Russia’s actions in occupied Crimea show how Moscow plans to destroy non-Russian languages in Russia itself

Crimea before the Russian occupation: In 2013 school year, 737 Crimean Tatar first-graders enrolled in classes with Crimean Tatar language of instruction. Such classes were opened at 38 Ukrainian schools in the peninsula. Simferopol, September 2, 2013 (Image: QHA)

Crimea before the Russian occupation: In 2013 school year, 737 Crimean Tatar first-graders enrolled in classes with Crimean Tatar language of instruction. Such classes were opened at 38 Ukrainian schools in the peninsula. Simferopol, September 2, 2013 (Image: QHA) 

2015/05/22 • Analysis & Opinion, Crimea, Russia

Vladimir Putin has made much of the fact that Russia declared that there are to be three “state languages in occupied Crimea – Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar – but only the study of Russian will be obligatory, an indication of how the Kremlin intends to destroy other languages not only in this annexed territory of Ukraine, but also in the Russian Federation itself.

That is the upshot of discussions in the Crimean parliament this week. That body’s vice speaker, Remzi Ilyasov, himself a Crimean Tatar, proposed that students be required to study one of the languages on an obligatory basis, but according to media reports, no one supported his proposal.

Instead, they said Russian must be obligatory because Crimea is in their view “a subject of the federation” and that the study of any other languages, including the two “state languages,” could take place “exclusively on a voluntary basis.” That means those who want to study Ukrainian or Crimean Tatar must also study Russian and can choose to study the others only by giving up one or another subject, something few parents are likely to do.

Not only does this show the real direction of Putin’s language policies (see here), but it represents a challenge to all non-Russian republics within the Russian Federation, most of whom require some of their pupils to study the republic language.

That is something that many Russian nationalists very much oppose, and now that there is what Turkist.org calls “the Crimean precedent,” these nationalists are going to feel entitled to demand an end to the existing practice and insist that Russian be the only required language regardless of the Russian and non-Russian constitutions and laws.

If such demands are met, the future of many of the non-Russian languages will be put at risk. As Turkist.org points out, among the languages in the Russian Federation that UNESCO has declared to be “at risk” are Bashkir, Chuvash and Yakut, all of which are being kept alive by official support in the schools.

Indeed, the portal says, the elimination of the obligatory study of these languages in such schools will be equivalent to “linguistic genocide.”

Major languages in Russia (Image: Daniel Dalet, d-maps.com)

Major languages in Russia (Image: Daniel Dalet, d-maps.com)

Edited by: A. N.

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  • Michel Cloarec

    Good luck ! Trying to put together all those different ethnic groups will take centuries ! But RF has the choice , give up ! or kill all the ones not speaking russian. What is so special with russian , how many speak russian naturally ? some few million ?

    • commieslayer

      Only about half of the population of the Russian “Federation” is ethnically Russian. About 60 million, smaller than the population of Germany. The rest are conquered peoples, who became imperial subjects through the expansion of the Russian Empire.

      • The truth

        That means that putin is hiding the truth about his arguments about Ukraine. 82 M rf citizens have to be dual speaking people .
        Belgium, Canada,Switzerland,Ukraine have several languages. In France some regions use dual languages , also in Scotland.
        Catalan is different from Spanish . They don´t use kalashnikovs or tanks ! Something must be wrong with the empire of putin !
        (sorry , MUST is wrong , it should be IS WRONG)

        • commieslayer

          Some of them might not speak their ancestors’ language anymore. For example, Belorussian is now a dead language even in Belarus after centuries of forced de-nationalization. But most of them know that they are Belorussian even though many of them live in Russia and some may self-identify as Russian in order to avoid state discrimination.

          The same applies to Balts and Uralic people — those who had the misfortune to be inside the Russian Empire for a sufficiently long time were thoroughly de-nationalized by the Russian state. Forced de-nationalization and Russification have been official policy in Russia for many centuries. That’s why it’s so sickening to see how Russia is suddenly so “concerned” about minority rights in Ukraine.

          • The truth

            A language like ukrainian which has been known for a least 800 years, gone thru centuries of Poland/Lithuania empire and is still living, must be a strong language to be there even surviving Stalin and Krutchev russification .

          • commieslayer

            All historical evidence shows that Ukrainian is directly descended from the true Old Slavic language. It is Russian that diverged from Ukrainian and not the other way around. Even the word “Rus” describes the old Ukrainian kingdoms and has nothing to do, historically, with Moscow and its empire.

      • Lev Havryliv

        Millions of Ukrainians live in the Russian Federation. Yet they have no Ukrainian schools, newspapers and institutions using the Ukrainian language.

        A huge double standard.

        • commieslayer

          Very true. The same applies to Belorussians, Poles, Balts etc. who live in Russia.

          Unfortunately many people in the West know nothing of the history of forced de-nationalization in the Russian Empire — that’s why some of them can be swayed by the lies of Sputnik and RT. Ukraine could co-operate with other East-European countries (Poland, Baltic States, Romania) to create a global news network capable of dismantling that propaganda and of correctly informing the world.

          There is some EU money that will be allocated for such purposes and I can’t think of a better country than Ukraine to lead such an enterprise.

  • Murf

    The USSR had decades and far more coercive tactics.
    Didn’t do them a bit of good.
    Definition of insanity anyone?

    • Andrew Chmilewsky

      One poster on KP — First name??? – last Braun.

      Mentioned how his parents were FORCED to learn Russian and only use Russian.
      No Ukie allowed in that village… Put in even a Russo-mongolian priest, besides the teachers. Thus, he learned only Russian from his parents. Works….

      Also, make sure there is a SHORTAGE of school text books in Ukrainian,

      Look at the TROLLS — always when the issue comes up, PUSHING FOR “equal status” for Ruski. This is a RUSSIAN MEME…. to in the very culture, to ELIMINATE the Ukie language and identity… ALWAYS

      It DOES work …. Look at the Belarus… see the video at the bottom of this page.
      Works…. they keep PUSHING it for a REASON … ’cause it works…

      • Vol Ya

        No Ukraine government resources should be spent on russian language school or books. Let them die from neglect. A massive campaign needs to be started to bring the Ukrainian language and Ukrainian books into eastern and southern Ukraine. This doe sot have to be massively expensive. Do the work inside Ukraine, create jobs for Ukainians and work for Ukraine companies.

        • commieslayer

          If Ukraine cares about its future as a unitary nation, then it sould start a de-Russification program ASAP – as the Baltic States and many others have done. You can’t afford a pro-Russian fifths column within your country.

  • Lev Havryliv

    Let’s call things what they really are.

    Forced liguistic Russification is a form of racism. It has been practised by Russian rulers for centuries.

  • Vol Ya

    More proof that putin is the modern version of Hitler. putin is trying to exterminate the Tatar and Ukrainian population in Crimea. May this russian swine burn in hell.

  • Dalton

    What a convenient way to justify the repeated need to conquer other lands.. just russify them, then claim in the future they are protecting the “russian speaking people” when the majority of their country chooses a path other than heil Putin’s.