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Language Management in the Russian Empire, Soviet Union, and Post-Soviet Countries

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines four aspects of language management—nativization, linguistic assimilation, de-russification, and bilingual education—in the multilingual territory first occupied by the Russian Empire, then by the USSR, and then by the successor states. The rationale for this diachronic approach is twofold. The three settings are interrelated: post-Soviet developments cannot be fully understood outside their historic context, just as the full impact of Soviet language policies can only be established through the post-Soviet lens. In addition, sociolinguists generally lack familiarity with Russian and Soviet language management. The discussion focuses on the territories occupied by the fourteen successor states and on their titular languages; the processes taking place in the Russian Federation are sufficiently different to merit a separate review.

Keywords: nativization, linguistic assimilation, de-russification, bilingual education, Russian Empire, Soviet language management

This chapter examines four aspects of language management—nativization, linguistic assimilation, de-russification, and bilingual education—on the multilingual territory first occupied by the Russian Empire, then by the USSR, and then by the successor states. The rationale for this diachronic approach is twofold. The three settings are interrelated: post-Soviet developments cannot be fully understood outside of their historic context, just as the full impact of Soviet language policies can only be established through the post-Soviet lens. The historic overview also has comparative value: the nativization in the successor states can be productively compared with that of the early Soviet years, just as Soviet approaches to bilingual education can be traced all the way to the Russian Empire. In addition, sociolinguists generally lack familiarity with Russian and Soviet language management. Experts on Russian and Soviet language and nationality policies have traditionally resided in departments (p. 652) of history, political science, and Russian studies. As a result, the bulk of the research has appeared in journals such as American Political Science Review, Soviet Studies, Russian Review, and Slavic Review. This chapter draws on this literature alongside sociolinguistic publications. The focus of the discussion is on the territories occupied by the fourteen successor states and on their titular languages; the processes taking place in the Russian Federation are sufficiently different to merit a separate review.

Language Management in the Russian Empire (1721–1917)

Language management in the Russian Empire is commonly imagined as a coherent russification policy that aimed to erase linguistic and national differences. Yet historiographic studies show that the Russian government had no unified language and nationality policy: its strategies varied across territories and time periods, and were mediated by political, ethnic and religious concerns (Dowler 2001; Pavlenko 2011a; Suny 2001; Thaden 1981; Thaden & Thaden 1984; Weeks, 1996). The history of Russian language management can be divided into four periods: (1) autonomy (1721–1830), (2) selective russification (1830–1863), (3) expanding russification (1863–1905), and (4) retrenchment of russification (1905–1917).

1721–1830. The date of Russia’s official transformation into an empire, 1721, is selected here as a starting point because prior to the eighteenth century the Tsardom of Russia had no language policy—Peter I was the first to articulate policies that ensured the autonomy of German as the language of administration and education in the Baltic provinces (Belikov & Krysin 2001). The territories of Finland and Poland enjoyed similar autonomy, while the non-autonomous territory of left-bank Ukraine experienced administrative russification, initiated by Catherine II (for incorporation dates, see table 32.1). The government also encouraged the provision of Russian-language education but the number of Russian schools was negligible and they could not compete with the well-developed system of education in German (Baltic provinces), Swedish (Finland), and Polish (Western provinces, contemporary Belarus, Lithuania, and right-bank Ukraine; Thaden & Thaden 1984).

1830–1863. During the second period, associated with the reign of Nicholas I (1825–1855) and following the Polish uprising of 1830, the government made more concerted efforts to “liberate” the Western provinces from seditious Polish influence and replaced Polish with Russian as the language of administration and instruction in state-supported schools (Thaden 1981; Weeks 1996). Similar policies were applied in the Caucasus, where Russian replaced Georgian in the (p. 653) (p. 654) (p. 655) state schools (Hewitt 1985). Baltic provinces, Congress Poland, and Finland retained their autonomy, and Baltic provinces also developed Latvian- and Estonian-language elementary education for local peasants. Russian began making inroads as a subject but levels of Russian proficiency remained low (Thaden 1981; Thaden & Thaden 1984).

Table 32.1. Successor states: history of incorporation into the Russian Empire and the USSR

Current country name

Historic names*

Russian Empire:

dates of incorporation

USSR:

dates of incorporation

Armenia

Khanate of Erivan

1828 Treaty of Turkmanchay

1922 Transcaucasian SFSR

1936 Armenian SSR

Azerbaijan

Khanate of Nakhichevan

Khanate of Talysh

1818 Treaty of Gulistan

1828 Treaty of Turkmanchay

1922 Transcaucasian SFSR

1936 Azerbaijanian SSR

Belarus

Western provinces

1654 annexation of Smolensk

1667 Treaty of Andrusovo

1772–1795 partitions of Poland

1919 Belorussian SSR

1921 Treaty of Riga partition

1922 Belorussian SSR

1924–6 transfer of additional territories from Russia

1940 annexation of Western Belorussia

Estonia

Estland

Livland

1710 annexation

1721 Treaty of Nystad

1939–40 annexation

1940 Estonian SSR

1944 re-annexation, reestablishment of Estonian SSR

Finland

Grand Duchy of Finland

1809 Treaty of Frederikshavn

Georgia

Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti

Kingdom of Imereti

Abkhazia

Svaneti

Mingrelia

1783 Treaty of Georgievsk

1801 annexation

1809–11 annexation

1818 Treaty of Gulistan

1857 annexation

1922 Transcaucasian SFSR

1936 Georgian SSR

Kazakhstan

Kazakh Khanate

Khanate of Kokand

Turkestan

1822–4 incorporation of Middle and Small Hordes

1845–8 incorporation of Inner and Great Hordes

1918 Turkestan ASSR

1920 Kirgiz ASSR

1925 Kazakh ASSR

1936 Kazakh SSR

Kyrgyzstan

Khanate of Kokand

1855–63 annexation of Northern territories

1876 annexation of Southern territories

1918 Turkestan ASSR

1924 Karakirgiz Autonomous Region

1925 Kirgiz ASSR

1936 Kirgiz SSR

Latvia

Livland

Latgale

Kurland

1710 annexation of Livland

1721 Treaty of Nystad

1772 partition of Poland (Latgale)

1795 partition of Poland (Kurland)

1939–40 annexation

1940 Latvian SSR

1944 re-annexation, reestablishment of Latvian SSR

Lithuania

Western provinces

Lithuania

1772–1795 partitions of Poland

1939–40 annexation

1940 Lithuanian SSR

1944 re-annexation, reestablishment of Lithuanian SSR

Moldova

Bessarabia

1812 Treaty of Bucharest

1922 part of Ukrainian SSR

1924 Moldavian ASSR

1939–40 annexation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina

1940 Moldavian SSR

1944 re-annexation and reestablishment of Moldavian SSR

Poland

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

Congress Poland

1772–1795 partitions of Poland

1815 Congress of Vienna

Tajikistan

Khanate of Kokand

Emirate of Bukhara

Turkestan

1866–76 annexation

1918 Turkestan ASSR

1924 Tajik ASSR in Uzbek SSR

1929 Tajik SSR

Turkmenistan

Khanate of Khiva

Emirate of Bukhara

Turkestan

1868–1887 annexation

1918 Turkestan ASSR

1924 Turkmen SSR

Ukraine

Western provinces

Left-bank Ukraine (Little Russia)

Right-bank Ukraine

Crimea

1654 Treaty of Pereyaslav

1667 Treaty of Andrusovo

1772–1795 partitions of Poland

1782

1919 Ukrainian SSR

1922 Ukrainian SSR

1924 transfer of territories to RSFSR

1939 annexation of Western Ukraine

1944 re-annexation of Western Ukraine

1954 transfer of Crimea from Russia to Ukraine

Uzbekistan

Khanate of Kokand

Emirate of Bukhara

Khanate of Khiva

1865–1873 annexation

1918 Turkestan ASSR

Bukharan People’s Soviet Republic

Khorezmi People’s Soviet Republic

1924 Uzbek SSR

*In most cases there is no direct correspondence between the borders of the territory under the Russian Empire and the current country borders—over the three centuries, many borders had shifted repeatedly due to wars, partitions, and the efforts of Russian and Soviet administrators.

1863–1905. The third period began with ascension of Alexander II, whose reforms aimed to modernize the empire and to unify it through gradual russification. In Congress Poland, following the 1863 rebellion, Russian replaced Polish as the language of administration (1868), secondary education (mid-1860s), higher education (1869), court proceedings (1875), and primary education (1885) (Thaden 1981; Thaden & Thaden 1984; Weeks 1996). In the Western provinces, in an attempt to limit Polish influence suspected to be behind local nationalist movements, the authorities restricted the use of written Ukrainian, Belorussian, and Lithuanian (in Latin script) (Saunders 1995; Snyder 2003; Spires 2001; Weeks 2001). In the case of Ukrainian, for instance, the state banned the publication of scientific and instructional books (1863), state-sponsored instruction (1864), and import of Ukrainian books from abroad (1876). These measures aimed to prevent Ukrainian intelligentsia from establishing primary education in Ukrainian and from using it to transmit separatist ideas (Saunders 1995; Weeks 1996).

The administration of Alexander III, troubled by the influence of Baltic German elites, began enforcing Russian in the Baltic provinces: in administration and court proceedings (1889) and primary (late 1880s), secondary (1887–1892) and higher education (1889–1895) (Thaden 1981). Brief attempts to russify Finland made in 1890s were met with organized resistance and did not go very far (Thaden 1981). Non-Christian non-Russians (inorodtsy) continued to receive primary education in their native languages. The 1870 decree sanctioned transitional bilingual education for these learners that began in the pupils’ native languages (often transcribed in Cyrillic) and then shifted to Russian, with the native language used as an aid and studied as a subject. This approach, developed by a turkologist Il’minskii, was widely applied in bilingual schools in the Volga region, Siberia, and Central Asia (Akiner 1997; Belikov & Krysin 2001; Dowler 1995, 2001; Edgar 2004; Fierman 1985).

1905–1917. After the 1905 revolution, the government adopted a more tolerant policy of linguistic accommodation, allowing for limited native language education among other non-Russians and for publications in a variety of languages, including the previously banned Ukrainian and Belorussian (Dowler 2001; Thaden 1981; Weeks 1996).

Together, the studies to date show that the term “russification” does not have a unitary meaning and may refer to: (a) administrative russification, that is, centralization of administrative practices and introduction of Russian legal norms; (b) religious russification, that is, conversion to Orthodox Christianity; (c) linguistic russification, that is, intentional spread of Russian as a second language (L2) through its use in administration, education, and the army (obrusevanie); and also (d) voluntary integration (obrusenie) (Suny 2001; Thaden 1981).

(p. 656) With regard to linguistic russification, the studies to date converge on three conclusions. First, they show that russification as a goal was mediated by political, economic, religious, and ethnic concerns and did not apply equally to all populations. The only people viewed as full-fledged members of the Russian nation were Orthodox Slavs: Malorossy (Little Russians, a contemporary term for Ukrainians) and Belorusy (White Russians or Belorussians). They were commonly perceived as dialect-speaking Russians—similar to Bavarians in Germany or Neapolitans in Italy—who had been forcibly separated from Great Russians by Poles. The adoption of russification measures with regard to these populations was facilitated by the fact that Belorussia and Ukraine did not have powerful elites who could maintain social order and lobby the imperial government for rights and privileges. In contrast, Baltic provinces, Finland, and Congress Poland, populated by Catholics and Lutherans, did not experience russification pressures until the second half, and sometimes the very end, of the nineteenth century, which is commonly explained by the high regard of the Russian administration for the efficiency of the local institutions and the loyalty of the Baltic German and Swedish (although not Polish) elites (Thaden 1981; Thaden & Thaden 1984). The subsequent russification is best understood as an attempt to subjugate local elites, rather than to convert locals into Russians, an enterprise viewed as impossible in the case of Poles (Weeks 1996). The assimilation of non-Christian ethnics was considered premature—they had to be converted to Christianity first and were, therefore, allowed to have primary education in their native languages (Dowler 1995, 2001).

Secondly, studies to date show that the implementation of russification policies was significantly hampered by the vast geography of Russia, the inadequacies of its bureaucratic machine, the scarcity of competent officials, the dearth of qualified teachers, and insufficient funding, in particular for schooling (Dowler 2001; Weeks 1996). Even when implemented, tsarist decrees were often ignored or circumvented, and sometimes they simply did not have the desired effect (Spires 2001). The ban on Ukrainian and Belorussian publications, for instance, directly affected only literate people who constituted a negligible segment of the population. Among Ukrainians, according to the 1897 Census, 91 percent were peasants (as were 98 percent of Belorussians), only 18.9 percent over the age of 10 were literate (as compared with 96.2 percent of Estonians), and only 0.36 percent progressed beyond primary school (Saunders 1995; Snyder 2003).

To account for the undeniable, if limited, success of russification, we need to consider not only top-down policies but also bottom-up integration processes. In the Russian Empire, as later in the USSR, russification (obrusenie) was often the result of social incentives and migration. Promotion in the imperial service offered an effective assimilation inducement for many upwardly mobile ethnic elites; Germans were particularly favored by the regime: their participation in the imperial government was vastly disproportionate to their small number and many attained high rank in the military, civil, and diplomatic service (Belikov & Krysin 2001; Saunders 1995; Snyder 2003; Thaden 1981; Weeks 1996). (p. 657) Educational opportunities also attracted non-Christians, and in particular Jews, who did not have access to the social promotion ladder. Migration flows also facilitated russification: Russians settling in Siberia, Far East, Ukraine, Northern Caucasus, Kazakhstan, and Central Asia spread their language among the local populations, while non-Russians—oftentimes peasants in search of land—settling in the same areas were likely to use Russian as a lingua franca.

To sum up, for most of its history Russian language management was a laissez-faire affaire: “the prerevolutionary Russian government had neither the means nor even the desire to extirpate all non-Russian languages” (Weeks 2001: 96). Consistent russification began only in the second half of the nineteenth century and commonly “stopped with the elites” (Suny 2001: 41), while peasants, nomads, and members of other social strata retained their linguistic, cultural, religious, and tribal identities. In Central Asia and Transcaucasia, Russian never got beyond the main urban centers (Akiner 1997; Dowler 2001; Fierman 1985; Hewitt 1985). The russification measures also elicited the opposite of the desired outcome: instead of increasing the loyalty of the empire’s subjects, they reinforced Polish national aspirations and inspired other nationalist movements (Pavlenko, 2011a; Snyder 2003; Thaden 1981; Weeks 2001).

Language Management in the USSR (1917–1991)

In the tumultuous years following the dissolution of the Russian Empire and the Bolshevik takeover, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland formed independent nation-states, while other imperial constituencies became the founding Soviet republics (table 32.1). Based on the key education reforms, the history of Soviet language management can be divided into four periods: (1) nativization (1918–1938); (2) introduction of Russian as L2 (1938–1958); (3) bilingual education (1958–1978); and (4) russification (1978–1988).

1918–1938. The first period of Soviet language planning, known as nativization (korenizatsia), involved the most complex and vast undertaking in the history of multilingual management: a development of institutional structures and educational establishments in more than a hundred languages, many of which existed only as oral vernaculars spoken by largely illiterate populations. Lenin and his followers opposed the idea of an obligatory state language and aimed to create a progressive state that “not only passively tolerated but actively institutionalized the existence of multiple nations and nationalities as fundamental constituents of the state and its citizenry” (Brubaker 1996: 23). Yet the Soviets did not inherit many nations in the modern sense of the word. To organize the population into stable, and economically and administratively viable, (p. 658) territorial and political units, Soviet nationality planners drew and redrew borders (see also table 32.1), formed new national territories (e.g., Turkmenistan), increased others (e.g., Belorussia), dissolved some ethnic groups (e.g., making Sarts into Uzbeks), reinforced boundaries between fluid identity categories (e.g., Uzbek/Tajik, Kazakh/Kirgiz), and created new languages and ethnicities (e.g., Moldavian/Moldavians) (Edgar 2004; Hirsch 2005; Martin 2001; Slezkine 1994). This approach reified and naturalized national categories and embedded them into the very fabric of Soviet life, with important consequences for the future.

Starting with a 1918 decree “On National Minority Schools” that required provision of instruction in local languages, Soviet language management involved systematic efforts to codify more than 40 languages, to standardize established languages, to transfer written languages from the Arabic script (associated with Islam) or Cyrillic (associated with russification) to the Latin alphabet (associated with internationalization and modernity), to translate world literature into local languages, to replace Russian-medium schools with native-language schools, to open schools in all native languages of Soviet populations, to eradicate illiteracy by teaching local populations to read and write—and sometimes even speak—in “their own” languages, to make local administrations and courts function in local languages, to train and appoint local cadres familiar with local languages and customs, and to encourage incoming officials to learn local languages (Akiner 1997; Alpatov 2000; Ewing 2006; Grenoble 2003; Kreindler 1982; Lewis 1972; Liber 1991; Pool 1978; Slezkine 1994; J. Smith 1997).

The results of these efforts included a dramatic rise in literacy levels (to 81.2 percent by 1939) and establishment of a compulsory primary education system in more than 70 languages (by 1938) and of secondary and higher education in several titular and minority languages (Ewing 2006; Grenoble 2003; Kreindler 1982; Simon 1991). Great successes were achieved in Armenia, Georgia, and Ukraine, in contrast, in Central Asia advances were complicated by interethnic strife, poverty, Islamic resistance, illiteracy, and scarcity of loyal local cadres and qualified Russian teachers (Edgar 2004; Fierman 1985; J. Smith 1997; M. Smith 1998).

1938–1958. By mid-1930s, the administration realized that “presiding over 192 languages and potentially 192 bureaucracies was not a very good idea after all” (Slezkine 1994: 445). The ensuing shift in language management had taken a three-prongued approach that involved status and acquisition planning (Russian) and corpus planning (local languages). In the area of status planning, Russian began to take over administrative functions previously fulfilled by minority languages, such as Chuvash (Alpatov 2000). In the area of acquisition planning, a 1938 decree “On the Obligatory Study of Russian Language in National Republic and Regional Schools” stressed the need for a common language and made Russian language and literature obligatory subjects in all non-Russian-medium schools. While some schools already offered Russian, the decree centralized the curriculum, increased the number of hours dedicated to (p. 659) Russian, and made textbook publication and teacher training a priority (Blitstein 2001). In the area of corpus planning, several languages were transferred from the Latin to Cyrillic alphabet, to facilitate the study of Russian (Clement 2008; Hatcher 2008). Linguists also began to base grammars of the newly codified languages on Russian and to ensure that Russian was the main source of neologisms (Akiner 1997; Alpatov 2000; Grenoble 2003; Pool 1978). World War II disrupted the schooling efforts and after the war the education system had to be restored before it could be expanded. The authorities also extended Soviet-style education to the territories annexed as a result of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romanian Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina (divided between Moldavia and Ukraine), Finnish Karelia (joined to Russia) and Eastern Poland (subsequently Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, Western Belorussia, and Western Ukraine) (Dunstan 1997; Snyder 2003).

This period is marked by achievement of near-universal literacy (98.5 percent by 1959), establishment of a general seven-year education (80 percent of students by 1958), the consolidation and expansion of titular languages, and the spread of L2 Russian facilitated by education, mass radio, and mass migrations, induced by war, urbanization, collectivization and industrialization (Deineko 1964; Lewis 1972; Simon 1991; M. Smith 1998). At the same time, titular children continued to be educated in titular-medium schools, in many of which the teaching of Russian was in dire straits due to teacher and textbook shortages and, in Central Asia, extremely low quality of instruction (Blitstein 2001; Dunstan 1997; Fierman 1985; M. Smith 1998).

1958–1978. The 1958 law “On Strengthening the Link between School and Life” abrogated Stalin’s 1938 decree and gave parents the right to choose the primary language of instruction for their children and their secondary language. This law is frequently treated as a russification tool, but in actuality its implementation and impact varied across republics. A comparison of enrollments in 1955–1956 with those in 1980–1981 in table 32.2 shows that in the next two decades the enrollment in Russian-medium schools tripled in Belorussia and almost doubled in Ukraine, coinciding with language shift among the titulars (table 32.3). Significant increases were also experienced in Estonia and Latvia—these increases, however, reflected the in-migration of Russian-speakers. The increases in Armenia, Georgia, Lithuania, and Moldova were minor (between 1.1 percent and 3.9 percent), while in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirgizia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan the enrollments increased in titular-medium schools. Furthermore, in most republics the second language remained mandatory: titular-medium schools continued to offer compulsory Russian classes and Russian-medium schools compulsory titular language instruction (Lipset 1967; Simon 1991). Minority language schooling, on the other hand, experienced further decrease in the number of languages used as the medium of instruction; at the same time the availability of non-Russian languages as subjects had increased and so did the highest grade level at which they were offered (Alpatov 2000; Anderson & Silver 1984, 1990; Lipset 1967). (p. 660) (p. 661)

Table 32.2. Student distribution by language of instruction in (day) secondary schools in Soviet republics and successor states

Republics/ Successor states

1955–1956*

1980–1981

1988–1989

1990–1991

1995–1996

2003–2004

Armenia

Titular language

91.0%*

79.8%

80.5%

86.9%

98.4%

98.3%

Russian

9.0%

11.8%

15.1%

1.4%

1.7%

Minority languages

8.4%

4.4%

0.2%

Azerbaijan

1996–1997

2005–2006

Titular language

77.0%*

83.4%

79.5%

86.1%

92.7%

93.0%

Russian

23.0%

14.2%

18.5%

7.1%

6.9%

Minority languages

2.4%

2.0%

0.2%

0.1%

Belorussia/Belarus

Titular language

78.5%

35.0%

20.8%

20.8%

34.8%

24.5%

Russian

21.5%

65.0%

79.2%

79.2%

65.2%

74.2%

Minority languages

1.3%

Estonia

Titular language

78.0%

67.5%

63.5%

63.2%

67.7%

75.0%

Russian

22.0%

32.5%

36.5%

36.8%

32.3%

24.1%

Minority languages

0.9%

Georgia

Titular language

80.0%*

67.6%

66.6%

83.0%

86.4%

Russian

20.0%

21.1%

23.6%

6.6%

5.0%

Minority languages

11.3%

9.8%

10.4%

8.6%

Kazakhstan

Titular language

34.0%*

33.0%

30.2%

32.4%

44.7%

54.9%

Russian

66.0%

64.2%

67.4%

65.1%

52.2%

40.8%

Minority languages

2.8%

2.4%

2.5%

3.1%

4.3%

Kirgizia/Kyrgyzstan

Titular language

51.0%*

52.7%

52.4%

55.7%

62.1%

Russian

49.0%

34.0%

35.7%

23.8%

Minority languages

13.3%

11.9%

14.1%

Latvia

Titular language

67.0%

55.9%

52.4%

60.4%

70.4%

Russian

33.0%

44.1%

47.6%

39.3%

29.2%

Minority languages

0.3%

0.4%

Lithuania

Titular language

89.0%*

84.6%

82.2%

81.6%

86.0%

90.8%

Russian

11.0%

12.8%

15.8%

15.2%

10.6%

5.5%

Minority languages (Polish)

2.6%

2.0%

3.2%

3.4%

3.7%

Moldavia/Moldova

Titular language

67.0%*

63.1%

59.1%

60.2%

75.0%

79.3%

Russian

33.0%

36.9%

40.9%

39.8%

24.7%

20.6%

Minority languages

0.3%

0.1%

Tajikistan

2004–5

Titular language

84.0%*

64.4%

66.0%

67.2%

73.3%

73.7%

Russian

16.0%

10.0%

9.7%

1.2%

2.2%

Minority languages

25.6%

24.3%

25.5%

24.1%

Turkmenistan

Titular language

79.0%*

78.0%

76.9%

76.6%

Russian

21.0%

15.2%

16.0%

Minority languages

6.8%

7.1%

Ukraine

Titular language

72.8%

54.6%

47.5%

47.9%

58.0%

74.9%

Russian

26.3%

44.5%

51.8%

41.0%

24.1%

Minority languages

0.9%

0.9%

0.7%

1.0%

Uzbekistan

Titular language

80.0%*

77.7%

76.8%

78.1%

Russian

20.0%

13.6%

15.0%

12.2%

Minority languages

8.7%

8.2%

9.7%

*Data combine titular and minority schools. Belorussia, Estonia, and Latvia did not offer minority schooling in 1955–1956.

Sources: CIS Committee for Statistics (1995), Demoscope Weekly (www.demoscope.ru), Kul’turnoe Stroitel’stvo SSSR (Cultural development in the USSR). (1956) Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe statisticheskoe izdatel’stvo, 186–87; Landau & Kellner-Heinkele, 2001), Ryan (1990).

1978–1988. The last period of Soviet language management is marked by concerns about continuously low levels of Russian competence, in particular in Central Asia: the 1970 Census revealed that only 37.1 percent of non-Russians were fluent in L2 Russian (see also table 32.3). The 1978 decree “On Measures for Further Improving the Study and Teaching of the Russian Language in the Union Republics” signaled an expansion of russification efforts, which included increases in the number of hours devoted to Russian, earlier starting dates for Russian study in titular-medium schools, creation of new pedagogical materials and special enriched and intensive programs, and introduction of Russian lessons in non-Russian kindergartens. In the next decade, these efforts increased enrollment in Russian-medium schools everywhere but Tajikistan (table 32.2). (p. 662) (p. 663) (p. 664) At the same time, the russification pressures set off protests in the Union republics (Raun 1985), and in between 1988 and 1990 led to adoption of laws strengthening the status of titular languages (Grenoble 2003; Simon 1991).

Table 32.3. Language maintenance and russification among the titulars in the Soviet republics and successor states*

Countries

1926

1939

1959

1970**

1979

1989

1995–2004

Armenia

Titulars in the population

84.6%

82.8%

88.0%

88.6%

89.7%

93.3%

97.8%

Titular L1

99.8%

99.6%

Russian L1

0.7%

0.2%

0.6%

0.3%

Russian L2

23.3%

34.2%

44.3%

Azerbaijan

1999

Titulars in the population

63.3%

58.4%

67.5%

73.8%

78.1%

82.7%

90.6%

Titular L1

98.9%

99.1%

99.7%

Russian L1

0.8%

0.7%

1.0%

0.4%

0.04%

Russian L2

14.9%

27.9%

31.7%

Belarus

1999

Titulars in the population

80.6%

82.9%

81.1%

81.0%

79.4%

77.9%

81.2%

Titular L1

93.2%

90.1%

83.5%

80.2%

Russian L1

6.8%

9.8%

16.5%

19.7%

Russian L2

52.3%

62.9%

60.4%

Estonia

1934

2000

Titulars in the population

88.1%

74.6%

68.2%

64.7%

61.5%

67.9%

Titular L1

99.2%

99.0%

98.9%

97.9%

Russian L1

0.7%

0.7%

1.0%

1.0%

Russian L2

27.5%

23.1%

33.6%

68.2%

Georgia

2002

Titulars in the population

67.6%

61.4%

64.3%

66.8%

68.8%

70.1%

83.8%

Titular L1

99.4%

99.5%

99.7%

Russian L1

0.4%

0.4%

0.5%

0.2%

Russian L2

20.1%

25.5%

31.8%

Kazakhstan

1999

Titulars in the population

57.1%

37.8%

30.0%

32.6%

36.0%

39.7%

53.4%

Titular L1

98.4%

98.9%

97.5%

98.6%

99.4%

Russian L1

0.8%

1.1%

1.4%

1.4%

Russian L2

41.6%

50.6%

62.8%

75.0%

Kyrgyzstan

1999

Titulars in the population

66.8%

51.7%

40.5%

43.8%

47.9%

52.4%

64.9%

Titular L1

98.7%

99.7%

97.9%

99.5%

Russian L1

0.2%

0.2%

0.4%

0.3%

Russian L2

19.8%

28.5%

36.9%

Latvia

1925

1935

2000

Titulars in the population

73.4%

77.0%

62.0%

56.8%

53.7%

52.0%

57.7%

Titular L1

98.4%

98.1%

97.8%

97.4%

95.7%

Russian L1

1.5%

1.8%

2.2%

2.6%

3.5%

Russian L2

45.3%

58.3%

65.7%

75.8%

Lithuania

2001

Titulars in the population

84.2%

79.3%

80.1%

80.0%

79.6%

83.5%

Titulars L1

99.5%

99.7%

99.6%

96.7%

Russian L1

0.1%

0.2%

0.2%

0.3%

0.3%

Russian L2

34.8%

52.2%

37.4%

Moldova

2004

Titulars in the population

30.1%

65.4%

64.6%

63.9%

64.5%

75.8%

Titular L1

98.2%

97.7%

96.5%

95.4%

78.4%

Russian L1

1.3%

2.0%

3.3%

4.3%

2.5%

Russian L2

33.9%

46.2%

53.3%

Tajikistan

2000

Titulars in the population

74.6%

59.5%

53.1%

56.2%

58.8%

62.3%

79.9%

Titular L1

98.1%

99.4%

97.8%

99.2%

Russian L1

0.4%

0.4%

0.5%

0.5%

Russian L2

16.6%

29.6%

30.0%

Turkmenistan

1995

Titulars in the population

73.8%

59.2%

60.9%

65.6%

68.4%

72.0%

77.0%

Titular L1

98.9%

99.3%

98.7%

99.2%

Russian L1

0.5%

0.7%

0.7%

0.7%

Russian L2

14.8%

24.2%

27.5%

22.2%

Ukraine

2001

Titulars in the population

80.1%

76.5%

76.8%

74.9%

73.6%

72.7%

77.8%

Titular L1

94.1%

93.5%

91.4%

89.1%

87.7%

85.2%

Russian L1

5.5%

6.5%

8.6%

10.9%

12.2%

14.8%

Russian L2

35.8%

51.8%

59.5%

Uzbekistan

1995

Titulars in the population

65.9%

65.1%

62.2%

65.5%

68.7%

71.4%

75.8%

Titular L1

98.4%

98.9%

98.8%

98.7%

Russian L1

0.3%

0.3%

0.4%

0.4%

Russian L2

13.1%

52.9%

22.3%

*Possible minor discrepancies between the data reported here and in other sources stem from the fact that some scholars use all-Union statistics on titular populations which include titulars living outside of the titular republics. The data reported here is limited to titulars residing in “their own” republics and successor states.

**The question about a second language was not asked prior to the 1970 Soviet Census

Sources of Soviet Census data: www.demoscope.ru; Goskomstat SSSR.

Together, studies of Soviet language management show that, contrary to the popular image, Soviet russification did not involve systematic replacement of all languages with Russian. As pointed out by Brubaker (1996), if the Soviet government were intent on “nation-destroying,” it would have abolished national republics and made Russian the sole language of instruction. Instead, the USSR had pursued a dual course supporting the spread of Russian and the maintenance of titular and some minority languages (Anderson & Silver 1984; Blitstein 2001; Pool 1978; Silver 1978; Slezkine 1994; M. Smith 1998). As seen in table 32.2, in the last Soviet school years, in 11 of the republics most pupils were still enrolled in titular-medium schools.

The studies also reveal that Soviet language management was guided by a four-tiered hierarchy, based on the political status of respective languages: (1) Russian occupied the top place as a de facto state language; (2) it was followed by titular languages which served as de facto or, in Transcaucasia, de jure state languages, used in republican administration, media, and secondary and higher education; (3) the third place was occupied by languages of autonomous republics and regions—by the 1970s and 1980s their use as a medium of instruction had significantly decreased but they continued to be widely studied as subjects; (4) the last place was occupied by languages of autonomous districts and indigenous languages without any territorial rights (and often with small populations)—these languages received limited use in publishing and media and appeared in education only as subjects (Alpatov 2000; Anderson & Silver 1984, 1990; Grenoble 2003; Silver 1978; M. Smith 1998). This hierarchy provides a useful context for understanding the decline in minority language schooling, which cannot be fully explained by decisions from the center. In some cases, the decline was also precipitated by assimilationist tendencies by republican governments: for instance, in Georgia, the authorities transferred Abkhazian and Ossetian to Georgian script and closed native-language schools (1944–1953) (Grenoble 2003; Hewitt 1989). In other cases, local authorities simply did not see value in allocating resources to schooling in local languages, and yet in others it was parents who favored Russian-medium schools as a way to higher education and social advancement (Belikov & Krysin 2001; Blitstein 2001; Hewitt 1989; Kreindler 1982; Pool 1978).

Insofar as russification is concerned, the data available to date warrant the following conclusions. On the one hand, unlike the Russian Empire, the USSR succeeded in implementing administrative russification and in spreading the knowledge of Russian as L2. On the other hand, similar to imperial Russia, Soviet authorities achieved this outcome not only through top-down policies but also through social inducements: the adoption of L2 Russian was a pragmatic choice, particularly pronounced in language contact zones, created by mass migration, urbanization and industrialization (Silver 1978). The media (p. 665) played an important role in this process by using Russian to create a common multiethnic cultural space.

At the same time, the spread of L2 Russian was still limited: in 1989, only 47.5 percent of non-Russians declared L2 Russian competence (Goskomstat SSSR 1991). Undoubtedly, Census data are not entirely trustworthy. Data from Central Asia may over-represent the L2 Russian competence, with the 1979 spike in Uzbekistan a particularly egregious example of over-reporting by republican authorities to please the center (Akiner 1997). In turn, data from the Baltic republics may under-represent this competence. Post-Soviet census data in table 32.3 reveal an increase in levels of L2 Russian competence among the titulars in Estonia and Latvia. Given the political situation in both countries, this increase is best seen as a more realistic assessment than that in 1989, rather than as an actual improvement. Despite these inconsistencies, scholars concur that the spread of Russian as L2 was limited by the support of titular and minority languages, nationalist resistance, settlement and occupation patterns, lack of Russian teachers and, among rural populations, inefficient Russian instruction, low levels of contact with Russian speakers, and the actual lack of need for Russian (Alpatov 2000; Anderson & Silver 1990; Fierman 1985; Grenoble 2003; Pool 1978; Raun 1985; Silver 1976, 1978). The shift to L1 Russian was even less successful: after three decades of russification efforts, the total number of non-Russians with L1 Russian rose from 10.2 million (10.8 percent) in 1959 to 18.7 million (13.3 percent) in 1989 (Anderson & Silver 1990; see also table 32.3).

To sum up, Soviet language management efforts led to high levels of monolingualism among native speakers of Russian, high levels of native language maintenance and bilingualism among the titulars, and language shift among minority language speakers. Furthermore, just as in the Russian Empire, at the end Soviet language planning had an effect opposite to the one intended: the intensification of russification efforts fueled national resistance movements, while titular language support provided these movements with languages to rally around.

Language Management in Post-Soviet Countries (1991–2012)

In 1991, the fourteen successor states had common goals—to distance themselves from the Russian Federation and the Soviet past and to build legitimate nation-states. These goals were reflected in their language planning objectives: (a) to ensure that administration, education, and the media function predominantly in the titular language; (b) to remove Russian from the public space, (c) to de-russify the titular language corpus; (d) to replace Soviet-era place names (p. 666) with titular names; (e) to spread the knowledge of the titular language among those who did not know it; and (f) to increase levels of competence in English as an alternative to the former lingua franca Russian.

In the past two decades, these language planning efforts have been examined in several types of studies: (a) cross-country surveys (e.g., Iatsenko et al. 2008; Lebedeva 1995; Savoskul 2001); (b) surveys within single countries (e.g., Besters-Dilger 2009; Smagulova 2008); (c) ethnographic studies (e.g., Bilaniuk 2005; Brown 2007; Ciscel 2007; Korth 2005; Laitin 1998; Silova 2006); and (d) analyses of language and education policies (e.g., Landau & Kellner-Heinkele 2001; Pavlenko 2008a, 2008b). Together with post-Soviet census data and the Council of Europe (COE) country reports, these studies allow us to start putting together a coherent picture of post-Soviet language management. Based on the relative success of nativization, the successor states can be divided into four groups: (1) countries where nativization has been successfully completed; (2) countries where nativization has been successful but Russian retains importance; (3) countries where nativization has been successful among the titulars but not among minorities; (4) countries that retained some form of titular-Russian bilingualism. In what follows, I will discuss each group in turn, highlighting factors that mediate the outcomes of language planning efforts.

Mission Accomplished: Armenia, Lithuania, and Turkmenistan

Very different at first glance, Armenia, Lithuania, and Turkmenistan had three characteristics in common in 1991: strong national movements, fully developed languages (although Turkmen required further standardization), and titular populations with high levels of titular language loyalty who, throughout the Soviet era, continued to send their children to titular-medium schools (table 32.2 and 32.3). These characteristics, however, do not differentiate them from Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, and Latvia, where language development, titular language loyalty and national consciousness were just as high. What distinguished Armenia and Lithuania was the high proportion of titulars in the population (table 32.3) and a high level of titular language competence among the non-titulars: 37.5 percent of Russians in Lithuania and 33.8 percent in Armenia were fluent in titular languages, as compared to 14.4 percent in Azerbaijan, 15 percent in Estonia, 22.3 percent in Latvia, and 23.7 percent in Georgia (Goskomstat SSSR 1991).

Turkmenistan, in contrast, was more ethnically diverse and its Russian community had low levels of titular language competence (2.5 percent); there, nativization was facilitated by forceful governmental policies and low levels of Russian competence among the titulars (27.5 percent) (Goskomstat SSSR 1991). Under the autocratic president Niyazov, the authorities quickly completed script transition from Cyrillic to Latin (1993–1996) and by 2000 transformed (p. 667) the state structures, secondary and higher education, the media, and the semiotic landscape into Turkmen-only spaces (Abdurasulov 2007; Clement 2008; Landau & Kellner-Heinkele 2001; Permanov et al. 2010). Russian-medium schools were closed or turned into bilingual schools, which in 2001–2002 were converted into Turkmen-medium schools, with some Russian classes (Shustov 2009). In the informational space, the government banned Russian TV channels (mid-1990s), the import of Russian periodicals (2002), and Russian radio (2004) (Abdurasulov 2007). These measures, combined with employment and social promotion policies that marginalized non-Turkmen, led to significant out-migration of Russian speakers which further facilitated de-russification (Landau & Kellner-Heinkele 2001). After Niyazov’s demise in 2006, his successor Berdymukhamedov reversed many of his policies and reintroduced Russian as a second language in kindergarten, school, and college curricula, raising the levels of Russian competence and enabling Turkmen students to study in Russia (Permanov et al., 2010).

Armenia also closed its Russian-medium schools (1993) and removed Russian from the titular curriculum. While some closings were prompted by out-migration, there was also an inverse relationship, with Russian-speaking migrants pointing to school closings among the reasons for their departure (Lebedeva 1995; Savoskul 2001). At present, only one state school, in the old believer village of Fioletovo, functions fully in Russian, while 35 more have Russian sections (Report on Armenia 2008). During the presidency of Kocharian (1998–2008), the state attitude toward Russian had changed and steps were made to retain Russian as part of Armenians’ multilingual repertoires, including re-introduction of Russian as an obligatory foreign language in Armenian schools and creation of intensive Russian programs.

In Lithuania, the authorities reduced the number of Russian-medium schools and adopted language legislation that requires state language examinations for citizenship, secondary school graduation, and employment in the public and semipublic sector. At present, Lithuanian minority schools function in a bilingual mode, with part of the curriculum taught in Lithuanian (Bulajeva & Hogan-Brun 2008). In their Opinion on Lithuania (2003), COE experts expressed concerns about the lack of clear legal framework regarding minority language instruction, minority language broadcasts, and use of place names.

Overall, the three countries have been successful in establishing titular languages across all domains and relegating Russian to the dual role of a foreign language and a minority language (see also table 32.2). The key difference between them is in the role Russian plays for the titulars. At present in Armenia and Turkmenistan, the goal of language education is trilingual competence in the titular language, Russian (an obligatory foreign language), and another foreign language (Report on Armenia 2008; Permanov et al 2010). In Lithuania, the goal is multilingual competence in Lithuanian and an array of foreign languages, of which English is frequently selected first and Russian second (Bulajeva & Hogan-Brun 2008).

(p. 668) These differences are shaped by political and economic factors. Armenia has a long history of political conflicts with its Muslim neighbors, Azerbaijan and Turkey, and depends on Russia for military support. Russia is also home to a large Armenian diaspora and the main direction for its labor migration. Turkmenistan, oriented toward Turkey and the Islamic world, is reestablishing a relationship with Russia (Permanov et al 2010). In contrast, Lithuania is a member of the European Union (EU) and its orientation is toward Western Europe.

Russian as a Resource: Azerbaijan, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan

In 1991, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan also had strong national movements, titulars with high levels of levels of titular language loyalty and competence, and small Russian communities (Fierman 2009; see also table 32.2 and 32.3). The transition to independence plunged Tajikistan into civil war, while Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Uzbekistan began de-russification efforts, including the shift from Cyrillic to Latin script (Hatcher 2008; Landau & Kellner-Heinkele 2001; Savoskul 2001).

In Moldova, the authorities removed Russian from the titular curriculum, closed many Russian preschools and turned some Russian-medium schools into Moldovan-medium schools or, in the cities, moved them from the center to the periphery (Savoskul 2001). These radical reforms antagonized part of the population and led to a civil war and secession of Transnistria, which adopted three official languages: Moldovan (in Cyrillic), Russian, and Ukrainian. In the aftermath of the civil war, the political—albeit not economic—situation in the country had stabilized; subsequent attempts to upgrade the status of Russian have been unsuccessful but the identity of the state language as Moldovan or Romanian remains unresolved (Ciscel 2007, 2008). Secondary and higher education in Moldova functions in Moldovan/Romanian, and, for minorities, in Russian, with other languages taught as subjects. In Transnistria education is offered in the three official languages with the predominance of Russian.

In Azerbaijan, nativization has also been successful (Fierman 2009; Hatcher 2008; Landau & Kellner-Heinkele 2001) but Russian remains an important resource, as seen, for example, in the fact that in 2002, the country’s first COE report was submitted in Russian. Azerbaijan is also among the few successor states that preserved its Russian school network: in the year 2005–2006, the country had 18 Russian-medium and 335 bilingual schools (Report on Azerbaijan 2007). Higher education functions in Azerbaijanian, Russian, English, and Turkish, and the de-russification efforts focused on the media, where access to Russian TV channels has been restricted (Iatsenko et al. 2008).

In Uzbekistan, the Uzbek script reform initiated in 1993 has not yet been finalized—its completion dates have been postponed first till 2005 and then till (p. 669) 2010, while the two scripts continue to co-exist (Sharifov 2007). The deadline for transfer to Uzbek as the sole language of administration was also extended, because state sector employees were used to rely on Russian, while Uzbek required further terminological development (Radnitz 2006). Russian also continues to be obligatory in Uzbek-medium schools. Higher education functions in Uzbek, Russian, Karakalpak, and English, with Russian remaining the language of professional literature, in particular in science and technology, as well as the preferred medium for the use of the internet (Landau & Kellner-Heinkele 2001; Nazaryan 2007; Radnitz 2006).

Tajikistan began the transition to Tajik as a state language (in Cyrillic) only in the mid-1990s, after the cessation of the civil war (Landau & Kellner-Heinkele 2001). Since Russian was officially recognized as a language of interethnic communication, documents continued to be produced in Tajik and Russian, with Tajik becoming a single language of administration only in 2010. Russian, however, still has a role to play. In 2004, Russian instruction again became obligatory in Tajik- and Uzbek-medium schools; higher education is offered in Tajik, Russian, and Uzbek; and dissertations, since 2005, once again have to be written in Russian (Nagzibekova 2008).

Studies to date show that while the functions of Russian have been significantly reduced in all four countries, it remains an important resource for administration, interethnic communication, academic cooperation, and information access. The shift to English as a lingua franca proved difficult to accomplish due to the lack of resources and qualified teachers: in Uzbekistan, for instance, most texts in use are Soviet-era textbooks that teach English through the medium of Russian (Hasanova 2007; Nazaryan 2007). Russian also constitutes an important linguistic resource for labor migrants to Russia, the majority of whom come from Moldova, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan (Iatsenko et al. 2008; Laruelle 2007).

Resistance to Assimilation: Estonia, Georgia, Latvia

The titulars in Estonia, Georgia, and Latvia also had fully developed languages, high levels of national consciousness and titular language loyalty, and, in Estonia and Georgia, relatively low levels of Russian competence (table 32.2 and 32.3). Politically, the three countries were oriented away from Russia and toward the West. It is not surprising then that all three had embarked on intensive de-russification efforts and successfully accomplished the de-russification and nativization of administration, linguistic landscape, and higher education. These language management efforts, however, have been hampered by low levels of titular language competence among the non-titulars who constitute large proportions of respective populations.

In Estonia and Latvia, the non-titulars are predominantly L1 Russian speakers who were sent by the Soviet authorities to industrialize the region (p. 670) (Rannut 2008; Schmid 2008). In 1989, they constituted 42.5 percent of the population in Latvia and 32.5 percent in Estonia (Goskomstat SSSR 1991). The new governments did not perceive these communities as potential nation-state constituencies—Russian was declared a “foreign language” and titular languages were positioned as the only means of integration. To encourage Russian speakers to assimilate or emigrate, they adopted stringent ius sanguinis citizenship laws that offered automatic citizenship only to citizens or descendants of citizens of the inter-war republics. The descendants of those who settled there after the 1940 Soviet annexation had to apply for naturalization and pass a titular language test and a history and civics test. New language laws also imposed occupational restrictions and outlined a transition to titular-only education at all levels.

During the EU accession negotiations, European organizations sharply criticized Baltic language legislation and pressured Estonia and Latvia to amend citizenship, language, and education laws in order to protect minority rights (Jurado 2003; Rannut 2008; Schmid 2008). While several modifications were incorporated, COE observers are still dissatisfied with the slow rate of naturalization, high number of stateless residents, and the low levels of economic, social, and educational integration of minority language speakers (ECRI Report on Estonia 2010; ECRI Report on Latvia 2008; Opinion on Estonia 2006). In education, the key reason for the lack of integration is the perpetuation of the ethnically (self-)segregated school system inherited from the Soviet era. While Latvian authorities did want Russian-speakers to acquire Latvian competence, they did not want them to come en masse to Latvian schools; instead, integration was envisioned as latvianization of Russian schools (Björklund 2004; Silova 2006). Since 2004, 60 percent of the subjects in Russian-medium schools are taught in Latvian and 40 percent in Russian (Silova 2006; Schmid 2008). In Estonia, a similar transitional bilingual education model was adopted in 2007 starting with tenth grade (www.hm.ee).

In Georgia, the main challenge involves compactly settled Armenian and Azerbaijanian communities with low levels of Georgian competence. To this day, Russian may be used in communication between these communities and the state authorities because Armenians and Azerbaijanis may be more fluent in Russian than in Georgian, while Georgian authorities are much more likely to understand Russian than Armenian or Azerbaijanian (ICG 2006; Opinion on Georgia 2009). Language is also one of the points of contention between Georgia and secessionist Abkhazia and South Ossetia that resist the imposition of Georgian and favor native- and Russian-medium schooling (Hewitt 1989; Opinion on Georgia 2009). To increase titular-language competence, Georgian authorities have adopted a transitional bilingual education approach, similar to that in the Baltic countries: in the year 2010–2011, minority-medium schools began teaching social science subjects in Georgian (Opinion on Georgia 2009).

Several factors explain low levels of linguistic assimilation in the three countries. Demographically, the non-titulars are compactly settled and have (p. 671) no everyday need for the titular language nor the opportunity to practice it (ICG 2006; Laitin 1998; Rannut 2008; Siiner 2006). Aware of their second class status, minorities may also have low motivation for titular language study: in Georgia, for instance, educational and employment opportunities for minorities are so constrained that even those with excellent Georgian-language skills have little chance of social advancement (ICG 2006; Opinion on Georgia 2009). In Latvia, on the other hand, Russian-speakers, locked out of the state sector, created a thriving private sector, where the knowledge of Latvian is unnecessary (Commercio 2004). In educational settings, the learning of titular languages is hampered by insufficient resources, the lack of workable curricula, inadequate teacher preparation, shortages of bilingual textbooks, and, in adult education, inaccessibility of free instruction (ECRI Report on Estonia 2010; ECRI Report on Latvia 2008; Opinion on Estonia 2006; Opinion on Georgia 2009; Rannut 2008; Silova 2006).

Bilingualism: Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine

In addition to Latvia and Estonia, in 1991 four other states had large proportions of L1 Russian speakers: Kazakhstan (47.4 percent), Ukraine (33.2 percent), Belarus (32.3 percent), and Kyrgyzstan (25.6 percent) (Goskomstat SSSR 1991). Unlike Latvia and Estonia, these countries settled on a bilingual compromise.

Several factors explain the different approaches adopted in Estonia and Latvia on the one hand and Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine on the other, but two are central. The first is political orientation of the countries in question: Estonia and Latvia were oriented toward the West and the EU and wanted to sever the relationship with Russia, while Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine aimed to preserve political and economic ties with the Russian government. The second key factor is the russification of the titulars. In 1988–1989, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine were the only republics where the majority of the students were enrolled in Russian-medium schools (table 32.2). Belarusians and Ukrainians also led the shift to Russian as L1 (table 32.3). Kazakhs and Kyrgyz favored titular languages in their census responses but for many it was a symbolic choice: in both countries, urban titulars favored Russian and often displayed low levels of titular language competence (Korth 2005; Landau & Kellner-Heinkele 2001; Smagulova 2008). Titular languages, in all four countries, were associated with the rural sphere and Russian with urbanization and modernity (Bilaniuk & Melnyk 2008; Giger & Sloboda 2008; Fierman 2009; Laitin 1998; Orusbaev et al. 2008).

The most spectacular failure of the de-russification process occurred in Belarus, where a popular vote in the 1995 national referendum made Russian the second state language. This vote showed that the extent of russification (p. 672) among Belarusians has been underrepresented in the Soviet Census data. The 1999 Belarusian Census revealed that Russian was the main language of 62.8 percent of ethnic Belarusians (www.belstat.gov.by) (see also Brown 2005). At present, Russian functions as the de facto main language in Belarus across all domains, from media to education, while Belarusian plays a symbolic function indexing the nation in official documents and public spaces (Brown 2005, 2007; Giger & Sloboda 2008). From a historic standpoint this outcome is not surprising: previous waves of Belorussian national revival were equally weak. The nineteenth century national movement lacked an urban base and support from abroad (Snyder 2003; Thaden & Thaden 1984), while belorussification of the 1920s was directly opposed by many russified Belorussians who saw the Belorussian republic as an artificial Soviet creation that cultivated a nonexistent titular nation (Hirsch 2005: 149–155).

Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan had stronger national movements but their titular languages had to be standardized and modernized before taking on a full range of functions. The two governments also wanted to prevent further out-migration of Russians who played important roles in the countries’ economic infrastructure (Landau & Kellner-Heinkele 2001). To help negotiate the transitional period and to preserve political and economic stability, the authorities upgraded the status of Russian to that of official language (1995 in Kazakhstan, 2000 in Kyrgyzstan) and preserved the Cyrillic script in the titular languages. At the same time, both governments still aim to transfer all the paperwork to titular languages, but the process has been slowed down by internal resistance and low titular literacy skills among state employees (Fierman 2009; Orusbaev et al. 2008; Smagulova 2008). The goal of language education in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan is trilingual competence in the titular language, Russian, and English. Secondary education is offered in the titular language and Russian and in a range of minority languages, with obligatory study of the titular languages in Russian-medium schools and Russian in titular-medium schools (Diatlenko 2010; Fierman 2006; Korth 2005; Orusbaev et al. 2008; Smagulova 2008). Higher education functions in Russian and the titular languages, with opportunities also available in some minority languages, English, and in Kyrgyzstan Turkish. Russian continues to dominate academic work, the media, and the internet (Orusbaev et al. 2008; Smagulova 2008; Uffelmann 2011). In the 2009 Census, 94.9% of adult Kyrgyz reported Russian as their second language (Diatlenko 2010).

Ukraine so far has preserved a single state language, but in August of 2012 the Ukrainian government passed a language law that enables adoption of Russian as a regional language by individual cities and regions. As in the other three countries, Soviet censuses under-represented the degree of russification of Ukrainians because many titulars indicated Ukrainian as their native language yet spoke Russian on the daily basis (Besters-Dilger 2009; Bilaniuk 2005; Kulyk 2010; Pavlenko, 2011b). The shift to L1 Russian has continued in the post-Soviet era (table 32.3), suggesting that, similar to Belarus, russification (p. 673) in Ukraine is a bottom-up process. Unlike Belarus, however, Ukraine also has a strong nationalist movement, centered in Western Ukraine and supported by the Ukrainian diaspora. As a result, the country is split along linguistic lines, with Ukrainian-dominant West favoring the idea of monolingual Ukraine, and Russian-speaking East and South pushing for a bilingual solution (Besters-Dilger 2009; Bilaniuk 2005; Bilaniuk & Melnyk 2008; Kulyk 2010). In the past two decades, the authorities have succeeded in making Ukrainian the main language of the administration, documentation, and education. This spread, however, has been achieved through legislative measures that were often less than democratic: in some contexts, for instance, the authorities determined the numbers of schools operating in particular languages on the basis of the ethnic composition of the population, ignoring the preferences of Russophone Ukrainians, and in others, most notably in the capital Kyiv, Russian-medium schools were transformed into Ukrainian-medium schools without any recourse to demographics or parental preferences (Pavlenko, 2011b). Protests were also elicited by laws that required the dubbing of Russian-language movies and TV shows (Besters-Dilger 2009).

At present, the linguistic situation in Belarus satisfies the majority of the population, but supporters of Belarusian language revival bemoan the demise of the language (Giger & Sloboda 2008). In contrast, in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine the uneasy compromise does not fully satisfy either side: supporters of full nativization perceive the continuous presence of Russian as a threat, while Russian-speakers are concerned about the reduction in the sphere of Russian use (in particular in the media), and decreasing numbers of Russian-language schools (Besters-Dilger 2009; Bilaniuk & Melnyk 2008; Diatlenko 2010; Pavlenko, 2011b; Orusbaev et al. 2008; Smagulova 2008). It remains to be seen how future governments will maintain the balance between these conflicting sets of demands.

Conclusions

Many observers have commented on the irony of the fact that the titular elites who most vocally protested the Soviet imposition of Russian have come to appreciate the need for a unifying state language and did not hesitate to adopt the same—and sometimes much harsher—measures to enforce titular languages (e.g., Björklund 2004). The studies to date show, however, that a lingua franca is not easy to eliminate. After the intense derussification of the 1990s, the sphere of Russian use in most successor states has narrowed yet the language did not go away nor was it replaced by English. Rather, Russian assumed a place alongside English as the lingua franca of the geopolitical region, as seen in the (p. 674) presidential websites and other official, business, and tourist-oriented sites of the successor states. The 2000s also witnessed a change of course in several countries, with Armenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan reintroducing Russian in secondary school curricula, colleges, and, in Turkmenistan, even kindergartens (Nagzibekova 2008; Permanov et al. 2010). Yet the supply does not satisfy the demand – survey respondents in Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and Tajikistan stated that Russian should be offered more widely in their countries (Iatsenko et al., 2008).

Behind this change is Russia’s spectacular economic recovery in the late 1990s, a combined result of economic reforms and the rising world oil prices. The resurgence as a geopolitical power allowed Russia to reestablish its economic and political influence on parts of the former federation: in 2008, leading destinations for Russian foreign investments in the CIS were Belarus (58%), Ukraine (23.4%), Kazakhstan (7.4%), Armenia (4.3%), and Kyrgyzstan (3.8%) (Pavlenko in press). Russia is also the main labor market of the region, with remittances from labor migrants constituting a large proportion of the GDP of Tajikistan, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan, the same countries whose survey respondents expressed the greatest desire for expanded Russian-language offerings. The new economic opportunities have led to revalorization and commodification of Russian as a useful tool in the new regional economy.

At the end, the juxtaposition of Russian, Soviet, and post-Soviet language management leaves us with a question regarding the relationship between states and their citizens: were Russian imperial authorities correct in assuming that it is only the citizens who are responsible for learning the languages of their states? Or did the early Soviet planners have it right when positing that states—and in particular new states—are also responsible for learning the languages of the citizens they inherited?

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