Staunton, July 26 – Vladimir Putin’s order ending the requirement that Russian speakers in non-Russian republics study the languages of the titular nationalities has transformed Russian attitudes toward those languages and the peoples who speak them, Liliya Nizamova, an ethno-sociologist at the Kazan Federal University, says.
In surveys taken before Putin’s decision, most Russians said they approved the requirement to have their children study the languages of the republics in which they lived. Now, most say they are against it. Putin’s action made opposition to such programs legitimate and thus fueled antagonism to non-Russians who objected (idelreal.org/a/31362577.html).
That shift in attitudes or the expression of attitudes may simply reflect the propensity of Russians to approve whatever the Kremlin says is right, but this is likely to play a larger role in the future relations between Russians and non-Russians then even the declining share of non-Russians choosing to send their children to non-Russian language schools.
In 2012, Nizamova says, 70 percent of Russians living in Tatarstan said they approved having their children study Tatar. But after Putin’s announcement, the situation changed. Tatars continued to support the idea but the fraction of Russians who did “fell.” What this shows is that “the change of federal policy influenced the attitudes of the Russian population.”
Today, only 21 percent of Russian parents say they would like to have their children become bilingual, an indication of a dramatic falloff in the share of Russians supporting bilingual education, the sociologist continues. Instead, 71 percent of Russian parents say they want their children to speak Russian most of the time.
Some Tatar parents, seeing which way the wind is blowing, are choosing to send their children to Russian-language schools; and Russian dominance of television and the Internet means that even in rural parts of Tatarstan, ever more children are speaking Russian rather than Tatar.
But other Tatar parents want to save their language; and they are casting about for models of hos to do that. Unfortunately, Nizamova suggests, those looking to Quebec or Catalonia are almost certain to be disappointed. Russia has a different history and isn’t going to tolerate even what those regions have achieved so far, let alone their independence.
The only hope, she says, is for more people to recognize that genuine federalism will strengthen rather than weaken the country and that non-ethnic Russian national identity can be strengthened rather than undermined if non-Russian languages are not forcibly pushed out of the schools and public spaces.