When was spoken Russian last used in Alaska?

For how long after the purchase of Alaska by the USA was spoken Russian used by its inhabitants?

Can I assume that the last holdouts were old timers in some remote, isolated community?

When/where was that?


I’d be willing to bet you could find some native-Russian speakers in Alaska today that still use Russian in the home. Maybe only a household, but I’ll bet they’re there.

Russian was never the language of the majority of the inhabitants of Alaska, anyway. At any time.

How much would you like to bet, and what do you mean by “use Russian in the home”? I doubt there are, unless they are recent immigrants from Russia.

Shh! I have a sucker on the line!

I didn’t mean to give the impression that I think that at one time everyone in Alaska spoke Russian.

I was only asking when Russian was last used.

hold that bet. i was in sitka about 8-9 years ago and did speak russian to some people.

of course that was in church and talking about food.

anywhere you find an orthodox church that has russian in its name or history you will trip over some people speaking russian; or even using church slovonic in services.

as a gov. language… that would be around the time russia sold alaska to the us. russian was dropped as gov. offices changed hands.

I will take that bet. How much, and what are your terms?

There are a few isolated Russian-speaking “Old Believer” villages on the Kenai peninsula. One is the villages is called Kachemak Selo, about 30 miles up Kachemak Bay from Homer. Some of these villages were founded quite recently (1960s or '70s). I thought at least one dated to the early 20th century, but I can’t verify that.

According to the MLA, there are 2,952 Russian speakers in Alaska today, of which 885 live in Kenai Peninsula Borough. Of those 885, there are 670 who also speak English “well” or “very well.” In that Borough, Russian is second only to English in the number of speakers, just ahead of Spanish.

Now that you have spoiled the likelihood of a bet with John Mace, I will offer Nikolaevsk, a village of 500 Old Believers where Russian is the first language in most of the homes. They emigrated from Russia in 1945, first to Brazil, then to Oregon, and finally to Alaska in 1967. I used to see them in the supermarket all the time.

I was wrong. I tracked down the 1993 Wall Street Journal article from which I originally learned about these people. It indicates that the Alaskan settlements of Old Believers is a recent thing starting in the late 1960s. Also, they’re nutcases.

But i’m not sure this group complies with the spirit of the OP’s question.

I thought he was asking about Russian as a holdover among families who have been in Alaska continuously, not among people who have immigrated from Russia since Alaska became US territory.

about the only continuous official governing russian would be within the orthodox church in alaska. russian was used as a primary language for church business until the 1960’s. then things went russian/english for a decade or two. that would be churches that fall under the o.c.a…

patriarchial and rocor churchs are still primary russian with english upon request or if the individual church decides to go primary english.

the church in alaska for quite some time was trilingual with native, russian, and english being used in services and business.

You are correct, I was asking about spoken Russian as a holdover.

When I first worked in the Aleutians in 1963 some of the Aleuts told me that Russian was spoken in the more remote villages alnong the chain. Father Grasmoff, the Orthodox priest would come by once a year and, although nobody in False Pass spoke Russian, they all could follow the service. I believe I recall reading the Aleut language has died out, and with the consolidation of villages, I don’t think there are many Russian speakers left, but there are always a handful of Old Folks around.

Unforunatley, I myself am now an Old Folk. Russian surnames were common, and I imagine the Orthodox heritage is still strong. Although there was little outward sign of religion, whenever someone died, an Orthodox service was held. (In Russian) Kind of like saying Latin was still spoken through ther Catholic church.