Staunton, September 30 – Russian law currently requires all media outlets, print and electronic, that issue materials in non-Russian languages to translate them into Russian, a requirement that adds to the burdens of the editors of these publications and puts them at risk of major fines if they do not comply.
At its current meeting in Syktyvkar, the Association of Finno-Ugric Peoples of the Russian Federation is working on a proposal to be sent to the Russian Duma calling for the law to be changed to end this unnecessary duplication, something participants called an all-Russian problem for the country’s non-Russian media (komiinform.ru/news/153942/).
Yury Mishanin, a scholar at the Mordvinian State University, said the requirement that materials from non-Russian outlets be translated into Russia “does not make any sense” because the non-Russian media is directed at the indigenous population and that those who don’t know the languages of these people can turn to Russian-language media.t
There is no guarantee that the Duma will approve such a change. Indeed, the likelihood is that Moscow will turn the Finno-Ugric proposal down flat given that the central authorities use the current legal arrangements to put additional pressure on non-Russian publishers in order to force them to cut back their efforts.
But there are at least three reasons why this is important. First, even more than schools in non-Russian languages in many cases, non-Russian media outlets help maintain national identities. That the Finno-Ugrics are focusing on this suggests that these small and dispersed peoples understand that this is something worth defending.
Second, the Finno-Ugric peoples are pushing for this change not just for themselves alone but for all non-Russian peoples inside the current borders of the Russian Federation, an example of the kind of cooperation among them that Moscow has always sought to block or to break up when it appears.
And third, this Finno-Ugric appeal calls attention to something Moscow fears and that many others don’t suspect: the non-Russian language media is very different than the Russian ones in the same territories. Those who read its outlets often have a very different view of the world than those who rely on Russian alone.
Consequently, any effort to allow the non-Russian media to have less Russian supervision not only reflects but intensifies the aspirations of non-Russians to focus on what matters to them, to set their own agendas, and to view themselves as distinct from the Russian “world” Moscow wants to promote.