purge of foreign borrowings a language that pretty much consists of them and very little else. And that was before entire industries started being run on linguistic borrowings.

6 thoughts on “A Ban on Foreign Words

  1. Didn’t know about “The First Circle” (although I have read a lot of Solzhenitsyn’s other works). I’ll have to add that to my to-read list.

    Are the words banned completely, or will they attempt to introduce Russian equivalents for the concept (as the French did about 14 years ago)?


  2. To follow up on Shadowofashade, I think that the French have already outdone the Russians in the language protection field. The global corrupting influence of Anglos is everywhere and one must always be on guard for these infiltrating neologisms. Of course the Russians have a long way to go in order to match the ultimate language police in France, the Commission Générale de Terminologie et de Néologie and their little Canadian brother , the Office Québécois de la langue française.

    In some of its (Commission Générale de Terminologie et de Néologie) pronouncements, the commission has decided that words banned include “start-up”, which must be called “jeunes pousses”, a “blog” must be called a “bloc-note” and “podcasting” has been given the appellation “diffusion pour baladeur”.
    Neither any longer can you refer to a “talk show”, which has become “débat-spectacle” and “touchpad” a “pavé tactile”.

    “Peer to peer” has become “poste à poste” and “prime time” has become “heure de grande écoute”.

    Several years ago the (French) government decided that an e-mail should be called a courriel and e mail address called adresse de courrier électronique, neither of which has been adopted by most French, who continue to use the English version.

    Quebec not to be to be outdone has its charter of the French language and local enforcers known as the tongue troopers to prevent Anglo predation of the language of Molière.


  3. I am currently in a city where Russian is one of two widely used languages. The other is Kyrgyz. I can’t imagine how Russian would work without modern loan words. For instance the Russian word for wifi is wifi and the Russian word for internet is internet. Even non-tech areas have lots of English loan words. Things like cheezeburger, sendvich (which has replaced the older German loan word of Butterbrodt), ketchup, and fri are universal regarding food here. Then of course there are lots of other older Russian words that are not Russian in origin. Things like telefon, avtobus, chai, televizor, etc.


    1. My husband and I tried talking without any foreign words yesterday (for fun), and that conversation did not last long. I came up with “avos'” and “ezheli”. And the we were stuck. 🙂


  4. The law was originally proposed by MPs from the Liberal Democrat Party and the following quote is from the party’s leader, Vladimir Zhirinovsky:

    “We are sick of these Americanisms and Anglicisms …We will make a list of words that are forbidden from use when there are normal Russian words … It should be on the table of every journalist,TV and radio presenter, teacher, professor and writer.”

    Interesting that the party’s name in Russian is Liberalnaya Demokraticheskaya Partiya – not exactly pure Russian.


    1. “Interesting that the party’s name in Russian is Liberalnaya Demokraticheskaya Partiya – not exactly pure Russian.”

      – Ha ha ha! BURN!


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