Anglicisms in Russian after Perestroika

Olga Yoshizumi, Brown University

Regardless of genre, any modern Russian text contains foreign words. Russian has accepted them at every stage of its development.  An extremely powerful stream of foreign words, especially from English, has been penetrating in Russian since the period of Perestroika.  After the coup d’etat in August 1991, we can see significant changes in the field of lexicon.  Russian started to adapt itself to dealing with topics which did not exist in Soviet everyday- and political discourse; consequently there arose a need to borrow or create neologisms required for many areas especially in politics and economics (Dunn 1999: 8, 20).  The following examples illustrate such a trend:

(1)   В результате срок возврата кредита был пролонгирован  до 1 декабря 1993г.  (Новая ежедневная газета, 22.03.1994) 

(2)  Я хочу создать офшорную зону – зону льготного налогообложения.  (Московский комсомолец 17.04.1993; from an interview with Kalmyk President, Kirsan Iljumzinov, cited in Dunn 1999:8)       

         I will discuss research on Anglicisms that entered Russian after Perestroika, from the late 1980’s. My analysis will primarily deal with morphological properties of English borrowings. My question mainly concerns the extent to which newly borrowed English words fit into the exiting declension and conjugation system.  Older foreign borrowings ending in –o, such as metro ‘subway’, are often indeclinable; to what extent do Anglicisms after Perestojka follow such a pattern and what are the motivations for their “domestication” to fit them into the inflexional system?  Compare (3) and (4) below. In (3), the word kollaps ‘collapse’ declines as a regular masculine noun in Russian. But there is a substantial group of problematic instances where Russian cannot handle borrowed words as in (4) where the word remains indeclinable

(3)  До полного коллапса оставалось не более трех суток. (Известия,  26.09.03.:   'Лекция вместо лекции')

 (4) Еще до начала шоу российские подчиненные Шойгу уверяли, что никакими особенными неведомыми технологиями спасения людей американцы не обладают. (Российская газета, 26.09.03.:  ‘Спас-шоу в Нью-Йорке’)

 I will also attempt to suggest how Anglicisms in Russian function in discourse. At this stage my hypothesis is that Anglicisms are used to produce a variety of discourse effects, including building solidarity and power and image-creation. (Krysin 1996:  147-153)  I will investigate whether this hypothesis holds, using recent Russian periodicals and magazines (e.g. Moskovkije novosti, Moskovskij komsomoslec, Ogonek). 

I will use exiting literature on foreign borrowings in Russian and other languages   that will help identify the parameters that may be useful in analyzing Russian Anglicisms. 


Aristova, V.M.  1978.  Anglo-russkie jazykovye kontakty. Leningrad:  UP.  

Demianov, V.G. 1990.  Fonetiko-morfologicheskaja adaptatsja inojazychnoi leksiki v russkom jazyke.  Moscow:  Nauka. 

Dunn, J.A.  1999.  Language and society in post-communist Europe.  New York:  St. Martin’s P. 

Glovinskaja, M.J.  1997.  Izmenenija v morfologii i sintaksise.  In ‘Russkij jazyk’ ed.  E.Shirjaev.  Opole:  Uniwersytet Opolski – Instytut Filologii Polskej.

Graudina, L.K. and Siraev, E.N.  1994.  Kultura parlamentskoi rechi.  Moscow:  Nauka.

Krysin, L.P.  1996.  Inojazychnoje slovo v kontekste sovremennoj  obschestvennoj zhizni.  In ‘Russkij jazyk konca ХХ stoletija (1985-1995)’ ed. Zemskaja, E.A. Moscow:  Jazyki russkoj kul’tury.