Does Elon Musk speak Russian? What do his tweets to Putin mean?

Bruno Cooke March 14, 2022
Does Elon Musk speak Russian? What do his tweets to Putin mean?
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Elon Musk posted a tweet today in two languages, English and Russian. What do they mean, and is there any evidence that does Musk speaks Russian – or any other language other than English?

What do Elon Musk’s Russian tweets mean?

A few hours ago on Monday, 14 March 2022, SpaceX and Tesla chief executive Elon Musk posted the following tweet.

It contains three Russian words, in the Cyrillic script. The first two words – Владимир Путин – mean “Vladimir Putin”. Although it may be tongue in cheek, the tweet is a direct challenge to the leader of the Russian Federation to hand-to-hand combat.

The stakes, Musk’s tweet concludes, are Україна – that means Ukraine, also in Cyrillic. Russian and Ukrainian both use the Cyrillic alphabet, although there are differences.

Musk’s follow-up tweet reads: Вы согласны на этот бой?; this means, “Do you agree to this fight?” He tagged the official Kremlin news Twitter account, @KremlinRussia_E.

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Does Elon Musk speak Russian?

There isn’t any evidence Elon Musk speaks any languages fluently other than English. 

However, as others have noted, he may have some comprehension of Afrikaans owing to his upbringing in Pretoria, South Africa. 

His mother, Maye, hails from Saskatchewan, Canada, which has as its two official languages Saskatchewanian and English. It’s unlikely any Saskatchewanian she may have known from her youth was passed on to Elon, although it is possible.

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Maye Musk’s background also includes Pennsylvania Dutch heritage. But most Pennsylvania Dutch today speak English. Per PADutch, there are still native and non-native speakers of the language, but it is “no longer as widespread as it once was”.

Elon once reportedly “demonstrated his Russian skills” by responding in the language via Twitter to an invitation to visit a local business event in Krasnodar in southern Russia. But these days, tweeting in a foreign language is as easy as copying and pasting text into Google Translate.

How has Twitter reacted to Elon’s joke?

The original tweet has picked up almost 170K likes in four hours. Musk has 77.7 million followers on the platform.

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In the past, Elon Musk’s tweets have had significant effects in the real world. In 2021, for example, when he changed his bio to “#bitcoin”, the cryptocurrency jumped 20% in less than an hour.

Musk once told podcast host Joe Rogan he trained in karate when he was young. He’s also “dabbled” in taekwondo, judo and jiu-jitsu, according to TMZ

But he doesn’t speak Russian and, thankfully, the Kremlin’s official Twitter account hasn’t responded to Elon Musk’s joke about challenging Putin to “single combat”.

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.