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Sociolingüística internacional

Language Policy and Minority Language Planning in Russia: the case study of the Kalmyk language,
per Bossia Kornoussova


In the Law "On the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation" adopted on October 25, 1991, the first of its kind in the whole history of Russia, the languages of all the peoples inhabiting this country are declared to be national property, part of the historical and cultural heritage protected by the state. According to the Law on Languages, "On the territory of the RSFSR the State shall guarantee language sovereignty of each people irrespective of its number and legal position and language sovereignty of a person irrespective of the origin of a human being, his or her social and material position, racial and national belonging, sex, education, relation to religion and domicile area" (art. 2.2). The Russian State "shall recognize the equal rights of all languages of the peoples of the RSFSR for their maintenance and development. All languages of the peoples of RSFSR receive state support" (art. 3.1.). In the number of articles of this law the languages of the minority ethnic groups are guaranteed state support, provision of necessary conditions for their preservation and further development (art. 6), assistance in providing various forms of education and teaching in their native language, irrespective of the number of speakers but in accordance with their needs" (art. 9. 5); "any nation … lacking a writing system of its own has the right to introduce and adopt writing in its native tongue. The state provides the necessary conditions" (art. 10. 4).

"The Russian language, being a main means of cross-national communication of the peoples of the RSFSR according to the established historical and cultural traditions, has the status of the state language on the whole territory of the RSFSR" (art. 3.2).

The Law on Education of 10 July 1992 (revised and supplemented on 13 January 1996) makes reference to the Law on Languages where language policy in the field of education is concerned (art. 6.1), gives the citizens the right to receive basic education in a mother tongue and also to choose the language of instruction within the scope of possibilities provided by the educational system (art. 6.2) (1).

The legal regulations concerning the use of the languages of the peoples of Russia and guarantees for their development are confirmed on the constitutional level. The Constitution of the Russian Federation adopted on 12 December 1993 prohibits propagation of language superiority (art. 29.2), recognizes Russian as the official state language, provides the right of republics within the Federation to introduce their own official state languages and guarantees to all the peoples of the Russian Federation the right to maintain their mother tongues and appropriate conditions for their study and cultivation (art. 68).

Two other important documents are the federal law "On General Principles to Organize Local Self-Government" of 28 August 1995 (revised on 22 April 1996), which relates municipal schooling to local self-government (art. 6.2.6), and the federal law "On National and Cultural Autonomy" of 17 June 1996, which proclaims state protection of mother tongues (art. 8), provides the right to maintain and cultivate mother tongues (art. 9), recognizes the right to receive basic education in a native tongue and also to choose the language of education and instruction (art. 10, 11, 12).

And finally, the preservation and development of the languages and cultures of the Russian peoples is one of the priorities formulated in the Concept of the State National Policy of the Russian Federation, which was confirmed by the President in 1996.

The diversity of ethnolinguistic situations in Russia alongside with the diverse panorama of different types of bilingualism and multilingualism, unpredictable development of ethnopolitical situations, endless arguments between those who were for and against the language reform as well as between the Center and republics - these factors alongside with the other ones didn't allow the Russian Federation after the adoption of the language decrees to elaborate and to start fulfilling the state program for implementation of provisions of the language acts (Guboglo, 1998). In 1992 the Concept of the State Program for Maintenance and Development of Languages of Peoples of the Russian Federation worked out by the group of experts headed by Vladimir Neroznak didn't get the status of a state program and revealed that the implementation of the Language Law alongside with scientific elaboration of the problem demands great organizational efforts as well as huge financial resources (2).

Thus, at the end of 90s the language legislation in the Russian Federation is on the process to allow, perhaps for the first time ever, for the possibility of implementing a viable multilingual and multicultural system reflecting the human diversity of the Russian Federation and promoting the preservation of this diversity.

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