Staunton, May 7 – Most Russian and foreign analysts have discussed Vladimir Putin’s drive to make the study of non-Russian languages in non-Russian republics voluntary while continuing to insist on the obligatory study of Russian as an indication that the Kremlin leader is committed to the total Russianization of the population.
That is, Putin wants everyone including all the non-Russian peoples of the country to speak Russian so that they will find it easier to serve in the military, move about the country in the course of their lives and identify with their country via its language, something he has defined as central to Russian national identity.
Now, there is increasing evidence that Putin’s program is intended not just to Russianize the population, ensuring that everyone speaks Russian, but to Russify the non-Russians so that they will identify not with the nations of their birth be they Tatars or Chechens or Tuvans but with the dominant nation of the country in which they currently find themselves.
That is suggested by a portion of Putin’s program that has attracted relatively little attention but that has been pointed to by Ramazan Alpaut of Radio Svoboda’s IdelReal portal (idelreal.org/a/почему-родной-язык-добровольный-а-русская-литература-обязательная-/29113528.html).
He points out that the new school programs Moscow is imposing on the non-Russian republics includes not only the elimination of non-Russian languages as required subjects and an increase in the number of hours for the required study of the Russian language but also introduces a requirement that non-Russians study Russian literature as well.
Kharun Akbayev, a Turcologist from Karachayevo-Cherkessia, tells Alpaut that he favors the obligatory study of Russian in non-Russian schools but very much opposes forcing non-Russian pupils to study Russian literature. “This is something more than incorrect” and must be opposed.
It is reasonable to expect that everyone who lives in a country should speak the common language of the country. But the study of literature is different than the study of language. It is a discipline “which forms one’s worldview. Why should Karachay-Balkars, Circassians, Tatars, Bashkirs of Sakha form their worldview on the basis of a Russian worldview?”
They have their own national worldviews, and these must be maintained even if they speak perfect Russian, Akbayev says. This could best be served by the creation of a course on “the literature of the peoples of Russia” that both non-Russians and ethnic Russians could study and thus learn about each other.
That would make sense unless, as it appears, the government has a different “goal – the Russification of peoples who live in the country.” If in fact that is the case, Akbayev suggests, what Putin is about is something far more threatening to the future of the non-Russian nations and that once this is recognized, they will be radicalized and oppose him far more seriously.