Half a billion people worldwide now know the Russian language, according to Lyudmila Verbitskaya, President of St. Petersburg State University and International Association of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature (MAPRYAL). She mentioned these statistics when speaking at the opening ceremony of the IV World Congress of Compatriots on October 26.
Since the early 2000-s the interest to the Russian language has been constantly growing. This can be attributed to the fact that anti-Russian sentiments and prejudices are passing. Besides that the knowledge of Russian is becoming an advantages when it comes to employment. However the situation differs per country, Verbitsakaya says.
"There are only few countries where the status of the Russian language does not give any cause for concern. They are Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Belarus is the only post-Soviet state where the status of Russian as a state language was confirmed at the referendum by the overwhelming majority of the population. In Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan Russian is the language for international communication."
Ukraine take up a special position with regard to the Russian language. On the one hand the new law allows the regions where the Russian speaking population predominates to use Russian on equal terms with Ukrainian. On the other hand, the law has not influenced the position of the Russian language, Chairman of the Russian community in the Poltava region Viktor Shestakov says.
"Officially there are 117,000 ethnic Russians living in the Poltava region and the actual number is even higher. Despite this fact the region has no Russian schools."
Maxim Kramarenko, leader of the Lad Slavonic movement in Kazakhstan, says the situation with the Russian language is not as good as it may seem.
"The number of hours for learning Russian in school is being cut. The trend for rejection of Russian is felt. For example, the project is underway on translating scientific works from Russian into Kazakh. New Kazakh scientific terms are being artificially made up."
According to the International Association of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature (MAPRYAL), in Europe, both in the east and in the west, the demand for the knowledge of Russian is high. Germany is the leading country with almost 150,000 children studying Russian in secondary schools. In Asia, which accounts for the biggest part of the global population, the Russian language is not so wide spread. However, since recently some educational institutions in Indonesia and Philippines included Russian in their programs. The Russian philology has made progress in China too.
In the US about 4.5 million people speak Russian. Recently, voting bulletin in the state of New York state were for the first time printed in Russian, which is now one of the official languages of the state. About 3,000 American schools have included Russian in their curriculums. In total according to the MAPRYAL Association the Russian language is taught in one way or another in 100 counties worldwide.