Professor Derek Offord, University of Bristol


This AHRC-funded project ran from August 2011 to June 2015. Its aim was to produce the first large-scale, multidisciplinary history of the French language in Russia.

The research team explored the impact that French had not only on the use of Russian, but also on Russians’ thinking about their own language and, more broadly, on Russian social and political attitudes and on the formation of a sense of national identity. Their findings will have resonance in the fields of social, political, cultural, and intellectual history as well as sociolinguistics. The project will also contribute to a field of historical scholarship which is still in its infancy: by treating language as not merely a useful tool for historians but also a subject worthy of historians’ attention in its own right, the team will demonstrate that language is itself an aspect of culture, a social institution, a key factor in the conceptions that peoples or groups have of themselves, a political instrument, and a potent force in national life.



French Language Acquisition in Imperial Russia

This is a cluster of four articles in French edited by the research team, two of which were written by Vladislav Rjéoutski, together with a foreword by the team in English. The cluster arises in the main out of papers on education presented at the project conference on ‘French in Russia’ held in the University of Bristol from 12-14 September 2012. It was published on 1 November 2013 in the inaugural number of ВИВЛIОθИКА: E-Journal of Eighteenth-Century Russian Studies, an online journal of the Eighteenth-Century Russian Studies Association. These articles address a question that is key to the spread of French in eighteenth-century Russia, namely where, how and by whom French was taught and learned.

European Francophonie: The Social, Political and Cultural History of an International Prestige Language

This work of 160,000 words was published with Peter Lang in 2014. It originates in the seminar series on French in Europe that was organised in the University of Bristol in the calendar year 2012. The book is co-edited by the research team and includes their co-authored introductory chapter and conclusion and a chapter on Russia authored by Derek Offord. It establishes a pan-European context for the study of the history of French in Russia. More information can be found on the book’s page on the Peter Lang website.

Click here for a brief description and table of contents (PDF, 67kB)

Foreign-Language Use in Russia during the Long Eighteenth Century

This is a cluster of four articles edited by the research team and published in the January 2015 issue of Russian Review. The introductory article, “The Functions and Value of Foreign Languages in Eighteenth-Century Russia”, is written by the research team. The other articles address the use of German, French and English in Russia during the long eighteenth century, and arise from papers presented at the project conference on ‘French in Russia’ held in the University of Bristol from 12-14 September 2012. The introductory article is open-access and is available under the following link:

French and Russian in Imperial Russia

Volume 1: Language Use among the Russian Elite

Volume 2: Language Attitudes and Identity

This work is in press with Edinburgh University Press and is due to be published in July 2015. It consists for the most part of chapters arising from papers presented at the Bristol conference in September 2012, together with papers presented at a conference ‘Enlightened Russian’ at the Dashkova Centre in the University of Edinburgh from 30 August to 1 September 2012. The two volumes are co-edited by the research team in collaboration with Lara Ryazanova-Clarke of the University of Edinburgh and explore the interplay between French and Russian in Russia in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Click here for a description of volume 1 on the Edinburgh University Press website, and here for a description of volume 2.


Project Website