Sunday, October 19, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Using Refugees from Ukraine to Further Undermine Non-Russian Languages

Paul Goble


            Staunton, October 19 – Refugees from Ukraine apparently will not have to study non-Russian languages as required by the legislation of the non-Russian republics but instead will be exposed to more intensive Russian language instruction, yet another way in which Moscow is undermining the status of non-Russian tongues.


            Because of the sensitivity of language issues in many republics, the authorities are not advertising this plan. In fact, officials in Cheboksary, the capital of Chuvashia, confirmed it only after an anonymous visitor posed the question on that city’s website ( citing


            City officials said that the 199 school-age refugees from Ukraine would not be required to take courses in Chuvash and be tested as to their proficiency in that language. Instead, “great attention will be devoted to additional training in Russian,” given that the knowledge of Russian among these children “leaves much to be desired.”


            As notes, Chuvash activists have been pushing for more Chuvash instruction while officials have been taking a variety of steps to reduce the amount of instruction and the use of the national language there, including taking down signs in Chuvash before Vladimir Putin’s visit and proposing to replace classroom instruction in Chuvash with distance learning.


            More than a million Chuvash say they speak that Turkic language, but international organizations have identified it as a language at risk because of the expansion of Russian language use there and because it is not mutually intelligible with other Turkic languages and thus Chuvash cannot save their language by getting training in other Turkic republics.

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