Russish is one of the future human languages of the Revelation Space universe.

Originating among some undisclosed group of future spacefaring humanity (possibly the Ultranaut faction, but it remains unclear), Russish in not a particularly prominent language within the Revelation Space universe. It is of a more niche nature. The most frequent examples of Russish user occur among some Ultranaut crews, and to an extent, among some of the non-aristocratic inhabitants of Chasm City and the Yellowstone colony in general.

In an interview, Alastair Reynolds described Russish as one of several future creoles (based on existing Earth languages) that developed in his setting over the course of several centuries.

Linguistic characteristics Edit

The grammar and lexical basis of Russish is intended to be primarily a blend of English and Russian. This is also indicated in its name, a kitbash of "Russian" and "English", or a contraction of "Russian English". (This is comparable with certain "regional flavours of English" from the real world, such as "Denglisch" and "Franglais", colloquial modern German and French, peppered with a high number of English loanwords.)

The Russian part of Russish heritage is evident in some of its vocabulary. It is either explicitly of Russian origin, rooted in recognisable modern day Russian, or shows signs of a future evolution of the Russian language. Most of Ilia Volyova's use of vocabulary with Russian roots is limited to short asides or a few expletives.

One of the very few mentions of a native Russish word, reflecting the future evolution of the language, is brezgatnik. Volyova refers to herself as a brezgatnik and explains that it's a Russish term for Ultranauts like her, who are entirely baseline humans and lack any sort of implants and other technological augmentation of their bodies.

In the novel Chasm City, "slurred Russish" tends to be portrayed somewhat like the speech of a Russian speaker fluent in English, but with a weaker grasp on some of the grammar rules (such as saying "it's just robot" instead of "it's just a robot", leaving out indefinite articles, which are not compulsory in sentences of Slavic languages).

According to further information provided in the same novel, Russish has contributed to a certain type of street argot in post-Melding Plague Chasm City (the latter identified as "a pidgin of Russish, Canasian, Norte and a dozen other languages known here during the Belle Epoque").

The author's own comments Edit interview Edit

In an early 2000s interview for the website, Alastair Reynolds touched up on some of the Revelation Space universe's languages, including some brief but important information on the history and nature of Russish.

  • Duncan Lawie (interviewer): "It's like the early Paul McAuley novels had a Brazilian future, which made no obvious sense from where we are."
  • A. Reynolds: "You never know. Two-hundred years down the line, there can be some contingency. Basically, Demarchists tend to have French and/or Asian names and I throw in the occasional random one now and again to make it more believable. I just like the sound of those names. I imagine the characters as speaking something that's vaguely French with some Cantonese elements in it. Or 'Russish', which is Russian English, my idea of what would happen if you had this international space station with Russian and English crews who formulate this kind of Creole, and extend that a few hundred years down the line." [1]

Decription from Chasm City Edit

Some of the longest sections of text dedicated to Russish and comparing it to other languages of the setting appear in the first third of Chasm City:

The servitor moved from group to group, offering services which it dispensed from a compendium of hatches around its body. It reminded me of a hunter-seeker drone, silently selecting its next target. "You needn't look so nervous, friend," someone said, in thick, slurred Russish. "It's just robot."


"I was prepared to give you the benefit of the doubt," I said, answering him in Norte, even though I could more or less get by in Russish. "But on balance... no, I don't think I do. And until we're better acquainted, I'm not your friend. Now go away and let me think."


Aristocrats tended to have a better grasp of Norte than the average citizen; fluency in it was a badge of sophistication. I had to speak it well for professional reasons-which is why I also spoke most of the northern tongues, as well as having a passable ability in Russish and Canasian.

Russish and Norte would almost certainly be understood in the Glitter Band and Chasm City, even if the mediation was done by machines, but the default tongue of the Demarchists who had refounded Yellowstone was Canasian, a slippery amalgam of Quebecois French and Cantonese.

History Edit

Within the series' narrative chronology, Russish seems to be introduced within the series' first novels, most prominently in Revelation Space and its loose prequel, Chasm City

Aside from Alastair Reynolds' brief behind the scenes comments, the actual "in-universe" history of Russish remains only vague. Compared to both Norte and Canasian, it is a much less spoken language, though it seems to have somewhat of a presence among certain Ultranaut crews, and even among some of the inhabitants of Yellowstone and other settled parts of the Epsilon Eridani system.

Notable speakers Edit

Due to its relative rarity, only a few of the major characters in the series are noted as speakers of Russish. Chief among them is Ilia Volyova, an Ultranaut from the Nostalgia for Infinity (and by far the most prominent speaker of Russish) and Vadim, a local from Yellowstone.

Though there are quite a few characters with names and surnames of Russian origin, many of those who hail from Yellowstone are probably not fluent speakers of Russish. Individuals originating among Chasm City's aristocratic or oligarchical circles prefer to use Canasian as their main language. (Early in chapter 33 of Chasm City, Canasian is even mentioned as "... the language of the Chasm City aristocracy.".) Many of the "commoners" on Yellowstone and on most other settled planets commonly use Norte for daily communication (with varying degrees of accuracy).

Yellowstone natives Edit

  • Vadim
  • Juan (Chasm City argot)
  • Tom (Chasm City argot)

Immigrees to Yellowstone Edit

H, posing under the alias of "Tanner Mirabel" upon his arrival to Yellowstone, mentions that he contemplated using Russish to speak with Vadim, but ultimately went for Norte.

Ultranauts Edit

At least some of the Ultras seem to be familiar with the language. Among the crew members of the Nostalgia for Infinity, Ilia Volyova is the most prominent speaker. Though she also uses Norte extensively when dealing with outside people, Russish is hinted at to be the closest thing she has to a mother tongue.

RS Glossary entry Edit

Russish: A language derived from Russian and English elements.
- description from the official RS glossary [2]

Notes Edit


  1. Some Sort Of Internal Consistency...: Alastair Reynolds interviewed by Duncan Lawie,, ca summer 2002, archived link accessed 26th June 2019
  2. Revelation Space universe - RS Glossary - R,, the official website of Alastair Reynolds

See also Edit

  • Norte - A future derivative of North American English and American Spanish. More prominent in the early centuries of interstellar colonisation attempts, but still the dominant language of common communication.
  • Canasian - The most prominent future language of the setting, used particularly by the Demarchists of Yellowstone and their colonies, but also in some interstellar commerce.
  • Castellano - A Spanish-derived language, one of the local languages spoken on the planet Sky's Edge.
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