Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Could Private Schools Be the Salvation of Non-Russian Minorities and the Death of Russia?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 25 – Fearful that Vladimir Putin’s attack on non-Russian language education could lead to the demise of Russia’s non-Russian nations, one Bashkir teacher has proposed a defense that potentially could help not only her community but many others as well: the establishment of private schools in the non-Russian languages.

            The appearance of such schools, of course, would not only help non-Russian languages to survive but would further divide non-Russians and ethnic Russians along ethnic lines, undermining as the simultaneous existence of public schools and those for particular categories does elsewhere the prospects for the formation or maintenance of a common civic nation.

            At the third congress of the Bashkir people in Ufa last weekend, a meeting the authorities tried to block and then disrupt by various means, Alfiya Yusupova, a Bashkir-teacher called for the establishment of new private schools where children of Bashkir nationality “could be instructed in their native language” (idelreal.org/a/29673374.html).

            After Putin called for ending the requirement that children in non-Russian republics learn the language of the titular nationality while maintaining the rule that all children must learn Russian, Yusupova said, “the situation in our republics became still worse. The majority of parents of course are worried that our language could disappear.”

            “But at the same time,” she continued, these very same parents “are afraid” that the entire Russian educational system is intended “to destroy our languages. In order to avoid this, we must withdraw from ordinary schools” and create separate and independent private schools in the non-Russian languages. She says she has already pulled her own child from the ordinary schools as he is losing Bashkir.

            “An individual who loses his language becomes a mankurt and slave who waits until he is told what to do.” To prevent that from happening, Yusupova said, “we must have other schools, our own, private ones where it will be simpler to provide instruction in the native Bashkir language. When our children grow up, they will then create their own institutions and good work places.”

            Other speakers at the five-hour meeting addressed the state of federalism in Russia, the development of entrepreneurship among Bashkirs and the struggle against alcoholism. But almost all spoke in defense of the Bashkir language. And almost all gave their speeches in Bashkir rather than Russian. They were broadcast on Youtube and VKontakte.

            Two other speeches were especially noteworthy. Attorney Garifulla Yapparov who argued that Bashkirs must seek to own more of the land in their republic in order to protect the republic. Where “there is no land, there is no statehood and no republic,” he said. “Or in other words, there is no land and therefore no motherland.”

            And Ruslan Gabbasov, vice president of the Bashkort Organization, delivered an impassioned speech in which he warned that the Bashkirs were on track to eventually disappear, the result of economic problems unemployment, the absence of stability and confidence about tomorrow. One symptom of this is the rise in suicides, divorces and the unwillingness of young people to establish families.”

            At present, he continued, every third marriage in Bashkortostan is ethnically mixed, something that would not be a problem if Bashkirs retained their identity.  But ever more of them are assimilating with Russian driving Bashkir back to the level of a kitchen dialect; and ever more people of Bashkir background saying “I do not understand Bashkir.”

            It is not surprising, Gabbasov said, that this year, “only 15 percent of parents of pupils chose Bashkir as the native language for their children.”

            He also called for the return of the nationality line in the passport and for Bashkirs to marry only other Bashkirs. Such Bashkir couples should then have at least four children to ensure the growth of the nation.  To promote this, the activist said, his organization was shifting the focus of its work from making appeals to working at the local level with communities. 

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