Thursday, September 19, 2019

‘Voluntary Study of Non-Russian Nationalities in Fact is Forced Russification,’ Kurbanov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 15 – In the wake of the self-immolation of Udmurtia’s Albert Razin to protest the murder of his language and ultimately his nation, ever more people, Russians and non-Russians, are talking about the consequences of Vladimir Putin’s decision to make the study of the titular languages of the non-Russian republics voluntary for everyone on their territories.

            Many Russians find assertions by non-Russians that “the voluntary study of national languages is in fact forced Russification,” school director Rustam Kurbanov says in a blog post. They think that if children and their parents have a choice, then it must be entirely voluntary, but that is only how it appears on the surface (

                If one examines the situation more closely, the educator continues, it quickly becomes apparent that what many think is a voluntary situation is in reality something else.  Before Putin’s decision, all pupils in the non-Russian republics had to study both Russian and the language of the titular nationality two or three hours a week. 

            But a year ago, the non-Russian language classes became electives.  What has this led to?  Russian children stopped taking them and studied other subjects that would help them to do better in the school examinations.  But soon thereafter, non-Russian children did the same given that the examinations are given only in Russian.

            “There is nothing voluntary about this at all: Russian as the state language remains absolutely obligatory as by the way is English.  What is voluntary is only the study of the state languages of the autonomous republics.” And that is leading to the dying out of those languages “not naturally as a result of competition” but “forcibly” as a result of state policy.

            “Russia is a federation,” Kurbanov continues, “and each republic in it has the right to its state language, the pushing out of which is a violation of the federal principle with bad consequences.”

            What is needed, he argues, is not sacrificing Russian to non-Russian but rather the promotion of bilingualism: “the majority of people speak two languages. That is more the norm than the exception.” There is nothing wrong with having Russian pupils “living in Udmurtia or Chuvash, studying the languages of these peoples on or two hours a week.”

            After all, the Udmurts and Chuvash are studying Russian as a requirement – and they speak Russian too.

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