Sunday, September 29, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Internet Accelerating Mankurtization of Russians and Non-Russians, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 29 – The increasing use of online social networks, experts say, is accelerating the mankurtization of all the peoples of the Russian Federation, cutting off members of the younger generation not only from their parents but from their culture and leaving them without clear definitions of how to behave.

            That is the conclusion of experts surveyed by the Adygey version of the Russian-language weekly, “Argumenty i fakty,” who add that this loss of intergenerational ties is also accelerating the demise of some of the smaller languages both in the North Caucasus and elsewhere in the Russian Federation (

            One measure of “mankurtization” – a term introduced by Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov in his novel “A Day Longer than an Age” to refer to those reduced to slavery because of the forced loss of their memory – is the fact that ever more people in the Russian Federation do not identify as members of one or another nationality.

            According to the 2010 all-Russian census, 15,000 people in Adygeya alone did not identify as members of a nationality, about the same share of the population of that republic as the Armenians (15,600) and far more than the number of Ukrainians (5900) and Tatars (2600) living there.

            “It is no secret that we are step by step becoming illiterates,” Nelli Shishkova, a specialist on language at Adygey State University. “We do not know our native language and we speak Russian poorly. Letter writing is dying with written letters giving way to SMS and likes.” And as a result, the number of words people know and use at all is precipitously declining.

            Mariet Udzhukhu agrees and points out that Russian is suffering in this regard alongside languages like Circassian which are spoken by far fewer people.  “Today Russian speech has been impoverished,” she says, as a result of spreading ignorance of the classical literary language and the unrestricted importation of “parasite words” and “foreign borrowings.”

            “Teachers are upset,” she continues. “Young people do not read classical literature. But how can they read Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Pushkin if they do not understand the language or literate speech?” What can one expect, Udzhukhu continues, when the number of people who speak literary Russian is so small that it is a subject for the Guinness Book of World Records.

            And if Russia’s state language is now a “deficit” good, “just imagine what the extent of the impoverishment of Circassian now is.”  In many cases, the parents of Adygey children are to blame: they want their offspring to study Russian or English in school rather than their own national language.

            “Our children are rapidly becoming mankurts who do not remember their roots and who are being transformed in the best case into people who use slang and broken English,” she says. This loss of their native language is contributing to the loss of native culture and to the positive values it inculcates.

            Udhukhu adds that she has only one reason for hope: “We are learning to value our native language from those are returning from Turkey.  Unlike us who do not value the right to speak our native language, these people know what it means to lose it.” For “more than a century, they have insisted on their right to be called Circassians and to have their own culture and language.”


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