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The language has been isolated from modern Russian for over a century.
Today the speakers are the siblings of Russian colonisers of Alaska who left Russia in the mid-19th century.
“We do not know of any other cases where Russian has existed as a native language for such a quantity of people, at such a distance, and for so long,” said Mira Bergelson, a linguistics professor at Moscow State University and one of the leaders of the expedition.
Twenty people, all over the age of 75, live in the Alaskan village of Ninilchik.
They had almost no contact with the modern Russian language – only with the other major group of Russian-speakers in the state – Orthodox Christian Old Believers who fled persecution in their homeland and gradually settled in Alaska in the 1960s.
The dialect would sound unfamiliar to the speakers of modern Russian, as it contains dozens of obsolete words, no longer used in Russian.
Alaska was owned and colonised by Russia during the early 19th century, but was sold to the US government in 1867.