Saturday, November 11, 2017

What’s Happening in Komi Shows Why Future of Non-Russian Languages is So Dire

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 11 – People in Tatarstan, the epicenter of Vladimir Putin’s campaign against anyone having to study non-Russian languages, are divided between those who think the future prospects of the Tatar language are bad and those who think that they are disastrous (

            But a report from the less prominent Komi Republic, a 900,000-strong federal subject only one quarter of whose population forms the titular Finno-Ugric nationality, suggests that even if Tatarstan is able to avoid the worst, many other non-Russian republics and their languages won’t (

            Today, the After Empire portal carries a report by Komi activist Ono Lav on what the situation was in schools in his republic before Putin’s intervention, what it is now, and why the fullscale attack on the Komi language is radicalizing the historically quiescent Komis who can no longer assume their survival is assured (

            Before Putin’s Ufa speech, Lav says, the situation in Komi was as follows: Instruction in Russian took place in all Komi schools according to federal law, but the Komi language was studied by all pupils in the republic one to two hours a week for non-Komis and five for Komis, and no one said that the republic language law contradicted federal legislation.

            “But now everything has been changed,” he continues. Russian will continue to be the language of instruction in all republic schools in the amount specified by Moscow; “the Komi language will be an elective,” that is, not required; pupils whose parents say they want Komi instruction will receive it at the former level,” but no one else.

            These changes are in clear violation of the provisions of the Russian constitution, Lav says; and what is worse, the Russian education ministry has made clear that they are not going to be reversed. The decision, Moscow officials say, has been taken “once and for all.”  But he says there is one positive result of all this.

            Komis are furious, thus demonstrating how important language is for them and guaranteeing that they will be more not less skeptical about Russian promises or efforts to explain how this language policy change  by the Putin government is not intended to harm their future survival as a people.

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