Brief Information

Plautdietsch speakers reside all over the world, primarily in Canada (Winnipeg, etc.) and some South American countries (Belize, Paraguay, Mexico), where there are large Mennonite communities. In Siberia, there are settlements in Omsk Oblast and Altai traditionally considered German. We also suppose that there is a large number of speakers in Kazakhstan (but we do not have exact data).

Presumably, there are several thousand speakers in Russia.

Since the end of the 19th century, the Mennonite language has been represented by two dialects, Chortitza and Molotschna. There were minor differences between these varieties, which remain to this day.

The idiom is referred to as (Mennonite) Low German, Plautdietsch, Mennonitenplatt.

Plautdietsch-speaking Mennonites (or Russian Mennonites, Low German Mennonites, Plautdietsche) are followers of one of Protestant churches close to Anabaptism. Mennonites preach pacifism. Total rejection of violence and weapons has led to their frequent forced migrations since the birth of the movement in the Netherlands in the 16th century.

In Siberia, Mennonites are mostly farmers, simple villagers who profess loyalty to the word of the Bible and the cult of labour characteristic of Protestants. Marriages (even today) are usually between representatives of that religious confession; families have many children (often five, six, or more). Each village has two or more houses of worship, visiting them two or three times a week is mandatory for all members of the community, including children. The language of the Bible and spiritual culture in general is standard German.


Plautdietsch belongs to the West Germanic subgroup of Germanic languages. The status of the language is unstable and varies from a Low German dialect to an independent language descended from German).


Most Plautdietsch speakers live in Siberia in the villages that are traditionally considered German. In some localities, the language prevails, while in others it coexists with other German dialects.
Currently, there is no data on the exact number of speakers. In villages of the Nemetsky National District (Altai) and the Azovsky Nemetsky National District (Omsk Oblast), the number of speakers varies from a few people in a locality to 200–300 people. In Altai, a large number of speakers live in the villages of Protasovo and Polevoye; as for Omsk Oblast, it is the villages of Solntsevka, Mirolyubovka, Apollonovka, and others. 142 native speakers live in the village of Neudachino, Novosibirsk Oblast.
According to our cautious assumptions and the data of our foreign colleagues – researchers of Plautdietsch, there may be several thousand speakers in Russia, though this requires clarification.

Language contacts and multilingualism

All native speakers of Plautdietsch also speak Russian. In addition to their native Plautdietsch, which is spoken in the family and within the community, many of them speak (or at least understand) other dialects of High German that are native for their long-time neighbors. Almost all Plautdietsch speakers speak (good or excellent) standard German since school.

Language functioning

Plautdietsch does not hold official status.

Plautdietsch does not have an established orthographical norm. Serving almost exclusively as the language of oral communication in everyday life, Plautdietsch shows high variability. For all the necessary records (birth and death certificates, marriage registers, etc.), the speakers traditionally use standard German, which, as a rule, they all are proficient enough in.

The language has a fairly young literary tradition, mainly in Canada and Germany, but the spelling systems differ, sometimes significantly. Trends in spelling Plautdietsch depend on the degree of proximity to the German orthography norm or departure from it. As far as we know, currently the German linguist Dr. H. Siemens is developing spelling standards for Plautdietsch.

Plautdietsch has not yet been standardized, and authors writing in it sometimes change their spelling principles. The two main dialects that currently represent the language, Chortitza and Molotschna, have minor differences, so the speakers always understand each other (thus, native speakers from Canada can communicate with Plautdietsch speakers from a Siberian village).

Dynamics of language usage

Most speakers are middle-aged and older. However, if a family speak their native language, the children also speak it fluently.

During the mass migration of Germans to Germany in the 1980-90s, many Plautdietsch speakers left for Germany, like other "Russian Germans", speakers of various German dialects.

Intergenerational transmission is preserved. However, according to the speakers themselves, in the villages there are more and more families where Plautdietsch speakers are switching to Russian in the family circle.

We believe that in general the ethnic group has a positive attitude toward the language.

Language experts

Heinrich Siemens
Igor Aleksandrovich Kanakin

Description of the Mennonite German language, particularly in Siberia.

Kanakin I., Wall M. Plautdietsch in West-Sibirien. Groningen, 1994.

Larissa Erikovna Naiditch

Work on decoding and describing dialectological questionnaires in the Mennonite language from the archive of V. M. Zhirmunsky. Publication of papers on this research.

Core references

Grammatical descriptions: grammars, sketches

Domašnev A. I., Naiditsch L. E. Nemeckije dialekty [German dialects] // Jazyki Rossijskoj Federacii i sosednih gosudarstv. Ènciklopedija [The Languages of Russia and adjacent states. Encyclopaedia]. Moscow. Vol. 2. Nauka. 2001. P. 342–349.

Kanakin I., Wall M. Plautdietsch in West-Sibirien. Groningen, 1994.

Lingvističeskij atlas nemeckih dialektov na Altaje [Linguistic atlas of German dialects in Altai] / L. I. Moskaljuk, N. V. Trubavina. Barnaul: AltGPA, 2011.

Moskaljuk L. I. Nižnenemeckije govory v Altajskom kraje [Low German dialects in Altai Krai] // Filologija i čelovek [Philology & Human]. 2016, №1. Pp. 40–51.


Corpora and text collections

Other electronic resources

Data for this page kindly provided by

Ekaterina Aleksandrovna Libert, PhD, senior researcher of the Institute of Philology of the Siberian Branch of the RAS