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In Russian language there are 2 different words that are translated into English as "Russian".

The first is nationality. For example (in English), Russian man (even he's Tatar or Chechen, but has Russian passport).

The second is "Russian language" that means "language of ethnic group of Western Russia" (there are 24 official languages in Russia: Russian, Abaza, Adyghe language, Altaic language Bashkir language, Buryat language, Ingush language, Kabardino-Circassian, Kalmyk, Karachay-Balkar, Komi has Nogai language, Mari, Moksha language Ossetian language, Tatar language, Tuvan language, Udmurt, Khakas language Circassian, Chechen language Chuvash language, Erza, Yakut) and 174 languages in all (including non official).

In Russian, words "Russian man" mean that the man has ethnic group of Western Russia. How can I say it in English?

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Are you asking about the difference between the Russian and the OCS words (I seem to recall Rus vs Rosija roots, but I'm probably mistaken)? If so, there's nothing like this in English, because English borrowed from Latin and French, rather than from a closely related language, like Russian did. Plus, America and England have never tolerated -- let alone had a term for -- such auxiliary local languages. England wiped out most Celtic languages -- or tried hard, anyway -- and Americans wiped out virtually all North American languages. – John Lawler Mar 16 '13 at 22:14
No, I mean Rosija and Russkiy meanings. Not Rus or something from old language. The first word (Rosija) belongs to country: Russia, Russian (a man/woman who has Russian passport), the second (Russkiy) belongs to ethnicity: Russian language, Russian (born in Western Russia, East Slavic). Also Russian documents had a line about ethnicity until 2004. – DmitryR Mar 17 '13 at 5:43
Are you trying to different Russian as in the Russian people from Russian, the language? Or are you trying to differentiate between a particular race of people who are the actual Russians from being clubbed with the rest of races in the country of Russia? – coleopterist Mar 17 '13 at 6:44
I'm trying to different Slavonic race and language (russkiy) from country or people who have Russian passport (Rossija based words). BTW in Russia the word "Russian" usually means the race (russkiy), not the nationality (rossianin). – DmitryR Mar 17 '13 at 6:57
Sorry to add another wrinkle: I had a friend (in Canada) who insisted he was a Russian citizen and a Jewish national. That seems to match your argument but it was difficult for me. I thought (and think) citizenship = nationality. – Martin F Jan 17 '14 at 16:38
up vote 3 down vote accepted

The world all over is facing the same dilemma, not just Russia. Russia is not exclusive to this issue.

  • Chinese ethnicity vs Chinese citizen. Is a Tibetan ethnically a Chinese?
  • Is ancestrally North Korean Japanese citizen, ethnically Japanese?
  • Is the new Pope Latino or Italian? He's not Italian but he's Italian.
  • Is Tibetan with Indian citizenship an Indian?
  • Is an Austrian-born living in Thailand with Thai citizenship, a Thai?

You read in the news, two Scotsman were accused of banking fraud by German banking authorities. And then you read further that they were originally from Romania and spoke mostly in Romanian. Or reading about a German being assaulted with hate crime, but who has a very middle-eastern name.

Confusing, isn't it?

Therefore, in English we use extra words to qualify what we mean when the need arises.

So, we say things like Irish-American, Georgian-Russian, Ukrainian-English, Korean-Japanese.

However, the English speaking world is normally infected with Political Correctness (and frequently rightly so) and we delay from saying things like (until it becomes absolutely necessary)

The German national of Ghanaian ethnicity was detained at Heathrow.

We simply say, to hint to people that there might be non-German ethnicity involved.

A German national was detained at Heathrow.

The most liberal newspaper would probably simply write, to neutralise any ethnic profiling by their readers,

A German visitor was detained at Heathrow.

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Wikipedia seems to indicate that there are no standard terms to distinguish the two concepts:

There are two Russian words which are commonly translated into English as "Russians": "русские" (russkiye), which means "ethnic Russians" and "россияне" (rossiyane), which means "citizens of Russia". The first word refers to all ethnic Russians, indifferently of what country they live in (Russia, Ukraine, Latvia etc.), and does not include members of Russia's ethnic minorities. The second word refers to all people holding citizenship of Russia, indifferently of their ethnicity, and does not include ethnic Russians living outside of Russia. English translations do not always distinguish these two words.

You could try Russian national and ethnically Russian.

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There aren't two distinct lexical items for such things in English but there are two differ t locutions.

To signal that a person has A particular nationality (or ethnicity, or something that is about them 'essentially') one says, for example,

I met a Russian.

but speaking a language, often using the same word, would be

He speaks Russian.

With no indefinite article.

Some words for ethnicity don't stand alone, so you need to say 'a (ethnic adjective) person', for example,

a Chinese person

(that is some ethnicities work like adjectives only, but some can work like nouns. Unfortunately, you have to learn which is which, for each ethnicity).

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A Chinaman can be expected to speak Chinese, and a Frenchman French, but Spanish is spoken by Spaniard and Danish by a Dane. – tchrist Mar 17 '13 at 13:27
You example I met a Russian means that I met a man with Russian passport. But in Russian language nationalities are used very rarely, usually we name people by ethnicities. So I asked how to name Slavonic people from Russia. – DmitryR Mar 17 '13 at 15:35
@tchrist: Dude, Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. – donothingsuccessfully Mar 17 '13 at 17:47
Thanks @tchrist, for the extra examples. Sometimes there -is- a different lexical term for language and ethnicity, sometimes. – Mitch Mar 17 '13 at 21:47
Dmitry, it might help us to know what rhe words in Russian are and their definitions for us to get a good sense of what you mean by nationality bs ethnicity. – Mitch Mar 17 '13 at 21:52

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