Sunday, May 26, 2019

Every Month, One or Two Languages are Disappearing, Russian Rights Activist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 25 – Andrey Babushkin, a member of the Russian Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, told the Democratic Congress of the Peoples of the Russian Federation, a group set up last year to defend languages, that at present “one or two” languages are dying out every month.

            That is a very sensitive issue because Russian officials and scholars, like Valery Tishkov, have repeatedly said that no languages have disappeared in Russia and that the government is doing everything it can to ensure that all of them survive, a claim many non-Russians and others dispute.

            But his comment made at two-day meeting of the Congress in Moscow was not the most apocalyptic.  Ruslan Aysin, the coordinator of the meeting, said that its participants agreed that the situation with regard to federalism is not just “far from ideal but is in fact close to a critical level” (

            “The federal powers that be,” he says, “today are too far from the regions. The latest protests in various federal subjects also show that there is a demand for a regional policy. Ordinary people do not like the fact that they are kept out of decision making. And if nothing happens, the crisis will only grow.” 

            According to Aysin, “the institutional arrangements of federalism must be strengthened; only by so doing can the territorial integrity of Russia be maintained. There is no other path,” all the participants in the meeting said. And some went even further than that.

            Maksim Shevchenko, a commentator and political activist, called on republics to “more actively demand their rights since they are the spine of the Russian Federation. And while the powers that be in Moscow do not devote attention to regional problems, it nevertheless must resolve them.”

            Just how sensitive the problems of federalism have become was shown in the run-up to this meeting. On May 16, Circassian scholars held a roundtable on this subject in preparation for the Moscow meeting ( In its wake, officials in the North Caucasus have persecuted participants.

            The officials say that the meeting at which Circassians called for expanded self-government was “an anti-government act.”  That has sparked complaints by Circassians and other nations who are calling on the authorities to stop their persecution of people who are only using their constitutional rights (

            Martin Kochesoko, a Circassian leader who is the target of these attacks by the Kabardino-Balkaria authorities, says “we have shown that we are open and conceal nothing. We are for observing the Constitution of the country and the principles of federalism. We have only pointed to certain more important problems in our view and discussed how to solve them” (

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