Monday, September 19, 2022

School Consolidation Accelerating Demise of Moksha and Erzya Languages in Mordvinia, Sarankina Says

Paul Goble

             Staunton, Sept. 15 – Ever more pupils in Mordvinia are studying not in Moksha or Erzya speaking villages but in consolidated schools where because there are representatives of both, instruction takes place in Russian, thereby further undermining the two national languages, Liya Sarankina says.

            Indeed, the linguistic activist says, “in Mordvinia, there are practically no schools where children from only one village study apart. Typically, they are mixed with children from neighboring villages. The ethnic composition of the classes is thus mixed and all speak Russian” (

            The situation is even worse at more advanced levels of education, where instruction in Moksha and Erzya have been cut back and in the media and cultural sectors where there are fewer and fewer items in those languages and where all too often what is offered are only translations from the Russian rather than original works.

            Moksha has suffered more than the other two state languages of Mordvinia, Russian and Erzya. And it hasn’t been able to make significant inroads in the Internet. There is only one Moksha-language blogger, Oksana Belkina, and even on her site, those who post reactions often do so in Russian rather than Moksha.

            People don’t refrain from using Moksha because of any legal prohibition. Rather, “for the majority of Mokshans, their native language is viewed as something only for communication among relatives. To write something in Moksha under their photograph or to say a few words in their native language for a video doesn’t come into their heads,” Sarankina says.

            “Today,” she continues, “one must acknowledge the following disturbing fact: the Moksha language in the first instance isn’t needed by the Mokshans themselves. Over the course of many years, people have been told that it is a sign of backwardness and a lack of education.” And so even Moksha parents now try to speak Russian with their children.

             Fortunately, Sarankina reports, there are signs that this is beginning to change. “Many have begun to understand that knowing the language of their ancestors is a matter of dignity. But to drive the alternative view from their minds in a short time is difficult” and the situation continues to deteriorate for the language.

            Many Moksha who have moved to Moscow or other major cities “are today attempting to return to their roots. Young people with proudly raised heads are calling themselves Mokshans.” They want a Moksha-language culture which increasingly the Moksha of Mordvinia can’t provide.


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