MOSCOW, December 14 (RIA Novosti) – The number of Russian speakers worldwide has declined by about 120 million people in the past 20 years, a senior Russian government official said Friday.
Measures to boost the popularity of Russian have been insufficient to reverse this decline, according to Benjamin Kaganov, deputy minister of education and science.
He told a conference in Moscow that the language’s declining influence abroad was a cause for concern. Of the 260 million Russian speakers in the world, 140 million lived in Russia itself.
The language would disappear beyond Russia’s borders within 50 years, under competition from more aggressively mobile tongues such as English, unless further efforts were made to improve its appeal abroad, Kaganov said.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev established a new Cabinet council last month to promote the study of Russian abroad, giving it 1.5 billion rubles ($46 million) to open language centers in countries around the world.
Kaganov said Friday that the council, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets, is working to develop Russian-language education projects and programs.
RIA Novosti’s outgoing editor-in-chief Svetlana Mironyuk is also on the council, which is planned to meet four times per year.