Staunton, September 23 – Sometimes the most important piece of evidence is the absence of something, as Arthur Conan-Doyle suggested in his story about “the dog that didn’t bark.” In the wake of the suicide of Udmurt scholar and activist Albert Razin, the same thing appears to be true.
Non-Russians across the Russian Federation were as expected horrified and energized (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/09/udmurt-scholars-self-immolation_17.html), and Russian officials implied it was the unfortunate action of someone with mental problems (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/09/tishkov-continues-his-campaign-against.html).
But what was striking, disturbing and with probable long term consequences was the silence of Russian liberals, Valery Khatazhukhov, head of the Kabardino-Balkar Regional Human Rights Center (zapravakbr.ru/index.php/30-uncategorised/1344-valerij-khatazhukov-dlya-resheniya-problem-svyazannykh-s-sokhraneniem-rodnykh-yazykov-gosudarstvennoe-obrazovanie-kabardino-balkariya-dolzhno-funktsionirovat-po-svoemu-pryamomu-naznacheniyu).
Such people might have been expected to react to Razin’s action and the issues it raises, but instead, his self-immolation “has remained practically unnoticed by Russian society and even its democratic and liberal part which it would seem should have raised the alarm on this occasion” but didn’t.
“In this context,” Khatazhukhov says, he wants to speak again “about the problems of the instruction in native languages and the role of the organs of the power of the republic in the resolution of this problem.” Unfortunately, these organs do not reflect the people who are the proper source of power and in fact work against them.
The KBR authorities did not protest the unconstitutional revisions of the Russian law on native language instruction. Their Duma representative even voted for them. And since then, the republic authorities have worked to implement this Russian law even though it is overwhelmingly opposed by Kabardins and Balkars.
“With each passing year, the sphere of use of native languages has been reduced, the print runs of books and journals issued in native languages have fallen catastrophically. And since last year, the only newspapers in Kabardin and Balkar languages have come out only three times a week.”
“Over the last decade,” he continues, “the time devoted to the study of native languages in the schools has been reduced by half. Instruction in native languages in primary schools has stopped altogether. And the number of students accepted at the KBR University to train as teachers of those languages has been reduced by 80 percent.”
The section in the pedagogical college which prepared teachers of native languages has been closed. And all these processes have occurred with the silent agreement or at the initiative of the republic organs of power,” Khatazhukhov says. Still worse, officials now refuse to meet with anyone to discuss what has happened and is continuing to happen.
“State education of Kabardino-Balkaria and its political leadership in fact are not fulfilling their direct constitutional obligations to preserve the language and culture of the Kabardins and the Balkars. And we have no real levers of influence on the exiting order of things.”
And thus the question of native language instruction leads to “the problem of control and participation of residents of the republic on the formation of organs of power.” Not only will officials not meet with the people they are supposed to represent, but they lie about the support they supposedly have received in elections.
At the time of the last elections in the republic, the authorities claimed that 67 percent of voters participated and 65 percent supported United Russia. But “not a single sane individual believes this. In fact, participation according to numerous public activists and professional experts was not more than seven to ten percent.”
What this means is that the organs of power in the KBR do not represent the people. And that reality forces “the following conclusions.” The people must have a real vote on who their leaders are and for that to be achieved there must be “a broad social movement with the participation of all nations living on the territory of the KBR.”
That is something Russian liberals should want as well because it is consistent with what they want for themselves. But so far, they have not spoken out as they should; and that silence, “the dog that didn’t bark,” means that there is a great danger that each nationality will, as Stalin once put it, “retreat into its own tent” with adverse consequences for all.