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On Language, Political Power and the Regulation of Russian Orthography


This interdisciplinary article excavates the history of the most important Russian language reform, which was approved by the Bolshevik Government Decrees more than a century ago, after the October Revolution of 1917. The orthographic reform was a linguistic and educational original effort (1) to promote a new simpler way of spelling of written informational materials, (2) to eliminate “double” letters and to present more constructive rules for spelling of certain grammar structures, and (3) to increase the population literacy in the Russian-speaking community. Indeed, the effective policy of language regulation was grounded in recommendations developed by special committees and commissions which represented the spelling reform movement in the imperial period of the 19th century and in the early 1900s. According to Russian linguists, language educationists, activists, and politicians, the proposed new rules could be implemented in a realistic way for the benefit of all learners, the language system, and the printing industry as well. The reform of Russian orthography was not an exercise in revolutionary violence or the Bolshevik’ evil intentions, as some frustrated scholars condemned this reform. This article provides relevant legislative documents issued in 1917-1918, that reflected revolutionary transformations including orthography that became an issue of politics. The use of new orthographic rules had special implications for language learning practices in schools and changed costs of typing and printing.

Full article (International Relations and Diplomacy Volume 6, Number 1, January 2018)