Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Despite Moscow’s Hopes, Tatar Leader hasn’t Ended Fight over Putin’s Language Law

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 24 – Kommersant says today that Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov’s address to the republic State Council in which he supported the new education law which makes the study of non-Russian languages voluntary while keeping instruction in Russian mandatory “puts an end to the language question” (kommersant.ru/doc/3751742).

            But in fact, as the paper’s own report of Minnikhanov’s speech and of the comments of other Tatar officials makes clear, the Kazan leadership clearly plans to continue the fight for the republic language, albeit within the more limited possibilities that Vladimir Putin’s language law makes possible.

                On the one hand, Minnikhanov himself called not only for improving instruction in Tatar thus making it a more attractive choice for parents but also for exploring all the possibilities for increasing the use of non-Russian languages that he said he sees in recent remarks by Putin about the need to ensure their survival. 

            And on the other, as Kommersant reports, there are many officials in Tatarstan who will now work to put pressure on parents to choose Tatar as the native language in which their children will be educated rather than Russian which is what the Kremlin leader clearly hoped and hopes for.

            Thus, even though the republics, including Tatarstan have lost the battle over the language law, they are not conceding that they have lost the war between themselves and Moscow about that critical subject. Instead, they are choosing to fight back in new ways, ones that the center may find it more difficult to combat now that it has “won” on the law.

            Moreover, this new fight is one that is likely to involve even more officials and serve as a nationalizing force, exactly the opposite of what Putin and his team of Russianizers and Russifiers hope for. 

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