The first linguistic olympiad for secondary school students was organised in 1965 in Moscow on the initiative of Alfred Zhurinsky (1938-1991), eventually a prominent philologist but then only a fifth-year student of linguistics, and under the guidance of the mathematician Vladimir Uspensky. The Olympiad, farsightedly called Traditional since its very beginning, was regularly held at the Moscow State University from 1965 until 1982. In 1988 the Olympiad was resumed at the Moscow State Institute for History and Archives (now the Russian State University for the Humanities), and since 1989 it has been organised jointly by the two institutions. Since 1996 a mirror of Moscow’s Traditional Olympiad in Linguistics has been held in Russia’s northern capital by St Petersburg State University.

Linguistic contests have also been held regularly in Bulgaria since 1982, being organised by the Union of Bulgarian Mathematicians and the Ministry of Education. In more recent years analogous events were launched in Oregon (US) and the Netherlands. At the same time teams of award-holders of the Moscow Olympiad in Linguistics competed successfully in Bulgaria and vice versa, which demonstrated the potential for international co-operation in this field. Thus was born the idea of the IOL.

The following table presents a summary of the participation in the first twenty instalments of the IOL (2003-2023):

Year Host city Countries Teams Participants
2003 Flag Borovets, Bulgaria 6 9 33
2004 Flag Moscow, Russia 7 12 45
2005 Flag Leiden, Netherlands 9 13 50
2006 Flag Tartu, Estonia 9 13 51
2007 Flag St. Petersburg, Russia 9 15 61
2008 Flag Slanchev Bryag, Bulgaria 11 16 67
2009 Flag Wrocław, Poland 17 23 86
2010 Flag Stockholm, Sweden 18 26 99
2011 Pittsburgh, USA 19 27 102
2012 Flag Ljubljana, Slovenia 26 34 131
2013 Manchester, UK 26 35 138
2014 Flag Beijing, China 28 39 152
2015 Flag Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria 29 43 166
2016 Flag Mysore, India 30 43 167
2017 Flag Dublin, Ireland 28 43 172
2018 Flag Prague, Czechia 30 49 192
2019 Flag Yongin, Republic of Korea 36 53 209
2021 Flag Ventspils, Latvia 34 54 216
2022 Flag Castletown, Isle of Man 37 50 184
2023 Flag Bansko, Bulgaria 38 52 205

Teams from these 41 countries have participated in at least one of the first twenty IOLs: Australia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Canada Anglophone, Canada Francophone, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Moldova, Nepal, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Türkiye, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uzbekistan, Vietnam.

IOL Logo

Our IOL logo was chosen through the IOL Logo Competition, held in 2015. The logo is the work of Agata Łazarewicz of the Secondary Technical School of Electronics in Jelenia Góra, Poland.