Monday, August 26, 2019

‘With Terrifying Speed, One Language after Another is Dying in Russia’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 24 – “On the territory of Russia,” a young woman from Samara says, “people without memory live, people who not by the right of ‘blood’ but because of the loss of their own culture call themselves russkiye or rossiyane, which in this case do not have any difference.  There is no difference, but there is a tragedy.” 

            In a comment sent to Radio Liberty’s IdelReal portal, Katya adds that “on the territory of Russia with terrifying speed, the languages of numerically small peoples are dying out.” Around the world about two languages die each month. “This is a tragedy especially because they are dying quietly and in darkness” (
            She says she is “ashamed” too have to admit that she is becoming a member of one of them not through her own fault but because “of the existing anti-tradition” of being “a person without memory.” But despite that, when she is asked “’are you a Russian?’” she says “’no.’ Because I have never considered myself a Russian.”

            “My mother, her sisters and their mother – my grandmother – always called themselves Chuvash.” The last who knew the national language was her grandmother.  “And all our lives, we who wanted to call ourselves Chuvash but did not feel that we had the right have been seeking someone to blame – we curse Soviet power, large cities, and time.”

            “But I do not know my language because my mother didn’t know it,” Katya says. “And she did not know it because her grandfather was ashamed and afraid,” ashamed of his own poor knowledge of Russian and afraid that his daughter would get in trouble if her knowledge of Russian wasn’t better.
            Many Chuvash envy the Tatars, “a fraternal Turkic people which more or less has been able to do what we haven’t, maintain the basis of their culture, their language, through the entire history of Russian rule.”  But now, given what is going on, Katya says, she no longer envies them because they too are losing their language.
            “I cannot speak for the Chuvash people,” Katya continues. “In the end, I do not even have the moral right to call myself a Chuvash. But I know that that the Tatars, you and your ancestors were able to preserve your people and your culture better than many others … I would like to hope” the Tatars will continue to do so.
            Everyone needs to remember that “peoples die not only in wars. Entire peoples die quietly and in darkness. Under the sounds of a language not their own.”

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