Staunton, Feb. 16 – The rapid decline in the number of speakers of Finno-Ugric languages between the last two Russian censuses is in no way a natural process reflecting the pressures of globalization but a development actively promoted by the Russian government, according to Annika Pasanen.
The professor of Sami Sociolinguistics at the Sami University of Applied Sciences in Norway says that the declines – 21 percent fewer Udmurt speakers, 35 percent fewer Komi-Permyak speakers, and 44 percent Mordvin speakers – cannot be explained as natural and inevitable (idelreal.org/a/32271572.html).
Instead, they are the result of government policies against non-Russian languages which have only intensified against these languages over the last decade under Vladimir Putin, Pasanen says; and if nothing changes soon, the figures will be even worse when the next Russian census is conducted a decade from now.
Not only have the number of hours of instruction in these languages been reduced and the study of these languages made entirely voluntary, Pasanen says, but the powers that be in Russia have eliminated programs like the language “nests” she was involved in setting up 20 years ago. As a result, children hear their native languages less and so speak them less.
What is happening in Russia with languages doesn’t have to happen, she argues; and she points to the successful efforts in Norway and Finland to revitalize minority languages. Their success show that the deaths of these languages in Russia is a political choice rather than the inevitable outcome of modernization Moscow claims and many accept.