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Kildin Sami
кӣллт са̄мь кӣлл (kiillt saam' kiill)
Native toRussia
RegionKola Peninsula (Murmansk Oblast)
Native speakers
ca. 340 (2010 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3sjd
ELPKildin Saami
Sami languages large.png
Kildin Sámi is 8 on this map.
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Kildin Sami (also sometimes known as Kola Sámi, Eastern Sámi[citation needed], and Lappish, though all of these are ambiguous) is a Sámi language spoken on the Kola Peninsula of northwestern Russia that today is and historically was inhabited by this group.

Geographic distribution

Sami dialects and settlements in Russia: .mw-parser-output .legend{page-break-inside:avoid;break-inside:avoid-column}.mw-parser-output .legend-color{display:inline-block;min-width:1.25em;height:1.25em;line-height:1.25;margin:1px 0;text-align:center;border:1px solid black;background-color:transparent;color:black}.mw-parser-output .legend-text{}  Kildin (K-5 is Lovozero)
Sami dialects and settlements in Russia:
(K-5 is Lovozero)

The area around Lovozero has the highest concentration of speakers. It is the largest of the Eastern Sami languages by number of speakers. Its future, however, appears to be not as bright as that of Skolt Sami or Inari Sami because the language is used actively by only very few people today. The Sami languages closest to Kildin are Ter Sami and Akkala Sami. The latter is sometimes considered to be a dialect of Kildin Sami. Originally, Kildin Sámi was spoken in the mainland areas with the largest pockets of these people in clustered areas and in the coastal parts of the Kola Peninsula.[2] Kildin Sámi speakers can be found in rural and urban areas, with one of them being in the administrative center of the Murmansk area.[2]

Kildin Sámi enclaves can be found throughout villages in Lovozero, Revda, Kola, Loparskaja, Teriberka, but can also be found in larger more sizable areas of Russia such as Olenegorsk and Apatity.[3][4] Lovozero is known as the area where the Kildin Sámi are dominantly present and where the language is still widely spoken amongst the small population: 700–800 ethnic Kildin Sámi among a total village population of approximately 3,000.[2] Today, the language has only about 100 active and perhaps 600 passive speakers.[2] As a result of relocation, migration, and forced movement of the group, the community has really fragmented and become divided over other areas in Russia, thus leading to an inability for the revival and sustenance of their language, traditions, customs, and beliefs.[4] From a strictly geographical point of view, only Kildin and Ter, spoken on the Peninsula, should be regarded as Kola Sámi.[4]


The early period

The Kildin Sámi (Kola Sámi) first came into contact and had more subsequent meetings with the Russians in the 12th century, when Pomor traders from the republic of Novgorod landed on the southern shores of the Kola Peninsula.[4] Russians themselves inhabited and set up shelters in the Kola and the Ter Coast as it was known then during the 13th–14th centuries.[5] During the 15th and 16th centuries, Russians started heavily occupying and building their own communities in northern Karelia and increased exposure between the Kildin Sámi and Russians naturally blossomed as a result.[4] In the 19th century, Kola Sámi were organized and advocated for themselves through "tight-knit familial communities" where they worked in pastures, lived by fishing, and survived through hunting all in a concrete set around defined territory with extended family.[6] During this time, they community shared in spiritual customs and held similar ideologies on their language and community.[6] In the Russian empire, the Kildin Sámi had no authority, rights or privileges, or liberties of autonomy and independence to control their affairs and to educate and teach their language through schools.[7] After the 1917 Revolution which overthrew the tsarist regime of Nicholas II and led to the rise of the Bolsheviks, party systems, and emphasis towards a village-centered, peasant-centered, society, the Soviet state implemented laws or statutes that encouraged the development and protection of Sámi language and Sámi culture.[8]

The Stalinist era

During the 1930s, with an orientation toward Russian nationalism ("Russification") and Russian identity that came about more dramatically with Joseph Stalin's rise to power and his oppressive tactics, 20 years of repression, relocations, murders, and the extinguishment of certain languages came about, which had a quite negative influence on the Kola Sami languages and culture.[8] As Stalins' reign went on in Soviet Russia, his paranoia, frustrations, anger, and delusions grew, emotions he would act on as leader. Resistance and refusal to submit to the collectivized farms, villages and working conditions of the reindeer Kildin Sámi community led to arrests by Stalin in the 1930s of those who lived in the Kola tundras.[7] As Russia entered World War II, Kildin Sámi youth were drafted and impressed to serve in the Red Army, which lessened hardships and prejudices they faced for a temporary period.[7] Although the repression ended after the death of Stalin in 1953, Russification policies continued and the work with the Sami languages started again only in the beginning of the 1980s when new teaching materials and dictionaries were published.[8]

Current state

As social and cultural emphasis has been put on the writing and speaking of the various languages that constitute Russia, Kildin Sámi has now become a critically endangered language.[2] Russian is prominently spoken in Kildin Sámi communities so much so that the original language is hardly ever heard of or only spoken privately amongst those who still know how to do so within an insular community.[2] The few Kildin Sámi who speak and understand their language proficiently can also speak various dialectical tongues that constitute ethnic Russia.[2] Because the language has eroded so rapidly over the centuries, it is more widely spoken amongst or between older elders who were taught and educated between themselves and thus retained the spoken language and hardly spoken by children.[2] The reasons for the loss and decline in speakership is as follows: a lack of education, dispersion of the Sámi, no generational transmission of traditional Sámi trades and ways of life, and not ever needing to speak or not regularly speaking the language have both caused speakership to take a hit over the years.[9][10] Kildin Sami is written using an official Cyrillic script.

Opportunities and challenges for the Kildin Sami


There is an opportunity to revitalize, reintegrate, and have Kildin Sami be more widely spoken such as reintroducing and raising awareness and support for Kildin Sámi as an everyday language for communication—like in the Sámi community of Lovozero.[8] Youth and adolescents are expressing more interest now to speak Kildin Sámi which can help in the languages survival.[8] A sizable portion of political and cultural Kildin Sámi groups are pushing for policies and local measures that help to maintain and protect Sámi tradition, which is important if the language is to survive the test of time.[8] The federal Russian legislation guarantees the Sami several legal rights giving them language sovereignty and rights to use and develop their languages.[8] But for the practical realization of these rights the Kola Sami community needs to hold a constant constructive dialogue with the municipal and regional authorities, which have expressed their willingness to cooperate with the Sami in the development of the Sami language and culture.[8]


A majority of children remain ignorant of their traditional languages, customs and beliefs, and have had no formal or informal teaching which may give them a base of knowledge from which to work from.[8] Antiquated materials, ineffective or inaccessible resources, and old teaching methods are often used to teach the language; there is no efforts towards the transmission of the language to future generations nor is there an active effort to preserve written language for scholarly use or to build opportunities to learn Kildin Sámi at higher levels.[8] Although authorities and some government officials express a desire and willingness to resuscitate and revitalize the language, the community is not using that to their advantage, either because they do not know how to do so or whom to reach out to.[8] There is no collaboration or team effort from language activists, language experts and language users and no coordinated or organized process to make learning the Kildin Sámi language a reality for more people.[8] A language center or another initiative to carry out a more coordinated and well-planned language work could solve that problem.[8]


The printed item in Kildin were chapters 1-22 of the Gospel of Matthew published in 1897. It was translated with the help of native speaker consultants, in Cyrillic orthography by the Finnish linguist Arvid Genetz, and printed at the expense of the British and Foreign Bible Society. (The rest of the Gospel was in Akkala Sámi language.)

Writing system

Main article: Kildin Sámi orthography

Kildin Sámi has been written in an extended version of Cyrillic since the 1980s. The alphabet has three variants with some minor differences among certain letters, mostly in Ҋ vs. Ј and (apostrophe) vs. Һ. The Sammallahti/Khvorostukhina dictionary (1991) uses Ҋ and (apostrophe); Antonova et al. (1985) uses Ј and Һ; a third orthographic variant, used by Kert (1986), has neither of these letters.

Note that the letters Ӓ, Ҋ/Ј, Һ/ (apostrophe), Ӆ, Ӎ, Ӊ, Ӈ, Ҏ, Ъ, Ь, Ҍ and Ӭ do not occur in the word-initial position, either because the letters mark features of preceding consonants or the sounds they represent do not occur word initially. Therefore these letters do not normally occur in uppercase, except for all caps text.

The letter Щ occurs only in Russian loanwords.

А а Ӓ ӓ Б б В в Г г Д д Е е Ё ё Ж ж З з Һ һ '
/a/ /ʲa/ /b/ /v/ /ɡ/ /d/ /je/ or /ʲe/ /jo/ or /ʲo/ /ʒ/ /z/ /ʰ/
И и Й й Ҋ ҋ Ј ј К к Л л Ӆ ӆ М м Ӎ ӎ Н н Ӊ ӊ
/i/ or /ji/ or /ʲi/ /j/ /j̊/ /k/ /l/ /l̥/ /m/ /m̥/ /n/ /n̥/
Ӈ ӈ О о П п Р р Ҏ ҏ С с Т т У у Ф ф Х х Ц ц
/ŋ/ /о/ /p/ /r/ /r̥/ /s/ /t/ /u/ /f/ /x/ /ts/
Ч ч Ш ш Щ щ Ъ ъ Ыы Ь ь Ҍ ҍ Э э Ӭ ӭ Ю ю Я я
/tʃ/ /ʃ/ /ç/ /ɨ/ /ʲ/ /ʲ/ /e/ /ʲe/ /ju/ or /ʲu/ /ja/ or /ʲa/

The orthographic principles are more or less similar to Russian, but note the following special features.


Similar to Russian, palatalization of a consonant in Kildin Sámi is marked by the letter Ь or one of the vowel letters Е, Ё, И, Ю, and Я following the consonant. Palatalized Д, Т, Н, however, are marked by ҍ or one of the vowel letters Ӓ and Ӭ. The consonant letter Н before Ь or one of the vowel letters Е, Ё, И, Ю, and Я does not represent palatalization but the palatal nasal /ɲ/.

Long vowels

Long vowels are marked with a macron ⟨¯⟩ over the vowel letter (and above the diaeresis in the cases of Ё).


The letter Һ occurs before the letters П, Т, К, Ц and Ч, and marks (historical) preaspiration. The actual pronunciation, however, varies between true preaspiration [ʰ] or the fricative sounds [h], [ç], or [x].

Voiceless sonorants

Voiceless sonorants are represented by the letters Ҋ/Ј, Ӆ, Ӎ, Ӊ, and Ҏ.

Velar nasal

The velar nasal is written as Ӈ.


Below is one analysis of the consonants in Kildin Sámi as given by The Oxford Guide to the Uralic Languages:

Consonant phonemes in Kildin Sámi[11]
Labial Alveolar Prepalatal Palatal Velar
Nasal Voiceless Plain m̥ʲ n̥ʲ
Geminate m̥ː m̥ːʲ n̥ː n̥ːʲ
Voiced Plain m n ɲ ŋ ŋʲ
Geminate mːʲ nːʲ ɲː ŋː ŋːʲ
Stop Preaspirated[note 1] ʰp ʰpʲ ʰt ʰtʲ ʰk ʰkʲ
Voiceless Plain p t k
Geminate pːʲ tːʲ kːʲ
Voiced Plain b d g
Geminate bːʲ dːʲ gːʲ
Affricate Preaspirated[note 1] ʰt͡s ʰt͡sʲ ʰt͡ʃʲ
Voiceless Plain t͡s t͡sʲ t͡ʃʲ
Geminate t͡sː t͡sːʲ t͡ʃːʲ
Voiced d͡z d͡zʲ d͡ʒʲ
Fricative Voiceless Plain f s ʃ ʃʲ x
Geminate fːʲ sːʲ ʃː ʃːʲ xːʲ
Voiced Plain v z ʒ ʒʲ
Geminate vːʲ zːʲ ʒː ʒːʲ
Trill Voiceless Plain r̥ʲ
Geminate r̥ː r̥ːʲ
Voiced Plain r
Geminate rːʲ
Approximant Voiceless Plain
Geminate j̊ː
Voiced Plain j
Voiceless Plain l̥ʲ
Geminate l̥ː l̥ːʲ
Voiced Plain l ʎ
Geminate lːʲ ʎː
  1. ^ a b True preaspiration is not present in the majority of contemporary dialects and sociolects. Instead in most dialects preaspirated phonemes are realized with a preceding glottal fricative ([h]). e.g. пāһк (transl. mountain hill) /paːʰk/ is realized as [paːhk]. In other dialects preaspiration is realized as a preceding [ç] for palatalized phonemes and [x] for non-palatalized phonemes. e.g. /paːʰk/ is realized as [paːxk] and кӣһчэ (transl. look) /kiːʰt͡ʃʲɛ/ is realized as [kʲiːçt͡ʃʲe].

The Oxford Guide to the Uralic Languages gives the following inventory of monophthongs:

Monophthongs in Kildin Sámi[12]
Front Central Back
short long short long
Close i ⟨и⟩ ⟨ӣ⟩ ɨ ⟨ы⟩ u ⟨у⟩ ⟨ӯ⟩
Mid ɛ ⟨э⟩ ɛː ⟨э̄⟩ o ⟨о⟩ ⟨ō⟩
Open ɑ ⟨а⟩ ɑː ⟨ā⟩ ɒ ⟨оа⟩ ɒː ⟨ōā⟩

Rimma Kuruch's dictionary presents a slightly different set of monophthongs:

Monophthongs in Kildin Sámi
Front Central Back
short long short long short long
Close i ⟨и⟩ ⟨ӣ⟩ ɨ ⟨ы⟩ ɨː ⟨ы̄⟩ u ⟨у⟩ ⟨ӯ⟩
Mid e ⟨э⟩ ⟨э̄⟩ o ⟨о⟩ ⟨ō⟩
Open a~ɐ ⟨а⟩ ⟨ā⟩



In Kildin Sámi negation is formed by a syntagma, which consists of a finite negative auxiliary and a finite main verb in a special case called connegative (negative form of the main verb). The negative auxiliary gets inflected by person, number and mood. The connegative is a case for the main verb in a negative clause. The tense (whether present or past) is marked by the main verb in a negative clause. The negative auxiliary has the same form in all tenses.

This is the inflectional paradigm of the negative auxiliary:

Singular Plural
1. Person emm jie'bb
2. Person egg jie'bbe
3. Person ejj jiev
Impersonal jie'dt
Imperative jie'l jie'lle

Negative clause in present tense:[13]















Mun emm t'ēd' koal'e Evvan li puadtma.

I I.not know koal'e Ivan is come.

"I don't know if/whether Ivan has come."

Negative clause in present tense:
















Sōnn ejj t'ēdtma koal'e sōnn jo ujjtma li.

s/he s/he.not koal'e s/he already gone is

"S/he didn't know that s/he was already gone.'

With the negation of the verb "to be" in the third person it comes to an amalgamation of the main verb and the negative auxiliary:

In the third person plural of the past tense there is no amalgamation of the negative auxiliary and the main verb "to be":

Negative indefinite pronouns are formed with the negative prefix ni-. It is the only prefix in Kildin Sámi and is borrowed from the Russian language. The prefix ni- can get used with all interrogative pronouns. The negative indefinite pronouns can stay in different cases. Some examples are:[14]









ni-mēnn munn emm ujn

what.not I I.not see

"I don't see anything."

Loanwords to English

See also: List of English words of Sami origin

The word tundra has been borrowed to English, via Russian. In Kildin Sámi, тӯндар (tūndâr) means "treeless plain", but its genitive case is тӯндра (tūndra).

See also


  1. ^ Kildin Sami at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Rießler, Michael (2013). "Towards a digital infrastructure for Kildin Saami" (PDF). Sustaining Indigenous Knowledge: Learning Tools and community initiatives on preserving endangered languages and local cultural heritage. SEC Publications. Exhibitions & Symposia Series: 195–218.
  3. ^ Wilbur, Joshua; Rießler, Michael (2013). "Språk og språkforhold i Sápmi: Documenting the endangered Kola Saami languages" (PDF). Band. 11.
  4. ^ a b c d e Blokland, Rogier; Rießler, Michael (2011). "Komi-Saami–Russian contacts on the Kola peninsula". Studies in Slavic and General Linguistics: 5–26.
  5. ^ Pineda, David (2008). "Куэссь не получается сāмас, рyшас полегче"–codeswitching on the Kola Peninsula". Poljarnyj vestnik. 11: 47–62.
  6. ^ a b Wheelersburg, Robert. P.; Gutsol, Natalia (2008). "Babinski and Ekostrovski: Saami pogosty on the western Kola Peninsula, Russia from 1880 to 1940". Arctic Anthropology. 45 (1): 79–96. JSTOR 40316703.
  7. ^ a b c Kotljarchuk, Andrej (2012). "Kola Sami in the Stalinist Terror: A Quantitative Analysis" (PDF). Journal of Northern Studies. 6 (2): 59–82.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Scheller, Elisabeth (2013). "Kola Sami language revitalisation — opportunities and challenges". Humanistica Oerebroensia. Artes et linguae 16. Örebro University: 392–421.
  9. ^ Ivanishcheva, O (2016). "Saami Dictionary-Making: Preserving Indigenous Finno-Ugric languages of the Kola peninsula". Linguistica Uralica. 52 (1): 54–64. doi:10.3176/lu.2016.1.05.
  10. ^ Ivanishcheva, O (2016). "Language Policy Experiments: Creation of a Kola Saami Writing System in the 1930s". Linguistica Uralica. 52 (4). doi:10.3176/lu.2016.4.06.
  11. ^ Rießler, Michael (2022). "Kildin Saami". The Oxford Guide to the Uralic Languages. Oxford Guides to the World's Languages (1st ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 222.
  12. ^ Rießler, Michael (2022). "Kildin Saami". The Oxford Guide to the Uralic Languages. Oxford Guides to the World's Languages (1st ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 221.
  13. ^ Kotcheva, Kristina; Rießler, Michael (2016). Clausal complementation in Kildin, North and Skolt Saami. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 499–528. doi:10.1515/9783110416619-015a.
  14. ^ Rießler, Michael (2007). Kildin Saami. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 229–244. doi:10.1515/9783110199192.229.