How similar is Russian and Interslavic?

How similar is Russian and Interslavic?
18 October 2023

If you have dug deeper into the roots of Russian, you might be aware that it is a Slavic language and, as such, shares many similarities with other Slavic languages. As we already discussed, it can be fairly easy for Slavic people to learn Russian simply because some words are the same or the grammar is similar. Since Slavic languages have so much in common, creating one that all Slavic people would understand led to a pan-Slavic auxiliary language called Interslavic. In this article, we will briefly explain the idea and some basics of Interslavic and show how the linguists standing behind the language got inspired by Russian.

Why Interslavic?

Although the language in itself is not very old, the idea behind it is connected with the ideology of pan-Slavism going deeper in history. Pan-Slavism has always proposed the unification of all Slavs as they supposedly belong to one single Slavic nation. In many ways, even from today’s perspective, this endeavor makes sense since Slavs share many aspects of their culture and often feel a certain bond with other Slavic nations. This belief also came with the need for a Slavic umbrella language and thus not unify only people but also their languages. The predecessor of Interslavic was Old Church Slavonic, which served as an administrative language in a large part of the Slavic world. A strong candidate for unifying Slavic language was also Russian as Russia attempted to Russify the members of the Soviet Union, and thus, the region with several Slavic countries has, to this day, very good knowledge of the language. So, the idea of one common language has always been there but never materialized until 2006, when a group of people from different Slavic countries started the project Slovianski.

The goal of Interslavic

Instead of learning multiple Slavic languages, the group of linguists felt that it would be simpler to create one neutral Slavic language that all Slavs could understand without prior learning. Therefore, the idea was already less pan-Slavic, and they envisioned puzzling together shared words instead of creating artificial language. Thanks to Slovianski, the idea became more popular among Slavic countries, and eventually, after several reforms and mergers of two other projects, Interslavic was born. Despite its popularity, it is difficult to say how many people actively speak the language; however, the community surrounding Interslavic is very vibrant. There are several groups on Facebook, VKontakte, and Telegram. Activists supporting Interslavic also run two online news portals, a peer-reviewed expert journal, dictionary, and organize international conferences, the last one in the Czech Republic in 2018.

Inteslavic and Russian

One of the main principles of Interslavic is that it can be written on any Slavic keyboard. Since the border between Latin and Cyrillic runs through the middle of Slavic territory, Interslavic allows the use of both alphabets. Interslavic’s grammar is then derived from elements that are common for almost all Slavic languages and often simplified. Compared to Russian, Interslavic nouns have three genders, two numbers (singular and plural), and the same six cases. Also, the pronouns used in Interslavic are identical to those in Russian. You could probably count in Interslavic, as the numerals follow the same rules as in Russian. Verbs also have perfective and imperfective versions. So, all together, the main pillars of language are shared by Russian and Interslavic. However, what I find fascinating is how simple the process of agreeing on simple words like “human being” was. The authors of the language simply compared the word in all Slavic languages and adopted either the most reoccurring or created a similar word.

If you want to try whether you would understand Interslavic, here is the beginning of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights written in Interslavic:

Vsi ljudi rodet se svobodni i ravni v dostojnosti i pravah. Oni sut obdarjeni razumom i svěstju i imajut postupati jedin k drugomu v duhu bratstva.

I also linked a video from the official Interslavic YouTube channel where you can challenge yourself and have fun!


This blog was brought to you by Anna, currently studying Russian at Liden and Denz in Riga

The image was taken from Pexels 

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