Ninilchik Russian in Alaska

There’s an interesting news reports from a couple of weeks ago on the Russian dialect spoken in Ninilchik, Alaska, a community about four hours’ drive southwest of Anchorage.  Founded in 1847 in what was then Russian America (on this map from 1860, it’s near where the X for ‘Fort Georgievsk’ is placed) in an area mostly populated by Dena’ina (Athabaskan) speakers, Ninilchik today is a community of about 900 people, mostly English speaking but with a small remnant of elderly speakers of a Russian dialect that has been developing independently from other Russian varieties for over 100 years.  The Ninilchik Russian website provides quite a bit of information, including several research papers, recordings, and other information.  My only quibble, which is a small one, is that we need to be careful in calling Ninilchik Russian ‘isolated’ – isolated from other forms of Russian, yes, but as a whole, no – obviously it has been in contact with English, with Athabaskan languages, and with Alaskan Eskimo languages over the past century, which is part of the reason it is so interesting.

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