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Can you say that in Russian, please?

Say "Russia," and most people think of the country that emerged from the ashes after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. "Russia" is actually short for the country's official name, the Russian Federation. That's a clue to the fact that Russia is far from a uniform nation like France, where French people live and speak French.

In Russia, a lot of people are not Russian--and don't necessarily want to be. The reality of Russia is that it is actually a conglomeration of different peoples--some of them very different from what Westerners think of as "Russian."

For millions of these people, Russian is not even their first language. From Finland's border in the West to the Bering Strait just 50 miles from Alaska in the East, scores of languages other than Russian serve as the mother tongues of millions of people. One example: In the Russian republic of Tatarstan, about 500 miles east of Moscow, some 4.7 million people speak Tatar.

This graph shows 13 of the most widely spoken minority languages in Russia by number of speakers. Use the data in the graph to answer the questions to the right.

(Google languages to find where they are spoken.)

1. How many people speak Buryat as a first language? --

2. Half as many people speak Moksha as peak either--or --.

3. The difference between the number of people who speak Chechen and the number of people who speak Moksha, Komi or--is about 490,000.

4. The number of people who speak Evenki, a language not shown on the graph, is only 5 percent of the number of people who speak Lezgi. How many people speak Evenki?--

5. Twice as many people speak Kabard as a first language as those who speak Ingush, another language not shown on the graph. About how many people speak Ingush? --

6. The number of people who speak Chechen as a first language is about half the number of people who speak --.

7. CRITICAL THINKING: In many countries, languages are disappearing as minority communities die out. Should governments make special efforts to preserve minority languages? Identify one pro and one con of language preservation. --

Answer Key

1.300,000. 2. Erzya or Hil Mari. 3. Kumyk. 4. 10,000. 5. 195,000. (190,000 to 200,000 is acceptable.) 6. Chuvash. 7. Answers will vary, but a pro response might include the idea that language is part of a nation's history, culture, and identity, and as such is valuable. One con response might include the idea that preserving a dying language denies the fact that societies evolve.
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Article Details
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Publication:New York Times Upfront
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Nov 15, 2004
Previous Article:Letter from the editor.
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