Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Exclusion of Non-Russian Languages from Schools Would Destroy the Country, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 7 – Vladimir Putin’s new law making the study of non-Russian languages voluntary while keeping the study of Russian obligatory has radicalized many non-Russians, but the debates about it in the Federal Assembly suggest that its impact on Russian nationalists may be even greater and certainly more dangerous.

            During the discussion of the law – it has now been adopted and signed by Putin – two senators made proposals that follow Putin’s logic but go beyond what he has said so far. Boris Nevzorov from Kamchatka argued that all basic subjects should be taught in one language, and Maksim Kavdzharadze of Lipetsk said tat one language should be Russian.

            Otherwise, he insisted, the territorial integrity of the country would be put at risk. But experts with whom Ramazan Alpaut of Radio Svoboda’s IdelReal portal has spoken, suggest that Kavdzharadze has it exactly backwards: the senator’s ideas are the ones that threaten to lead to the disintegration of Russia (

                The most prominent of these authorities, Konstantin Borovoy, a former Duma member and current commentator, says that the Putin law itself already violates the rights of the peoples of Russia and must be seen as a clear case of discrimination, of “discrimination which will undermine the Federation” by violating the Constitution.

            “The Kremlin is trying to transform Russia into a unitary state,” he continues. “That is, it has already transformed it, of course. And the instrument of language is the most important. That which it is doing with language now is what Stalin did at one time. Language is becoming a repressive instrument which will suppress or could suppress any national self-consciousness.”

            According to Borovoy, “this is a crime against the laws of the Russian Federation.” Moscow, he argues, “is trying to reconstruct Russia as an empire. Such an imperial policy, militarism, and expansionism are signs not only of the Soviet Union. These arise at the time of the disintegration of any empire.”

            “Russia is a multi-national state. The question of language is a political question” because “overcoming the influence of national elites,” something the Kremlin considers very dangerous, is the goal of Russia’s rulers.  And like the Soviets, they will do everything to “preserve the influence of the center: with the first secretary a local person and the second a Russian.”

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