Friday, February 1, 2019

Kremlin Fills Foundation Ostensibly Set Up to Promote Non-Russian Languages with Russianizers

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 30 – Moscow has filled the Russian Foundation for Support of Native Languages with people who have distinguished themselves by promoting the study of Russian and does not include those non-Russian activists who have sought to promote their national languages, according to Ramazan Alpaut of the IdelReal portal.

            And consequently, as so often happens in Russian affairs, an institution intended to compensate for the absence of changes in the law that many have sought in fact seems set to ram through the provisions of that law and perhaps even toughen Moscow’s enforcement of it at the expense of the non-Russian nations within the current borders of the Russian Federation.

            Alpaut lists some of the people on the board of the foundation, all of whom as officials or scholars have long been active proponents of Russian and none of whom have been active supporters of non-Russian languages (; cf.

                Not surprisingly, many non-Russians are angry.  The Bashkort organization says that “if in the foundation are going to be represented only officials and only representatives of Russian nationality, then naturally such a foundation cannot pretend to be objective. Where are the representatives of the major nations of the Russian Federation who have actively defended their position on the language question?”

            “In our view,” the organization continues, “the current situation with regard to languages in the Russian Federation is far from ideal.” The composition of the foundation will do little or nothing to make things better. If non-Russians were represented in a body intended to help them, perhaps something could be done.

            The Chuvash organization devoted to promoting that national language, Ireklekh, shares that view and says that the foundation as presently constituted does not promise anything positive. Such a group to be effective must include those who support the non-Russian languages and not just Russian.

            Other Chuvash activists are equally critical. Aleksandr Blinov says that the staffing of the foundation shows that Moscow doesn’t want anyone who will object to its Russianizing impulses, and Yury Osokin says that as constituted, the foundation represents a threat to “all the peoples of the Russian Federation without exception.”

            Tatar activist Marat Lotfullin says that it is clear that the foundation was created simply for show, to give the appearance that Moscow is supporting the non-Russian languages when in fact it is working to destroy them.  “The presence in the administration of such odious figures as Nikonov and Tishkov” demonstrates that.

            Even one of the people included on the board of the foundation, Anne Lybo of the Moscow Institute of Linguistics is skeptical about what it will do given the nature of those who dominate the board. “It would have been better to adopt a normal law rather than to create a foundation,” he says.

            Instead, what Moscow has done is “set up a foundation instead of this law.”  That makes it unlikely that the foundation will do much to promote what it says it exists for, the support of non-Russian languages in the country.  

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