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One of the combined symbols of the peoples of Russia.
Wikipedias in the languges of Russia today and tomorrow: why and how?

Authored by Frhdkazan of Wikipedias in the languages of Russia project

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.[1]

Albert Einstein

The paradox related to preservation of language and culture is that they can only stay active by welcoming changes. Only dead languages and cultures can be fully preserved against change.[2]

Annika Pasanen, Janne Saarikivi

[T]he time has come when ... a language has become only a tool, another means of expressing reasoning patterns. ... A language that continues its development is usually being used in all areas of life. Excluding the language from use in some field of human activity, be it some specific scientific discipline or a type of artistic pursuit, an industrial or services sector of economy, i.e. from generating more reasoning patterns, is blowing an irreversible damage that promotes language death. ... It's very important to aspire towards such a state of things, when any news are expected to be expressed by that specific language means.

— Gaynulla F. Shaykhiev[3]

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.[4]

Max Planck

Young people need language-related attractive role models to be interested in associating themselves with their heritage language. Such areas of language use as home and school are no longer good enough, folklore culture with its nostalgia of the past is not exciting at all. But constructing youth culture from outside is difficult — only youth itself can create its own culture and role models. This great challenge encountered by the modernizing community of the local language speakers requires attention.[5]

Annika Pasanen, Janne Saarikivi

What is this about


Resources for successful implementation of a project can only be raised for a properly formulated business task.

Milky Way's Standardized aptitude test:

  • Principles of artistic arable farming – in Erzya
  • Inter-species communication - in Karelian
  • Trans-identity – in Mari
  • Intergalactic law – in Udmurt
  • Theory of holography – in Veps
  • Personal biochemistry – in Komi
  • ... etc.

Effective volunteer management (engagement, motivation, time and recognition) of relationships with existing and potential Wikimedians, as well as all stakeholders for Wikipedias in these languages and many others, can make all this both possible and desirable. The purpose of this presentation is to analyze why this might be reasonable and how this can be achieved.

Environmental analysis


In the era, when switching between operational language interfaces is as easy as changing wall paper on the smartphone screen, any project about preserving utility and developing a universal encyclopedia in the language of the people that don't have own sovereign state can only be successfully completed if its conceptual plan, list of tasks and their priority undergoes critical analysis. Artificial life support of whatever unique culture and its language without practical application of the latter is no more valuable than preservation of cuneiform or any other technology – by idealizing anything, we get lost in imaginary castles in the clouds.

The value added in the knowledge economy is measured by productivity of participating knowledge workers, and not through the cultural code they use. To master a language and keep linguistic skills at productive level one must invest personal efforts and these are justified only by subjective utility of that specific language as a convenient communication and productive thinking tool.



Cultural skills can be of maximum benefit only when actively used as a tool, helping their owners to have real-time access to a diversity of cultural behavioral models accumulated by preceding generations, thus creating added value for all other global villagers.

When an individual has regular access to information from various language communities of different countries and consistently interacts with representatives of a variety of cultures, that person's national and ethnic identities give in to the one of Global citizenship. This leads to one's development of a strong Individual sovereignty, a unique identity that spans all geographical, linguistic, cultural or ideological, technological or even chronological boundaries. An individual becomes more productive, mobile and otherwise valuable for community when manages to free himself from monopolistic power of some specific language and ethno-religious culture in the aspect of communication or as a set of best survival practices. However, when humans do not have access to the infrastructure supporting & developing their multilingualism, we usually witness a simple switch to another dominant language code.

Digital support infrastructure


Getting one's linguistic skills to an instrumental level and then developing and preserving own ability to think in different languages requires personal efforts. Necessary digital era support infrastructure is available in case of languages classifying as a World language and even some Official language in some separate Sovereign state (under 50 languages out of more than 6000 are actively used as working language for written communication).

Main value of multilingual Wikipedias and other Wikimedia projects is in the degree to which they are capable to serve the function of the virtual language nest, a sandbox of sorts where individuals gain, support and improve own skills in adaptation to, navigation in, switching between and living within a diversity of parallel cultural systems.

Who can benefit


Individuals are unlikely to consciously give up on the language and cultural values of own ancestors, as psychologically this would be the same as viewing one's own existence meaningless. These always get lost and forgotten slowly due to the lack of supportive environment and clear motivation for exerting one's personal efforts. World civilization of the 20-21st centuries exists thanks to English, the only language whose future does not depend from the status of any single country. In the future its global communicative importance can only be dwarfed by Wikidata, improvements in Machine translation and Artificial intelligence penetrating all aspects of human life thanks to active use of Big data. Though today it's the only one showing growing popularity being most important for success in global economy, and does not require external support, unlike various programs run by Francophonie, Russkiy Mir and others.

How to assure sustainability of Wiki-projects in under-resourced languages


Long-term sustainability of a Wiki-project with a small community will depend on how contribution of every participant increases the value of already existing materials and makes it more attractive for new participants to join in. Preservation of languages, whose outlook is not safe is only possible if their speakers systemically work on Language revitalization, and development of universal encyclopedia in such a language is just one of the tools, useful for shaping a set of conditions promoting progress in this issue (read makes projects in this language practically valuable).

Tested practices


To turn a Wikipedia language version into a popular short reference, project team should, other things being equal, prioritize recommendations of Manual for small and new Wikipedias and structuring already available information (Categorization, Linking, WikiProject Categories, administrative back-office, other projects from Category:Wikipedia WikiProjects). Language transfer is easiest at kindergarten and primary school level, thus materials useful for this age groups are likely to catch more attention of adult speakers. Main Page can be made dynamic by using templates for showcasing "Selected anniversaries" and "Picture of the day". When promoting through language-specific social media groups, we saw positive response to «Famous_(ethnicity)_born_today» rubric, though quality or simply interesting new articles on topical issues are also catching attention.

As any other phenomenon, a language and a Wikipedia in it can live and grow only when they satisfy the needs of modern times. Wikimedia movement serves as a cultural Noah's Arc of sorts on the digital voyage. It would be wonderful to see all its passenger Wiki-projects survive till the docking in the cherished safe harbour.

Materials used



  1. Albert Einstein (1930)
  2.  (рус.) "Парадокс сохранения культуры и языка заключается в том, что они сохраняются исключительно путем изменения. Только мертвые языки и культуры можно полностью обезопасить от перемен", from Замятин К., Пасанен А., Саарикиви Я. "Как и зачем сохранять языки России"./ Часть I. Многоязычное общество и многоязычный индивид. Глава "Изменяющаяся роль языков", 35 с.
    ("How to and why keep languages of Russia". / Part I. "Multilingual society and multilingual individual", Chapter "Evolving role of languages", p.35)
  3.  (рус.) "[Н]астал момент, когда ... язык стал лишь инструментом, средством выражения образов мысли. ... Развивающийся язык находится обычно в общении во всех сферах жизненного цикла. Исключение хотя бы одной сферы, будь она разделом какой-то науки или искусства, производства или услуг, из общения на этом языке, т.е. из производства образов мысли, наносит языку непоправимый удар, способствует его вымиранию. ... Надо стремиться, чтобы новость ожидали из формулировок этого языка."
    Шайхиев Г.Ф. "Язык разума. Мы думаем и по-татарски, и по-русски, и по-английски..." Казань, изд-во «Хәтер»: 2000 ISBN 5-900004-83-X сс.230-231 Глава V Раздел 9 Асимметрия в эволюции мышления. ("Language of Reasoning. We (can) simultaneously think in Tatar, and in Russian, and in English..." /Chapter V Section 9 Asymmetry in evolution of reasoning)
  4. Max Planck (1948)
  5.  (рус.) "Для того, чтобы отождествлять себя с родным языком, молодежи требуются привлекательные образцы для подражания, связанные с этим языком. Такие сферы употребления языка, как дом и школа, уже не вполне достаточны, ностальгирующая по прошлому фольклорная культура нисколько не привлекает. Однако молодежную культуру сложно конструировать извне — только молодежь может сама соз давать свою культуру и образцы для подражания. Это представляет большую трудность для модернизирующегося сообщества носителей локального языка, на которую следует обращать внимание."
    Замятин К., Пасанен А., Саарикиви Я. "Как и зачем сохранять языки России". / Часть III. "Пути сохранения языков под угрозой исчезновения. Практические советы", Глава "Преподавание на языке меньшинства в школе", раздел "Что кроме школы и после школы?", 162 с. ("How to and why keep languages of Russia". / Part III. "Ways of preserving vulnerable languages. Practical advice", Chapter "Minority languages as a medium of instruction at school", section "What on top of and how about after school?", )