Surzhyk refers to a range of russified sociolect
In sociolinguistics, a sociolect or social dialect is a variety of language associated with a social group such as a socioeconomic class, an ethnic group, an age group, etc....

s of Ukrainian
Ukrainian language
Ukrainian is a language of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. It is the official state language of Ukraine. Written Ukrainian uses a variant of the Cyrillic alphabet....

 used in certain regions of Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 and adjacent lands. It does not possess any unifying set of characteristics; the term is used for "norm-breaking, non-obedience to or nonawareness of the rules of the Ukrainian and Russian standard languages" .


The vocabulary mix of each of the languages (Ukrainian and Russian) varies greatly with location, or sometimes even from person to person, depending on the level of education, personal experience, 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
Donetsk , is a large city in eastern Ukraine on the Kalmius river. Administratively, it is a center of Donetsk Oblast, while historically, it is the unofficial capital and largest city of the economic and cultural Donets Basin region...

, Kharkiv
Kharkiv or Kharkov is the second-largest city in Ukraine.The city was founded in 1654 and was a major centre of Ukrainian culture in the Russian Empire. Kharkiv became the first city in Ukraine where the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed in December 1917 and Soviet government was...

, Luhansk
Luhansk also known as Lugansk is a city in southeastern Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Luhansk Oblast . The city itself is also designated as its own separate municipality within the oblast...

, and especially Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

, where the majority of the population uses 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
Nikolai Gogol
Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol was a Ukrainian-born Russian dramatist and novelist.Considered by his contemporaries one of the preeminent figures of the natural school of Russian literary realism, later critics have found in Gogol's work a fundamentally romantic sensibility, with strains of Surrealism...

 used the language extensively in his short story
Short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...

 collection Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka
Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka
Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka is a collection of short stories by Nikolai Gogol, written from 1831-1832. They appeared in various magazines and were published in book form when Gogol, who had spent his life in Ukraine up to the age of nineteen, was twenty two. He put his early impressions and...


Surzhyk is often used for comical effect in arts. See, for example, the short plays by Les Poderviansky 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.

Surzhyk as an ethnopolitical issue

In Soviet times the usage of Ukrainian was gradually decreasing, particularly at times when the policies of Russification
Russification is an adoption of the Russian language or some other Russian attributes by non-Russian communities...

 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 formal Ukrainian. Since 1991, however, Ukrainian has become the official language of Ukraine.

Comparison of Surzhyk, Ukrainian, and Russian

Some examples of Surzhyk lexis comparing to Ukrainian and Russian languages:
English Russian Surzhyk Ukrainian
what что шо що
who кто хто хто
let пусть, пускай хай, нехай хай, нехай
or или чи чи
to escape убегать тикать тікати
to catch хватать хапать хапати
handful горсть жменя жменя
to hide прятать ховать ховати
Easter пасха паска, пасха паска
to к до до
along вдоль, над, по краю понад понад
maybe может може може
to rest upon прислонять тулить тулити
to dangle болтаться, мотаться бовтаться, телепаться бовтатися, теліпатися
exactly! именно! отож! отож!

The phonetics keeps special vowel reduction
Vowel reduction in Russian
Vowel reduction in Russian differs in the standard language and in dialects. Several ways of reduction are distinguished.There are five vowel phonemes in Standard Russian. Vowels tend to merge together when they are unstressed. The vowels and have the same unstressed allophones for a number of...

 and some typical Ukrainian
Ukrainian phonology
This article deals with the phonology of the Ukrainian language.-Vowels: may be classified as retracted high-mid front vowel or lowered retracted high front vowel; is middle vowel , backness is classified as advanced back....

 features, like the Russian [g] transition into the Ukrainian [ɦ].

See also

  • Trasianka
    Trasianka or trasyanka is a Belarusian–Russian mixed language. It can also be described as a kind of interlanguage. It is often labeled "pidgin" or even "creole", which is not correct by any widespread definition of pidgin or creole language. The motivation for labelling Trasianka as...

     - an interlanguage
    An interlanguage is an emerging linguistic system that has been developed by a learner of a second language who has not become fully proficient yet but is approximating the target language: preserving some features of their first language , or overgeneralizing target language rules in speaking or...

     derived from Belarussian and Russian
    Russian language
    Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

    , spoken in Belarus
    Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

  • West Polesian
    West Polesian language
    The West Polesian language or dialect is spoken in Southeastern Belarus, in Northwestern Ukraine and in the bordering regions of Poland. It is also considered as one of the Slavic microlanguages, in effect a transitional language between the Ukrainian and the Belarusian.West Polesian is mostly...

     - a transitional dialect between Ukrainian and Belarusian.
  • Balachka
    Balachka is a term used to label the dialects spoken by Cossacks living in Russia. Originally the term was applied to the dialects of Ukrainian language spoken in the region around the Kuban river, however the usage of this term has recently broadened to include the Cossack dialects spoken on the...

     - dialects of Kuban Cossacks
    Kuban Cossacks
    Kuban Cossacks or Kubanians are Cossacks who live in the Kuban region of Russia. Most of the Kuban Cossacks are of descendants of two major groups who were re-settled in the Western Northern Caucasus during the Caucasus War in the late 18th century...

  • Gøtudanskt
    Gøtudanskt/Dano-Faroese is a name for the Danish language as spoken in the Faroe Islands. Its intonation and pronunciation is influenced by Faroese.- Etymology :...

     - Danish language
    Danish language
    Danish is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in the country of Denmark. It is also spoken by 50,000 Germans of Danish ethnicity in the northern parts of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, where it holds the status of minority language...

     as spoken in the Faroe Islands
    Faroe Islands
    The Faroe Islands are an island group situated between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately halfway between Scotland and Iceland. The Faroe Islands are a self-governing territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, along with Denmark proper and Greenland...

  • Portuñol
    Portuñol or Portunhol is the code-switching of Portuguese and Spanish.The word portunhol is a portmanteau of the words Portugués/Português and Español/Espanhol ....

     - A mixed language that combines Spanish and Portuguese and is spoken in border areas of various countries (such as Brazil
    Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

     and Uruguay
    Uruguay ,officially the Oriental Republic of Uruguay,sometimes the Eastern Republic of Uruguay; ) is a country in the southeastern part of South America. It is home to some 3.5 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area...

    , Spain
    Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

     and Portugal
    Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

    ) where the two languages co-exist.
  • Jopará
    Jopará The majority of Paraguayans, particularly younger ones, speak some form of jopará.Since 1992, under the Paraguay's Ministry of Education and Culture Act, Guaraní in its "pure form" — different from the day-to-day speech of jopará — has been taught in schools...

     - a mixed language spoken in Paraguay
    Paraguay , officially the Republic of Paraguay , is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the...

     which combines Spanish and Guaraní
    Guaraní language
    Guaraní, specifically the primary variety known as Paraguayan Guaraní , is an indigenous language of South America that belongs to the Tupí–Guaraní subfamily of the Tupian languages. It is one of the official languages of Paraguay , where it is spoken by the majority of the population, and half of...

  • Russenorsk - an extinct pidgin language that combined elements of Russian and Norwegian.
  • Linguistic Russification
    Russification is an adoption of the Russian language or some other Russian attributes by non-Russian communities...

     - process of introduction of Russian language into non-Russian communities
  • Diglossia
    In linguistics, diglossia refers to a situation in which two dialects or languages are used by a single language community. In addition to the community's everyday or vernacular language variety , a second, highly codified variety is used in certain situations such as literature, formal...

     - a situation of parallel usage of two closely related languages, one of which is generally used by the government and in formal texts, and the other one is usually the spoken informally
  • Les Podervianskiy

External links

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