Putin’s Language Law Radicalizing Russians and Non-Russians
August 1 – Vladimir Putin’s call for making the study of all non-Russian languages
voluntary while insisting that the study of Russian remain compulsory has
divided Russians and non-Russians for more than a year, but now that the
Kremlin leader’s appeal has been embodied in a law passed by the Duma, this
divide has only deepened.
on the other, some non-Russian activists are now talking ever more loudly about
the need to pursue state independence because of Moscow’s language policies
lest, by remaining in Russia, they lose first their language, then their distinctive
legal status, and finally their existence as separate nations (idelreal.org/a/29392260.html).
to a significant extent, the current situation recalls some of the national
movements in the union republics at the end of Soviet times, those, among the
most powerful like the ones in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, whose members felt
that if they did not get out of the USSR then, they would be condemned to disappear
in a generation or so.
in another and possibly even more important regard, the situationnow could prove more explosive. The Putin
regime, far more than its Soviet predecessor at the end, is far more committed
to russianization and russification and thus has sent a message that some
Russian nationalists now think they can push for even more radical “solutions”
to the “national question.”
be sure, the Kremlin has gone after some of the more noxious Russian
nationalist groups, but it has pursued non-Russian ones which talk about
federalism or independence even more harshly. And that too is something Russian
nationalists as well as non-Russian ones can easily see and draw conclusions
there is another group that is also paying attention to the consequences of
Putin’s risky action: those in the regime who undoubtedly believe they have the
most to lose by such a rocking of the boat. A half century ago their
predecessors decided that Khrushchev had to go because of such “hare-brained”
if the tensions over the language law do continue to intensify, they may take
action not to save the Russians or the non-Russians but to save themselves and
their ill-gotten gains.