Select language:

Russian language is still important in Central Asia even as its usage hasdeclined

 /  / Russkiy Mir Foundation / Publications / Russian language is still important in Central Asia even as its usage hasdeclined

Russian language is still important in Central Asia even as its usage hasdeclined



What is the future of Russian language in Central Asia? This question is still open and the prospects are rather unclear. According to the 1989 census, 80% of the inhabitants of Soviet Union spoke Russian. In 2019, everything changed dramatically. More than half of residents throughout Central Asia (except Kazakhstan) do not speak Russian.

Considering the changes that occurred after the collapse of Soviet Union, we can rightly say that Russian language is disappearing from public space,” independent researcher Nurbek Bekmurzaev states.

At the same time, there are significant differences in the status of Russian language in different states of the region. There are reasons for this in each country.

Turkmenistan: is Russian coming back?

In Turkmenistan, Russian language has lost its former positions primarily because of mass emigration. The number of its speakers decreased three times (exact data is not available). They are not only representatives of Russian nationality, but also Koreans, Germans, Armenians and many other diasporas. Most of them traditionally lived in the capital and regional centers.

However, interest in language has gone back to growth today. Most likely this happens due to a drop in the level of education. Russian-language information environment significantly wins the official one.

Immediately after gaining sovereignty, the country decided to undertake a total Turkmenization.

Russian ceased to be the official language of Turkmenistan. It has become more common to mention the new phrase, titular nation. These structural changes entailed mass migration of citizens of non-titular nationality, the author claims.

In addition, universities reduced the admission of young people of non-Turkmen nationality. This strengthened the migration flows even further.

The education reform was the main blow to Russian language. The result was a significant reduction in teaching Russian. Russian schools first became joint with Turkmen, and then disappeared at all, leaving behind 1 or 2 Russian classes sometimes. Due to decline of Russian-language education, as well as the Turkmenization of the state sector, younger generation began to speak less and less Russian. At the same time, in the 1990s, Russian as a complementary language had competitors in the form of Turkish and English, the author states.

However, he also notes that neither English nor Turkish became the language of communication. English has become a "valuable skill and a sign of education", inaccessible to the masses. Russian turned out to be both a language of communication and an instrument language.

Russian language in Turkmenistan has several scenarios. As stated above, Russian returns again, and there are several reasons for it. In particular, Russian language knowledge is a good chance to continue education in Russian-speaking country. For example, about 8000 young citizens of Turkmenistan study in Belarusian universities. Both school and higher educations are at a very low level in the country.

The popularity of the Russian media, social networks and Internet resources also played its role. Although its share of Turkmen and Turkish content is also available.

Initially, Turkmen Internet was occupied mainly by Russian-speaking urban population, which made Russian the main tool for Internet communication. Advertisements are also given mainly in Russian to reach a wider audience. Large number of advertisements in broken Russian can also be considered an evidence of this. Obviously, Russian language is being chosen mostly out of relevance, not for reasons of convenience, the author maintains. In addition, knowledge of the language significantly increases competitiveness in cities.

However, he is not ready to predict its future, since the processes in the country are incomprehensible and unknown. But still, there is a high probability that it will be preserved.

In the foreseeable future, English language cannot compete, because universal education requires too many well-trained teachers. Turkmen education system will not be able to provide them.

However, it is hardly worth considering the possibility of holding mass campaigns to popularize Russian language. The economic situation in Turkmenistan, along with the political situation, leads to a consistent emigration of Russian-speaking population, even Russian-speaking Turkmen. In this scenario, it is possible that Russian will remain only in the pockets of major cities of Turkmenistan, disappearing from public language field in the future, the author says.

Russian mass media is too popular in Tajikistan

Tajik political scientist Muslimbek Buriev states that Russian language still takes an important place in the country. Albeit overall level of its possession decreased, especially compared with other countries in the region.

The story of the language in Tajikistan is generally similar to Turkmen. Previously, Russian language was not only a career advantage, but also an opportunity to join the world culture. Foreign fiction and scientific works were translated mainly into Russian. The level began to decline primarily due to the outflow of Russian-speaking population. Civil war and the policy of national construction also contributed to this.

About 70% of Russian-speaking population emigrated back in the 90’s. However, the language is still in demand almost everywhere, from business to art. In addition, Russian mass media (mainly TV) and Internet resources are popular.

Russian language is of key importance in the academic sphere, since scientific and qualification works of academicians have the right to pass through the All-Russian Attestation Commission (HAC). In accordance with this, all works must be submitted in Russian. This is popular among local scientists, since Russian education is highly valued, and the scientific expertise approved by Russian HAC adds prestige, Buriev writes.

Local commission also accepts works in English, but not on any other language. Officially, the status of language of international communication is enshrined in Tajik constitution. Russian language is necessarily studied in every school. If education is given in Tajik, Russian is taught starting from the second year.

Russian language has acquired a peculiar political status at the level of interethnic economic and political relations. However, due to some political factors in Tajikistan, its importance for internal processes has also increased, the expert notes.

To be finished ...

New publications

The world famous tenor Alessandro Safina recorded Blue Eternity, a song by Muslim Magomayev, in Italian, turning it into an international hit. 1.5 million Internet users watched the music in three weeks. Comments of admiration were left in Russian, Italian, English, Turkish and many other languages. The tenor, who performed with Jose Carreras and recorded songs for Hollywood musicals, told us what attracted him to Russia.
Last week, the Orthodox villages of Uganda, a small photography exhibition, was opened at Lomonosov MSU. It was arranged following an ethnographic expedition by the University. Quite a few Orthodox believers in this African country make from 4 to 6% of the population. Few people know about the even more surprising phenomenon - the Ugandan Old Believers, who have been parishioners of the Russian Orthodox Old-Rites Church since 2012.
Can a modest, law-abiding history teacher become the main threat for national security of a European country? Easily! If she lives in Lithuania, makes no secret of her love for Russian language and culture and - oh, dear God! - her photo with Dmitry Medvedev was noticed in the Internet
The International Year of Indigenous Languages declared by the United Nations has come at the rather favorable for the Veps language period. Scholars studying it, as well as Vepsian writers and journalists have in unison proclaimed this time to be its renaissance. In the 1990s there was a boon accompanied by financial and administrative investments; and its benefits cannot be underestimated: dictionaries and text books have been published, Vepsian cultural centers and classes have been opened, newspapers, web-sites and TV channels have been operating in the Veps language. And just as important is the fact that young people come to learn the Veps language, including Russian youth.
Tatiana Leskova is a great-granddaughter of Nikolai Leskov and the only direct descendant of the great Russian writer. A native of Paris, she has been living in Rio de Janeiro for over 70 years. Tatyana Leskova, an outstanding ballerina and choreographer, stood at the origins of South American ballet; and you can find names of Balanchine, Massine, Fokin, Baronova, Lepeshinskaya and other prominent figures of world ballet on the pages of her memoirs.
The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine** started reviewing the controversial bill On ensuring functioning of Ukrainian as the state language in the second reading. Its authors believe that development of Ukrainian language as original language of the titular nation to be the main task in effort to strengthen national identity of the Ukrainians and preserve national culture, traditions, customs, and historical memory of the Ukrainian nation. It sounds nicely, but what's there behind the façade?
This year marks 65th anniversary since Russia joined UNESCO. Before her official visit to Russia, Audrey Azoulay, the Director General of the UNESCO, spoke about priority activities and future of this largest international organization.