In October 2017, Sergey Zheleznyak of Russia’s State Duma Committee on International Affairs spoke of “linguistic genocide”. This was in reference to the Latvian government’s ruling to make Latvian the sole language of education within the country. Zheleznyak saw this forcing of minorities into a national language as a breach of the “Europeans legal framework”, despite this exact process being currently enacted by his own government.
Last July, Putin spoke at the Council of Interethnic Relations in Mari El. He stated his view that the Russian language “cannot be replaced with anything” and that no child should be forced to learn a language that is not native to them. This supported the Kremlin’s abolishment of compulsory teaching of minority languages in ‘ethnic republics’. This is part of a wider movement towards cultural homogenisation as Putin attempts to move away from the reasonably steady multiculturalism of the past twenty years.
Political support of minority identity has been put under pressure, such as checks that took place in Bashkortostan and Tatarstan that led to mass teacher firings making the topic highly politically sensitive. Protests have followed but stringent laws on public protest have led to dissent moving online.
The Democratic Congress of the Peoples of Russia has been formed to promote multiculturalism and federalism and the #StopLanguageGenocide has trended on Russian social media. Online resistance has spread amongst a large part of the population and across different republics.
Linguistics applicants can discover the differences between the local dialects of Russia and their role within their distinct cultures. HSPS students can find more examples of resistance to cultural homogenisation.