Seventy-Year History of Sino-Russian Relations through the Prism of Borrowed Vocabulary

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The purpose and objectives of this study relate to the field of interlanguage contacts and, in particular, to the observation of the process of lexical borrowing as a result of the interaction of non-closely related Russian and Chinese languages. This article discusses the question of the correlation between the nature of Sino-Russian relations and some processes in the vocabulary of the languages of these states. The objective of the study is to identify patterns in the change in the volume and features of borrowed vocabulary, depending on the specifics of the development of interstate relations between China and the USSR, and later the Russian Federation in the period from 1949 to 2022. Within 70 years since the establishment of diplomatic contacts between China and the Soviet Union in 1949, relations between the two countries have gone through three different stages - from warm to cool, and then a period of strategic cooperation - in all areas of public life: humanitarian, scientific, educational, political, military and economic. During these three different periods, the number and nature of Chinese borrowings in Russian and Russian borrowings in Chinese also underwent significant changes. They are reflected in the features of the process of adaptation of borrowed words at the phonetic, grammatical and semantic levels. The frequency of borrowed words use in the period under review in the media texts of both countries is of particular interest. Statistical data on the use of lexemes of Russian origin in Chinese and lexemes of Chinese origin in Russian, obtained from the data of national corpora of the two languages, allow to draw some conclusions about the popularity of certain foreign words at each of the three identified historical stages.

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One of the first linguists who used the term language contact in the scientific literature is U. Weinreich; in his book Language in Contact [1], and he quite broadly interpreted this concept as the alternate use of different languages by one person in his or her speech. The scientist suggested that language contacts can be direct (In the case of face-to-face communication between interlocutors) and indirect. At the same time, U. Weinreich noted that indirect language contacts concern only lexical system of the language. In the texts of the Sino-Russian media, we observe an indirect type of linguistic contact, therefore, lexical phenomena, their causes and processes of adaptation through the prism of interstate relations are of the greatest interest. Thus, an attempt to find a correlation between various stages in the development of relations between Russia and China and the nature of lexical processes occurring in the Russian and Chinese languages in the selected periods can be considered the novelty of this study.

Sino-Russian relations have a long history marked both by periods of friendly contacts and by periods of weakening political, economic and cultural ties [2; 3]. On October 1, 1949, the foundation of People’s Republic of China was proclaimed. At that time, the capitalist society, led by the United States, pursued a policy of isolating China in the international arena. On October 2, 1949, the government of the USSR decided to establish diplomatic relations with the PRC (People’s Republic of China), and both states exchanged ambassadors. The Soviet Union was the first in history to establish diplomatic relations with China, and in 1950, the Chairman of the PRC Mao Zedong and Secretary General of the USSR I.V. Stalin signed the ‘Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance’. The Soviet Union became the first country to provide economic assistance to the new China. However, in 1960, serious disagreements arose between the leading parties of the two states, and Sino-Soviet ties began to weaken. Relations between the two states remained antagonistic for almost 30 years. On March 24, 1982, Secretary General of the USSR L.I. Brezhnev delivered his ‘Tashkent speech’ in the capital of the Uzbek SSR, expressing his readiness to make every effort to improve relations with China. In May 1989, General Secretary of the CPSU (Communist Party of the USSR) Central Committee M.S. Gorbachev visited China, and Sino-Soviet relations began to normalize. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991, Sino-Soviet relations were replaced by Sino-Russian ones. In the 21st century, the development of relations between the two countries entered a period of strategic cooperation in the political, economic, scientific, educational and cultural fields.

All historical stages in the development of interstate relations are reflected in the language of both peoples. Even during the period of cooling between the two countries, contacts were not completely broken, as evidenced by the facts of the language and, above all, this is noticeable at the level of vocabulary. Words borrowed from Russian into Chinese and vice versa are found in media texts on political, economic, scientific and technological, educational, cultural and other topics throughout the entire period from 1949 to 2022. However, the volume and specificity of these borrowings differ, which is of great interest to linguists. According to the remark by N.V. Perfilieva and Hu Peipei, “borrowings appear in a field of human activity that is new, not fully mastered by various languages, and this is a convenient and quick way to fill semantic and linguistic gaps using a common information space” [4. P. 69]. Therefore, this research is devoted to the study of the development of relations between China and the USSR (after 1991, the Russian Federation) through the prism of the adaptation of Chinese and Russian lexemes at the level of phonetics, grammar, semantics and style and their use in media texts of the two countries.

Research methodology

As the material of this study, we used the dictionary units of the database of the national corpus of the Russian language[1] and the national corpus of the Chinese language2, both reflect the references to borrowed vocabulary, which is the focus of this study. The convenience of using the language bases mentioned above also lies in the fact that texts containing the vocabulary of interest to us are classified into oral, written, newspaper, poetic and regional, which contributed to a quick and efficient search and further analysis of lexical units. In addition, in the national corpora of these languages, it is possible to view the frequency of use of a particular lexeme by year. This fact made it possible to study the intensity of the use of Chinese lexical borrowings in mass media texts and to identify possible reasons for their popularity in different historical periods.

The approach to the analysis of the adaptation of Russian lexical borrowings in the Chinese language and Chinese lexical borrowings in Russian was carried out from different angles: in terms of graphics, in a phonetic aspect, in the field of grammar and semantics, and also in the context of the style of a particular media article. Media texts were chosen as the sources of the studied vocabulary, since, according to the remark by M.V. Zagidullina and A.K. Kiklewicz, “the language of journalistic discourses <…>function … in a broader socio-cultural context, under the influence of processes taking place in society at a certain historical stage” [5. P. 402], which once again indicates the importance of correlating the historical stages of development of interstate relations and the lexical processes that are observed during these periods.

Research Results Sino-Soviet comprehensive cooperation from 1950 to 1960

In October 1949, the People’s Republic of China was formally proclaimed. The Soviet Union became the first country to recognize the new state and establish diplomatic relations with it. On February 14, 1950, the leader of the PRC, Mao Zedong, and the General Secretary of the USSR, I.V. Stalin signed the bilateral ‘Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance’, after which relations between China and the Soviet Union entered a period of close cooperation in various spheres of public life.

In the field of political interaction, the PRC Chairman and the USSR General Secretary continued to exchange visits and actively supported inter-party cooperation.

China studied the political system of the Soviet Union, and the leaders of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) carefully examined the experience of the modernization of the Soviet Union as a possible model for the development of their own political system. In economic terms, we observe widely developed and active interaction and trade between the Soviet Union and China. In 1950, the total of imports and exports between the two countries was 338 million US dollars, and as of 1950, the Soviet Union was China’s largest export partner. In 1959, it increased to 2,097 billion US dollars, which was about 50 % of China’s total imports and exports and 20 % of the Soviet Union’s total exports and imports[2]. During this period of warm relations between the two states, the Soviet Union sent China a large amount of financial assistance and delegated experts in energy, raw materials, military and civil engineering to help restore the economic situation of their partner and provide appropriate technical guidance. In the field of culture and education, there was also an intensive development of bilateral contacts: in the 1950s, 8,357 Chinese students preferred the Soviet Union to acquire the necessary knowledge and professional skills[3]. In 1950, 19 universities in China, including Renmin University, successively integrated faculties of the Russian language. At the same time there were opened 7 Russian-language special educational institutions, with an enrollment of more than 4,000 people; Russian was also taught in many secondary schools. From 1950 to 1963, China sent 9,594 foreign students to study abroad; 8,357 of them went to the Soviet Union, 925 travelled to Eastern Europe and 17 departed to Western Europe and Asia, thus Russian became the most popular foreign language among Chinese schoolchildren and students[4]. The country began a large-scale reduction of multidisciplinary universities, which were replaced by highly specialized educational institutions. Religious universities were closed everywhere. Thus began the development of unified teaching materials and curricula, the number of students studying the humanities decreased, but the number of students studying the natural sciences increased6.

In the context of almost complete acceptance of the political, economic and cultural guidelines of the Soviet Union during this period, a large number of Russian borrowed vocabulary appeared in the Chinese language, for example, words such as全民所有制 [quán mín suǒ yǒu zhì] всенародная собственность [vsenarodnaya sobstvennost’] ‘national property’, 生产指标[shēng chǎn zhǐ biāo] производственная норма [proizvodstvennaya norma] ‘production norm’, 教研室 [jiào yán shì] кафедра [kafedra] ‘university chair’, 人造卫星 [rén zào wèi xīng] спутник [sputnik] ‘sattelite’, etc. At the same time, a certain amount of Chinese vocabulary was borrowed into Russian, for example, the words Маоизм [maoizm] 毛泽东思想 [máo zé dōng sī xiǎng] ‘Maoism’, китайский юань [kitayskiy yuan] 元 [yuan] ‘Chinese yuan’ and пиньинь [pinin] 拼音 [pīn yīn] ‘pinyin’.

The general characteristic of Chinese borrowed words in the Russian language and vice versa, Russian words in Chinese in the period from 1949 to 1960 is manifested in the fact that these vocabulary units serve a wide range of areas of life of the two peoples: social, political, industrial, scientific, educational, technical, cultural, and the sphere of everyday human life. We have found less than 20 Chinese borrowings in Russian, while more than 170 Russian borrowings have been spotted in Chinese, as evidenced by the data of etymological dictionaries. These words were mainly used to nominate the concepts of the semantic field of politics, economics, education and culture.

Among the reasons why there are much more Russian borrowed vocabulary units in Chinese than Chinese borrowings in Russian, we can mention the following. Firstly, during the described period, due to the political blockade imposed on China by the capitalist countries led by the United States, and as a result of the policy of state development following the example of communist Russia pursued by China, the knowledge of Western languages (especially English) and communication in them were strictly limited. Secondly, for ideological reasons, Russian was almost the only foreign language that was used for interstate contacts between the two countries at a time when cooperation between China and the Soviet Union became especially close. Thirdly, the strong influence of the Russian language in the PRC was ensured by its use by Chinese students who returned from the Soviet Union after their studies, by a large number of Soviet specialists who provided comprehensive support to China, and by intensive international communication in the fields of production, technology, science, culture and control systems. Thus, the Russian language became not only the main source of replenishing the vocabulary of the Chinese language but also served as an intermediary language for assimilation the words of other foreign languages in Chinese. For example, words from European languages such as shampoo (Eng.) 洗发香波 [xǐ fà xiāng bō] шампунь [shampun], summit (Eng.) 峰会 [fēng huì] саммит [sammit] are pure phonetic borrowings that entered Chinese through Russian [6].

In the process of adaptation, borrowings in Russian as a successor language most often find themselves in a situation of sound borrowing, that is, transcription (if we are talking about oral speech) or transliteration (if words are fixed in writing). For example, the word from the semantic field ‘politics’ of this period маоизм [maoizm] ‘Maoism’, which denotes a system of views that manifested itself in the policy of the Chinese leadership during the reign of Mao Zedong in the 1950s—1960s [7], is an example of phonetic borrowing and is a semi-calque. This word contains the Chinese borrowed root毛 [máo] -мао[mao] ‘mao’, which is the surname of the first chairman of the PRC, Mao Zedong. However, the lexeme is not a calque in the strict sense of this term, since the Russian suffix изм[izm] ‘ism’ joined the root and helps to form masculine nouns in the Russian language, which are the names of socio-political, scientific or aesthetic teachings, trends, an ideological system [8]. In Russian, this word refers to Abstract masculine nouns, since it has the meaning of objectivity, answers the question “what?”, does not have plural forms and ends in a consonant, in speech it is expressed as one or another member of the paradigm of case word forms of this lexeme.

According to the National Corpus of the Russian Language, in the period from 1949 to 1960, the word маоизм ‘Maoism’ is mentioned 9 times. It first appeared in 1955 in issues 7–9 of the Neva magazine. In Russian-language texts, the word маоизм ‘Maoism’ is also present, for example, in the book Diary by A.S. Chernyaev, published in 1973: “And vice versa, having believed Mao and supporting him ideologically (the philosophy of the cultural revolution), he politically takes Maoism only with a plus”[5]. The context indicates the positive connotation of a given word in both the source language and the successor language. However, in the future, the word does not go out of use and is repeatedly mentioned in the texts of the media after 1960.

Since the PRC chose the political and economic system of the Soviet Union as a model, during this period a large number of Russian loanwords appeared in the Chinese language precisely from these areas. For example, in the aspect of the economic system, the word五年计划 [wǔ nián jì huà] пятилетка [pyatiletka] ‘fiveyear plan’ — “a method of planning the development of countries, including the development of targets for socio-economic development for a period of 5 years” [9]. This lexeme is a complete semantic borrowing, a calque. In Russian, пятилетка [pyatiletka] ‘five-year plan’ is a lexical condensate, that is, a kind of slang expression from the economic field, which is an abbreviation of the expression “five-year plan” by removing the second word of this expression and adding suffix -к[k] to the first word and the feminine ending -а [a]. Once in the Chinese language, the word splits into two parts, each of which is translated into Chinese:五年 [wǔ nián] ‘five-year’ and 计划 [jì huà] ‘plan’.

This word came to the Chinese language, retaining its original meaning “economic development plan in the course of five years” [10], as evidenced by the use of this word in Chinese media texts, for example, in the book by R. Wang

Philosophical Common Sense (1957): «中国人民经过一系列的斗争,建立了工人阶级领导的人民民主政权,制定了改造自然和社会的伟大的五年计划,向着社会

主义社会的目标一步步地胜利前进» [After a number of battles, people of China have established a people’s democratic political power led by the working class, determined the general line for the transition period, formulated the great five-year plan for the transformation of nature and society, and is victoriously advancing step by step towards the goal of building a socialist society][6]. In this sentence, the author of the article specifies that the development of a five-year plan is a necessary element of economic policy for building a socialist society in New China and uses the adjective 伟大的 [wěi dà de] ‘great’ giving this word a positive connotation.

This vocabulary unit occurs only 81 times in the national Chinese corpus. The earliest use is in 1935, but most often it is recorded in the 1980s. In the period from 1949 to 1960, it occurs in Chinese texts 11 times, and in 1980–1990–52 times.

The period of deterioration of Sino-Soviet relations from 1960 to 1989

In 1958, the Soviet Union proposed to its Asian partner that they create a common fleet on Chinese territory and in territorial waters. These demands, affecting China’s sovereignty, were immediately and decisively rejected by Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders. Shortly thereafter, Sino-Soviet relations began to deteriorate rapidly.

In 1966, L.I. Brezhnev was elected General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU; he advocated the deployment of more troops and weapons on the Sino-Soviet border as well as the deployment of bombers with nuclear weapons in the Far East. Particular tension between China and the Soviet Union existed due to disputes over the Damansky (Zhenbao) and Kirkinsky (Qiliqin) Islands. In the 1970s, Chinese Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong refocused his country’s foreign policy towards uniting with Third World states and building a front with the United States against Soviet hegemony.

During this period, the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance became invalid. As early as in July 1960, the Soviet Union decided to recall all specialists from China, broke 243 cooperation agreements and stopped 257 scientific and technical cooperation projects. The deterioration of relations between the two states led to a significant decrease in the intensity of bilateral trade. According to the Central Statistical Bureau of the USSR, in 1960 the volume of Sino-Soviet trade was still 14.9 % of the total foreign trade of the Soviet Union, but in 1961 it fell sharply to 7.8 %. Since then, it continued to decline annually, and in 1981, the volume of trade between China and the Soviet Union was only 0.1 % of the total foreign trade of the Soviet Union, which was the lowest value in the history of interaction between the two countries9.

Significant changes also took place in the sphere of culture and education. The Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1966–1976 led to a decrease in the number of academic exchanges between China and the Soviet Union. At the same time, the Chinese withdrew their journalists from the Soviet Union, and on the pages of the Chinese media in the 1960s and 1970s, the Soviet Union was increasingly characterized negatively and associated with such concepts as hegemony and dictatorship.

Against the backdrop of political, economic and cultural confrontation between the two countries during this period, the number of Chinese borrowings in the Russian language and Russian borrowings in Chinese dramatically decreased in comparison with the previous period. For example, sinicisms defining the events of the Cultural Revolution in China in the 1960s were borrowed into the Russian language: дацзыбао [datszybao] 大字报 [dà zì bào] ‘handwritten wall newspaper’, хунвейбин [khunveybin] 红卫兵 [hóng wèi bīng] ‘members created in 1966–1967 years of detachments of student and school youth in China’, etc. And in Chinese appeared the words 导弹 [dǎo dàn] управляемый снаряд [upravlyayemyy snaryad] ‘guided projectile’, 空间站 [kōng jiān zhàn] космическая станция [kosmicheskaya stantsiya] ‘space station’.

The Chinese lexeme of the semantic field ‘politics’ of this period, дацзыбао [datszybao] means “leaflets and posters written by hand and posted on the walls of buildings in China in the 1950s—1970s” [11]. This word is an example of phonetic borrowing. In the successor language, it consists of three syllables, as well as in the source language. The vowels in the first and third syllables are directly transliterated according to the rules of pinyin notation: in the second syllable, [zi] is pronounced as цзы [tszy]. Instead of a sequence of three syllables of the fourth Chinese tone in Russian, the lexeme gets the stress on the third syllable. The first syllable да [da] — dà means ‘big’, the second syllable цзы [tszy] — zì means ‘hieroglyph’ and the last syllable бао [bao] — bào is interpreted as ‘newspaper’, that is, literally this word is interpreted as ‘newspaper of large hieroglyphs’. In Russian, it refers to nouns, since it has the meaning of objectivity and acquires a formal meaning of the middle gender (In the initial form it ends with the letter [o]) and in Russian texts it does not change in cases and numbers.

According to the statistics of the National Corpus of the Russian Language, in the period from 1960 to 1989, the word дацзыбао [dà zì bào] occurs 13 times in media texts in Russian. It is noted in the book Diaries by V.A. Rubin published in 1968: “Others wrote dazibao, supporting those who rose to the Cultural Revolution, welcomed the deed with gongs and drums, helped the illiterate write dazibao about the struggle with their egoism”[7]. The text expresses irony towards those who write dazibao to promote the ‘glorious deeds’ of the Chinese, since in fact dazibao is an instrument of open criticism of the individual and control of public opinion. This word first appeared in 1959 in the Ogonyok magazine, and until 2017 it was widely used in Russian media.

During this period of interruption of political, economic and cultural contacts between the two countries, the number of language contacts also decreases, therefore, a small number of Russian borrowings in Chinese is recorded. However, the success of the USSR in the aerospace industry in the early 1960s was noted throughout the world, including in China, as evidenced by the facts of the language. So, for example, the phrase 空间站 [kōng jiān zhàn] ‘space station’ is borrowed into Chinese. However, this borrowing is possible given cultural and mental characteristics of Chinese speakers as a necessary aspect of interethnic interaction, as Jean Langlois spoke about in his article [12]. Therefore, the Russian lexical unit космическая станция [kosmicheskaya stantsiya] ‘space station’ is fixed in the successor language as a ‘multi-purpose spacecraft designed to provide a comprehensive solution of scientific and applied problems’ [13]. This lexical unit is an example of semantic borrowing. In Chinese, this word is represented in three hieroglyphs. The first hieroglyph 空 [kōng] means ‘a place above the ground’, the second hieroglyph 间 [jiān] means ‘separated and disconnected’, the last hieroglyph 站 [zhàn] is translated as ‘transit place to stop’. Three separate hieroglyphs joined together form this Chinese word. Once in the Chinese language, the Russian phrase космическая станция [kosmicheskaya stantsiya] ‘space station’ (which reflects the complex grammar of the inflectional Russian language) was transformed into one word, which is typical in a language with an isolating type of grammar. In Chinese, this word can be combined with verbs (对接空间站 [duì jiē kōng jiān zhàn] ‘dock to a space station’) and adjectives (国际空间站 [guó jì kōng jiān zhàn] ‘international space station’).

According to the National Corpus of Chinese, this lexeme was used in media materials in Chinese only 6 times from 1960 to 1989, precisely because the relations between the states during this period were very tense. The word first appeared in the popular science magazine Star Envoy X-6 in 1979. The use of this lexeme increased rapidly at the beginning of the 21st century, with a total of 2,282 uses in the media, indicating its significant popularity in the Chinese media today.

Period of normalization and development  of strategic Sino-Russian relations from 1989 to 2022

In March 1985, M.S. Gorbachev became the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU. In May 1989, he visited China and had a meeting with Zhao Ziyang, the General Secretary of the CCP Central Committee, Deng Xiaoping, the Chairman of the CCP Central Military Commission, and other top CCP leaders. This was the first official meeting of the leaders of the two countries in three decades, which meant some positive changes in relations between the two states.

On December 25, 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved, and Sino-Soviet contacts became Sino-Russian relations, which became closer as a result of the changing international geopolitical climate. At the beginning of the 21st century, the relations between the two states reached a new level. In the field of political interaction, the leaders of the two countries regularly exchange high-level meetings. China and Russia insist on remaining reliable partners, good friends and neighbours, refraining from alliances with unfriendly third parties or mutual confrontation. There have been significant positive developments in economic cooperation, with Sino-Russian trade reaching $146.87 billion in 2021, surpassing $140 billion for the first time in history, up 35.9 % in comparison with the previous year. These data show that China has been Russia’s main trading partner for twelve consecutive years[8]. In addition, the two countries are also actively involved in cultural and academic exchanges. At 18 Russian universities, including Moscow Lomonosov State University, there are Confucius Institutes, and since 2020, an exam in Chinese as a foreign language has been included in the unified state exam of Russia. According to the official statistics of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation, by 2020 Russia and China had managed to achieve a total indicator of bilateral educational exchanges of students of 100,000 people. In 2012, the total number of Russian students in China was about 15,000 people, Chinese students in Russia — more than 25,000 people. By the end of 2019, the number of Russian students in China increased by 36 % and amounted to more than 20,000 people. The number of Chinese students in Russia has almost doubled to 48,000[9].

Thanks to the growing cooperation between China and Russia in the field of political, economic and cultural relations during this period, language contacts between the two countries also intensified. However, as a result of China’s economic policy of ‘reforms and opening up’ and ‘socialist market economy’ in the 1980s, contacts between China and other countries, especially the United States and Japan, gradually began to develop. As a result of this process, the vocabulary of English and Japanese became the main object of borrowing into Chinese. Unlike the situation in the 1950s, when Russian was the only foreign language that the Chinese preferred and actively used for lexical borrowing, in the last 30 years the influence of Russian vocabulary on Chinese has been gradually weakening. Therefore, today in Chinese there are only a few words of Russian origin from the period 1989–2022, for example, 独联体 [dú lián tǐ] СНГ [SNG] ‘CIS’, 无情哈拉少 [wú qíng hā lā shào] очень хорошо [ochen’ khorosho] ‘very good’, etc. Since the economic power and international status of China has increased significantly, the Chinese language begins to influence Russian more in terms of borrowing. A significant amount of vocabulary comes from Chinese into Russian, which deals with various spheres of human life, for example, Таобао [taobao] 淘宝 [táo bǎo] ‘an online store focused on the end user’, вэйчат [veychat] 微信 [wēi xìn] ‘a mobile communication system for transmitting text and voice messages’, тайконавт [taykonavt] 太空员 [tài kōng yuan] ‘astronaut of the Chinese space program’, etc.

The word тайконавт [taykonavt] is one of the latest examples of words of Chinese origin in Russian. This lexeme was borrowed into the Russian language in two versions: тайконавт [taykonavt] or тайкунавт [taykunavt]. It means ‘Chinese cosmonaut, astronaut’ [14] and in terms of shape it is an example of a halfcalque. In the process of borrowing into the Russian language, this word has undergone morphological changes. The root of this word -тайко[taiko] comes from the Chinese word 太空 [tài kōng], which is a phonetic borrowing that means ‘space’. At the same time, the suffix -навт[navt] replaces the last hieroglyph of this word of Chinese origin 员 [yuan], which is a derivational unit that forms personal nouns from stems that are foreign in origin [15]. In Russian, this lexical unit refers to nouns, since it has the meaning of objectivity and acquires a formal meaning of the masculine gender (it ends in a consonant sound and has a zero ending), in Russian-language texts it changes in numbers and cases.

According to the Russian National Corpus, the word тайконавт [taykonavt] (or тайкунавт [taykunavt]) first appeared in April 2002 in a news article Third ‘Magic Boat’ Landed in Inner Mongolia, published on the website “International media even came up with a name ‘taikonaut’, which they are going to call Chinese astronauts in the future”[10]. It is interesting that in the texts of the Russian media this lexeme is used to refer specifically to Chinese cosmonauts. In the period from 1989 to 2022, this word occurs 50 times in the media texts in Russian, which indicates its popularity among journalists.

In the context of the weakening of the influence of the Russian language on Chinese, the number of Russian borrowings in Chinese has noticeably decreased. However, during this period, some new Russian borrowings which belong to the sphere of politics appeared in the Chinese language. For example, the abbreviation 独联体 [dú lián tǐ] ‘CIS’ is a sematic borrowing in Chinese. In the source language, this lexeme is an abbreviation composed of the first letters of three Russian words (Союз Независимых Государств [soyuz nezavisimyh gosudarstv] ‘Commonwealth of Independent States’), translated in Chinese as 独立国家联合体 [dú lì guó jiā lián hé tǐ]. In the successor language, this word is also divided into three separate Chinese words 独立国家的 [dú lì guó jiā de], 联合的 [lián hé de] and 团体 [tuán tǐ], which are replaced by corresponding hieroglyphs for shortening: 独 [dú] ‘independent’, 联 [lián] ‘united’ and 体 [tǐ] ‘organization’.

This lexeme is mentioned in Chinese media texts 322 times between 1989 and 2022, according to the Chinese National Corpus. The word was first used in 1992 in the article Speech at the Conference on National Economic Work, which was published in the official Chinese newspaper People’s Daily.


In the modern world in the international arena, Russia and China are major powers with colossal political and economic influence. The two countries have maintained diplomatic relations for over seventy years and have been closely linked by decades of friendly neighbourly relations. The historical development of contacts between the two countries is reflected in their languages. The number and nature of lexical borrowings testify to the deep humanitarian, economic and political ties established between the two countries. In the period from 1949 to 1960, the Soviet Union provided significant economic assistance to China, and at that time a large number of borrowings from the Russian language appeared in the Chinese language in various thematic areas, which is reflected primarily in media texts. At the stage of confrontation between the two countries from 1960 to 1989, interstate ties almost broke off, and, as a result, the number of language contacts between the two countries decreased, followed by a decrease in the volume of borrowings. In 1989, the relations between the two countries normalized. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the rise of China’s allencompassing power, the number of words of Chinese origin in Russian and the number of words of Russian origin in Chinese also changed proportionately. The number of words of Chinese origin in Russian significantly exceeds the number of words of Russian origin in Chinese. In the 21st century, the number of words borrowed into Russian from Chinese and vice versa is increasing as cooperation between the two countries intensifies. However, it should be noted that in recent years, the vocabulary of the Chinese language has been significantly more influenced by European languages, primarily English, than Russian due to the active development of information technology and technical innovation, where China and the United States remain world leaders.


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About the authors

Ekaterina M. Nedopekina

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, (RUDN University)

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5922-3669

PhD in Philology, PhD in Slavic Studies, Associate Professor of the Department of General and Russian Linguistics, Faculty of Philology

6, Miklukho-Maklaya str., Moscow, Russian Federation, 117198

Ha Cong

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, (RUDN University)

ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9460-9957

PhD student at the Department of General and Russian Linguistics, Faculty of Philology

6, Miklukho-Maklaya str., Moscow, Russian Federation, 117198


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Copyright (c) 2023 Nedopekina E.M., Cong H.

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