Celebrating UN Russian Language Day


On 6 June, ICAO observes UN Russian Language Day. The use of Russian at ICAO dates back to 15 October 1970, when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) deposited its instrument of adherence to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, leading it to become the 120th member of ICAO on 14 November 1970.

A few months later, on 17 February 1971, the ICAO Assembly approved the suggestion of the French and Belgian representatives to recommend the adoption of the Russian as working language, to be introduced on the same scale as other working languages (at that time, English, French and Spanish).

This encouraged Russians specialists to work for the Organization and contributed to broadening ICAO’s cooperation with the USSR. It helped summarize and implement scientific proposals and expert opinions and recommendations.  For example, within a few years, over 50 articles by Soviet scientists, engineers, pilots and top managers were published in the ICAO Bulletin magazine.

The introduction of Russian was also soon reflected in ICAO’s emblem. In October 1972, the Secretary General of ICAO agreed to introduce a revised ICAO emblem incorporating the initials of the Organization in Cyrillic alphabet (i.e. transliteration or translation of each letter of the English acronym ICAO into the Cyrillic alphabet) in recognition of the introduction of Russian as a fourth language of the Organization.

The Council recommended to the 21st Session of the Assembly, held in September and October 1974, that it officialise this new emblem (Resolution A21-4). This resulted in ICAO becoming the only UN Specialized Agency to include more than two acronyms in its emblem.

After the USSR disintegrated in 1991, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation notified ICAO, on the behalf of Boris Yeltsin, President of Russia, of the succession of Russia to the USSR in the United Nations and all its working organs. It informed ICAO that Russia accepted fully rights and obligations of the former Soviet Union in ICAO. With this succession, Russia has continued to play a key role in the strategic direction of ICAO and consequently the global civil aviation network, through the seat that it has continuously held on the ICAO Council.

Today, Russia is one of four ICAO Member States where Russian is spoken as an official language. The others are Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan who joined in June 1993, February 1993, and August 1992, respectively.

Russian naturally remains of crucial importance to ICAO’s ability to coordinate and cooperate with these countries, and with other countries in the region where it is commonly spoken, towards the sustainable development of civil aviation, the achievement of the goals of ICAO’s No Country Left Behind initiative, and of course benefit from the expertise of Russian-speaking aeronautical experts.