Staunton, Oct. 15 – The Russian census in Daghestan is being conducted in two parts. The first, during July, involved surveys of villages in mountainous parts of the republic where some of the smallest nationalities live. It involved about 76,000 people mostly from nationalities without a written language (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/369099/).
Now, the census is being conducted among the remaining three million residents of the republic. No official data has been released so far from either round, but experts have had some access to the preliminary census in the mountainous areas and that has led to a discussion about how much assimilation is taking place.
According to republic linguistics expert Uzlipat Gasanova, all of the numerically small nationalities in Daghestan which lack their own alphabets and writing systems are under threat; and as a result, many of them are assimilating to larger groups within the republic such as the Avars or Dargins.
The authorities are not so much promoting this, she says, as failing to provide a defense of the smaller nationalities. Consequently, migration and educational opportunities are driving assimilation rather than any focused state policy. But some who have looked at the first part of the census aren’t so sure.
Mavdzhid Khalilov, another linguistics professor, says that the non-literary Dido and Tsez peoples are overwhelmingly continuing to declare themselves members of their own nationalities. She puts the share of such people at 80 percent. They are not, she insists, assimilating at anything like the rate some like Gasanova say.
Khalilov says that languages of the Avar-Ando-Tsez group are indeed under threat from these broader social processes; but she insists that the government isn’t promoting assimilation although it is doing little to prevent it. That means the process of assimilation is likely to be slower than many fear or hope for.
To the extent this is the case, those Avars and Dargins who had hoped to boost their own numbers by assimilating these smaller groups appear likely to be disappointed. And that in turn means that the ethno-political situation in Daghestan will change less quickly and radically than many had assumed.