Russian Language in CIS: Life After Death
Russia is seeking the official status for the Russian language on the whole of the post-Soviet territory
First Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Eleonora Mitrofanova delivered a lecture to students of Moscow's International University. She said: "The Foreign Ministry intends to work actively on strengthening the positions of the Russian language abroad. We want to seek the status of an official language for Russian in majority of CIS countries and on those territories of the former Soviet Union where Russian-speaking population is considerable enough."
Eleonora Mitrofanova emphasizes that majority of the CIS countries now prefer national languages to Russian. She thinks that another serious problem is that schools where lessons are taught in the Russian language are often closed, and the usage of Russian is restricted in the education sphere and in public life. The number of TV and radio programs in Russian is insignificant there; the usage of Russian-language literature is also decreasing.
The first deputy foreign minister says that support of the Russian language is one of the main objectives in supporting Russians abroad. Budgetary financing appropriated for these purposes in 2003 makes up 210 million rubles. Part of the sum will be spent to deliver text books to the CIS countries, to improve professional skills of the Russian language teachers and to give children an opportunity to spend vacations in Russian recreation centers. Eleonora Mitrofanova says that Russia will appropriate 252 million rubles for these purposes.
For the time being, the Russian language has the status of an official language only in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan. Some progress with respect to the Russian language has been achieved in Moldova and Uzbekistan. But other former Soviet republics don't do this favor to the Russian-speaking population as they treat the very idea of giving the official status to the Russian language as threat to their independence. They insist that a language spoken by the ethnic majority must be the official language of the republic.
So, the present-day situation is rather sad because studying of the Russian language as the native or non-mother language has considerably decreased. Within the past ten years, the CIS and Baltic countries have created extremely unfavorable conditions for studying of the Russian language. However, the Russian language is experiencing a particularly tragic period in Ukraine where it is being crowded out of different communication spheres including mass media. If Russian is still studied at some of educational institutions, the time meant for studies is 20 times less than for other foreign languages. As for the cultural sphere, the usage of the Russian language is being purposefully reduced as well. Russian is the mother tongue for many people living in the CIS or Baltic countries, but the system of the Russian language study at schools and higher education institutions is destroyed.
It's time to put the words into practice. As the Russian diaspora makes up about 40 per cent of the population in many of the CIS countries, then the Russian policy with respect to Russians living abroad must protect all interests of everything related to the very notion "Russian". The Russian government must demand that attitude to Russians living in former Soviet republics must be adequate because they make up a great share of the local population. This doesn't imply any specific privileges or russianization of these countries. It means that Russian people living in the CIS countries must be given the opportunity to study and use the Russian language which is in fact the legal right fixed in the constitutions of each of the CIS countries.