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Sociolingüística internacional

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


According to the 1989 census 97% of the ethnic Kalmyks reported the Kalmyk language to be their mother tongue and at the same time the Republic became the first in the country according to the number of people fluent in Russian (88.5%). But according to other official statistics by 1985 93% of urban Kalmyks and 87.2% of rural Kalmyks could speak, read and write Russian, but only 27.3% of the former and 45.8% of the latter had a similar level of competence in Kalmyk (Dambinova, Korostelev, 1993).

The elimination of the religion which helped to transmit and keep the traditions of the people and its culture, the banning and disregard of the traditional educational practices, lack of the appropriate language teaching traditions were also among the main reasons which brought about the critical situation with the Kalmyk language.

Perestroika made it possible to debate issues such as deportation, ecological problems and language revival. On January 30, 1991 the law "On the Languages in the Kalmyk Soviet Socialist Republic" (No. 137 - IX) was adopted. According to the Law the Russian and Kalmyk languages were declared the state languages of the Republic of Kalmykia.

4. Language Policy and Language Planning in the Republic of Kalmykia

4.1. Status Planning

The role of the state in safeguarding the prosperity of a minority language is obvious. It is the state, which has the power to grant the legal status to a language, to secure formally its place within public administration and services, and within the state education system. The clear advantages of support of this nature are that this leads to the status of the language being enshrined in legislation, and is source of funding for promoting new activities and projects.

The legislation of the Republic of Kalmykia on the languages of the peoples of the republic includes the Constitution of the Republic of Kalmykia (Stepnoye Ulozheniye) and the Decree "On Languages in the Kalmyk SSR" (4) and "The State Program for Development of the Kalmyk and Other Minority Languages for the Period till the year 2000" and issued in accordance with these main documents normative acts.

A concrete, planned language reform began in 1993 when, in accordance with the President's program for the Republic, a number of the most important decrees of the President of the Republic of Kalmykia and government regulations on the ethnic and cultural revival of the people were adopted. They were comprehensive, concerned with all spheres of the people's life - socio-economic development, culture, education, health and sport, mass media, etc. These were: "On Measures for Further Promotion and Development of the Kalmyk Language", "On the Government Support for the Study and Popularization of the Kalmyk Heroic Epic "Djangar", "On the Republic "Djangariad" in Traditional Sports and Games", etc.

To promote the process of the mother tongue revitalization "The Concept of the National System of Education" was adopted in 1993, for the first time in the last 30 years in the Republic national classes were opened again in general secondary schools. At the present time the system of education in the Republic includes two national elementary schools, 142 national classes in elementary schools, 121 national groups in pre-schools, all with the Kalmyk language as a means of instruction.

On May 7, 1998, the decree of the President of the Republic of Kalmykia "On Measures for Further Revival and Development of the Kalmyk Language" (No. 87) was issued followed by another decree of the President "On Measures for Gradual Introduction of the Reformed Orthography of the Kalmyk Language" (No. 203, adopted on November 5, 1998) They outlined the priorities of the language reform in Kalmykia, where an important part was given to the reform of the orthography.

The new language act "On the Languages of the Peoples of the Republic of Kalmykia" was signed into law on 27 October 1999. Article 3 of the Law declares Kalmyk and Russian to be the state languages of the Republic and "guarantees the revival, preservation and development of languages as a most important element of the spiritual heritage of the peoples living in the Republic". In terms of the 1999 Language Act of the Republic of Kalmykia, the following applies:

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