Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Putin Won’t Back Down on Language Issue, but Heads of Republics Should Know Republic Tongue, Stepashin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 12 -- In the course of a wide-ranging 9500-word interview published in today’s Kazan Business-Gazeta, former Russian prime minister Sergey Stepashin says that no one should expect Vladimir Putin to retreat a millimeter on his insistence on making the study of non-Russian languages voluntary.

            But the former senior officials says that if the country is to function adequately, it should be “an unwritten law” that anyone occupying or even aspiring to occupy the top jobs in the governments of the non-Russian republics should know the language of the titular nationality (business-gazeta.ru/article/385242).

            Stepashin provides enormous information on the events of the 1990s, but he makes five additional key points that have continuing relevance:

·         The Soviet leadership devoted enormous efforts to raise the standard of living in the non-Russian union republics, but it did not try to do the same with the Russian villages.

·         The USSR leadership did not manage to fully create a Soviet people. Instead, the residents of the country remained attached to their nations, classes and regions.

·         “Had Kazan broken away from Russia [in the 1990s], Chechnya would have seemed to us something beneath notice.”

·         “Russian oligarchs aren’t Rockefellers or Morgans. All of them know from whom and how they arose.”

·         And finally, Stepashin says that he “understands why Putin ever more often turns to God. Things aren’t easy for him: he is quite alone.”

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