Language Conflicts in Russia’s Education System

In: European Yearbook of Minority Issues Online
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This article analyses changes to the language policy in Russia in 2017, and their effects on the state (national) languages of Russia’s republics within the education system. In July 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech at the Council on Interethnic Relations, addressing the language rights of the Russian-speaking population and stressing the existing limit of the power of Russia’s 22 ethnic republics to introduce compulsory study of their official languages. The President’s statements provoked widespread prosecutorial inspections in the republics’ schools and a new round of public discussion about language policy. Public discontent in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and Komi led to protests against both ethnic Russians and the native speakers of languages recognised as co-official with Russian (‘state languages of the republics’). The authorities of some republics publicly disagreed with the position taken by the federal government. In other republics, however, the President’s speech did not trigger any public discussion. In many republics, it looks like the regional authorities will ultimately accept the decision of the federal government and speakers of republican languages will not actively defend their languages. Effectively, the balance of rights of the federation and the republics for the establishment of state languages, achieved in the 1990s, was violated.

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