Staunton, March 23 – Vladimir Putin’s direct attack on the non-Russian languages by eliminating the requirement that all students in the non-Russian republics study them in school even while insisting that all of them study Russian was easily seen for what it is – a move toward the Russianization and ultimate Russification of these nations.
But other steps the Kremlin is taking toward that end are less so precisely because they are packaged in a way that allows defenders of the Putin regime to hide what they are doing or even suggest that they are promoting non-Russian languages. One of those is now on public view in Mari El, a Finno-Ugric republic in the Middle Volga.
There, its backers say, Mari El Radio has launched “a bilingual program,” one in which Mari and Russian are used at one and the same time “without supplemental translation and explanation (facebook.com/100000938572146/posts/2621388634569063/ and nazaccent.ru/content/29501-pervaya-bilingvalnaya-programma-vyshla-na-marij.html).
One can be certain that Russian officials will count the program as a non-Russian language broadcast; but in fact, it is anything but. Its only slightly implicit message is that Mari speakers can use Russian without any problem and should shift to the language of the country rather than the language of their republic.
Over time, such broadcasts will further corrode a language already losing speakers and the nation of those who speak it – and it will all happen in the best “hybrid” fashion, in a way that will allow those who are carrying it out to deny to the naïve in both the Russian Federation and the West what they are doing.