Region 6: Eastern Europe

Welcome to Eastern Europe!

Welcome back to the TraveLING Around the World! My name is Uliana Kazagasheva and I will be guiding you through Eastern Europe!

And today we are going to start with the most most eastern part of it - the Russian Federation. Russia is the largest country in the world, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area; extending across much of Eastern Europe and the entirety of northern Asia, Russia spans nine time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms.

Though the Russian is the most widespread and also the official language, there are more than 100 indigenous languages that are spoken by over 185 ethnic groups designated as nationalities. 27 different languages are considered official languages in various regions of Russia, along with Russian. Another interesting fact is that the languages of the Russian Federation belong to 14 language families: Indo European, Altaic, Uralic, Yukaghir, Kartvelian, Abkhazo-Adyghean (Northwest Caucasian), Dagestanian (Northeast Caucasian), Sino-Tibetan, Eskimo–Aleut, Chukotko-Kamchatkan, Yeniseian, Austroasiatic, Ainu; Nivkh (language isolate).

If you want to learn more about the languages spoken in Russia as well as about the ongoing research of the Russian linguists you should definitely visit the Institute of Linguistics (ILING) at the Russian Academy of Sciences, that is located in Moscow. The Institute of Linguistics was founded in 1950 and is one of the oldest linguistic institutes in country. It conducts extensive, in-depth study of theoretical problems in linguistics and researches languages of the Russian Federation, CIS as well as other world’s languages. A lot of attention is paid to the current socio-linguistic problems (language situation, language policy, language conflicts in different regions of the world), historical and comparative linguistics, as well as the theory and methods of sociolinguistics.

Moscow is one of the largest science centers in Russia. The Lomonosov Moscow State University and Russian National Research Medical University are located in Moscow as well as numerous other research and applied science institutions. There are 452 libraries in the city, including 168 for children.

But besides being one of the main scientific centers of the country, Moscow is famous for being the center of the Russian historical heritage. Don’t miss to visit the heart and soul of Russia, the Red Square. It is the main city square in Moscow that separates the Kremlin, the former royal citadel and currently the official residence of the President of Russia, from an historic merchant quarter known as Kitai-gorod. Being there you also won’t miss Moscow's most recognized building, Saint Basil's Cathedral.

Up north is located the “cultural capital” of Russia, Saint Petersburg. Just like Moscow, Saint Petersburg is a large scientific center and has its own linguistic research institution the Institute for Linguistic Studies that also belongs to the Russian Academy of Sciences. So if you are in the area, don’t forget to say “hi” to your Russian fellow linguists. No matter whether you are a museum person or a “walk through the city” type of tourist, Saint Petersburg will satisfy your wanderlust. The city is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list as an area with 36 historical architectural complexes, and around 4000 outstanding individual monuments of architecture, history and culture. It has 221 museums, 2000 libraries, more than 80 theaters, 100 concert organizations, 45 galleries and exhibition halls, 62 cinemas, and around 80 other cultural establishments. What some of you may not know is that due to the intricate web of canals, Saint Petersburg is often called Venice of the North.

Let’s now go the the Nevsky Avenue (Russian: Nevsky Prospekt [ˈnʲefskʲɪj prɐˈspʲekt]), the main street in the city. The Nevsky Avenue is, in some ways, the Russian version of the Times Square in New York city. Planned by Peter the Great as beginning of the road to Novgorod and Moscow, the avenue runs from the Admiralty to the Moscow Railway Station. The majority of the city's shopping and nightlife are located on or right off of the Nevsky Avenue.

While taking a stroll along Nevsky Avenue you cannot fail to notice the impressive Kazan Cathedral. It is my most favorite, absolutely breathtaking sight of St. Petersburg. Kazan Cathedral was built to an enormous scale and boasts an impressive stone colonnade, encircling a small garden and central fountain. It was inspired by the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome and was intended to be the country’s main Orthodox Church.

From the 1760s onwards the Winter Palace was the main residence of the Russian Tsars. Magnificently located on the bank of the Neva River, this Baroque-style palace is perhaps St. Petersburg’s most impressive attraction. Many visitors also know it as the main building of the Hermitage Museum. The green-and-white three-storey palace is a marvel of Baroque architecture and is definitely worth visiting.

Food: If you got hungry in the middle of our trip, don’t worry - Russian cuisine is as diverse as the country itself and will definitely be able to satisfy your taste buds. Here are a few thing that traditionally represent Russian cuisine.

Shchi [ɕːi] (Russian: щи) is a Russian soup with cabbage as the primary ingredient. Its primary distinction is its sour taste, which usually originates from cabbage. When sauerkraut is used instead, the soup is called sour shchi, and soups based on sorrel, spinach, nettle, and similar plants are called green shchi.

Linguistics fun facts: the two-letter word щи contains the letter щ that represents the voiceless alveolo-palatal fricative /ɕ/, which is absent in most non-Cyrillic alphabets and is transcribed into them with several letters. For instance, In German, щи becomes eight letters, Schtschi.

Pirozhki [pʲiroʂˈkʲi] (singular: pirozhok; diminutive of "pirog" [pie]) are small stuffed buns (pies) made of either yeast dough or short pastry. They are filled with one of many different fillings and are either baked (the ancient Slavic method) or shallow-fried (known as "priazhenie", this method was borrowed from the Tatars in the 16th century). One feature of pirozhki that sets them apart from, for example, English pies is that the fillings used are almost invariably fully cooked. The use of chopped hard-boiled eggs in fillings is another interesting feature.

Linguistics fun facts: the stress in pirozhki is properly placed on the last syllable: [pʲiroʂˈkʲi]. Pirozhok (Russian: пирожок, singular) is the diminutive form of the Russian cognate pirog (Russian: пирог), which refers to a full-sized pie. The Russian plural of this word, pirogi (Russian: пироги, with the stress on the last syllable [pʲiroˈɡʲi]), is not to be confused with pierogi (stress on "o" in English and Polish) in Polish cuisine, which are similar to the Russian pelmeni.

Blini [blʲinɨ] are thin pancakes made with yeasted batter which are often served in connection with a religious rite or festival. The word "blin" (singular of blini) comes from Old Slavic "mlin", which means "to mill". Blins had a somewhat ritual significance for early Slavic peoples in pre-Christian times since they were a symbol of the sun, due to their round form. They were traditionally prepared at the end of the winter to honor the rebirth of the new sun during Maslenitsa (Масленица, Butter Week; also known as Pancake Week). This tradition was adopted by the Orthodox Church and is carried on to the present day.

We thank you for traveLING to the Eastern part of Russia with us! We touched upon the a few possible destinations to visit,I hope you enjoyed it. Next we will have lots of fun by exploring landmarks and attractions of other countries of the Eastern Europe. We’ll have lots to do and lots to see, so stay tuned!

Day Trip 1: Poland

Where to land:

Warsaw, Poland


linguistically diverse. Polish is the official language, 16 other languages have officially recognized status of minority languages: 1 regional language, 10 languages of 9 national minorities (the minorities that have their own independent state elsewhere) and 5 languages of 4 ethnic minorities spoken by the members of minorities not having a separate state elsewhere). Jewish and Romani minorities, each has 2 minority languages recognized.

Official language:

  • Polish

Official Regional Language:

  • Kashubian

National minority’s languages:

  • Armenian
  • Belarusian
  • Czech
  • German
  • Yiddish
  • Hebrew
  • Lithuanian
  • Russian
  • Slovak
  • Ukrainian

Ethnic minority’s languages:
  • Karaim
  • Rusyn
  • Polska Roma
  • Bergitka Roma
  • Tatar

Languages without officially recognized status:

  • Wymysorys
  • Silesian

The Polish language consists of four major dialect groups:
  • Greater Polish (spoken in the west)
  • Lesser Polish (spoken in the south and southeast)
  • Masovian (spoken throughout the central and eastern parts of the country)
  • Silesian (spoken in the southwest)


Good day to everybody who’s traveLING with us! Our plane just landed in the capital of Poland, Warsaw.

And before we start exploring this beautiful city, we suggest you the hot linguistics news from other parts of Poland! On 29 August-1 September 2013 in Poznań (a city on the Warta river in west-central Poland) has been held the 44th Poznań Linguistic Meeting (PLM2013). The Poznań Linguistic Meeting (PLM) is an annual general linguistics conference organised by the Faculty of English of the Adam Mickiewicz University that continues the tradition of the Polish–English contrastive conferences. The program included two thematic sessions, a debate on linguistic complexity, Celtic satellite session and a special session in memoriam of Rajendra Singh. Selected papers will be published in a new serial publication, the Yearbook of the Poznań Linguistic Meeting.

Have you already guessed what our first place to visit in Warsaw will be? Right! We are going to meet our fellow linguists at the Instytut Lingwistyki Stosowanej (ILS) in Uniwersytet Warszawski. The Institute of Applied Linguistics (ILS) at the University of Warsaw is an independent research and training unit, educating translators, linguists and foreign language teachers. The Institute functions as a part of the Faculty of Applied Linguistics.

Now when we met our fellow linguists here in Warsaw we are going to head off to the Royal Castle, a historical and national monument, as well as a national museum. The Royal Castle was the official residence of the Polish monarchs. It is located in the Castle Square, at the entrance to the Warsaw Old Town.

Warsaw's Old Town Market Place (Polish: Rynek Starego Miasta) is the center and oldest part of the Old Town of Warsaw.

Located between the the Old and New Towns, the Warsaw Barbican is one of few remaining relics of the complex network of historic fortifications that once encircled Warsaw. The Warsaw Barbican is a semi circle fortified medieval outpost connected to the city walls, which was used for defensive purposes.

Let’s take a walk and rest in the Saxon Garden, a the oldest public park in the city. Founded in the late 17th century, it was opened to the public in 1727 as one of the first publicly accessible parks in the world.

Interesting fact: Poland is the home country of one of our great LINGUIST Listers, Phonologist and the Multitree team leader, Małgorzata Cavar. Here is the photo of Malgosia in her hometown in front of the the University of Warsaw, the largest university in Poland established in 1816 and the residence of the Institute of Applied Linguistics (ILS), that we have visited earlier.

Are you getting hungry? Then lets take a break and enjoy the national Polish cuisine in one of the many restaurants of Warsaw.

One of the most traditional Polish dishes is Pierogi [pjɛˈrɔɡʲi]. Pierogi are dumplings of unleavened dough – first boiled, then they are baked or fried usually in butter with onions – traditionally stuffed with potato filling, sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese, or fruit. The Polish word pierogi is plural; the singular form pieróg is rarely used, as a typical serving consists of several pierogi. Pierogi are similar to the Russian pelmeni or Ukrainian varenyky and are not to be confused with pirozhki (plural, diminutive of pirog, singular “bun”).

Our LINGUIST Lister Małgorzata recommended to everybody the Polish dish, Bigos - stew of sauerkraut and meat, mainly kielbasa. Bigos is usually eaten with mashed potatoes or rye bread. As with many stews, bigos can be kept in a cool place or refrigerated and then reheated later – it is said that its flavour actually intensifies when reheated.

Linguistics fun facts: Bigos is said by some to have been introduced to Poland by Jogaila, a Lithuanian Grand Duke who became Polish king Władysław Jagiełło in 1385 and who supposedly served it to his hunting-party guests. Metaphorically, bigos means "confusion", "big mess" or "trouble" in Polish. However, Polish linguists trace the word bigos to a German rather than Lithuanian origin and speculate that it derives from the past participle begossen of a German verb meaning "to douse", as bigos was doused with wine in earlier periods

Thank you for visiting Poland with us! I hope you enjoyed it.

We’ll see you on our next exciting day trip!

Day Trip 2: Bulgaria

Where to land:



Official Regional Language:

  • Bulgarian

Minority Languages:

  • Turkish
  • Roma
  • Albanian
  • Aromanian


Welcome back! This is Uliana with you again, and today I will be guiding you through the beautiful country of Bulgaria. There is plenty of things to do here. But first let’s try to recall what we know about Bulgarian, the official language of the country.

As many of you might already know, Bulgarian is the oldest written Slavic language, it is distinguishable from the languages in this group through certain grammatical peculiarities such as the lack of noun cases and infinitives, and a suffixed definite article, and the lack of a verb infinitive; however it retains and has further developed the Proto-Slavic verb system. And just like Russian, Bulgarian uses Cyrillic script.

And by tradition, hot linguistics news from Bulgaria! For the first time, the annual meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) took place in Bulgaria. ACL 2013 was held in Sofia, Bulgaria's capital, August 4-9, 2013. As in previous years, the program of the conference included a poster session, tutorials, workshops and demonstrations in addition to the main conference.

Did you know that Bulgaria is actually one of the few centers of computational linguistics in Eastern Europe? So now it’s time to meet our linguistic colleagues from Linguistic Modelling Department (LMD) at the Institute of Information and Communication Technologies (IICT), Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. LMD is the computational linguistics center, whose kernel was preserved during the last twenty five years as one administrative and scientific unit. LMD staff members successfully switched from the older Eastern academic style to collaboration on project basis with major European research institutions. Today the group is active in a number of advanced CL fields including both development of linguistic resources and implementation of software applications.

Let’s move forward and attend the Faculty of Slavic Studies at the St. Clement of Ohrid University of Sofia where we can say “hi” to our fellow linguists at the Department of General, Indo-European and Balkan Linguistics as well as the Department Slavic Linguistics and Departments of Bulgarian and Russian Languages.

Sofia is one of the most visited traveler’s destinations in Bulgaria, so since we are still Sofia, let’s not miss that chance and take a walk through the city.

We are going start with the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of the symbols of Bulgaria, constructed in the late 19th century. It occupies an area of 34,100 square feet and can hold up to 10,000 people.

Sofia concentrates the majority of Bulgaria's leading performing arts troupes. Theatre is by far the most popular form of performing art, and theatrical venues are among the most visited, second only to cinemas. The oldest such institution is the Ivan Vazov National Theatre, which performs mainly classical plays and is situated in the very centre of the city.

For those of you who like to shop, the Mall of Sofia is the best shopping center to go to. Located at the intersection of Aleksandar Stamboliyski Boulevard and Opalchenska Street, the Mall boasts more than 130 stores, a number of restaurants and cafés as well as the first in Eastern Europe 3-D IMAX movie theater.


Shopska salad, also known as Bulgarian salad, is the salad that defines Bulgaria. Not only is it the most popular Bulgarian salad but is also named after a big group of very frugal people called shopi who live in Sofia. Shopska salad is made from chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers sprinkled with Bulgarian white cheese.

Banitsa (Bulgarian: Баница, also transliterated as banica and banitza) is a traditional Bulgarian food prepared by layering a mixture of whisked eggs and pieces of cheese between filo pastry and then baking it in an oven. Banitsa is a symbol of Bulgarian cuisine and traditions. The word "banitsa" is used as a simile for something (mainly documents and paperwork) crumpled, or badly maintained. For example, a police officer can make a remark to someone about letting his or her passport "become like a banitsa" (станал е на баница); a teacher might say this about a student's notebook.

Mineral water is huge in Bulgaria. Bulgaria is a country with many mineral springs scattered across the entire country. It's cheaper to buy a bottle of mineral water than a bottle of regular purified water. It's healthier too. The level of mineralization and the temperature of the mineral water differs across the country's regions. Drink it right from the bottle.

Thank you for traveLING through Eastern Europe with us! It was only a slice of a big picture, but I hope you enjoyed our little trip. If you would like to explore the rest of Eastern Europe on your own, check the list of the other possible destinations below. Have fun and stay tuned for the more exciting trip days with our TraveLING Around the World Fund Drive Tour!

Stay tuned for our next exciting day trip!

Featured Linguists

Irina Nevskaya, Featured Linguist

University of Texas at Austin

I was born in 1958 in Mountainous Shoriya, named so after the Turkic indigenous people – the Shors. I learned that fact in the Museum of Natural History of the Region when I was a school-girl. However, I had never suspected that the Shors had still survived in these mountains until I started to work as a University teacher at the Chair of Foreign Languages of the Novokuzneck State Pedagogical Institute, today it is the Kuzbass State Pedagogical Academy, Russia. At that time, the head of the Chair was Ėlektron Čispijakov, a Shor person himself. He organized a Circle of the Shor language for young University teachers of the Chair, graduates of the Faculty of Foreign Languages of this University. He taught us Turcology and the Shor language in 1980-1986. There were no Shor textbooks, no Shor dictionary at that time. He wrote textbook and taught us using the written lessons. I learnt that the Shors still spoke their language which had survived in spite of the absence of any official support and persecutions. I also learnt that the language had had a written form, but could not preserve it. At that time, it was neither written, nor taught at school. I studied the language and the people and went on field work among the Shors during my summer vacations – by train, by bus, by boat, on foot, or by a helicopter which was and still is the only way to get to some Shor villages. The more I learnt about the Shor language and the people, the more I wanted to help the people to preserve (or even to revive) their language. I also got interested in Turkic languages and in their language structure, different from that of the Indo-European languages I had been familiar with until that time.

You might be interested in the question why teachers of foreign languages were engaged in language research on indigenous languages. You see, there were no chairs of indigenous languages of Siberia, where specialists in these languages could be trained at that time. Foreign language teachers were the only language specialists available in Siberia. And this is kind of a tradition in Siberia that foreign language teachers were the first linguists doing research on indigenous languages of Siberia, starting from Wilhelm Radloff, a German language teacher in Barnaul in the nineteenth century (who later became the first Russian Academician – Turcologist and is considered to be the father of Russian Turcology), followed in the middle of the twentieth century by Andrey Dulzon in Tomsk and his apprentices, one of which was Ėlektron Čispijakov.

As a student of the Department of Germanic Languages I was already interested in various linguistic issues. In my first year at the University, I chose to write a course paper to the topic “Language as a System of Systems”. A very ambitious topic for a first-year student! However, the work on the topic showed me that Language is a well-structured phenomenon, even if one might not see that at a first glance. I was actually very good at Mathematics and other Natural Sciences at school and even won various competitions of school children in Mathematics. But I chose to study Linguistics, partially following a family tradition – my mother was a teacher of Russian at school, an excellent one, by the way, and many of my relatives were, - and partially because I thought that Mathematics would be too easy to deal with for me. To try to understand language structures and how they reflect reality was much more exciting. I remember my being absorbed in thoughts on the functions of the Infinitive in English once to such degree, that I even did not answer when my fellow-students applied to me. They asked me what I was thinking about, and I honestly answered that I was thinking about the infinitive functions. You realize that that became a running gag when they spoke about me after that. Nevertheless, exactly the functions of gerunds in Shor became the topic of my Doctoral thesis I wrote in 1986-1989 at the Institute of Philology of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

It was already the time of “perestrojka” in the Soviet Union and that of the rise of national sentiments of all its nations which was not always peaceful. It was a very difficult, but also a fascinating time! Students and teachers were starving. In order to survive I had to do five different jobs at a time – from teaching at the University to translating cartoons for the local TV. However, I also wanted to help the Shor people to revive their language. Together with some colleagues of the Chair of Foreign Languages I organized Shor language courses, started a Shor electronic database and organized and headed the club of Shor young people named after a national epic hero Ölgüdek for a few years. One of the activities of the Club was publishing a Shor Youth Journal in the Shor language which was the first published book in Shor after a break of more than half a century. In 1988, the Chair of the Shor Language and Literature was created at my University; the language got its new orthography and became to be taught at the University and at schools in Shoriya, first by the graduates of the Shor language courses, and then by graduates of the Shor Department. An Association of the Shor people was created; the Shor language was included into the list of indigenous languages of Russia to be supported by the Government.

Because of the lack of financing we had to freeze the program of creating a Shor electronic database. I concentrated on the individual research and wrote my second Doctorate (called Habilitation in German) on spatial constructions in Shor and other Siberian Turkic languages. I applied for and got a Humboldt stipend in Germany. From that time, I have been in Germany teaching in Frankfurt and Berlin and participating in various projects, most of which I have conceptualized myself. They are mostly connected with Siberia in some way. In particular, we have resumed our project on Shor electronic database thanks to the support of German and Russian Foundations. Another project was on documenting Chalkan, another endangered South Siberian Turkic variety.

For the last ten years I have been documenting Old Turkic Runic inscriptions in Mountainous Altai doing field research in the Altai Mountains during my University vacations. Together with colleagues from the Republic Altai I have published a “Catalogue of Altai Runic inscriptions” (2012), and created a database of the collected materials on the Internet. Now I hold a replacement professorship in Turcology at the Frankfurt University and I am engaged in deciphering archive materials on Siberian Turkic, in documenting various Turkic varieties and Old Turkic inscriptions, in investigating various language categories (Prospective, Depictive, Clusivity, etc.) among other things. I am very happy that I have an opportunity to do what I really like. The only problem is that there is so much work to do and so little time to do all I would love to.

Barbara Citko, Featured Linguist

University of Washington

How did I become a linguist? I think I took a road many linguists take, which is via a study of a foreign language. In my case it was good old English, which I started studying when I was seven. And, as they say, the rest is history. This is how I got interested in crosslinguistic variation, and the idea that there are well-defined limits to this variation. Well, maybe this came a bit later, although I have always liked to think of myself as a precocious linguist.

I grew up in Gdynia, Poland during what I consider to be one of the most interesting periods in Poland’s history. Gdynia, like Gdańsk, perhaps its better known neighbor, also had a big shipyard, and these shipyards were places where the Solidarity movement started. Both of my parents were members of Solidarity; my father worked in the Gdynia shipyard. This meant that strikes, martial law, curfews were very close to home, not something you heard about on the news or learnt about from history books. Maybe this experience didn’t help me become a linguist, but it certainly shaped me as a person.

I went to an English high school and majored in English philology as an undergraduate in college (first at the University of Poznań and then University of Gdańsk, both in Poland). It was in Poznań where I first got exposed to Chomskyan linguistics. I still remember my first syntax course, pouring through Radford’s textbook and being utterly fascinated by the beauty and simplicity of Subjacency Principle. I know, I am dating myself here.

I came to the States in 1994 and got a PhD in linguistics from Stony Brook University in 2000. My dissertation was on free relatives, and I have been interested in what we might call non-canonical wh-constructions: across-the-board wh-questions (What did Peter write and Bill review?), questions with coordinated wh-pronouns (What and where did John sing?), multiple wh-questions (Where did John sing what?) and various types of relative clauses ever since. In my research, I tend to focus on Polish, my native language, hoping to contribute to our understanding of the syntax of Slavic languages and, more generally, to our understanding of which aspects of language are universal and which ones are not and why this might be the case.

Over the years I have been influenced and inspired by so many great linguists, all of whom would be impossible to name here. But I do want to acknowledge my first syntax teachers, Przemysław Tajsner and Jacek Witkoś from the University of Poznań, and my undergraduate advisor from the University of Gdańsk, Piotr Ruszkewicz, and thank all the faculty from Stony Brook University, in particular, Richard Larson, my dissertation advisor, for making graduate school such a wonderful and memorable experience!

After graduating from Stony Brook I spent one year as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Utah, one year at the University of Connecticut and two years at Brandeis University, before joining the Linguistics Department at the University of Washington in 2005, which is where I have been since. It goes without saying that I would not even have known about these positions without the Linguist List, let alone have applied for them, let alone have gotten any of them. I also wouldn’t have known about countless conferences, books, journals; all the things that help us keep up with the field. In other words, without the Linguist List I wouldn’t be the linguist that I am today. Thank you, guys, for everything you’re doing!!!

Why do we have a Fund Drive?