Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Activists from Seven Non-Russian Republics Challenge Moscow on Russian Language Policies

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 2 – Following protests by Tatarstan, Sakha and Chuvashia against Moscow’s plans to require all basic subjects be taught only in Russian (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2016/01/chuvashia-follows-tatarstan-and-sakha.html), activists from those three republics and as well as four others – Khakassia, Udmurtia, Komi and Buryatia – have added their objections to this idea.

            Following the actions of the three republic governments, the activists sent an open letter to Federation Council speaker Sergey Naryshkin outlining their objections, and that letter has now been widely published by non-Russian media around the Russian Federation as well as on social networks (asiarussia.ru/news/11047/).

            In firm but polite language, the letter outlines their objections.  While promoting Russian is not a bad thing, it says, the letter says that the activists rejects the suggestion in the concept paper about Russian language instruction that “instruction in native languages will lead to social stratification and tension and will threaten the national security of the country.”

            In fact, the letter says, the results of such instruction are just the reverse: learning multiple languages promotes intellectual development and thus is good for both the individual and the country.  Thinking that children should only learn basic subjects in Russia is htus a big mistake.

            Moreover, that requirement outlined in the concept paper not only violates the Russian constitution but also the 2005 election law and “puts in unequal positions the development of the languages of the peoples of Russia … and deprives the constitutional norms [of residents of Russia] of an institutional foundation.”

            If children are forced to use Russian in basic courses, they will over time “lose their native language and their peoples will lose their ‘ethno-cultural code.’  We decisively do not accept the path leading to assimilation and even more the path ‘paved with good intentions’ … that will lead to global negative consequences for the entire country.”

            “We would like to believe,” the authors of the open letter say, “that the Russian Federation will remain a large multi-national and fraternal family in which no one member of the family and no one people will be denigrated” relative to others.

            They continue that alongside the Concept for the Teaching of Russian Language and Literature, Russia needs to compose “an all-federal Concept for the Teaching of National Languages in the system of middle general education.”  Moreover, Moscow must “accelerate the processes of ratifying the European Charter on Regional Languages.”

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