Monday, November 27, 2017

Putin’s Language Policies Offending Russians Almost as Much as Non-Russians

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 26 – Not surprisingly, Vladimir Putin’s insistence that no non-Russian language should be a required subject in schools in the Russian Federation has offended and angered many non-Russians who see it as an attack on a core part of their identities and even a threat to their existence.

            But the way this principle is being applied isn’t making a large number of Russians happy either because education officials are now insisting that Russian not be called a “native” language in schools but only a state language, something many Russians see as an attack on their identity and a threat as well (/

            In Yekaterinburg, the URA news agency reports, school administrators have called for the development of a new curriculum for Russian that will not call Russian a native language lest that offend representatives of other peoples but only a state language, a shift that has offended Russians who view it as native to themselves (

                According to URA journalists Lev Istomin and Oleg Teploukov, “the officials propose introducing two different subjects: Russian language as the state language and Russian as a native language for those who consider it to be native.” Experts and commentators are dismissive of this idea and its consequences.

            Aleksey Kushnir, editor of Narodnoye obozreniye, says he is “certain that such innovations will not bring any good.”  Today, Russian and non-Russian languages aren’t being taught well; and the public needs to be involved in any such change rather than officials assuming they can simply decree it.

            Georgy Zharkoy, editor of RSP-Ekspert, says that the move will have even worse consequences than the current situation does. “Dividing a language into native and non-native can sharpen inter-ethnic relations in the country” by giving rise to a sense of injustice and injury among both groups.

            Aleksanpdr Buzgalin, an economist at Moscow State University, says that “in order not to cause a social split, one should divide Russian into two subjects only in regions with a multi-national population, for example, in the non-Russian republics.” 

                “In a number of republics of the Russian Federation, Russian is not a native language for a large number of residents.” In some, Russian isn’t taught enough, and the state language needs to be promoted. But “introducing new rules in those regions where people in fact do not speak other languages is senseless.”

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