The Russian language has a long and tangled history, and is often at the centre of controversy both within Russia and throughout the rest of the world. For a long time during the Cold War, Russian appeared as an ‘alien’ language to many in the Western world – but since the Berlin Wall came down and relations between Russia and the West have thawed, the language is much more openly embraced and widely studied abroad.
Within Russia itself, it has recently been announced that new immigrants will be required to take a Russian language test. Starting from December 1 2012, all labor migrants to Russia will undergo a compulsory language exam. The test will not only be applied to migrants looking to obtain a permit to work in Russia, but also to those already working in the country who wish to extend their permits.
Another development in Russian politics abroad touches a few sensitive nerves for some people – it has been revealed that a Russian Cultural Centre is to be constructed in Kabul, Afghanistan, where the Russian language will be taught. Some Afghans still hold harsh memories of the Russians, whose invasion of Afghanistan lasted a decade. However times have changed – many Afghans acknowledge the need for Russian influence after the withdrawal of American troops, and accept they are no longer dealing with the Soviets who were once their enemies. Still, the possibility of a significant influence on the internal working of Afghanistan from Moscow is a concern to many Afghans who remember the war.
In other news, there is a growing demand for Russian-language radio stations around the globe. Major stations have been exhibiting a distinct trend towards fewer and fewer Russian-language broadcasts, contributing to the development of smaller, independent Russian-language stations. Proponents of the new Russian stations point out they are valuable for helping the descendants of Russians abroad to stay in touch with their language and culture. Australia, for example, is home to over 200,000 ethnic Russians.