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Sociolingüística internacional

Language policy in the Russian Federation: language diversity and national identity, by Marc Leprêtre


Nevertheless, there are still many controversial issues which can easily lead to the raising of new inter-ethnic conflicts. For example, on October 22, the Estonian Parliament decided not to discuss the amendments of the electoral laws which require a certain linguistic knowledge in both local and general spheres for candidates to occupy public posts. The opposition "People’s Union" party has proposed to postpone the discussion whereas the Center Party has suggested that the Minister of Foreign Affairs should report on such amendments. These amendments are part of the Estonian actions aimed at convincing the OSCE, which has criticised its linguistic policy in their last report on this state.

Consequently, it is fundamental to involve Russian linguistic and cultural minorities in the formulation, adoption, application and evaluation of protection policies, as well as policies fostering their rights at international, national and local levels. The effective participation of these communities constitutes a necessary element for a better management of the human, social and economic resources of the area, as well as for the exercise of a better control of the actions of the local governments in order to guarantee the equality of rights and the non-discrimination for all the parties involved. Obviously, the great variety of aspirations and the huge ethnic and cultural complexity of the area demand that the most suitable mechanisms to create the necessary conditions for stimulating a real and effective participation of the local populations in public affairs, according to the peculiarities of each of the Republics, are identified in the most rigorous and proper way.

However, this participation will only be possible within a context that respects the universal values of human rights, including cultural, social and economic rights, as a sine qua non condition for the exercise of these and other rights. It is therefore extremely urgent, among other things, that the peripheral regions of Russia can begin to design and apply relevant strategies in the areas like the promotion of autochthonous languages and cultures, the construction of civil societies and the prevention of interethnic conflicts in order to guarantee the development of minority languages, the increase in economic activities and the improvement in living conditions, the strengthening of local social networks, the consolidation of some emergent civil societies and a sustainable local development.

As I see it, the promotion of autochthonous languages and the strengthening of civil societies must mainly aim at increasing the relationships between democracy and national identity: the promotion of values such as tolerance, the setting-up of educational systems that disseminate messages of pacific cohabitation and mutual understanding, based more on cultural identities than on national identities, and the implementation of policies which stimulate local development constitute essential elements to reinforce the prevention of conflicts and the improvement of the well-being of the peripheral populations of Russia.

In short, fostering a peaceful cohabitation, an harmonic multiculturalism and a sustainable development are the main challenges that the regions of Russia have to face today, very specially those of the Northern Caucasus and Siberia. In order to guarantee their development, credible and effective policies have to be set in motion so as to reinforce the links among the autochthonous populations and the European regions and institutions (very especially the European Union and the Council of Europe), as well as with the NGO’s that may develop a twofold role as mediators and promoters to help the local social partners to design and apply flexible and realistic initiatives using their own resources. Only in this way may we help to prevent Russia and all the former Soviet republics from undergoing new wars such as those of Kosovo and Chechnya.

5. Bibliography

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BOGRDANOVA, Tatiana (2000), "From Confrontation to Harmonization of Language Relations". A: Minority Languages in Russia: Perspectives for Development. Acts of the International Seminar. Elista: 2000.

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KHRUSLOV, G. (1998) 'Language policy in Russia'. A: Barbel Fink (ed), Modern language learning and teaching in Central and Eastern Europe: which diversification and how can it be achieved? Proceedings of the second colloquy of the European Center for Modern Languages, Graz, 13-15 February 1997. Council of Europe, 121.

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KORNOUSSOVA, Bossia (2000), "Language Policy in Russia: Scopes and Challenges". Paper submitted at the Conference Lesser Used Languages and the Law in Europe, Academy of European Law, Trier, September 7-8, 2000 [Courtesy of the author].


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