Minority Languages in Russia

I’ve been working on this article for at least a year now, but actually I think it has been in my files for longer, up to five years. You can see that much of the information is a bit out of date as a result. A lot of this information was translated from Russian sources. The translations to English were poor, so the whole mess needed a huge rewrite from mangled Russian to English translation to a more proper English.

I’ve done this a number of times before and it was never easy. For some reason this is always a lot harder than it seems. For one thing, I had to eliminate entire sentences because I couldn’t properly understand what they were saying or they were saying something that didn’t seem correct to me.

For that matter it is quite hard to rewrite something written in seriously mangled English by someone who can’t write or even worse by someone who has English as a second language and doesn’t write it well. You would think it would be easy to turn mangled English into proper English, but it’s just not.

This post is pretty long. It runs to 33 pages on the web. If it were in a book, it would run to 16 pages.

According to the Constitution of Russia, Russian is the official language on the whole territory of the Russian Federation, but regions are given the right to establish republics and set their own their national languages. The Constitution also guarantees the right of all the peoples of Russia to preserve their native language and to create conditions for its study and development.

According to the Basic Law of Languages, citizens have the right to use their native language as the language of communication, education, learning, and creativity.

We will now look at the study of native languages in the schools of the Russian Federation in the areas within the jurisdiction of the regional authorities. In Russian schools, 89 different languages are studied, of which 39 are used as the language of instruction.

Adygea

In 2007 Parliament passed a law mandating the compulsory study of the Adygean language for Adygean children in schools where Russian is the mode of instruction. However, this law was repealed in 2013. Recently, March 14 was designed the Day of the Speaking and Writing the Adyghe Language. Parents of preschoolers may also choose to put their children in Aegean-language public kindergartens.

The Ministry of Education and Science reported the results of Adygean language teaching in the schools: in 43 preschools, 4,759 Adygean children study the language. In 127 preschools, children are taught the basics of Adyghe culture, customs, and traditions.

All students in Russian-medium schools must study the history and geography of Adygea, and Russian-speaking pupils have a choice of studying Adyghe Language or Adyghe Literature. 22,000 students are currently studying Adygean Language, and 27,600 are studying Adygean Literature.

Altai

There are regular proposals from the Altai people and educators to mandate the compulsory study of the Altai languages Northern Altai and Southern Altai for Altai children. Both Northern and Southern Altai are divided into three divergent dialects each, so there are actually six separate Altai languages. The three languages of the northern and southern groups each were combined into a Northern Altai and Southern Altai official language respectively.

Recently, an attempt was made to pass such legislation, but government legal scholars felt the law would violate children’s rights.

In Gorno-Altaisk on March 15, 2014 at the 9th Session of the Altay Culture Meeting, representatives of the Altai people went further, adopting a resolution to mandate Altai languages study for all students, no matter their ethnicity. However, attendees warned about a Russian backlash.

They felt that such a law would inevitably lead to rising dissent among Russians and other non-Altaians in the republic. This unrest could conceivably lead to the elimination of republic status for the Altai Republic itself.

Bashkortostan

A law is in place in Bashkortostan mandating the compulsory study of the Bashkir language by all students. Each educational institution gets to decide how many hours per week they wish to devote to Bashkir study. Parents of Russian children regularly protest this law and propose to make the study of Bashkir voluntary instead. Chuvash parents have also protested the law. Ethnic tensions have heightened in the area recently.

Buryatia

The question of the possible introduction of compulsory study of the Buryat language in republic schools has been discussed recently and has wide public support. Recently, a video titled, Buryad Heleeree Duugarayal! – “Let’s Speak Buryat!,” was released, urging Buryats to not forget their native language.

However, regional authorities decided to keep the study of Buryat optional in the republic. A few deputies appealed the ruling, and various amendments were adopted at their request, but the amendments did not substantially change the authorities’ decision to keep Buryat study optional. Opponents of the idea of compulsory study of Buryat in the schools fear that it will lead to the emergence of ethnic tensions.

Chechnya

In Chechnya, the national language is taught in all schools of the republic as a separate subject. Since 95% of the population is a member of a titular ethnic group, there have been no protests about people being forced to study a non-native language. There are no problems with Chechen in the countryside – on the contrary, children in Chechen villages have a poor knowledge of Russian.

Despite the fact that the national language is widely used in everyday life, nevertheless, the scope of its use continues to steadily narrow. At the last roundtable of the Ministry of Culture of the Chechen Republic, officials noted what they felt was the alarming process of mixing Chechen and Russian in speech as well as a gradual tendency towards replacement of Chechen in the official sphere.

According to the director of the Institute of Education of the Chechen Republic, Abdullah Arsanukaev, the introduction of Chechen language instruction in the schools could ameliorate this situation. The government for its part is working to equalize Russian and Chechen ​​on the official level. It is expected to create a state commission for the conservation, development, and dissemination of the Chechen language.

Chukotka Autonomous Okrug

The main languages ​​in Chukotka are Chukchi, Eskimo, and Even. The government is now working on a program for the development of the these languages. So far, the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Chukotka has organized courses in Chukchi and Even.

Chukchi is the language of everyday communication for most Chukchi in the family and when engaging in traditional economic activities. In schools in Chukchi villages, Chukchi classes are compulsory in primary school and optional in high school.

Chuvashia

The Chuvash language is taught as a compulsory subject in schools and in a number of universities for one or two semesters.

“In the beginning, a lot of parents opposed their children studying Chuvash. But today I can say with confidence that these parents no longer feel this way. In contrast, some even want their the child to know the native language of Chuvashia, and probably rightly so,” says Olga Alekseeva, a teacher of Chuvash language and literature in School № 50 in Cheboksary.

The acuteness of the language issue in the country can be judged by recent events – in 2013, a court found Chuvash journalist Ille Ivanova guilty of inciting ethnic hatred for a publication about how the Chuvash language was disadvantaged in the Chuvash Republic.

Discussions around the native language exacerbated the recent language reform. According to opponents of reform, the new rules impoverished the language and could catalyze its Russification.

Crimea

The newly adopted constitution of the new Russian region declared three official languages ​​- Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean Tatar. Education in schools will be carried out in these three languages​​.

Russian-speaking parents of children from Buryatia, Bashkortostan, and the Tatar Republic residing in Crimea have already appealed to the President of Russia and the leadership of Crimea requesting making the study of Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar voluntary in Crimea.

Activists fear that unless the law is rewritten, in the future, all children regardless of nationality will be obliged to study all three official languages. Signatories cite the example of their national republics, where Russian-speaking students have to learn a foreign language, the titular language of the republic.

Dagestan

The people of Dagestan speak 32 languages​​, although only 14 native languages are officially recognized. Elementary schools allow instruction in 14 different languages, depending on the region. The rest of the instruction is in Russian.

According to Murtazali Dugrichilova of the North Caucasus radio station Freedom, the native language of the ethnic group is spoken in the most parts of the country as the language of the home. “In rural areas, all of the local languages are spoken. In large cities such as or in Makhachkala or Derbent, teaching in national languages is optional,” he said.

In the future, at the suggestion of Ramadan Abdulatipova, Dagestan will form a commission on the use of Russian and local languages ​​of the republic. It is also expected that after the adoption of the law “On Languages ​​of the Republic of Dagestan,” all 32 languages ​​in the country will receive the status of the official language.

Director of the Institute of Language, Literature, and Art at the Dagestan Scientific Center Magomed Magomedov believes that after enactment of the new law, all of the native languages of the region will be present in the school system.

Dagestan took into consideration the negative experiences of other national republics in this area, and according to Magomedov, the law will prohibit demonstrations and pickets about language issues.

Ingushetia

According to the law “On the State Languages ​​of the Republic of Ingushetia,” Ingush and Russian are both used as official state languages in all educational institutions in the country.

Experts believe that the preservation and development of Ingush is necessary to ensure it is on an equal footing with Russian in all aspects in the republic. In addition, there has been a lot of discussion about the need to develop new words in Ingush for modern things such as industrial terminology.

Kabardino-Balkaria

In Kabardino-Balkaria, the debate over language issues flared up in connection with the adoption of amendments to the law “On Education.” The law mandates that both languages,​ Kabardian and Balkar, be used in education for children who have one of these languages as a mother tongue.

Kalmykia

According to the law “On Languages ​​of the Republic of Kalmykia,” in schools where instruction is in Russian, the Kalmyk language will be introduced starting in first grade as a compulsory school subject. Representatives of non-Kalmyks in the republic are unhappy with this law, but they have not said much about it.

Language activists point out that Kalmyk has a low status in Kalmykia. As an example, they cite the fact that cultural events and even national holiday celebrations are exclusively in Russian.

Karachay-Cherkessia

In the republic, Abaza, Karachay, Nogay, Circassian, and Russian are all official languages​​. The Constitution of the republic mandates compulsory education in the native language for students who have one of the above as a native language.

In addition, according to the law “On Education,” in those Russian-language schools, students who have a native language other than Russian must be taught their native language as a compulsory subject. National activists think that the best outcome is achieved when native languages are used as a mode of instruction and not taught as a special subject. At the moment, the republic is in the process of updating textbooks in Abaza, Karachay, Nogay, and Circassian.

Karelia

Karelia is the only national republic of the Russian Federation in which Russian is the only state language. One of the problems with raising the status of the Karelian language here has been the fact that Karelians are a minority in their own republic, and as a consequence, the republic has only a relatively small number of Karelian speakers.

Recently, President Anatoly Grigoryev of the Karelian Congress fielded a proposal to declare three official languages in Karelia ​​- Russian, Karelian, and Finnish. They modeled this notion on Crimea, where authorities promised to introduce trilingualism as the official policy.

National languages are optionally taught in preschool, elementary school, and high school. According to the Ministry of Education in 2013, 6,500 students studied Karelian, Finnish, and Veps.

Khakassia

As in many republics, the Khakass language is preserved mainly in rural areas that are densely populated by indigenous peoples. Compulsory Khakass language study is mandatory in all national schools in the republic.

Meanwhile, Political Science professor Gunzhitova Handa said that in Khakassia on September 1, 2014, Khakass classes became mandatory from grades 1-11, with an exam in Russian, Russian-Khakass, and Khakass schools.

Khanty-Mansiysk

According to NGO’s, there is only one native language course for the 4,000 speakers of Khanty and Mansi in the republic. Language loss in both languages has been accelerating in recent years. Representatives of youth organizations of indigenous peoples of the North have offered drastic solutions, including depriving national benefits to Khanty and Mansi peoples who do not know their native language.

According to the Hope Moldanova, president of the Ob-Ugric Peoples youth organization, “Young people have a different attitude towards their native language nowadays. Some of them are fluent in two languages but only understand but do not speak their native language, and others think it is sufficient to only know Russian, which is spoken by the majority.”

She too is concerned that the new generation is less interested in the national languages​​. Due to the low demand for the specialty, Ugra State University even closed its Finno-Ugric language Department.

Khanty still has 10,000 speakers in three divergent dialects.  The dialects are so divergent that they are actually separate languages. 40% of Khanty speak their language. In the north, Khanty is still widely spoken in the home, but a boarding school system often causes children to shift to Russian during school age.

In the east, there are still some child speakers but there has been a general shift to Russian. Intergenerational transmission of Khanty has stopped in the south. Schools in Khanty-speaking areas generally use Russian as  the mode of instruction.

Mansi has 1,000 speakers, 50% of the ethnic group. It formerly consisted of four highly divergent dialects, two of which have either gone extinct or are probably extinct. These dialects were so different that they were actually separate languages. Up to 50% of children are still brought up in Mansi. However, the population is shifting to Russian. Schools in the area generally use Russian.

The northern dialect has most of the remaining speakers. There are only a few remaining elderly speakers of the eastern dialect. The southern dialect went extinct before 1950, and the western dialect is probably also extinct.

Komi

The Ministry of Education introduced the compulsory study of Komi language from the first grade in 2011. Later that year, in September 2011, the Constitutional Court ruled that the study of the Komi language in schools of the republic was mandatory. Now schools may choose two different Komi language study programs – “like a native” (up to 5 hours per week) or “as a state language” (2 hours per week in the primary grades).

According to Natalia Mironova, an employee of the Komi Scientific Center’s Ural Branch, this has led to latent discontent among the youth. She said high school students do not understand why they should waste time studying the Komi language when it takes away precious time they could be using to study for their math exams.

Mari El

In the Republic of Mari El, where the official languages ​​are Russian and Mari (Meadow Mari and Hill Mari), mandatory study of Russian and one of the Mari languages was introduced in 2013. Analysts say that among the Russian population, there is growing dissatisfaction with the fact that they are forced to learn what they consider to be an unnecessary language, but there have been few protests about the matter.

Mordovia

The republic introduced the compulsory study of either the Erzya or Moksha languages ​​in all schools of the republic in 2006. Originally, mandatory study of these languages only took place in national schools in districts and villages where there were many Erzya and Moksha people residing. Prior, since 2004, teaching of these languages had been optional in Russian-language schools.

When the compulsory study of these languages was introduced, there ​​were signs of dissatisfaction on the part of the Russian-speaking parents. Now, the number of dissatisfied parents has significantly decreased, and their voice is almost imperceptible.

Nenets Autonomous Okrug

In NAO there are 43,000 people, of which about 7,500 are the members of the titular population, the Nenets. The main problem in the study of the Nenets languages, Forest Nenets and Tundra Nenets, is the lack of books and teachers.

Tundra Nenets still has a good number of speakers, but Forest Nenets is only spoken by a small population. Tundra Nenets has speakers of all ages and is still spoken by children. However, in the west of the republic, a shift to Komi and Russian is underway.

According the Lyudmila Taleevoy of the Methodist SBD Nenets Regional Center for Education Development, the pedagogy programs at the university level no longer prepare specialists in teaching Nenets. Instead, children are taught Nenets by Russian-speaking teachers who studied Nenets when they were students. An old outdated Nenets grammar is used in instruction.

North Ossetia

According to the regional law on languages​​, children have the right to choose schooling in one of two languages – Russian or Ossetian. Ossetian consists of two dialects, Iran and Digorian. The two dialects are so divergent that they are basically separate languages.

According Ossetian journalist Zaur Karaev, all students who have another language as a native tongue, such as Armenians, Ukrainians, Azerbaijanis, and others, must study their native languages in language classes in the primary grades. The language teaching program is more complicated in high school.

Tatarstan

In Tatarstan, where only half of the population is a member of the titular ethnic group, the Tatars, the study of the Tatar language is compulsory for all. Non-Tatar speaking parents regularly protest this law. They even appealed to the Prosecutor’s Office claiming that the law discriminated against Russian-speaking students, but an inquiry by the prosecutor’s office found no violations.

Meanwhile, Tatar nationalists for their part remain alarmed about the state of the Tatar language. According to them, Tatar has a low status in the republic – for instance, in the streets, most writing on storefronts is in Russian, not Tatar. There are also problems with Tatar in TV media, and there is no university that conducts all of its teaching in Tatar.

Nevertheless, the republic regularly implements Tatar language projects and programs, a recent one being the introduction of the Tatar study in kindergartens.

Tuva

In contrast to most of the other republics, in Tuva, it is the Russian language that is in bad shape, not the titular language, Tuva, which is in much better shape. In 2008, a report noted that Russian was in terrible shape in Tuva.

According to Valerie Kahn, a researcher in the Sociology and Political Science Departments at the Tuvan Institute of Humanitarian Research, the authorities were forced to pay attention to this problem. 2014 was declared the Year of the Russian Language in Tuva. As a consequence, systematic measures have been taken to ensure that children in rural areas can learn Russian.

According to Khan, the Tuvan language is in excellent shape. Travelers also note that residents of the republic mostly communicate in Tuvan, although most signs on the streets are in Russian.

Meanwhile Tuvan journalist Oyumaa Dongak believes that the national language is oppressed. On her blog she notes that it is difficult to find Tuvans who speak pure Tuvan without Russian admixture, and even in the government, most employees do not know Tuvan. At the same time, she points out that the state allocated $210 million for the development of the Russian language and nothing for Tuvan.

Udmurtia

The State Council of Udmurtia recently rejected an initiative on compulsory study of the Udmurt language  in the schools of the republic.

Earlier, a similar initiative was made by the association “Udmurt Kenesh.” According to them, the compulsory study of the Udmurt will fight the loss of the Udmurt language in families where the parents do not speak Udmurt with their children as well as develop a culture of multilingualism among citizens. Russian activists have sharply opposed the proposals.

According to the interim head of Udmurtia, Alexander Solovyov, the budget annually allocates money for teaching and training in the titular language.

Yakutia

According to the law of the Sakha Republic “On Languages”, the languages ​​of instruction in secondary schools are Sakha or Yakut, Evenki, Even, Yukaghir, Dolgan, and Chukchi, and Russian in Russian-language schools.

In the non-Russian medium schools, Russian is taught as a subject. Local official languages of various parts of the republic ​​are also taught as a subject in Russian schools in areas in the north where there are large numbers of Evenki, Even, Yukaghir, Dolgan, and Chukchi speakers. In spite of the measures to preserve native languages other than Yakut, all except Yakut have been losing speakers in recent years.

In fact, Evenki, Even, Yukaghir, Dolgan, and Chukchi are only used as the principal means of communication in seven villages and towns. In all other places, most residents no longer speak those languages, and the languages are used mostly by the middle aged and elderly, and even then only in the home or in families that preserve traditional lifestyles like reindeer herding.

In Even areas, Even is taught as a subject from preschool through primary school. Even is an  endangered language. Even has 5,500 speakers.

In areas where the Evenki live, Evenki is taught from preschool through primary school, with an optional course in the eighth grade. Evenki is considered an endangered language. It has 25,000 speakers.

Dolgan, a language very closely related to Sakha, only has 1,000 speakers, and the number continues to decline. Mixed marriages are a problem as when a Dolgan speaker marries a speaker of another language, the children are raised in Russian and hence inter-generational transmission is broken. However, Dolgan is still spoken by all ages and is still being learned by children.

Chukchi still has 5,000 speakers and is considered to be in good shape. It is used in mother tongue education in regions where Chukchis predominate.

Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug

Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug faces problems common to republics where languages with only small numbers of speakers remain. The main indigenous languages ​​spoken here are Nenets, Khanty, and Selkup.

YaNAO has problems with  shortages of teachers for all three languages for both native language study classes and mother tongue education, which is offered in the nomadic schools. Other problems these languages face are language teachers who lack language teaching skills for beginning language learners and a shortage of instructional materials in the languages.

The Selkup language has 1,000 speakers, but it is in fairly good shape. It is only taught in the north of the speaker region and even there only until the fourth grade. In a couple of areas of the north, the language is still spoken by Selkups of all ages and also spoken by non-Selkups who reside there. In the north, 90% of Selkups continue to speak their language. In the south it is down to 30%.

Problems

Virtually all minority languages in Russia suffer because parents and students themselves prefer to learn and speak Russian. This is not surprising, as Russian is not only spoken by the majority of the population, but it also remains the main language of interethnic communication in multinational Russia.

Students must pass the compulsory USE exam, a Russian proficiency test, in order to graduate from high school, hence students tend to study Russian more than other languages, including their own native language, in order to pass the test.

Nevertheless the fact remains that the native language remains the basis for the culture and preservation of the ethnic group. If the languages dies, the culture and in a sense the group itself die with it. Hence, promotion of native languages remains an important goal in Russia. Each region is trying to solve the native language problem in its own particular way.

Compulsory study of the official language of the particular region for all students has not had good results. For example, in Tatarstan, all students are required to study Tatar whether even if their native language is not Tatar.

This led to opposition by Russian-speaking parents who saw no use in their children studying Tatar. Further, it has led to the feeling that people who do not speak the language of the titular republic are being oppressed on the basis of their nationality.

Voluntary native language classes in schools do not lead to increased interest in native languages among youth. Realizing this, many regional governments have begun moving the national native language more into day to day life; for instance, by translating books and street signs into the national language.

Communication in the family itself from p parents to children remains the best way to preserve native languages. Peoples who pursue traditional occupations also tend to preserve their languages longer. Also, not everything can be translated into Russian. For instance, in the north, people still use their native language for items and concepts that have no good translation in Russian.

With the Internet has come increased interest among native peoples in preserving their culture and consequently the Net now offers more opportunities to learn native languages. On the other hand, the presence of Russian on the Net had a bad effect on native languages.

For instance, with the advent of the Internet, many more Russian borrowings and neologisms went into native languages. In addition, people on the Net using native languages often do not write their languages properly. This leads to impaired learning of the correct rules and spelling of the language.

As the head of the Center for National Education Problems FIRO MES Artyomenko Olga, a number of republics are reducing the hours of Russian instruction in the schools.

According to her, changes in the laws are needed in order to remove tension between ethnic groups and improve the quality of language instruction.

In particular, she recommended the removal of terms such as “non-Russian native,” “nonnative Russian,” and “Russian as a foreign language” from the laws of Russia.

A bill to update the legal place of the native languages of Russia has been in the works for a long period of time by the State Duma Committee of Nationalities. The bill has been received positively by the regions. Nevertheless, it has not yet passed the Duma.

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Good Article on the Chechen National Liberation Movement

Clearly most of the nations of the world have a right to self-determination. The article makes clear that the Chechen people never assented to being conquered by the Russians, never really surrendered, and kept fighting periodically every chance they got after conquest in 1864.
Recent polls show that a slim majority of Chechens support full independence. The rest presumably support the largely autonomous government of the Chechen Republic. However, this government is widely considered to be a Russian puppet regime.
Commenter AJ says that the vast majority of Chechens support Russia. This is probably not true. Most of them are probably filled with rage and hatred towards Russia for the genocide the Russians have committed against the Chechen people. However, about half the population probably feels that independence is hopeless and instead opts for the extreme autonomy that has been granted the puppet state.
The war is not exactly winding down in the region. There are military incidents every single day in Chechnya and nearly every day in Ingushetia, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria. The Caucasus region is frankly on fire and the war is probably going to go on definitely.
Frighteningly, there are also now attacks in the Perm region and in Kalmykia deep inside Russia proper. Recently terrorists have carried out attacks against Cossack communities in Russia proper to the north of the Caucasus.
There are a number of theories about why Russia will not let the Chechens go, which would seem to be the only rational thing to do. The article gives the best theory, that independence cannot be allowed because of the precedent it would set in that other regions might want to break away too.
True, much of the Caucasus may indeed break off if self-determination was allowed to Russian republics.
But there are few, if any, other regions in Russia which would break away, so the argument appears to be moot, and Putin increasingly just looks like some kind of a fascist.
There is a fascist-like youth group called “Nashi” that encourages Russians to breed large families for the Fatherland. Pro-natalism is characteristic of all fascist regimes and in general is anathema to all progressive regimes. As a radical environmentalist and zero population growth advocate, I am quite happy that Russia’s population is declining. They serve as a great shining example for all of us.
Fanatical nationalism and extreme racism seem to be overwhelming Russian society lately. Although not particularly racist, commenter AJ is a good example of this fanatical Russian nationalism. If you want to know what these folks are like, read his comments.

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The Proto-Indo-Europeans and Their Early Descendants: Proto-Languages and Homelands

The Indo-European languages include most of the languages of Europe, Iran and Northern India. For instance, English, Gaelic, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Romanian, Bulgarian, Russian, Greek, Albanian, Armenian and Kurdish are some of the better-known IE languages of Europe and the Near East.
In Iran, the major language, Farsi, is IE, as is the major language Pashto in Afghanistan. In India and Pakistan, the huge languages Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi are all IE.
They go back to a proto-language called Proto Indo-European, or PIE. In that the languages are all related, the truth is that the peoples are all related to for the greatest part. So Northern Indians, Pashtuns, Iranians, Kurds and Armenians are all closely related to Europeans since they all sprung in part from a common source, in the famous words of Sir William Jones, who discovered the IE languages in the late 1700’s.
Going back 6,500 years, we can reconstruct Proto-Indo-European quite well. One of the best resources is Julius Pokorny‘s Proto-Indo-European Etymological Dictionary (or Indogermanisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch).
Originally written in German, this incredible 2,500 page masterwork has been translated largely, but not completely, into English. One of my favorite pastimes is wading through this monster. I have a downloadable copy on the blog here (huge file).
The homeland of the Indo-Europeans is the subject of much debate, but the modern consensus centers around putting the homeland at 6500 years before present (YBP) around Southern Russia. I have narrowed it to southern Russia, southeastern Ukraine and southwestern Kazakhstan north of the Caucasus. This is more or less the region in between the Black and Caspian Seas.
An arid region called the Kuma-Manych Depression is in the middle of this region and seems to be a major center of PIE culture. I could not find a map of the Depression, but it separates the North Caucasus from the Russian Plain.
There were also settlements in southeastern Ukraine near the Sea of Azov, about 50 miles north of the Caspian Sea in southwestern Kazakhstan and up around the Lower Volga Region near Samara. A good word for this general region is the Pontic-Caspian Steppe.

The homeland of the Proto Indo Europeans, as of 6,500 YBP. I looked around for good maps of the PIE homeland but I could not find any, so I drew my own. Copyright Oakhurst Technology 2009.
The homeland of the Proto Indo-Europeans, as of 6,500 YBP. I looked around for good maps of the PIE homeland but I could not find any, so I drew my own. Copyright Oakhurst Technology 2009.

From there, it’s not really known how or when the Proto-Indo-Europeans spread out, but they show up in Europe some time later. A good map of their migrations or conquests is here.
The PIE people had several advantages over their neighbors. They were already into the Bronze Age for one, and not only that, but there were horses running around Southern Russia. The PIE had managed to domesticate the horse. That’s quite an advantage, but the PIE people did one better.
They even invented a wheel. Then they logically put the two together and made horse-drawn chariots. With these chariots, the PIE people apparently conquered much of Europe and later parts of Southwest Asia and South Asia.
The people in Europe at this time were pre-PIE folks. We know little about their culture, but the master of PIE culture, the celebrated professor Marija Gimbutas (A woman!) calls it “Old Europe.” Old Europe is very little known or understood. A probable surviving language from Old Europe is Basque. Another, long extinct, is Etruscan.
The very early people of the British Isles, whose descendants are now known as the Black Irish, populated the Isles between 9000-11000 YBP. They had dark hair, dark eyes and very pale skin. Genetically, they seem to resemble the Basques and may have come on boats from Spain.
The Basques themselves and related peoples may have come from the Caucasus long, long ago. Although Basque is said to have no living relatives, I believe it is related to Caucasian languages like Chechen and Ingush. Throughout Europe one finds folks called Black this and Black that.
I had a girlfriend who called herself a Black Swede and later on, a girlfriend named Linda of Polish heritage. Both had very dark, curly hair, dark eyes and very pale skin. As a guess, these types of Europeans may be the remains of Old Europe.
Gimbutas is also the founder of the Kurgan Hypothesis, which is currently the best PIE theory out there. Gimbutas (photo) sort of lost it towards the end when she got into “Goddess worship” and whatnot, but it’s clear that this Lithuanian archeologist was one of the great scholars of our time.
Some time after 6500 YBP, PIE began to break up, but no one knows quite how this occurred. At any rate, by 4200 YBP, a split had occurred in PIE and a separate language had broken off, Indo-Iranian. There are maps out there of the Indo-Iranian homeland, but I don’t like them all that much so I made my own. My best guess was to place it in the far north of Kazakhstan and just over the border into Russia.
From there, after 3500 YBP, the Indo-Aryans moved out and migrated into Afghanistan, Pakistan, North India and Iran. Many people in these regions today speak Indo-Iranian languages descended from these people. These folks are thought to be the source of the famous Aryan Invasion of India at around this time.
A map of the Indo-Iranian Homeland in far northern Kazakhstan around 3,500 YBP. This is where the Iranians, Afghans, North Indians and many Pakistanis came from. Copyright Oakhurst Technology 2009.
A map of the Indo-Iranian Homeland in far northern Kazakhstan around 3500 YBP. This is where the Iranians, Afghans, North Indians and many Pakistanis came from. Copyright Oakhurst Technology 2009.

As I noted, the process whereby these languages split off, other than the Indo-Aryan split, is little known. However, assuming this tree diagram is correct, maybe it can shed some light on the matter.
A very interesting tree diagram of the IE language family.
A very interesting tree diagram of the IE language family. Click to enlarge.

Unfortunately, this chart is hard to read, so I will try to decipher it. The first thing to note is the Anatolian split in the tree, apparently the first split. There are problems with the date for PIE. A glottochronological study recently gave a date of about 8500 YBP for PIE, considerably earlier than the usual date of around 6500 YBP.
Promoters of something called the Anatolian Hypothesis have used this to suggest than an earlier language called Proto-Indo-Hittite was spoken in Anatolia 8500 years ago.
The Anatolian languages split off, and the PIE speakers moved to the Pontic Steppe. The movement of Proto-Indo-Hittite speakers out of Anatolia to the Pontic Steppe to form the PIE people may be related to the Black Sea Deluge Theory which has recently been proven correct.
The Black Sea expanded dramatically according to this theory as, around 7600 YBP, a waterfall 200 times the size of Niagara Falls (!) poured through the Bosporus Straits, transforming the pre-Black Sea freshwater lake into the present-day brackish (part-salt water, part-fresh water) Black Sea. Soon after this event, PIE culture appears in the Pontic Steppe.
This is a very controversial proposal called the Indo-Hittite Theory, but I have long supported it. The late Joseph Greenberg, one of the greatest historical linguists that ever lived, also supported it.
This theory holds that Indo-European has two branches, Indo-European proper and the Hittite branch. The Hittite branch is related to the other branch only in a binary fashion. There is good evidence for this.
The Anatolian languages, all of which are now extinct, are very strange and seem distant from the rest. The appear archaic and have retained many forms which seem to not be present on the rest of IE. My guess is these are archaic forms.
Anatolian lacks grammatical gender – masculine:feminine, an IE innovation spread through the family. Instead, it has an archaic noun class system called animate:inanimate. This is reminiscent of ancient Niger-Congo languages in Africa. In addition, the Anatolian vowel system is reduced (fewer vowels) and the case system is simpler.
Many basic IE vocabulary terms are simply missing in Anatolian. All of this debris tends to add up to the hypothesis of an ancient branch of the language family.
Tocharian is visible on the diagram as Italo-Celtic-Tocharian. This branch is extremely strange, since Tocharian was spoken way over in Asia near East Turkestan and Kyrgyzstan, and Celtic and Italic are spoken in the heart of Europe. This is the area where the mummies with blond hair and blue eyes have been found. Tocharian may have split as early as 6000 YBP.
The Tocharian language is also very ancient and strange and is only distantly related to the rest of IE. If anything, it seems to look somewhat like Anatolian.
A very ancient branch of IE also split off around this time. Known as Balkan or Paleo-Balkan, it may also have split off 6000 YBP. There were two major branches, Thracian and Illyro-Venetic. Thracian is extinct, and all that remains of Illyro-Venetic is Albanian, a very ancient IE tongue that is only distantly related to the rest of IE. Proto-Illyrian and Thracian split around 4200 YBP.
Here is a map of the Illyrian tribes before the Roman conquest. It is from this milieu that the Albanians emerged. The Albanian language is quite strange within IE and seems to have very ancient roots dating back to Proto-Paleo-Balkan from 6000 YBP.
Another very early split you can see in the chart is something called Indo-Irano-Armeno-Hellenic. The Armeno-Hellenic branch probably split off 6000 YBP. The fact that Armenians and Greeks today still possibly retain a PIE appearance is also suggested by this early split. Only the Greek languages and Armenian remain of this family, as most of the family is extinct.
Proto-Hellenic may have split off around 5000 YBP, and Proto-Armenian may have split around 4500 YBP. The proto-Hellenics seem to have been related to the Indo-Iranians. This may be why a number of North Indians look like Greeks, Turks or Armenians.
Armenian and Hellenic are also strange IE branches that are only distantly related to the rest of IE.
The Italo-Celtic branch broke off as early as 5000 YBP. Proto-Celtic split about 2800 YBP; the homeland is in Northern Austria. The Hallstatt Culture is associated with them. The Proto-Italics are dated to around 3500 YBP in Italy. Before that, the Italo-Celtic Homeland is thought to have been in southern and central Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia.
The fact that Italics (Italians and related languages) and Celts share common roots shows how insane and stupid Nordicism is, as Nordicists say that Italians south of the Po are ‘non-Whites.’ It turns out that those greasy dagos and those blond and blue guys in dresses blowing pipes in the Highlands are the same folks after all, as they share common genetic roots in Austria 3500 YBP.
Proto-Germanic also dates far back, with pre-Proto-Germanic possibly being spoken 3800 YBP in northern Germany, Denmark and Southern Scandinavia ( map). The homeland of the pre-proto-Germanics is in Southern Sweden and Jutland. They may have settled this area as early as 5000 YBP. These speakers may have been speaking something called Balto-Slavo-Germanic, a group you can see on the tree above.
Proto-Germanic proper probably dates from the Jasdorf Culture. The homeland of the proto-Germanics was in northern Germany, around Schleswig-Holstein south into the Lower Elbe region in what is now Saxony-Anhalt and the Hanover area.
It also extended along the Baltic coast of Germany to about the Polish border, down into Brandenburg and Mecklenburg. The original center of the homeland was in Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony.
Balto-Slavic is also a very ancient branch of IE. Lithuanian is an ancient IE language that is very conservative and has retained many ancient IE reflexes that have been lost in the rest of IE. Proto-Balto-Slavic probably split around 4000 YBP. Proto-Baltic and Proto-Slavic split apart about 3400 YBP. Map of the Balto-Slavic homeland. This homeland encompassed Western Ukraine, Belarus and Eastern Poland.
Proto-Slavic, dating from 3400 YBP, seems to have its homeland in Northern and Western Ukraine and in Southern Belarus.
The proto-Baltic homeland dating from the same time frame is about the southern border region of Belarus around the Pinsk Marshes.
The rest of the splits, of Slavic, Italic, Celtic, Indian, Iranian and Germanic into their branches, are pretty well-documented, and all occur within the past 1500-3000 years.
Let us move to some interesting dilemmas about the Indo-Europeans. One is the distribution of R1a associated with the Indo-Europeans.
The map of the R1a lineage showing high concentrations in Central Asia and Eastern Europe.
The map of the R1a lineage showing high concentrations in Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

The highest levels of this haplogroup are found in Eastern Europe in a narrow band from the Black Sea in the Ukraine through Poland to the Baltic Sea and in Northern India and areas to the northwest around the Hindu Kush and the Pamirs, but that does not mean that these two groups are particularly closely related. Northern Indians are most closely related to Iranians and relatively distantly to Eastern Europeans.
The truth is that this haplogroup is only a signature of a split from around the Aryan-Greco homeland in the Pontic Steppe region discussed above. This left high levels of R1a in Eastern Europe and in north India. High levels in North India are not particularly notable but exist only due to a founder effect. Actually, the highest levels are not found in North India but in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and north Afghanistan.
The high levels found in North India have led some to assume incorrectly that the homeland of the R1a people was in that area, but this is not the case.
A map of R1b DNA distribution. The homeland of the R1b line is the Maykop Culture, shown in the shaded pink region between the Caspian and Black Seas.
A map of R1b DNA distribution. The homeland of the R1b line is the Maykop Culture, shown in the shaded pink region between the Caspian and Black Seas.

R1b levels are highest in Spain and the Western British Isles. The launching point for the R1b seems to have been the Maykop Culture of 5500 YBP. From there, they spread all over Europe.
The Maykop Culture was an early PIE split that existed between the Taman Peninsula just east of the Crimea east to the Dagestan border in the area that includes part of Southern Russia east of the Crimea, Adygea, Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Ingushetia and Chechnya in the Caucasus.
The center of the culture was around Maykop in Adygea (Circassia). The region is now inhabited by peoples of the Caucasus and is heavily Muslim.
An explanation:

The Proto-Indo-Europeans belonged both R1a and R1b. Their homeland was in the Pontic-Caspian steppe, in what is known as the Kurgan culture (7000-2200 BCE).

The presence of R1b in modern times between the Black Sea and the Caucasus hints at the Maykop culture (3500-2500 BCE) as their most plausible homeland, while the Eurasian steppes to the north were R1a territory. […]

A comparison with the Indo-Iranian invasion of South Asia shows that 40% of the male lineages of northern India are R1a, but only 20% of the female lineages could be of Indo-European origin (H, J, K, T, U).
The impact of the Indo-Europeans was more severe in Europe because European society 4,000 years ago was less developed in terms of agriculture, technology (no bronze weapons) and population density than that of the Indus Valley civilization.
This is particularly true of the native Western European cultures where farming arrived much later than in the Balkans or central Europe. Greece was the most advanced of European societies and was the least affected in terms of haplogroup replacement.
Native European Y-DNA haplogroups (I1, I2a, I2b) also survived better in regions that were more difficult to reach or less hospitable, like Scandinavia, Brittany, Sardinia or the Dinaric Alps[…]
The eastern branch of the R1a steppe people was the Andronovo culture (2300-1000 BCE), around modern Kazakhstan, which correspond to the Indo-Iranian branch of languages. Their migration to the south have resulted in high R1a frequencies in southern Central Asia, Iran and the Indian subcontinent.
The highest frequency of R1a (about 65%) is reached in a cluster around Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan. In India, 15 to 45% of the population is R1a, depending on the region and caste. Over 70% of the Brahmins (highest caste in Hinduism) belong to R1a1, due to a founder effect.

References

Pokorny, Julius. 1959, 2007. Proto-Indo-European Etymological Dictionary. A Revised Edition of Julius Pokorny’s Indogermanisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch. Published on the Internet: Indo-European Language Revival Association.

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