When requesting a translation from or into any of the languages spoken in the former Soviet Union states, some people may assume that the language in question is always Russian. However, if we take a closer look at just a couple of the numerous languages spoken in the ex-USSR we will see that this is not the case.
Russian is the principal language of the former Soviet Union. Spoken by about 170 million people as a first language, it is officially used by the United Nations and plays an important role in modern society. Russian has no accents making pronunciation extremely difficult to master as the reader cannot distinguish where the spoken stress lies. The Russian noun has six cases and three genders, masculine, feminine and neuter. Although the Russian verb has only three tenses, past, present and future, there is a separate feature to the Russian language called aspect, enabling the speaker to express numerous subtle shades of meaning, some of which cannot be expressed in English. The modern Russian alphabet is a variant of the Cyrillic alphabet.
Ukrainian is spoken in the Ukraine and in parts of the United States, Moldova, Hungary, Belarus and Poland. Ukrainian, like Russian, uses a Cyrillic alphabet and even shares some vocabulary with Belarusian, Polish, and Slovak. Ukrainian is spoken by around 39.4 million people and is ranked as the 26th most spoken language in the world. Interestingly Ukrainian was outlawed twice by Imperial Russia; its survival can be accredited to the number of people who spoke Ukrainian and the prominence of folklore songs and poems passed down through the generations.
Georgian, the official language of Georgia, part of the old USSR, is spoken by 70-80% of the population. The remaining 20-30% speaks Russian, Armenian, Azeri and other smaller Slavic languages. Approximately four million people speak Georgian, the majority of whom actually live in Georgia. There is one almost completely dominant alphabet- Mkhedruli, a very beautiful script. Mkhedruli has 33 letters in common use, although 6 or more are now more or less obsolete.
Azerbaijani, spoken by 23 to 30 million people, is also known as Azeri, Azari, Azeri Turkish or Azerbaijani Turkish. Azerbaijani is a Turkic language spoken in the Republic of Azerbaijan, Iran, Georgia, Russia, Iraq and Turkey. Unlike Russian and Ukrainian, Azerbaijani has a Latin alphabet but the “soviet” Cyrillic alphabet is still used. Stalin enforced the use of the Cyrillic alphabet and it was not until 1991 that this was replaced by the modern Latin version.
In addition, people in the former USSR speak Armenian, Byelorussian, Estonian, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Latvian, Lithuanian, Moldavian, Tajik, Turkmen and Uzbek. So the next time that you are considering translating documents from or into Russian take a moment to think about whether the language in question is actually Russian or one of its many relatives.
Roevin provides translations into Russian and the languages of all former Soviet states.