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Spoken in Ukraine, Russia
Total speakers spread in the whole population
Language family Indo-European
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2
ISO 639-3

Surzhyk (Ukrainian: суржик, originally meaning ‘flour or bread made from mixed grains’, e.g., wheat with rye), refers to a range of sociolects used by a considerable part of the population of Ukraine and adjacent lands. It is a Ukrainian influenced by Russian. It's also the widespread name for local Ukrainian language spoken in Russia (except Southern Russia, where it's known as Balachka).

The vocabulary usage of either of the languages varies greatly with location, or sometimes even from person to person, depending on the level of education, personal experiences, rural or urban residence, origin of interlocutors etc. The percentage of Russian words and phonetic influences tends to gradually increase in the east and south and around big Russian-speaking cities. It is commonly spoken in most of eastern Ukraine's rural areas, with the exception of the large metropolitan areas of Donetsk, Kharkiv, Luhansk, and especially Crimea, where the majority of the population uses the standard Russian. In rural areas of western Ukraine, the language spoken contains fewer Russian elements than in central and eastern Ukraine but has nonetheless been influenced by Russian.

The ancient common origin and more recent divergence of Russian and Ukrainian make it difficult to establish the degree of mixing in a vernacular of this sort.

In literature, Nikolai Gogol used the language extensively in his short story collection Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka.

Surzhyk is often used for comical effect in arts. See, for example, the short plays by Les Poderviansky [1] and the repertoire of the pop-star Verka Serdyuchka. The punk-rock group Braty Hadyukiny sings many of its songs in Surzhyk, often to underscore the rural simplicity of their characters.

There are similar phenomena of language mixture around the globe. In Belarus, the mixture of Belarusian and Russian is called Trasianka. In Canada province of New Brunswick a French and English languages mixing phenomenon is called Chiac.

Canadian Ukrainian, which is a dialect of Ukrainian language spoken by the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada, is another illustration of language mixture. It is mostly based on the Galician dialects spoken at the turn of the 19th-20th century as many Ukrainian emigrants to Canada came from Galicia and Bukovina.

Surzhyk as an ethnopolitical issue

Much of the Ukrainian speaking population actually speaks one of the many regional dialects of the language. The mixture with Russian is especially widespread in the east and south of the country, though frowned upon by the western population. The local dialects in Western Ukraine have elements of Polish.

In Soviet times the usage of Ukrainian was gradually decreasing, particularly at times where the policies of Russification intensified (1930s and late 1970s to early 1980s) and thus a sizable portion of ethnic Ukrainians have a better knowledge of formal Russian than of the formal Ukrainian language.

Since 1991, Ukrainian has become the official language of Ukraine. Since 2001, all school exams are the same across the country.

See also

External links

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