Kola Sámi


Efim Galkin looking over the fieldworkers stuff (Murmansk; March 2004, Foto: Michael Rießler)

The project was carried out between 2005 and 2010 with the aim of providing linguistic and

language sociological documentation of the endangered Kola Sámi languages and building a digital multimedia archive as the basis for future applied and theoretical research for and on Kola Sámi.

For more information and access to the archive contact:

Two follow-up projects are currently ongoing:


Nina Afanasyeva and Joshua Wilbur (from right) during elicitation at the MPI-EVA phonetics lab (Leipzig); in front Sven Grawunder (May 2007, Foto: Michael Rießler)


Svetlana Danilova, Michael Rießler and Nina Sharshina (from left) working with annotations at the field office in Lovozero (April 2008, Foto: Elena Karvovskaya)

Only a minor part of the approximately 1800 Kola Sámi in Russia speak and understand their mother tongue fluently today. Most of them are elder speakers. The middle generation has either a very limited knowledge of the Sámi, or does not know the language at all. There is almost no member of the younger generation who actively uses Sámi. The absence of a language environment in which the language is spoken by everyone all the time as well as a lack of social motivation for language use pose a threat to the survival of the languages. Taking into account the age of the active speakers, the end of the Sámi speech communities in Russia is probably not far away.

Languages Countries Speakers Degree of endangerment
Western Sámi South Norway, Sweden 300-500 seriously endangered
Ume Sweden < 20 nearly extinct
Pite Sweden < 30 nearly extinct
Lule Norway, Sweden 1 000-3 000 seriously endangered
North Norway, Sweden, Finland 30 000-50 000 endangered
Eastern Sámi Inari Finland 300-500 seriously endangered
Kemi Finland, Russia extinct (19th century)
Skolt Finland, Norway, Russia < 700 seriously endangered
Kildin Russia < 700 seriously endangered
Ter Russia < 15 nearly extinct
Akkala Russia < 5 nearly extinct
The Sámi languages: number of speakers and degree of endangerment. Sources: Hasselblatt & Blokland (2003), Salminen (1993), Sammallahti (1998), own estimates (for Kola Sámi).

Recording language practices in the social lives and social interactions of Kola Sámi speakers of different generations was the main objective of the project. Language data were recorded during various field trips to the Kola Peninsula. We worked with Kildin speakers in both rural and urban environments. The principal methods used were extensive interviews, group discussions and speaking with local experts. In addition, we recorded speakers in natural situations.

Although comprehensive linguistic documentation focussed on the most vital language Kildin Sámi, our documentation includes recordings with several native-speakers of the much smaller Kola Sámi languages Akkala and Ter Sámi as well as with Skolt Sámi speakers from Russia in order to produce as complete a survey as possible.