Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Putin’s Language Law Seen Hastening Demise of Circassian Language, Radicalizing Population

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 6 – Specialists on the North Caucasus, Madina Khakuasheva says, say that the Circassian language is likely to die out in the region in less than 50 years and that the new legislation that will result in reducing the number of young people studying it will only accelerate that process.

            The Circassian philologist at the Kabardino-Balkaria Institute of Research on the Humanities, tells Gor Aleksanyan of the Kavkaz-Uzel portal that the approaching death of the language will also lead to assimilation of those who used to speak it and thus threaten the survival of the nation itself (

            Other experts in the region, the Kavkaz-Uzel journalist says, have made the same points.  But they stress that Moscow’s attack on the non-Russian languages is radicalizing not only the Circassians but other North Caucasians who fear that if they do not protest now, there will not be anyone left to protest in the future.

            An open letter signed by 135 leading scholars and cultural figures in Kabardino-Balkaria says that they “sincerely share the views of those seeking to preserve Russian in Latvia and Ukraine” and thus “do not understand why parents of non-Russian nationalities of the Russian Federation cannot count on the instruction of their own children in their own national republics.”

            “The proposed model of ‘voluntary’ instruction means,” the authors of the letter say, “a return to elective education which led in its time to a sharp degradation of native languages.”  And consequently, they say, the Circassians and other North Caucasians aren’t going to go down without a fight.

            Circassian activist Asker Sokht says that the system currently in place has worked for 80 years and the question thus arises “why namely now the state suddenly has decided to change this system. A logical answer to that question doesn’t exist, and consequently society is expressing its dissatisfaction with these actions.”

            If this law is adopted and its terms imposed, Sokht says, that in and of itself “will become a cause for protests not only in Adygeya but also in other republics.”  The state has an obligation to protect national languages and national cultures. It cannot walk away from that with impunity and without protests.

            Kasey Khachegogu, the chief director of the Adygey National Theater, adds that “the problem of native languages is an issue which can consolidate society not only in Adygeya but throughout the North Caucasus.”  There are efforts in various places to organize protest movements, but unfortunately up to now, most have failed.

              And Circassian historian Marat Gubzhokov says that “the adoption of the proposed law is impermissible … for all the peoples of the Caucasus.” “We can only hope,” he continues, “that with the help of public pressure, it will be possible to achieve the rejection of this measure.”  Otherwise the future is likely to be bleak indeed.

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