Staunton, July 4 – Last December, Takhir Sozayev, head of the village of Belaya Rechka in Kabardino-Balkaria prohibited stores and markets there to use Russian or indeed any language except Karachay-Balkar, a Turkic language. He further declared that no land there should be sold to Russians or Kabards, a Circassian subgroup.
The republic authorities have charged him with extremism and said that he faces a four-year prison sentence if convicted. Two days ago, he was arrested and will be held for two months while prosecutors prepare the case against him (nazaccent.ru/content/38613-v-kbr-zaderzhali-glavu-sela-zapreshavshego-mestnym-zhitelyam-govorit-po-russki.html, nsn.fm/society/novoe-yavlenie-kabardinskomu-chinovniku-grozit-4-goda-kolonii-za-zapret-russkogo-yazyka and kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/378838).
His case attracted the attention of local telegram channels (t.me/bazabazon/12239 and t.me/mash_gor/2032), and either his supporters or his opponents set fire to the village government building (kavkazr.com/a/v-kabardino-balkarii-glavu-sela-obvinili-v-ekstremizme-posle-ego-zaderzhaniya-sgorela-mestnaya-administratsiya/31928324.html).
Whatever else this series of events shows, it clearly highlights just how important language is for many communities and how far some are prepared to go to defend their own or attack others.
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