Children abandoned to institutions display a host of developmental delays, including those involving general cognition and language. The majority of published studies focus on children over 3 years of age; little is known about whether these delays may be detected earlier when children undergo rapid lexical development. To investigate the early language development of children raised in institutional settings in the Russian Federation, we compared a group of children in institutional care (n = 36; 8–35 months) to their age‐matched peers raised in biological families, who have never been institutionalized (n = 72) using the Russian version of the CDI. The results suggest that institutionalization is associated with pronounced delays in children's early language development with large and robust effect sizes. Among children with a history of institutionalization, these delays are also associated with difficulties in Daily Living skills, communication, and socialization.