The Chernobyl exclusion zone is spread out across both Ukraine and Belarus, both countries are in such a strategic position that they have naturally hosted countless cultures over the centuries. As a result, modern Belarus and Ukraine is home to a variety of ethnic groups and their subsequent languages can often be heard being spoken by the people who work in the Chernobyl Exclusion zone. In this section, we’re going to look into the world of the languages spoken in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
Ukrainian language in Chernobyl
In the Ukrainian sector of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, you can hear the Ukrainian language is spoken alongside Russian. A large number of people in Ukraine speak Ukrainian, which is written with a form of the Cyrillic alphabet. The language belongs to the Russian and Belarusian East Slavic branch of the Slavic language family. Ukrainian is closely related to Russian but also has similarities to the Polish language.
During the long era of the Soviet Union, a policy of Russian in-migration and Ukrainian out-migration was in effect throughout the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. The ethnic Ukrainian part of the population in Ukraine declined by 4 percent between 1959 and 1991. But that trend reversed after the country gained independence, and, by the start of the 21st century, ethnic Ukrainians made up more than three-fourths of the population.
During the rule of Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union, Russian was the common language of government administration and public life in Ukraine. Although Ukrainian had been afforded equal status with Russian in the decade following the revolution of 1917, by the 1930s a concerted attempt at Russification was well underway. In 1989 Ukrainian once again became the country’s official language, and its status as the sole official language was confirmed in the 1996 Ukrainian constitution.
English language in Chernobyl
English proficiency among most Ukrainians is still very low but it is improving massively, especially compared to just a few years ago. In some places and situations, you can find some Ukrainians speaking impeccably fluent English. One of these places is Chernobyl where due to the increasing numbers of tourists from English speaking countries, there are various guides speaking fluent English.
The Belarussian sector of the Chernobyl exclusion zone, which is the arguably less explored part, has considerably fewer English speakers. Luckily, YPT guides are almost exclusively bi-lingual and can translate anything when needed.
However, if you struggle with the language barrier in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, don’t fear as the locals are used to foreign tourists. Revert to using only simple words that anyone can quickly grasp. Carry a small English – Russian dictionary or even better, utilize google translator and its offline function.
Russian language in Chernobyl
Because Russian was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 26 December 1991, Russian is used in an official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states. Naturally, Chernobyl is the same and the Russian language can also be heard being widely spoken across the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and it’s also a feature on the various street signs, buildings, and propaganda that can be seen.
Russian is the largest native language in Europe and the most geographically widespread language in Eurasia. It is the most widely spoken of the Slavic languages, with 144 million speakers in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Russian is the seventh-most spoken language in the world by a number of native speakers and the eighth-most spoken language in the world by the total number of speakers. The language is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Russian is also the second-most widespread language on the Internet, after English.
Russian is an East Slavic language of the wider Indo-European family. It is a descendant of the language used in Kievan Rus’, a loose conglomerate of East Slavic tribes from the late 9th to the mid 13th centuries. From the point of view of spoken language, its closest relatives are Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Rusyn, the other three languages in the East Slavic branch. In the 19th century, the language was often called “Great Russian” to distinguish it from Belarusian, then called “White Russian” and Ukrainian, then called “Little Russian”. Which brings us to our next language spoken in the Chernobyl exclusion zone.
Belarussian Language in Chernobyl
Whilst a much more vulnerable and lesser spoken language than Ukrainian or Russian, in the Belarussian sector of the Chernobyl exclusion zone, Belarussian language can also be heard being spoken alongside Russian.
Belarusian is an East Slavic language spoken by Belarusians. It is the official language of Belarus, along with Russian. Additionally, it is also spoken in parts of Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, and Ukraine by Belarusian minorities in those countries.
As one of the East Slavic languages, Belarusian shares many grammatical and lexical features with other members of the group. To some extent, Russian, Rusyn, Ukrainian, and Belarusian are all mutually intelligible.