Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Non-Russian Languages Threatened Not only by Russian but by Foreign Ones as Well and that Threatens Russia, Karachay Scholar Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 29 – In Soviet times, the government promoted bilingualism among its non-Russian peoples, supporting both the spread of Russian and the survival and even flourishing of non-Russian languages; but since 1991, Moscow has devoted less attention to this system and the consequences have been unfortunate.

            Not only have several non-Russian languages died out and many more put at risk, Tausoltan Uzdenov, the rector of the Karachayevo-Cherkess State University says; but this has happened because of powerful threats coming from two different directions (

            On the one hand, in the absence of an all-Russian policy on languages, the dominance of Russian has increased at the expense of all other indigenous languages. But on the other, and he suggests this should be of particular concern, non-Russians are increasingly choosing to learn international languages like English, Chinese or Turkish rather than their own.

            This second threat is serious because if non-Russians have to learn Russian as the language of the country in which they live, they will sacrifice the time spent in studying their national languages, which is now voluntary, in order to study these others. That may help them individually but it is disastrous for their national communities and for Russia as a whole.

            For their national communities, it will mean that some of them will stop speaking their own languages and thus lose one of the most important bindings tying them together; and for Russia, it means that a significant part of its population will become less tied to the country that is Russia and look further afield.

            Uzdenov points to what London has done in recent decades to promote Welsh and Scots within the context of a British identity, including shifting to that one and away from a narrowly English view. He argues that Russia should do something similar or face the prospect of the decay of one of its true assets, the multinational nature of its population.

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