Nation-Building and Language Rights in Post-Soviet Russia
by Ildus G. Ilishev
Table of Contents:
I. Problems of a Language Policy in a Multiethnic State
II. The Official Language Problem in a Multiethnic State
III. Individual and Group Language Rights
IV. Are Ethnolinguistic and Civic Loyalties Compatible?
V. Language Rights and the Principle of Self-Determination
VI. Language Rights in International Law
VII. Strains of Post-Soviet-Modernization in Russia
VIII. A Brief History of Soviet Language Policy
IX. Political and Ethnolinguistic Processes in Russia
X. The Ethno-linguistic Situation in Bashkortostan:
A Source for Political Instability?
XI. Conclusion: Implications for Federalism in Russia
Russia, as well as other former Soviet republics, has long been
associated with linguistic diversity and ethnic conflict which proved to
be less amenable to accommodation than class or ideological conflicts.
Six full-scale wars have occurred in the former Soviet Union, including
conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, Trans-Dniester, South Ossetia
(Georgia), Tajikistan, and Chechnya. Furthermore, approximately
20 short-term armed clashes have taken place, including the pogrom-type
conflicts in Uzbekistan (against Meskhetian Turks), Azerbaijan (against
Armenians in Baku and Sumgait), Kyrgystan (between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks),
Russia (against Ingush), and several other former Soviet republics. In
addition, more than 100 non-violent interstate, interethnic,
interreligious, and interclan confrontations occurred mostly in Central
Asia, the Transcaucasus, and the North Caucasus .
Strained ethnic relations (mostly between the Russian-speaking
population and titular groups) which may yet turn violent exist in
Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and the Baltic states . In Russia
much tension and instability remains in Chechnya, Daghestan,
Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Ingushetia, and North
Ossetia which was the first Russian region to burst into warfare in
1992 . Potential for ethnic conflicts also exists in
other Russian republics such as Bashkortostan , Buryatia
, Sakha-Yakutia , Tyva .
With increased economic and ideological freedom many of Russia’s ethnic
republics adopted legal acts to terminate the discrimination of
indigenous languages and protect the respective cultures. Such
policies unavoidably led to confrontation with ethnic Russians and
other sizeable ethnic groups, which interpreted these measures as a
discriminatory step encroaching on their linguistic rights.
According to Prof. Mart Rannut:
"Due to the political changes, economic disaster, and the consequent
redivision of the status of languages, there will continue to be
tensions and conflicts in the territories of the former USSR.."
This study evaluates the ethnolinguistic situation in ethnic republics
of the Russian Federation with a focus on the autonomous Republic of
Bashkortostan which represents a special case of potential
radicalization. In discussing the situation in Bashkortostan I will pay
special attention to linguistic issues, which, along with debates over
political status of the republic played an important role in
shaping the current state of inter-ethnic relations in Bashkortostan. As
this study has taken shape, I have been moving back and forth between
the academic world and government employment in the administration of
the President of Bashkortostan. In each realm, language conflict has
been a persistent feature of every issue I have had to study or
resolve. Recently, the topic of linguistic rights was politicized
again, due to either the inconsistencies between the ethnic republics’
laws on language and federal legislation or the bitter controversy
among ethnic groups seeking to redress the perceived or actual
linguistic discrimination within the republics themselves.
Language issues can be divisive, causing interethnic strife and leading
to mutual estrangement not only of grassroots politicians but even of
Russia’s political leaders. For instance, the presidents of
Bashkortostan and Tatarstan, Murtaza Rakhimov and Mintimer
Shaimiyev, two long-time friends and close political allies, had a
dramatic falling out when Bashkortostan Parliament’s lower chamber
drafted a language law, that envisaged granting state status to the
Bashkir and Russian languages, while the Tatar language, despite heavy
pressures from Kazan, was not made official . The following
question arises: does the Tatar population of Bashkortostan have legal,
historical or any other rights to a state (official) language beyond
Tatarstan, its "own" historical territory? What linguistic claims
can be considered just and legitimate? Should the rights of the titular
Bashkir collectivity take precedence over the rights of Tatar
individuals? Can universally recognized and objective norms be developed
for all ethnic groups to abide by?
Indeed a whole set of international human rights standards have emerged
that can be used for assessing linguistic rights of ethnic groups.
However, numerous linguistic disputes in the former Soviet republics
have revealed insufficient political culture, legal nihilism,
subjectivity, and, ultimately, unwillingness to utilize the linguistic
experiences of long-established democracies codified in international
law. In such circumstances, the most important task is to formulate
standard rules of the game that will be accepted both by Moscow and by
all ethnic groups of the Russian Federation. Ethnic peace and stability
will be difficult to attain if there is a failure to abide by such rules
or if the game is run by ad hoc principles.
No less important is the analysis of the principle of
self-determination and its relationship to the linguistic human rights,
since the denial of that principle is one of the main reasons for
violence in post-Soviet transitional societies, such as the conflicts in
Chechnya, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh .
Moreover, serious concerns emerged about the political and territorial
integrity of Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Georgia. Accordingly,
the most challenging problem for political and ethnic elites in the
center, as well as the regions is to find a viable form of federation
that would enable ethnic minorities to pursue their goal of
self-determination within the framework of a single multinational
I believe that avoidance of either unitary-centrist or extreme
separatist solutions is a necessary condition for stability and
democratic consolidation in Russia. In order to create a viable
federative structure, it is necessary to decentralize state power
through ethno-territorial federalism. The system of asymmetrical
federalism that de-facto exists in Russia can serve as the basis for
Russia’s future political organization. This specific political
structure will help to incorporate various ethnic groups into a single
state by granting them broad autonomy and guaranteeing their full
participation in decision-making on the local and federative levels
through the adoption of legislation affirming their group rights.
According to the former Russian Minister of Nationalities Prof.
"An important step towards a renewed formula of the post-Soviet
federalism would be to grant special status to ethno-territorial
autonomies (republics) among other ‘non-ethnic’ members of
federation. This kind of asymmetric federalism assigns higher
state symbolism, economic and political authority to the
republics. At this moment in history, the problem of asymmetry and
even of a special (associated) status features on the agenda of Rossia
[sic] and, perhaps, of Georgia. In the future, it may prove
relevant for Ukraine, where the western and eastern parts of the
country may initiate federalization, and for the existing Crimean
autonomy, which may come to demand such status. Being territorial units,
republics and other possible forms of ethno-territorial autonomy cannot
be treated solely as administrative provinces. They need to
retain their ethno-linguistic and specific cultural profiles, as partly
reflected in territorial configurations and in state and public
Although some politicians still believe that the actions of regional
sovereignty movements in ethnic republics will facilitate instability,
and violence ultimately leading to Russia’s disintegration, in reality
as Patricia Carley rightly observes: "Peoples who are denied basic
cultural, linguistic, and political rights by their rulers are more
likely to resort to violence than those who have been given a large
measure of local autonomy" . Rejecting demands for
autonomy in the name of ill-defined common citizenship will simply
promote alienation and secessionist movements.
Under these circumstances, it is in the strategic interests of the
world community to support the autonomy of Russia's ethnic republics,
since autonomy is the only way to reconcile the two conflicting
tendencies, centripetal and centrifugal, thereby preserving Russia’s
unity. This fits neatly with West's ultimate goal of safeguarding
the federal government's control over the nuclear arsenals, and reducing
the chances of extreme nationalists coming to power in Russia.
Furthermore, through an examination of the character and scope of
linguistic rights of ethnic groups (above all titular peoples) in the
context of international law, some fairly objective criteria for
choosing state (official) languages in a multinational state can be
developed. Another important aspect of a democratic language policy is
establishing special ethnolinguistic group rights (especially for
indigenous peoples) that cannot be observed within the limits of regular
There are no easy answers to the problems raised in this study. But I
sincerely hope that it will lead to a further discussion of language
policies, or facilitate the awareness regarding the issue of language
Part I demonstrates that the implementation of language laws invariably
leads to acrimonious political conflicts in multiethnic societies.
Part II shows difficulties in choosing official languages in
Part III shows that the language rights of ethnic groups (especially
those of minorities and indigenous peoples) can not be fully observed
within the framework of traditional individual rights.
Part IV examines the relationship between ethnic and common civic
Part V explores a whole set of universally recognized norms
constituting the self-determination principle and demonstrates their
direct relevance to linguistic rights of peoples.
Part VI discusses major international legal documents pertaining to
Part VII examines the major issues critical to the preservation of
Russia as a single, multiethnic state.
Part VIII discusses major stages of Language Policy in the Soviet Union
Part IX looks at the ongoing socio-political developments in Russia
Part X focuses on the etholinguistic situation in Bashkortostan which
has steadily remained one of the most complex cases of nation-building
In the final section specific conclusions are drawn and practical
recommendations are offered.
I. Problems of Language Policy in a Multiethnic
Language is the strongest social instrument that unites people into
ethnic groups. While territory, religion, culture and economic interests
play their important role in the formation of national identity, it is
precisely the language that is vital for expressing the idea of
collectivity and defining the features of psychological and spiritual
likeness within the community of separate individuals. Language is the
most important component of spiritual and ethnic identity of any
people, a necessary prerequisite for its development and
existence. The pressures for national identity are most keenly
felt in the domain of language. Thus, it is not surprising that a
linguistic policy is a key element of the process of state-building in
In the last few years dramatic changes have occurred in many
ethno-linguistic communities world-wide. But the most striking
embodiment of these changes are the republics of the former Soviet
Union, where numerous difficulties of post-Communist modernization
complicate the processes of democratic reform. Difficulties of
state-building may in some cases potentially lead to the
revival of old methods of social organization which makes the
linguistic situation in these countries unique. Consequently, this may
have serious implications for international peace and stability.
Not surprisingly, many scholars are especially interested in analyzing
ethno-linguistic processes in the former Soviet Union. However, in my
opinion complete understanding of the mechanisms and factors that
influence the formation of the linguistic policies in the
post-Soviet states is possible only in the context of global
socio-linguistic experience. Therefore, it is imperative to
analyze modern approaches to the problem of language in other regions of
the world, where the dynamics of language policies is beginning to be
determined more than ever by the universally recognized norms of
international law that set new criteria for the rights of
individuals and peoples. These norms create the basis for
objective and civilized evaluation of the legitimacy of linguistic
claims and responsibilities of individuals as well as of various ethnic
groups. In my opinion, linguistic issues deserve a more detailed
examination, since political scientists do not usually discuss
them as a separate subject, but rather view them within a broader theme
of minority rights .
Hence, the analysis of international legal documents that provide the
criteria for common civic as well as linguistic rights of peoples
acquires special importance. Furthermore, one should pay special
attention to the international community’s (most importantly UN’s)
interpretation of the self-determination principle, since it
was that norm which served as a departing point in the development of
new approaches in conducting a fair linguistic policy in many long
established democracies, for instance, such as the United States and
Canada. It is well known that ignoring linguistic rights of various
peoples may cause conflicts in all countries, post-Soviet republics as
well as long-standing democracies, like Canada (Francophones and
English-speakers in Quebec) or Belgium (French-speaking Wallonia and
Dutch-speaking Flanders). One graphic example, the Ukrainian
government’s refusal to grant Russian the status of an official language
contributed to the escalation of tensions in Russo-Ukrainian relations.
Similarly, the lack of an official status for the Bashkir language in
Bashkortostan has long been a major source of socio-political
instability in the republic.
Naturally, relations between ethno-linguistic groups are a very
delicate sphere of human life, which defy simple solutions. Accordingly,
some inter-ethnic conflicts are extremely difficult to resolve , even
if the parties involved possess a great deal of good will and tolerance
to each other. Moreover, each dispute has its own specific
historical roots without considering which it is practically impossible
to resolve a conflict situation .
Therefore, it is a matter of great urgency to develop objective and
fair criteria for evaluating linguistic rights of ethnic groups,
especially of indigenous peoples, which the multinational state could
utilize while conducting linguistic policies. Thus far this
issue has not become a focal point of political studies in Russia, even
though the Russian Federation is one of the largest multilingual
states in the world, with all the problems inherent in such a state.
II. The Official Language Problem in a Multiethnic State
In a world with thousands of languages, it is quite natural that only
some of them gain the status of official, working languages. When states
or international organizations determine which languages will be used
in official and public spheres, it is impossible to avoid a clash of
interests of various countries and ethnic groups . This is
often explained by the primordial, symbolic, divisive, uncompromising
character of the nature of linguistic conflicts ; inherent
incompatibilities between linguistic communities  ; the reluctance
of linguistic majorities to concede additional rights to minorities
; the important material and symbolic consequences of language
policies in general;  and the difficulty of predicting these
Unfortunately, there are no blue-prints or formulas that would provide
an optimal solution to this problem.
Most scholars believe that the choice of official languages involves
two conflicting principles, that of efficiency and fairness. And
this leads to the assumption that a more effective and competent
language policy officializes fewer than all languages and is
therefore unfair, while a fair policy officializes everyone’s language
and is therefore inefficient and impractical .
In any event, it seems clear that states are unable to stay neutral on
the issue of linguistic policy as they do in case of church which, in
most cases, is separated from the state. All states and governments use
languages and, therefore, are forced to choose among various options.
Unfortunately, a large number of criteria, outlined by various scholars
, to facilitate the task of selecting a state language seem to
achieve quite an opposite effect and further complicate the
problem. For instance, mutually exclusive normative principles are
often acknowledged to define an official language:
_ authenticity (indigenous languages have priority)
and modernization (favoring languages with developed lexicons and
_ uniformity (favoring only one language) and
diversity (favoring multiple languages);
_ distinctiveness (priority is given to languages
that are unique to a particular society) and universality (favoring
languages that are more widespread than others);
_ stability ( favoring existing language rights and
status) and radicality (language policy is targeted at oppressed
_ definitiveness (avoiding linguistic options) and
_ populism (favoring mass over elite languages) and
prestige (preference is given to already-high-status languages).
A few scholars have suggested that in a linguistic policy efficiency
and fairness can be reconciled. Although intriguing, these views demand
further elaboration and analysis. For example, most scholars have
discussed the principles of voluntarism  compensation
, and democratization . Furthermore, an effort
has been made to mathematically model the problem of choosing an
efficient and fair language policy for a pluri-lingual polity. This
policy designates official languages and taxes the language groups to
pay for translation among the official languages . Sometimes
among the proposed solutions are even linguicidal measures - the
obliteration of all indigenous languages except a single official
However, the majority of scholars believe that the official language
policy pre-supposes the incompatibility of efficiency and fairness.
III. Individual and Group Language Rights
The denial of linguistic rights by a state, as part of a broader policy
rejecting the essential elements of national-cultural autonomy, can
lead, as evidenced by the current developments in the former
Soviet Union and many other countries worldwide, to acrimonious
political conflicts and violent cataclysms. For example, in Yugoslavia
or Nagorno-Karabakh, one significant element that facilitated the
escalation of wars was the refusal of the central authorities in
Belgrade and Baku to accept the cultural-linguistic demands of the
Kosovo Albanian  and Armenian  minorities.
This section represents an effort to create conceptual clarity with
respect to the theory of “linguistic rights of peoples” and
define more coherently the topic which has been so far
underemphasized in international law. The need for clarification is
urgent in view of the obvious importance of a language factor for
ensuring a greater observance of human rights and for facilitating
social justice. Certainly, the observance of these rights varies, as
each state proceeds from its own assumptions regarding the importance of
linguistic and cultural diversity for its factual or perceived
well-being. However, the example of the so-called “developed
democracies” like the USA, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand
to name but a few, will suggest that currently the common
denominator of their linguistic policies is the recognition of the right
of peoples to self-determination.
Western scholars made some attempts to elaborate the concept of
linguistic human rights , but while being extremely important
for individuals, this concept often fails to consider the specific
problems facing ethnic groups. Observance of individual linguistic
rights refers to, primarily, the right of every individual to
freely use his/her native language, regardless of its status
(state/non-state, official/non-official) and demographic characteristics
of its carriers (majority/minority). It should be stressed that all
people, without exception, have the right to study and receive at least
primary education in their native language.
But the multilingual reality of the Russian Federation, comprising more
than a hundred indigenous peoples and ethnic groups, calls for a
different concept, which could consider the unique historical conditions
of state-building there. On the eve of the millennium, Russia as well
as other multiethnic societies should be prepared to address
ethno-linguistic claims of whole groups, not just individuals. Hence,
there is a strong need to understand the basis of these claims in a
context other than the familiar, Western, individualistic version of
human rights. As the political and linguistic developments in the
Russian Federation clearly demonstrate, linguistic rights of many
peoples can be fully observed only within the framework of special
(group or collective) rights, ensuing from the self-determination
Affirmed in the United Nations Charter  and other major
international legal documents , self-determination is widely
acknowledged to be a principle of customary international law and even
jus cogens, a peremptory norm . However, considerations
of state sovereignty and territorial integrity may limit the character
and scope of self-determination thus laying the groundwork for the
development of principles that are often fundamentally
incompatible. Therefore, "the self-determination principle has
been interpreted differently at different times and has been
inconsistently applied as a result."  Ideally,
self-determination and sovereignty principles should work in a tandem to
promote a just and humane world.
Linguistic rights constitute the basic right of an individual
. But these rights are even more crucial for individuals
belonging to non-dominant ethnic groups, since for them, language is an
equally or even more important attribute of identity than religion and
history, serving as a source of unity and self-identification
. Unlike the minorities, the dominant ethnolinguistic groups
usually enjoy all necessary linguistic rights. Some estimates show that
out of 6 to 7 thousand languages of the world, only several hundred
possess any kind of official status , suggesting that
only the speakers of these languages fully enjoy their linguistic
According to the UN Geneva Center on Human Rights it is precisely the
governments that resist any measures for setting the standards for the
observance of the minorities’ rights or the development of measures for
the protection of their interests . Because states are the
only actors within the structure of international organizations, many
ethnic groups such as the Kurds, Berbers, Tamils or the northern peoples
of Russia, do not have access to the international legal system of
protection of human rights. Therefore, decisions on the issues that are
vital for the survival of these groups are made exclusively by the
governments of the countries in which they live. Regrettably, the system
of international law lacks the procedure for processing the
overwhelming majority of complaints by the collectives and groups of
people, thereby limiting this right to separate individuals .
In other words the majority of international organizations do not accept
any collective complaints or the complaints made on behalf of ethnic
groups, which, in my opinion, is a most serious shortcoming of the
modern international legal system.
When designing and enforcing the legislation aimed at the
protection of the rights of individuals and peoples to use their native
languages, state institutions should proceed from the fact that
language is an essential tool for the transfer of the previous
generations’ cultural inheritance. By guaranteeing this transfer, the
state builds up the confidence of ethnic groups with regards to the
preservation of their identity, linguistic and cultural
distinctiveness, thereby promoting the establishment of a common
civic citizenship irrespective of ethnicity . However,
in reality, many ethno-linguistic majorities are often very reluctant to
grant “their” minorities full rights. This is precisely what
happened to Kurds in Turkey, Tadjiks in the Samarkand area (Uzbekistan),
Lezgins and Talysh in Azerbaijan, Russians in Ukraine or Latvia,
Hungarians in Vojvodina or Albanians in Kosovo (Serbia)  and
so on. Thus, many states lean towards conducting a direct or concealed
policy of assimilation of indigenous peoples and minorities .
On the other hand there are examples of responsible and
realistically-minded governments, appropriately reacting to the
legitimate demands of their ethnic minorities by adopting the programs
aimed at the preservation and development of indigenous languages. For
instance, even during the extremely destructive war in the 1980s, the
Sandinista government of Nicaragua managed to adopt a special
government program aimed at developing the language of the Indians of
the Rama tribe, which found a reflection in the constitution of the
Another reason explaining the unwillingness of the states to grant
linguistic rights to their minorities is that monolinguism is mistakenly
considered to be a normal, even ideal linguistic condition of
society, which all multinational formations should strive for.
Some scholars even suggest that monolinguism promotes economic
development and social progress . However, in reality the
majority of countries in the world are of multiethnic composition.
According to Ted Gurr, 600 linguistic and 5000 ethnic groups can be
found in 184 independent states .
Multilingualism continues to be the dominant characteristic of modern
states, in which the majority of populations comes in close
contact with speakers of other languages throughout their lifetime.
Therefore it is practically impossible to implement the “one state, one
IV. Are Ethnolinguistic and Civic Loyalties
Conventional wisdom maintains that ethnolinguistic and civic identities
comprise conflicting and mutually exclusive loyalties in multiethnic
societies. For over a century, liberals and socialists assumed
that cultural identities were transitory, characteristic of a certain
period of historical development and would lose their prominence with
the onset of modernization or socialism. Even the Bolshevik leaders, who
institutionalized cultural differences and ethnicity in the 1920s by
creating national republics, did so with a sincere belief that under
conditions of a fully developed socialist society cultural-linguistic
differences would be irrelevant.
The high degree of citizens’ loyalty to the state combined with a low
degree of loyalty to their ethnic group is considered to be an important
prerequisite for the construction of a successful nation-state. What
are the methods for achieving this allegedly ideal combination of
identities? The most commonly prescribed solution is minimizing or even
completely eradicating ethnic self-identification. This leads to a
logical conclusion that loyalty to the state must on all occasions
prevail over ethnic and linguistic loyalty. This approach has an
extremely confrontational (maximalist and even purely Bolshevik)
coloration which fails to conceptually envisage “peaceful
coexistence” between ethnicity and statehood.
Presumably, when civic notions such as equality and fraternity comprise
the core values of common state identity, then its high levels are
conceivable for dominant and minority ethnic groups in multiethnic
states. Furthermore, precisely because these core contents of state
identity are not particularistic, such identity allegedly assumes an
inclusive rather than exclusive quality that permits simultaneously high
levels of ethnic and state (national) identification to prevail.
However, an unconditional implementation of this concept would
discriminate against the indigenous peoples and minorities, since the
“equal rights for all” principle would, in fact, put them into an
unequal position vis-à-vis other strata of population. As Francois Grin
“Treating on an equal footing languages in unequal positions is
tantamount to giving the stronger language an edge to increase its
influence and spread” .
In this context, “special rights” are not a privilege but an essential
tool for guaranteeing equal development of the indigenous peoples
and ethnic minorities . In all other cases, despite their
superficial attractiveness, ethnically neutral values such as equality,
brotherhood, civil society, individual human rights, and so forth are
likely to be viewed as egoistic values serving exclusively the dominant
ethnos’s interests. Moreover, the so-called “civic” state
has in fact a strong cultural component and, remarkably, liberal theory
has no justification for the use of the politically dominant culture as
the culture of public life. It is simply taken as a given
. For instance, why should the Quebecois be so edgy
about their membership in a democratic and civic Canadian society? A
strong argument can be made that the Francophones’ demands for a
unilingual Quebec are largely due to many years of repressive anglophone
policies which ultimately put French under the threat of being
“pushed out” from the North-American continent. A graphic example here
is Switzerland, where the Swiss have a strong sense of common loyalty,
despite their cultural and linguistic divisions. In Switzerland
national groups feel allegiance to the larger state only because the
larger state recognizes and respects their distinct national existence
When national groups are deprived of the right for cultural-linguistic
distinctiveness, the issues of ethnicity and language often become
politicized. The most extreme expressions of this are political
separatism, or the search for an alternative political loyalty at the
state level (usually it would be a state with similar cultural-religious
values). As Valerii Tishkov notes:
"The enforcement of ethnically selective citizenship and official
language laws in societies with sizeable and culturally distinct
communities has caused massive discontent and inter-ethnic tensions in
Estonia, Latvia, Moldavia, Georgia, Ukraine, and in Central Asia.
Former ‘double’ minorities, now simply minorities, are calling for
their own national states. Or they have started irredentist movements,
preferring to leave political systems where they have neither proper
voice nor representation. The Armenian enclave in Nagorno-Karabakh has
fought to be reunited with its ‘historical motherland’ of Armenia.
Abkhazian leaders responded to Georgian hegemony with a ferocious
struggle for secession that resulted in the expulsion of ethnic
Georgians from Abkhazia. In Moldavia, the Russian-Ukrainian
minority has proclaimed their own state in the Trans-Dniestrian region,
while the Gagauz minority demanded greater territorial autonomy.
And whereas the Russian majority in Crimea wants to be a part of Russia
and not Ukraine, the Crimean Tatar minority dreams of making Crimea
their own national state. The list of mutual dissatisfactions
goes on and on, with many more potential candidates for future
However, as minorities receive more opportunities for cultural and
linguistic expression, their destabilizing political activity decreases
considerably. The problem is not that each ethnic group would be unique
and distinct. Real problems appear when this distinctiveness is
suppressed, which exacerbates ethnic groups’ fear of losing their
cultural and linguistic identity. Precisely this fear is the major
cause for the politicization of ethnicity. For instance, while
the dissolution of Yugoslavia may be explained by a host of factors,
the escalation of military operations between 1990 and 1992 was in no
small measure triggered by Belgrade’s stubborn unwillingness to meet
the cultural and linguistic demands of the Slovenians and Kosovo
Albanians . The ongoing tragedy in Kosovo is the direct
result of the liquidation of the Albanian autonomy by President
The Belgrade-Kosovo crisis, the Armenian-Azeri confrontation, and the
Georgian-Abkhaz armed conflict seem to suggest what exactly
Alfredsson Gudmundur warns about:
“... internal suppression of minority issues does not work;
assimilation has been attempted and it inevitably fails. Minorities do
not simply disappear; they may appear dormant for a while, but history
tells us that they stay on the map. Nationalism and the drive to
preserve identities are strong forces and they apply in equal measure to
nation-states and to minorities. ...experience teaches us that the
recognition of and respect for special minority rights are viable
alternatives to oppression and neglect” .
Indeed, states are beginning to understand the need to address
minorities grievances especially when they realize that granting
them cultural and linguistic rights poses no real threat to national
security. Yet other states come to this realization only when they
discover the signs of secessionism.
Furthermore, the states that “have problems” with their minorities are
not eager to criticize the actions of other states that infringe upon
the rights of their respective minority groups. For instance, in
the light of the Chechen war, it would be naive to believe that Russia
would ever want to side with NATO against Serbia in order to force the
end of Belgrade’s military operations against the Kosovars. Although
civilizational solidarity has certainly contributed to Russia’s
support of the Serbs who have similar ethnic origins, religion,
language and culture, one may suggest that Russia’s own nationality
problems and political expediency that largely account for its edginess
over NATO operations. Chechnya for Russia or Tibet for China are
essentially the same as Kosovo is for Yugoslavia. In another revealing
example, the Christian Orthodox Georgia forms a much
stronger political alliance with Muslim Azerbaijan than with
Armenia, which is much closer to Georgia in terms of its culture and
religion. This phenomenon may be easily explained by the fact that both
Georgia with its unresolved “Abkhaz Question” and Azerbaijan with
the problem of Nagorny Karabakh are confronted with the challenge of
preserving integrity of their states.
V. Language Rights and the Principle of
The problem of observance of linguistic rights is inevitably connected
with the question of the collective political status of each
ethno-linguistic group, such as indigenous, autonomous, minority, and
majority groups that either inhabited a particular territory for an
extended period of time or have im/migrated recently. Due to the fact
that protection of universal human values is the main goal of
international legal instruments, both dominant ethnic groups and
minorities enjoy the right to cultural and linguistic identity.
However, unlike the rights of ethnic groups, the rights of
peoples are defined by the basic principle of international law, namely
the principle of self-determination, which grants them an
opportunity to choose their own political, economic, cultural and
linguistic status, usually by establishing a territorial-state
formation. Although the instruments of international law do not
include detailed descriptions of the mechanisms for this procedure, the
principle of self-determination was universally accepted and used during
the de-colonization period. Many states have exhibited a rather
negative reaction towards the possible implementation of this principle,
especially when ethnic minorities sought complete independence
(as the experience of Kurds, Kosovo Albanians, Abkhazians, Chechens,
Tibetans or Palestinians among others, demonstrates). In this respect
an entire set of criteria suggested by Galina Starovoitova for
recognizing a self-determination movement’s ‘moral legitimacy’ deserves
much attention and can further elucidate the conditions for realizing
that principle . At the same time, however, she admits
that these criteria rarely apply in any one situation and thus, as
Richard Solomon puts it, ‘the threshold for a territorial unit’s
accession to international status is set high’ .
Furthermore, the right of peoples to self-determination is closely
connected to the issue of linguistic rights. Currently only a few
peoples (such as Catalans and Basques) are involved in the process of
receiving comprehensive linguistic rights, granted to them within the
framework of territorial autonomy, which is seen as one of the possible
forms the right to self-determination can take. The willingness of
central authorities to share and delegate power to the regions is of
critical importance to the realization of the self-determination
principle, regardless of the autonomy’s name and formal status (such as,
a sovereign republic within a federation, an autonomous district, local
self-government, etc.). For example, such delegation is envisioned by
the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples:
"Indigenous peoples, as a specific form of exercising their right to
self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in
matters relating to their internal and local affairs, including culture,
religion, education, information, media, health, housing, employment,
social welfare, economic activities, land and resources management,
environment and entry by non-members, as well as ways and means for
financing these autonomous functions" .
And indeed, many states increasingly have expressed readiness to
reorder governing institutions of power in response to ethnic
minorities’ demands for more autonomy and fuller rights
. Concrete examples of delegation of authority within the
Russian Federation are the treaties between the Federal government and
the Republics of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan that delimit the
spheres of responsibility and authority of the federal and republican
governments. In similar fashion, the Dutch legislature provides for the
so-called “local self-government” for Greenland, granting it
the authority to conduct independent policies in economic, cultural,
educational, land, construction and other spheres, while leaving the
questions of foreign policy, common defense, and currency regulations
within the sphere of the central (Dutch) government.
When examining the issues connected with the status of the so-called
sovereign republics within the Russian Federation, one should bear in
mind the distinction between the peoples which have realized their right
to self-determination within a given territory, and other groups.
(Using the international-legal language, it is imperative to know which
group is the beneficiary of the self-determination norm).
Clearly, the Tatar republic is the realization of the Tatar people’s
right to self-determination; correspondingly, from the
international legal perspective, Bashkirs are the only people that
realized their right to self-determination in Bashkortostan; likewise
the Chuvash republic would not have come into being if the indigenous
people, Chuvashis, had not realized their right to self-determination.
What are the consequences of the establishment of such republics?
The main difference between the “titular” peoples and other ethnic
groups is that the former have realized their right to
self-determination by creating their own territorial or national state
formation, while the latter live outside their historical territories
(in other words, the territories in which they went through all stages
of ethno-genesis), and thus can enjoy cultural, linguistic and other
rights only within the framework of non-territorial
self-determination, namely cultural autonomy . For
instance, legally it would be difficult to talk about the Udmurt or
Chuvash peoples within Bashkortostan, which instead should be viewed as
Udmurt and Chuvash ethnic groups. If a Tatar, residing in the
Orenburg oblast returns to Tatarstan, then he/she becomes the
beneficiary of the principle of national self-determination, while
in all other cases he/she remains a representative of the Tatar ethnic
group which has linguistic and cultural rights that are equal to
those of the Kazakhs, Bashkirs, Germans, Poles, or any other ethnic
group, living outside their national formations.
Therefore, it would be logical to assume that the notion of a “state
language” is an extra-territorial. For instance, the Tatar
language is a state language for both the Kazan and the Ufa
Tatars. Furthermore, according to the law of the Russian
Federation on national-cultural autonomy, exercising one’s cultural and
linguistic rights should not be limited by administrative borders. Since
the right of peoples to self-determination is an exclusive prerogative
of a group or collective, its realization in legal terms is
relevant for all individuals that identify themselves as members of
this group or collective. For instance, from the
international legal perspective, all of Russia’s Tatars have realized
their right to self-determination regardless of the place of their
residency after the Tatar republic was established. This is clearly the
case, because the right to self-determination belongs to the people in
general and not to separate diasporas that live in various
oblasts, republics, etc. For instance, it would be rather absurd
to talk about the right to self-determination for the Nizni-Novgorod or
Astrakhan oblast Tatars since the Republic of Tatarstan already exists.
Similarly, the Ufa Tatars while being an integral part of the Tatar
people, have also realized their right to self-determination and as a
result, have been granted the right to a state language.
From the legal point of view it would be preferable if there were
two state languages on the territories of national republics within the
Russian Federation with Russian serving as a federal language and,
the language of the titular (indigenous) group serving to fulfill its
right to self -determination. As for languages of other ethnic groups,
they should receive their rights within the framework of a
national-cultural autonomy. For instance, the state authorities
should facilitate the learning of the mother tongue by children, and
most importantly grant an opportunity to use this language for studying
in pre-school institutions as well as schools.
Bashkortostan’s statehood would be only strengthened if the Tatar,
Chuvash or Marii populations of Bashkortostan received tangible
opportunities for the preservation and development of their languages
and cultures. On the other hand, not only the state but also its
citizens should be expected to fulfill their own obligations. Many
articles of international legal instruments dealing with the issues of
linguistic rights include the following reservations: “... the
protection and encouragement of regional or minority languages should
not be to the detriment of the official languages and the need to learn
them” . In other words, the citizens should be required
to study the state (official) language of the country or republic in
which they live regardless of their ethnic background. For its part, the
state should create all necessary conditions, including the training of
the qualified teaching personnel, creation of effective study
curriculums, material rewards for the knowledge of languages, etc.,
that would stimulate the citizen’s desire to learn titular
VI. Language Rights in International Law
Many international forums have taken steps to adopt various
declarations, conventions and charters devoted to the affirmation of the
language rights of national minorities. In principle it is the
minorities who need the language rights more than dominant ethnic
groups. In this section I will discuss major international legal
documents pertaining to the language issues.
The international community has finally accepted the fact that simply
mentioning "ethnic, religious and linguistic" minorities in
international documents did not provide them with sufficient guarantees
for the preservation of native languages and more and more documents
adopted in recent times include specific provisions aimed at securing
linguistic rights of minorities. The more general human rights
instruments usually mention language only in passing. Language rights
are more specifically elaborated in instruments which are restricted to
certain topics or apply to numerically small groups only, such as
documents relating to education, or to indigenous peoples. A variety of
international legal documents referring to language issues demonstrate
this. For instance:
a. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights (adopted in 1966, and in force since 1976) declares that:
Parties to the present Covenant undertake to guarantee that the rights
enunciated in the present Covenant will be exercised without
discrimination of any kind as to race, color, sex, language,
religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin,
property, birth or other status." 
But in article 13 the Covenant refers only to "racial, ethnic or
religious groups"  which obviously diminishes the
importance of this document from the perspective of solidifying
linguistic human rights.
b. In 1966 the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights was adopted, which has been in force since 1976. Its
article 27, as UN reports confirm,  has become one of
the most important international articles for the protection of
linguistic minorities. The article states:
“In those states in which ethnic, religious or linguistic
minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be
denied the right, in community with other members of their group, to
enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or
to use their own language” .
Furthermore, some UN Conventions and a number of Council of Europe and
CSCE documents include similarly phrased articles.
c. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,
adopted in 1989 states that
“... due regard shall be paid to desirability of continuity in a
child’s upbringing and to the child’s ethnic, religious, cultural and
linguistic background” .
Even more important is the article that encourages the mass media
“... to have particular regard to the
linguistic needs of the child who belongs to a minority group or who is
Article 30 repeats essentially the wording of article 27 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the phrase
“persons of indigenous origin” having been added. Compare:
“In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities or
persons of indigenous origin exist, a child belonging to such a minority
or who is indigenous shall not be denied the right, in community with
other members of his or her group, to enjoy his or her own culture, to
profess and practice his or her own religion, or to use his or her own
However, this article implicitly restricts use of a child’s minority
language to the private sphere which makes its impact on linguistic
human rights no stronger than the provisions of the previous (covertly
assimilation-oriented) documents. In 1992 the Preamble of the European
Charter for Regional or Minority Languages has extended minority
linguistic rights wherein a special reference has also been made to
article 27. It was clarified that
“the right to use a regional or minority language in private and
public life is an inalienable right conforming to the principles
embodied in the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights ...” (my emphasis) .
Thus one may suggest that the theme of “language rights of individuals
and peoples” is becoming more prevalent in international law.
As a result, important and reasonable standards for states to meet have
appeared which are a product of compromise of different approaches
towards linguistic rights. Accordingly, there is hope that
these standards will heighten awareness among governments of the
importance of linguistic rights, prompting them to apply these
standards in policy- and law-making. At the same time one should
note that many of these international conventions, covenants and
declarations as a rule limit themselves to simply prohibiting linguistic
discrimination and as such are not sufficient to guarantee the
preservation and development of minorities’ native languages. In
practice, however, these groups need special rights that imply state
support for national schools where classes are taught in the students’
native languages. Unfortunately, international legislation guarantees
this right neither for individuals, nor the minority groups (regardless
of whether the former represents minority or titular groups).
Accordingly, the majority of existing documents requires additions and
thorough revisions that would necessitate participation of a much wider
circle of specialists, representatives of minorities and the indigenous
peoples (for instance citizens of Russia’s national republics could
contribute to the writing of these laws). There is a need for much more
detailed interpretation of various articles, including more concrete
procedures for their implementation. Most importantly, an
effective mechanism for international control over the fulfillment of
the law by the states needs to be put into place.
Despite the imperfections of international law it would be a mistake to
underestimate the efforts of the UN, UNESCO, the European Union, and the
Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that
have been quite active in protecting linguistic rights of indigenous
peoples and minorities. For instance, in 1982 the European Parliament
established the so-called “European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages”,
the main task of which was to develop measures for supporting languages
and cultures of indigenous groups in the members-states of the European
Union. According to some estimates, out of a total of 320 million people
that live in EU member-states, about 50 million belong to the
indigenous groups of population. The European Parliament adopted two
important resolutions on language issues, the so-called “Arfe” and
“Kuijpers” resolutions. The Arfe resolution adopted in October of
1981 included a call for national and local governments to promote the
usage of the minorities’ languages in several major spheres of
communication including education, mass communication, and social life.
Both resolutions played an important role in preparing the necessary
political and ideological conditions for the adoption by the European
Parliament of a European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages that
was finally approved by the Committee of Ministers on June 22,
1992. This is the only international document, devoted exclusively
to the language thematic. In particular, it is designed to regulate the
procedures for the usage of minorities and regional languages in
education, Mass Media, economic, cultural and social life. For
instance, the preamble of the Charter reaffirms that:
“... the right to use a regional or minority language in private and
public life is an inalienable right” .
The document also emphasizes “the value of interculturalism and
multilingualism”, while at the same time pointing out that
“the protection and encouragement of regional or minority languages
should not be to the detriment of the official languages and the need to
learn them” .
Protection and promotion of regional and minority languages in various
countries and regions of Europe are seen as
“... an important contribution to the building of Europe based on the
principles of democracy, and cultural diversity within the
framework of national sovereignty and territorial integrity” .
Each state that ratifies the European Charter has the right to specify
the regional and minority languages to which it wishes to apply the
paragraphs chosen in that document. Significantly, a participating state
is to apply a minimum of thirty-five paragraphs or sub-paragraphs from
among the provisions of the Charter . It should be especially
noted that the Charter defines regional and minority languages as
“traditionally used within a given territory of a State by nationals of
that State who form a group numerically smaller than the rest of the
State’s population ...” and do not include “... either dialects of
the official language(s) of the State or the languages of migrants”
Of special importance is the following provision of the Charter:
“The adoption of special measures in favor of regional or minority
languages aimed at promoting equality between the users of these
languages and the rest of the population or which take due account of
their specific conditions is not considered to be an act of
discrimination against the users of more widely-used languages”(my
One of the Charter’s most serious drawbacks is that it has too many
general, imprecise and even somewhat evasive statements pertaining to
the language issues. For instance:
“... the Parties undertake, if the number of users of a regional or
minority language justifies it, to allow, encourage or provide teaching
in or of the regional or minority language at all the appropriate stages
of education” (my emphasis) ; “... to allow documents and
evidence to be produced in the regional or minority languages, if
necessary by the use of interpreters and translations” (my emphasis);
 “within the administrative districts of the State ... the
Parties undertake, as far as this is reasonably possible ... to ensure
that the administrative authorities use the regional or minority
languages” (my emphasis);  “... the Parties undertake, within
the whole country ... to eliminate from their legislation any provision
prohibiting or limiting without justifiable reasons the use of regional
or minority languages in documents relating to economic or social life
...” (my emphasis) .
Naturally, the states that, for various reasons, do not wish to fulfill
their obligations may find many legal excuses for their action (or
inaction), citing the above-mentioned loopholes, or so-called escape
clauses. For example, reluctant states can easily claim that the
number of users of a regional or minority language did not justify
teaching in the minority language or that there were justifiable reasons
not to eliminate from their legislation provisions prohibiting the use
of minority languages in documents relating to social life, and so on.
In June of 1990 the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe
(CSCE) adopted the so-called “Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the
Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE” which unambiguously
“persons belonging to national minorities have the right freely to
express, preserve and develop their ethnic, cultural, linguistic or
religious identity and to maintain and develop their culture in all
aspects, free of any attempts at assimilation against their will” .
Basically, the Copenhagen Document goes further than any other
international instrument in specifying minority rights. For instance,
the Document even noted that one of the possible means to create
conditions for the promotion of the ethnic, cultural, linguistic and
religious identity of certain national minorities is by establishing
“... appropriate local or autonomous administrations
corresponding to the specific historical and territorial circumstances
of such minorities” .
If this document becomes legally binding and if an effective mechanism
of control over its implementation is found, there will be a good reason
to believe that together with the European Charter for Regional and
Minority Languages the Copenhagen Document will become one of the most
important legal instruments, regulating the relationships between
national (ethnic and linguistic) groups and the state.
In December of 1992 the UN General Assembly adopted a Declaration on
the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and
Linguistic Minorities inspired, as it was noted in the preamble, by the
provisions of article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights  . Unlike some other documents, the
Declaration questioned a widespread belief of some governments that
existence of minorities poses a potential threat for security and
territorial integrity of states. The preamble of the Declaration
contains an extremely valuable statement that
“the promotion and protection of the rights of persons belonging to
national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities contribute to
the political and social stability of States in which they live”.
This provision contests the popular belief that the existence of
minorities is divisive for nation-states. The Declaration is written in
the imperative tone and therefore contains fewer “escape clauses” . For
example the document declares that
“states shall protect the existence and the national or ethnic,
cultural, religious and linguistic identity of minorities within their
respective territories, and shall encourage conditions for the promotion
of that identity” (my emphasis) .
The Declaration also proclaims that
“the states shall take measures to create favorable conditions to
enable persons belonging to minorities to express their characteristics
and to develop their culture, language, religion, traditions and
customs... ” and “shall adopt appropriate legislative
and other measures to achieve those ends” (my emphasis) .
Article 2.1 of the Declaration repeats the basic thesis of article 27
of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights even
going somewhat further by replacing “shall not be denied” by a more
affirmative “have the right”, thereby more actively promoting enjoyment
of linguistic rights:
“Persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic
minorities ... have the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and
practice their own religion, and to use their own language, in private
and in public, freely and without interference or any form of
However, the articles of the Declaration that touch upon teaching and
learning of minority languages contain many loopholes, having been
phrased more like soft recommendations than binding obligations—in many
ways similar to those found in the European Charter for Regional and
Minority Languages. And this would easily allow any reluctant state to
minimize the impact of the law. For instance it is declared that
“States should take appropriate measures so that, wherever possible,
persons belonging to minorities have adequate opportunities to learn
their mother tongue or to have instruction in their mother tongue” .
Understandably, the above wording raises serious questions as to what
is the practical meaning of such phrases as “appropriate measures” or
“adequate opportunities”? And most importantly perhaps, who will be
charged with the task of determining the limits of the possible and
impossible? Unfortunately, the majority of international instruments
share a common drawback, which is the excessive number of declaratory
and general statements. It is not clear whether the states choose
to abide with the articles of these laws.
Generally speaking, the international community is beginning to realize
the necessity to protect linguistic rights, especially of the native
peoples and national (regional) minorities. For example, as part of his
mandate for conflict prevention the OSCE High Commissioner on National
Minorities undertook a comprehensive study on the enjoyment of
linguistic rights in all OSCE states, the results for which were
reported in March of 1999 . Moreover, the question of
formulating a Universal Declaration of Linguistic Human Rights and the
eventual adoption of a legally-binding charter or covenant was put on
the agenda. For instance, in October of 1987 an International Seminar on
Human Rights and Cultural Rights, sponsored by UNESCO took place in the
Brazilian city of Recife, which adopted the so-called Recife
declaration. This document formulated the main task of the international
community for many years to come:
“Hence, conscious of the need to provide explicit legal guarantees for
linguistic rights to individuals and groups by the appropriate bodies of
the member states of the United Nations, [the seminar]recommends that
steps be taken by the United Nations to adopt and implement a universal
declaration of linguistic rights which would require a reformulation of
national, regional, and international language policies” .
VII. Strains of the Post-Soviet Modernization in
The collapse of the USSR marked a new stage in the development of the
Russian Federation, during which both the center and the regions are
searching for answers to the most topical questions which would shape
the future of Russia as a single multinational state. The main question
is on what foundations the renewed statehood will be built and whether
new forms and principles of co-existence between numerous
ethno-linguistic groups can be developed. Many republics within the
Russian Federation have abandoned their quasi-autonomous status by
adopting declarations of sovereignty and new constitutions, and
redefining themselves as sovereign nation-states. These actions were
caused by a natural desire to overcome the unitarist, imperial legacy of
the Soviet period.
Consequently, during the past decade the elites and populations of
Russia’s ethnic republics shifted from mildly politicized ethnic
consciousness to various forms of nationalism and separatism. Although
this phenomenon does not necessarily mean that each republic will demand
complete independence from the center, the fact that some of them
signed power-sharing treaties with the federal government indicates
their desire to achieve some degree of sovereignty within the
federation. Such treaties make it possible to take into account regional
differences in geography, natural resource endowments, economic
factors, ethnicity, language and ecological concerns. In the absence of
clear legislation on the power of the regional governments, treaties
provide some guidance. Tatarstan’s treaty was the first of its
kind and has since stimulated the signing of 46 power-sharing
agreements, the last treaty being signed by the city of Moscow on 16
Russia’s experience seems to suggest that power-sharing agreements
turned out to be an essential component of the consolidation of Russian
Federalism laying the foundation of a truly federative state and
becoming, in effect, the supplements to the Russian Constitution. It
would hardly be an exaggeration to suggest that prior to 1994 there was
a real danger that contradictions between the center and the republics
would undermine the Russian society, leading Russia to disintegration
along the Soviet pattern .
In this context the contributions of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan were
vital for Russia’s survival as a federation. The republics’ motivation
for signing separate arrangements with the center is easy to explain: by
demanding additional rights, ethnically unique republics and
economically strong regions seek to either resist the centralization
tendency or avert the consequences of frequently crude reform policies
devised without proper consideration of their special historical,
geographical, cultural and linguistic conditions.
Therefore, any attempts to homogenize all subjects of the federation by
arbitrarily disregarding their individual differences or special
circumstances, are unwise and even dangerous. Notably, even in such an
extremely centralized and unitary state, as the Imperial Russia, some
ethnic territories, such as Finland, Poland, Khiva or Bukhara, were
allowed, although only by permission from above, to exercise
additional powers due to their ethnic and cultural peculiarity .
Hence, the most important issue today is whether the post-Soviet
political structure of Russia will consider the aspirations of the
culturally, economically, and ethnically divergent national and
territorial units? Will it guarantee free development of languages and
cultures of the various peoples of the Federation? Consequently, the
problem of fair representation of ethnic groups in federal organs of
power and in the media remains a vital issue in Russia's
For example, even if the ethnic composition of the Parliament
accurately reflected the country's population, which consists
predominantly (82%) of ethnic Russians, representatives of other
ethnic groups would be in a clear minority and hence unable to influence
the decision making process.
Moreover, the non-Russians, whose numbers are relatively small,
cannot influence a single policy in the State Duma or the Federation
Council. Even if all (non-Russian) titular ethnic groups voted together,
they would collect only 25 percent of the vote. Consequently, these
ethnic minorities are deprived of the opportunity to make decisions on
the issues that affect their well-being.
Thus, the "one person, one vote" electoral system, often considered to
be the most democratic, does not ensure the representation of ethnic
minorities in the legislature. Although in theory simple majority rule
may be a fair form of political representation, in reality this
principle has limitations in multiethnic societies.
One possible way for Russia is to embrace consociational democracy, the
system of government which was advocated by Arend Lijphart for
multiethnic states . It guarantees the minority group
participation in the government, and even grants minorities veto powers
on matters of cultural autonomy as well as other issues which are of
direct concern to them.
Another viable alternative for Russia is the integrative approach
described by Timothy Sisk  and Donald Horowitz . The
integrative system requires not simply the majority of votes, but the
majority of votes in the majority of territories for the election of
the president. In Russia, such a system would give greater weight to
the republics. Moreover, it is important to represent the non-Russian
ethnic groups in the executive branch of the federal government, and
provide the programming in the languages of ethnic minorities on
television and radio.
The inadequate representation of minorities in the branches of
government is partially due to the lack of knowledge and interest in the
issues of inter-ethnic relations among the majority of parliamentarians
and state officials. Furthermore, the collapse of the USSR, the
sovereignty drive in many ethnic republics within Russia and the war in
Chechnya contributed to the growing resentment on the part of many
Russians towards granting additional rights to minorities.
Given the current mood and composition of the State Duma, it is
unrealistic to expect that the Russian parliament might support the idea
of consociational or integrative democracy. Suffice it to say that when
the law on "small indigenous peoples" was finally approved by the Duma
in June of 1996 after a five-year delay, it was rejected by the
Federation Council. Yet, to consolidate inter-ethnic peace and stability
in Russia, the Kremlin has no other option but to face the challenge of
formulating the "standard rules of the game" that will be accepted by
the ethnic republics.
It is necessary to acknowledge that federalism can be the key to
preventing conflicts arising on the grounds of national and regional
separatism and that strategically it is the only political arrangement
which can accommodate Russia’s ethno-linguistic diversity.
Moreover, it is absolutely clear that in today’s Russia it is
impossible to separate democracy from federalism since the federative
structure serves as a major counterbalance to building a unitary polity
and a guarantee of the preservation and development of democratic
institutions in both the center and periphery. Hence, sustaining and
developing federal relations is a major component of the reform process
Quite often I am asked: Why were Bashkortostan and Tatarstan more vocal
than the other 19 autonomous republics in the process of re-defining the
relationship between the center and the periphery? One possible
explanation is that these republics’ relative economic prosperity and
unique geographic location enabled them to serve as major links between
Europe and Asia. For instance, in terms of industrial potential
Bashkortostan alone was equal to the three Baltic states (Latvia,
Lithuania and Estonia) put together.
Secondly, Bashkortostan and Tatarstan were historically more
independent from the center than other ethnic republics. Bashkortostan
has a long history of statehood, including the treaty-based relations
with Russia starting from the 16th century. After the seizure of power
by the Bolsheviks, Bashkortostan became the only autonomy which was
founded on the basis of a bilateral power-sharing treaty with Lenin’s
government. The rest of the republics were formed by a unilateral decree
from the Kremlin. The chairs of the Supreme Soviet of Bashkortostan and
Tatarstan were always included into the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
of the USSR along with the leaders of the Union republics. Thus
Bashkortostan and Tatarstan were the only autonomous republics to be
represented in the USSR’s Supreme Soviet on par with all the union
republics, including Russia.
Thus, it was natural that Gorbachev’s glasnost facilitated the debates
on the division of power between the center and the republics and
various national movements were established among the population. In
fact both Bashkortostan and Tatarstan never concealed their desire to
gain the Union republic status. For instance, during the elaboration of
the new union treaty in the late 1980s when Mikhail Gorbachev made a
desperate attempt to save the crumbling Soviet state, Bashkortostan and
Tatarstan bargained hard to raise their legal status. The leaders of
these republics were determined to sign the Union treaty independently,
which would have enabled Bashkortostan and Tatarstan to gain the Union
republic status. These aspirations were never realized due to the August
1991 coup attempt and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union.
The drive for increased political and economic authority and demands
for the establishment of a truly federative state were not accompanied
by separatism and extreme nationalism in both republics. This is
illustrated by the fact that many representatives of the non-titular
ethnic groups supported the movement for republican sovereignty.
According to American scholars Allen Frank, and Ronald Wixman:
"Universally the feeling among the peoples of this region was
that Moscow and the Soviets benefited, but Bashkortostan and Tatarstan
lived in poverty. ... This played a major role in the post-1991 events
as local Russian workers strongly supported their republics’ autonomy
movements. ... Over issues of sovereignty, political autonomy and
economic autonomy Tatars and Russians in Tatarstan, and Bashkirs, Tatars
and Russians in Bashkortostan could stand together" .
As someone who was actively involved in the process , I have
every reason to say that none of Russia’s ethnic republics (with
Chechnya as the only exception) ever asserted full independence in any
official decision (document). While demanding more rights for
independent development, the ethnic republics were not willing to
compromise the integrity of the Russian Federation.
While secession was not an issue in Bashkortostan or any other
autonomous republic (with the exception of Chechnya), the question of
establishing the system of asymmetrical federalism on the basis of
treaties and ultimately rewriting the Russian constitution was at the
center of the debate.
The dissatisfaction with the current Russian constitution is
illustrated by the fact that it was not approved by the majority of
residents in Bashkortostan, Tatarstan and thirty other subjects of
Russia during a nation-wide referendum. This was due to the federal
government’s failure to consider the special interests of many subjects
of the federation. Their suggestions were completely ignored too. Under
these circumstances it is difficult to seriously speak about any kind of
consociational or integrative democracy.
It is clear that the current Russian constitution serves a decorative
purpose rather than providing a well-balanced foundation for a
representative political system in Russia. In practice the Russian
constitution disregards the reality of Russia’s ethnic diversity and
unique federative arrangement. Even in the former Soviet Union, where
everything was centralized and ethnic republics lived under a
totalitarian regime, there was a parliament with a special chamber
representing national groups. Until recently the Supreme Soviet of the
Russian Federation also included a nationalities’ chamber. Today neither
the constitution, nor the representative organs in the Duma, and the
Federation Council guarantee Russia’s nationalities' interests. The
only option under these circumstances is to start the process of
revising the federal constitution in order to bring Russia closer to a
real federative arrangement. The Russian parliament, and the President
should acknowledge the fact that the Russian political structure
operates on the basis of power-sharing treaties which form the core of
Russia’s system of asymmetrical federalism.
Historically, the Soviet autonomies were created first and foremost as
a means of compensating the indigenous peoples for the injustice
of centuries-long colonization and oppression. Only promises of broad
autonomy could lure the nationalities of the former Czarist Empire into
the Bolsheviks’ federation of Soviet peoples. Originally, the major
rational behind Lenin’s decision to build a union of the Soviet
republics was to secure political loyalty in the non-Russian regions.
Whatever the Bolsheviks’ motives were, the grievances of a score of
peoples could be addressed only by the establishment of the
national-territorial entities. But later on, these entities have become
to epitomize not only the national sovereignty of titular groups, but
the popular sovereignty of all other non-titular populations. Under
those historical conditions, this was the only way to ensure a fledgling
Soviet state’s integrity without compromising the peoples’ right to
self-determination, a principle that had been advocated long before by
Lenin himself .
Essentially, five major reasons can be given to substantiate the
ethnic republics’ claim to self-determination. First, as autonomous
entities, these republics, have long been constitutive units within both
the Russian Federation and Soviet Union; secondly, many of these
republics, above all, Bashkortostan and Tatarstan, were forcefully
annexed to the Russian Empire  and in many ways they continue
to be remnants of the Stalin-Brezhnev totalitarian system; thirdly,
Soviet rule in these republics led to massive human and minority rights
violations; fourth, broad autonomy is the only way to
redress these people’s grievances and to ensure their economic,
political, cultural, and linguistic development; fifth, in the
post-Soviet Russia, as is evidenced by many examples of federal
policies, including the war in Chechnya, these ethnic groups can only
survive within the framework of their own statehood; sixth, the
provision of sovereignty for the republics within a larger state is the
ideal form of governance for Russia, since the two conflicting
tendencies, centripetal and centrifugal, are reconciled within a
federation that enables its ethnic groups to pursue their goal of
self-determination while preserving the country’s integrity as
In the wake of the Chechen
tragedy, there was hope that Moscow realized the advantages of granting
a wider degree of autonomy to the republics. One indication of the shift
in Moscow’s nationalities policy came in July of 1996 when a “Concept
of the Nationalities’ Policy of the Russian Federation” was adopted.
Notably, it was acknowledged that “finding an optimal political
arrangement of Russia on the basis of federalism is among the
priority tasks of Russia’s internal politics. The goal of
this project is neither replacing republics with gubernias, nor turning
regions and oblasts into separate republics. The peculiarity of
Russian Federalism is the combination of national and territorial
components of the federation.” Furthermore, this document rightfully
points out that separatist as well as unitarist tendencies within the
society complicate the development of the Russian statehood and create
inter-ethnic tension . Contrary to initial expectations,
there has not been any real follow-up since the adoption of this
document. Instead, there have been many indications that the federal
government was prepared to resume unitarist policies of the recent
For example, at the Conference on “Federalism in Russia” conducted last
December in Washington, DC, Political Project Director of the Council on
Foreign and Defense Policy of the Russian Government Andrey Fedorov
openly spoke about the need to revise all the power-sharing treaties and
replace them with a more unified approach. Moreover, he added
that one of the Council’s main recommendations to the Kremlin was to
decrease the number of the subjects of the Russian Federation .
Prime-Minister Primakov mirrored this approach when speaking at an
all-Russia conference on federal relations on January 26, 1999, he
called for reducing the number of regions in Russia. Moreover, Primakov
favored the idea of appointing governors and heads of regional
administration instead of electing them. If these changes are
implemented, it would be difficult to talk about a successful federation
In fact Russia’s republics perceive these calls as aimed, first and
foremost, at downgrading their present status. Regrettably, many
high-ranking Moscow officials stubbornly cling to an old, authoritarian
belief that republican movements for sovereignty and the very process of
nation-building will ultimately lead to the disintegration of the
Unfortunately, these politicians believe that there exists a
fundamental contradiction between ethnic and state loyalties, and
furthermore, they confuse two major aspects of non-Russian peoples’
statehood: the international and the national.
The international aspect of statehood is embodied in the democratic and
civic essence of a state; in the unity of the multinational people of
Russia, being the single source of political power at the federal level
(at least that is what the federal constitution stipulates); in the full
equality and proportional representation of the citizens of
non-indigenous peoples in the organs of power and administration; in the
priority of the federal legislation on matters delegated to the center;
and in the consolidation of a common state language on the territory of
the entire Federation.
The national aspect of statehood finds its expression in the
construction of the state on the basis of the indigenous peoples’
corresponding historical territories; in the provision of extensive
representation for a given ethnic group in organs of power and
administration; in the particular and distinct application of federal
laws, taking into account national particularities; and finally in the
consolidation of the native language of an ethnic group as the state
(official) language, including conducting all administrative acts within
state organs in that language. Indeed most national republics have
decreed that the language of the titular nation or ethnos was the
official, state language of the republic, mostly along with Russian.
A more complete and correct understanding of the national and
linguistic processes in the modern Russian Federation and the
constituent republics necessitates a discussion of the main stages
of linguistic policy of the Communist party and the Soviet state.
VIII. A Brief History of Soviet Language Policy
The history of Soviet language policy can be roughly subdivided
into four periods: (1) Pluralism or linguistic federalism; (2)
Bilingualism; (3) Monolingualism or linguistic Russification; (4) And,
again, Pluralism. Of course, the four periods overlapped, the
elements of all four policies were often pursued concomitantly, but
nonetheless the predominant feature of each period can be discerned.
During the first period, which lasted from 1917 to the early 1930s, the
Bolshevik party policy was one of so-called,
nativization (korenizatsiia), characterized by official
preoccupation with encouraging the languages of national minorities. At
that time there was no overt pressure for the study of the Russian
language and many schools appeared where instruction was conducted
in non-Russian languages. The situation began to gradually change
in the early thirties, with the study of Russian being made compulsory
in 1938. During the second period, lasting until the late 1950s,
schools offering instruction in the languages of non-Russian nationals
were increasingly restricted to their ethno-territorial entities, while
Russian language schools were promoted throughout the country.
In 1958-1959, under Nikita Khruschev’s rule, active linguistic
Russification was initiated in all Soviet ethnic republics under the
disguise of “a voluntary principle” offered to non-Russian
parents who had to choose between the option of sending their children
to Russian language schools or to schools where instruction was in the
local language. The introduction of that “voluntary principle” was far
from being a free choice, as depicted by the government and marked in
effect a new period of Soviet linguistic policy aimed at making
the dominant tongue the sole language of instruction. The majority of
parents who wanted to assure their children’s upward mobility opted for
Russian-language schools, as Russian was the major language of
instruction, scientific and cultural exchange, the language of a
demographically and therefore politically dominant ethnic group in the
Soviet hierarchy. Analyzed against the broader background of the
linguistic situation, the option offered by the language law of
1958-1959 appeared to be a well-calculated measure designed to move
non-Russian bilinguals to Russian monolingualism. The authorities
had every reason to assume that the magnetism of Russian schools would
be strongest for parents who naturally preferred their children to
study the language that was more advantageous in terms of career
prospects than a far less competitive native one. On the other hand, the
number of years of high school education available in one’s native
language varied significantly among nationalities depending on the level
of their ethnic territory’s status in the “federal” hierarchy. As
compared to union republics, where children could complete both primary
and secondary education in their own languages, those living in
autonomous republics (ASSRs) did not have such a possibility, the
number of years of curriculum instruction in their national languages
being restricted to a maximum seven.
For instance, by the early 1960s, all schools where classes were taught
in the Mari, Mordva, Udmurt, Chuvash, and Komi languages had been closed
down in those respective autonomous republics. Even in Tatarstan,
whose population remained the most “loyal” to its native language among
all peoples of the Ural-Volga region, there were only five schools with
instruction in Tatar in the end of the 1980s  and the share
of the students who learned Tatar in the system of public education was
only 12 percent. Thus, even the part of the population that
continued to use Tatar for every-day communication experienced dramatic
decline in the level of knowledge of that language.
The poll conducted among ethnic Tatars studying in colleges and
universities revealed that only one-third of the total number of Tatar
students were fluent in the native tongue, 56 percent used Tatar
exclusively for every-day communication, while 10 percent did not speak
or understand Tatar at all . This suggests that in the
republics that were less “successful” from the point of view of
education in the native language, the number of people who spoke their
native languages was even lower. For example, according to an
ethno-sociological survey conducted in urban areas of Bashkortostan in
1997, only 12.5 percent of Bashkir parents use Bashkir in communication
with their children, while 56.8 percent speak exclusively Russian.
Another poll revealed that the total number of urban Bashkirs having a
knowledge of the native tongue is 31.5 percent .
Notably, official publications like Pechat’ SSSR or Vestnik Statistiki,
which indicated the number of books, newspapers, magazines, etc. printed
in different languages, gave the impression that a host of literature
was available in non-Russian languages of the Soviet Union. However,
the trick was that while the titles appeared in the native languages,
the text, for the most part, was in Russian with only a few articles in
the native tongues. Furthermore, books with titles and title pages in
native languages most frequently had their text solely in Russian.
Thus, although the official statistics listed these publications in the
“native language publication” column, they were written almost
exclusively in Russian .
In 1977, a new Soviet Constitution was adopted that
signified a new emphasis on linguistic Russification. In the realm of
language policy, the new constitution mentioned the possibility of
using the native language in schools (article 36), whereas the previous
constitution of 1936 had declared the right to instruction in the
mother tongue (article 121). The change in wording between the
two constitutions signaled the official move away from encouragement of
national languages toward Russian monolingualism. It was believed that
the national question in the Soviet Union had been solved. But
subsequent developments showed that the Soviet leaders had greatly
underestimated the mobilizing potential of ethnicity. In 1985 the
third and most authoritative period of Soviet language policy was over
and the final, shortest stage began to evolve with Mikhail Gorbachev’s
coming to power.
The policy of democratization advocated by the
reformist Communist party, through glasnost and perestroika favored the
revival of the national identity of all ethnic groups. For that reason,
it was only natural that the late 1980’s saw the formation of many
movements for elevating the status of national territories,
including their respective languages.
For example, the cultural and spiritual revival in Sakha which
intensified in the late 1980s and early 1990s was focused on the
campaign for the rebirth of the Sakha language and culture. While
according to the 1989 census only 5 percent of the Sakha people listed
their primary language as Russian, fear of linguistic Russification led
to the adoption of language laws mandating more Sakha training in the
schools and, more importantly, decreeing a joint "state language" status
for Sakha and Russian. In practice, however, this means encouraging but
not forcing Russians to learn Sakha, especially since only 2 percent of
Russians spoke it in 1989. Efforts to overcome the consequences of
unbalanced bilingualism resulting from the Soviet language policy (most
Sakha knew Russian, but not vice versa) are being made through new
"national" school programs in both rural and urban areas .
In another example, many Tatars felt that without demanding a new, more
independent status for their republic, they would continue to lose a
disproportionate degree of local revenues to the center, thus depriving
themselves of resources for education and social programs. Furthermore,
relative economic prosperity did not compensate for the Tatar
people’s fears of linguistic and social assimilation, resulting in
a 1989 language law that required the Tatar language education for all
citizens of the republic, and provisions in the 1990 Tatar Declaration
of Sovereignty and the 1992 Constitution according to which Tatar
was the state language, along with Russian. The 1989 census revealed
that more than a million Tatars declared Russian, not Tatar,
their native language.
A Tyvan cultural revival movement also centered on the regeneration of
the Tyvan language and folklore. Tyvans passed a mild version of a
language rights law in 1989, opening the way for increased Tyvan
language training in republican schools for both Russians and Tyvans.
However, the law did not make the knowledge of Tyvan an obligatory
requirement. The 1993 Constitution of Tyva grants both Tyvan and Russian
the status of a state language.
Similarly, in 1990 Buryatia officially declared its sovereignty within
Russia and named both Buryat and Russian state languages of the
In contrast to the previous cases, linguistic policies were more
complex in Bashkortostan, since the ruling elites had to take into
account the interests of three major ethnic groups (Bashkirs, Tatars,
Russians). Moreover, because of Bashkortostan’s geographical
position (just 100 km. separate it from Kazakhstan); its past
history of incessant uprisings against the Czarist Empire; its active
involvement in national-liberation movement of the 1920’s; a substantial
truncation of its territory under the Soviet rule; fairly tense
relationship of Bashkirs with numerically predominant Tatars
; the resentment of ethnic Russians over gradually losing
their privileged status in the local government; and finally the
lack of the official status for the native language of Bashkirs in their
own historical homeland, the republic presents a special case of
The autonomous republics within Soviet Russia
preserved their autonomy only in name, which largely reflected the
official directive of the Communist party regarding the creation of the
culture that was national in form but socialist (de-ethnisized) in the
content. In this respect the fate of the Middle Volga region’s peoples
is most exemplary presenting an accurate picture of the extent and scope
of linguistic assimilation in the Soviet Union.
In order to assess properly the current ethno-lingual situation in the
Middle Volga region, it is important to examine their populations and
rates of population growth as well as current levels of native language
Generally, throughout the Soviet rule, most Komi, Komi-Permyak,
Udmurt, Mari, and Mordva parents preferred to send their children to
Russian-language schools as they perceived their own languages as
useless to the future betterment of their children.
Although, among the Chuvash and Tatars, the situation was somewhat
better as their populations are far more compact, forming a distinct
majority in their republics. By the end of 1980s education was available
through the tenth grade only for four peoples in the RSFSR: Bashkirs,
Buryats, Tatars, Yakuts. By the time Gorbachev came to power virtually
no regular native-language education was available to any of the
peoples of the RSFSR .
The data presented in Table 1 (see Appendix) suggests that
between 1959 and 1989 virtually all peoples had a strong tendency to
lose their native language. During this period the number of
people who did not claim the language of their ethnic group as their
mother tongue increased by 11 percent among the Mordva people, and by
18.5 percent among the Komi people. Most of these people named Russian
as their native language. In general, the level of preservation of
the native language was higher in ethnic republics. In 1989 the Tatars
demonstrated the highest level of “linguistic loyalty” with 96,9
percent of all people questioned naming the language of their own ethnic
group as their native tongue. Nevertheless, in general, the number of
the people “loyal” to their ethnic languages decreased in ethnic
republics as well. For instance, between 1979 and 1989 this
number (the number of peoples who did not identify with their
native language) grew by 17.5 percent in Udmurtia, 19.4 percent in
Komi, and 12,6 percent in Chuvashia.
A notable exception from this pattern is Bashkortostan, where the
number of people considering their native language to be their
mother tongue increased by 17 percent during that period. How can
one explain this unique phenomenon? Some scholars tend to believe
that the statistics on the Bashkirs are indicative of the success of
Soviet nationality policy in preventing their Tatarization .
But in reality, this is an incorrect and overly-simplified statement.
The ethno-lingual situation in Bashkortostan is far more complex,
deserving special attention that demands a deeper analysis (see
IX. Political and Ethno-linguistic Processes in Russia
Officially, the principle of bilingualism is included in the
Constitution of the Russian Federation, a document that is designed to
be one of the major pillars of Russia’s democratic system. While Russian
is granted the status of the official state language, the Constitution
guarantees conditions for the preservation and development of the
languages of all peoples of Russia. The right to communicate in the
native language is considered an integral right of the citizens of
Russia and an important attribute of the sovereign status of the
national-state formations on Russia’s territory. Nevertheless,
Russia’s linguistic policy has so far failed to solve many urgent
problems in several republics, including the Republic of Bashkortostan.
Unlike the constitutions of other national republics, the constitution
of Bashkortostan does not have a provision concerning official or
state languages. As a result, it is not surprising that linguistic
issues were often discussed between the republic and the federal
authorities as well as between various national and political movements
within the republic. Heated discussions took place in
Bashkortostan’s mass media, revealing a wide spectrum of opinion on
linguistic issues . Prior to the 1998 presidential elections
in Bashkortostan, the Russian state Duma requested the Russian
Constitutional Court to examine the legality of article 92 of
Bashkortostan’s Constitution stating that candidates for presidency of
the Republic of Bashkortostan must possess the knowledge of both Russian
and Bashkir languages. The state Duma argued that this article
contradicted Federal legislature that envisions equal rights for all
citizens of the Russian Federation, irrespective of their residence and
knowledge of languages. The republic of Bashkortostan, in turn,
argued that in creating these conditions for Presidential
candidates it was guided by article 68 of the Constitution of
Russia, which raises the issue of state languages in the national
republics of the Russian Federation . However,
the root of the problem is that the status of the Bashkir and Russian
languages remains legally undefined. From the legal point of view, it
is pointless to require the knowledge of two languages without first
defining their legal status. For instance, why should presidential
candidates have the knowledge of those (Bashkir and Russian) languages
and not Chuvash or Tatar? On the other hand, in the 1920s, the Bashkir
language, along with Russian received the legal status of a state
language in the former autonomous republic  , and the current
Parliament of Bashkortostan could simply prolong the validity of this
law in order to put an end to the existing ambiguity and
Although currently the Russian Federation faces a large number of
problems, the national and linguistic issues are of special importance.
For example, how should the problems of the non-titular nationalities
that do not possess territorial autonomy be addressed? Often they do not
enjoy equal rights with titular nationalities, such as the right to use
their native language which, in turn, leads to their complete
assimilation and disintegration. In this respect, international
experience suggests that the process of national consolidation of
multi-national states is facilitated by the creation of various types of
autonomies. An administrative and territorial division based on
ethnicity is conducive to strengthening inter-ethnic harmony and
creating a more favorable political situation. For instance, when the
idea of establishing a joint Tatar-Bashkir republic was announced in the
1920s, the tension was relieved only when the Tatars received a
separate administrative-territorial unit. The optimal and most stable
linguistic situation is created when the language of the titular,
indigenous people receives the status of the state language within the
boundaries of that people’s administrative-territorial formation.
National-territorial formations serve as the guarantees of the
preservation and enhancement of their cultural and territorial
integrity. In this respect, the fact that the asymmetrical character of
the subjects of the Russian Federation has been preserved, is favorable
for the linguistic development of all major ethnic groups (Bashkir,
Tatar, Chuvash, Mordva, Udmurts, Komi, Karels, Kalmyks, etc.) since they
all possess their own ethnic republics in which the language of the
titular group has the status of the state language.
However, alarming linguistic situation is created in cases where,
primarily due to the Czarist colonial and Bolshevik assimilation
policies, ethnic groups found themselves in absolute minority in their
own ethnic republics. According to the 1989 census, the most
difficult situation in this regard was observed in Karelia, where the
titular nation constituted only 10 percent of the total population,
Bashkortostan (21.9 percent of the total population), and Komi (23.3
Understandably, the peoples of these regions feel seriously threatened
by the increasingly large number of other ethnic groups (namely
Russians) in their republics, a problem compounded by the lingering
effects of Soviet nationality policy. But on the other hand, in
the Russian Federation today, the Russian language has objectively
advanced to the position of lingua franca, a universally accepted
language of inter-ethnic communication. The prevalence and popularity of
this language and the long history of its usage for inter-ethnic
contacts certainly contributed to its status. Although the high status
of the Russian language naturally puts the Russian ethnos into a
privileged position, this fact does not appear to be a source of
inter-ethnic tension, since other peoples use this language not
only for communicating with the Russians but also for communicating
between themselves. Today the Russian language is perceived as a
necessary tool of inter-ethnic communication and a natural attribute of
the Russian statehood. Following the collapse of the USSR, Russian
became the language of inter-state talks in the “near
abroad,” and was used during the attempts to resolve various
inter-ethnic conflicts (the wars between Georgia and Abkhazia,
Armenia and Azerbaijan and the conflict between the Ossetins and the
There are many reasons to believe that the status of the Russian
language on the federal level is growing stronger. This is a natural
process that is stipulated by demographics, namely the absolute
numerical predominance of the Russian ethnic group.
Therefore, representatives of other ethnic groups are left with no
other choice but to master the dominant language, since the knowledge
of this language is of critical importance for receiving education,
social advancement, mobility, etc.
In conclusion, one may point to a large number of unresolved
problems and shortcomings in the linguistic policies of
Russia’s national republics. For instance the teaching of both the
indigenous (titular) and the Russian languages is often carried out at a
low level methodologically and professionally. The curricula do
not satisfy the present-day requirements, and effective teaching
methods, teach-yourself and phrase-books, and dictionaries are
severely lacking (these issues are especially acute in the Finnish-Ugric
republics). The situation is further exacerbated by the lack of the
A successful linguistic policy would have to establish a balanced
correlation between the functions of official languages of ethnic
republics, the Russian language, and international languages. Thus,
ideally every citizen of Russia, living on the territory of a national
republic should acquire the knowledge of the federal language, the local
national language, and additionally an international language
In general, the national and linguistic policy conducted by the Russian
Federation in the constituent republics is based on the legal code
adopted by the beginning of the 1990s, and is aimed, above all, at the
comprehensive development of the languages of all indigenous
peoples. Although linguistic policies vary from one state to another and
are implemented in a different manner by the subjects of a single
state, one may point out several generalizations about the linguistic
policy of the Russian Federation. The legislation on the languages
in the republics usually declares the equality of all languages on the
territory of the republic, while at the same time granting the
languages of indigenous or titular peoples the status of state
languages along with Russian. Government initiatives indicate broad
acceptance of the requirement of affirmative action to secure
indigenous linguistic survival.
Most Russian national republics conduct a vigorous linguistic
policy aimed at promoting the titular languages, but at the same time
take into consideration such factors as multi-national and
multi-linguistic composition of the population, and the role of the
Russian language in public life, realizing the negative consequences of
trying to construct an ethnocratic state .
Against this background, the case of Bashkortostan is unusual.
Motivated primarily by the need for political survival, the
Bashkortostani authorities widely sloganize the concept of ethnic
equality. In reality, however, they do very little to ensure its actual
X. The Ethno-linguistic Situation in Bashkortostan: A Source for
Over the last decade, the republic has been engaged in a heated debate
regarding the "national identity" of sovereign Bashkortostan. At the
front of this debate is the question of language, particularly the
choice of the official languages of Bashkortostan.
A closer examination of the ethno-linguistic situation in Bashkortostan
makes it necessary to incorporate some statistical data. Tables 2 and 3
(see Appendix) demonstrate that during the period between 1979 and 1989
a dramatic decrease in the number of Bashkirs took place in
Bashkortostan (70,000 people) while the Tatar population increased by
180,000 people. It should be noted that the changes in the
ratio of the Bashkir and Tatar population occurred primarily in
the northwestern counties of the republic in which the
so-called "Tatar-speaking" Bashkirs live among the predominantly
Tatar population. These Bashkirs use the northwestern dialect of Bashkir
that is quite similar to the Tatar literary language.
Table 4 (see Appendix) suggests that the above-mentioned changes
are characterized by the dramatic decline in the number of Bashkirs and,
correspondingly, an equally dramatic increase in the number of
Tatars. For instance, in the Baltachevsky county alone the number
of ethnic Bashkirs decreased by 52 percent (!) between 1979 and 1989,
while the number of ethnic Tatars increased by 53 percent. Yet the
Bashkirs have successfully preserved their ethnic consciousness in
neighboring Askinsky county, where a stable and steady increase in the
number of titular population is taking place.
A wide-spread “transformation” of the Bashkir ethnicity into the Tatar
one may explain by two major factors. Firstly, during the era of
Gorbachev’s reforms, when the old nomenklatura system of promoting
persons of indigenous nationalities into positions of power in the local
party organizations and the Soviets ceased to exist (especially in
combination with a decline in the economic and political benefits of
Bashkir ethnic identity), there was no more need to continue using the
label of titular nationality in order to advance one’s career. In this
situation the “real” (nastoyaschiye) Tatars or the so-called
“passport Bashkirs” formally re-assumed their true Tatar ethnicity
which, they had never concealed in private life. But the
main reason for this shift is that the northwestern Bashkirs themselves
have abandoned their primordial identity, largely due to the fact that
the cultural and linguistic difference between them and Tatars is
meager, thus accelerating the assimilation of the former by the latter.
As a result of this Bashkir-to-Tatar-shift in ethnic identity, the
number of registered "Tatar-speaking" Bashkirs decreased, while the
number of the "Bashkir-speaking" Bashkirs has grown in relative terms,
despite the fact that the absolute number of this ethnic group has
dramatically declined, as the 1989 census correctly demonstrates. For
instance, according to the 1979 census, 41.4 percent of Bashkirs
considered Tatar as their native language, while in 1989 that number
decreased to 20.7 percent. These figures suggest that the sharp increase
in the linguistic loyalty of the Bashkirs is primarily due to the
widespread shift of the “Tatar-speaking” Bashkirs into the Tatar ethnic
The above figures explain why the Bashkirs should remain primarily
concerned with establishing their native tongue as the republic’s state
language, and adopting special preferential measures aimed at fortifying
its position. It is interesting to note that the rate of linguistic
assimilation among Bashkirs is higher within their republic than
outside. This would seem to indicate that they are heavily affected by
the presence of the large numbers of Tatars in their own republic; in
fact, the number of Tatars and Bashkirs living in Bashkortostan in 1989
was almost identical. The fact that there are few ethnic Bashkirs
living in Tatarstan is further evidence of the potency of the Tatar
assimilation influence over the closely related Bashkirs. Basically,
Bashkir nationalism thrives on the perception that being the indigenous
nation, they are becoming a minority on their “own” historical
territory, mostly due to immigration flows and assimilation. A
few quotes from interviews which I conducted this year with leaders of
Bashkir national organizations illustrate that well. For
instance, according to Niyaz Mazhitov, president of the most popular
Bashkir public organization, the Bashkir World Congress:
"Bashkortostan is the only land where the Bashkir people can realize
their basic rights in full, including their right to an official Bashkir
language. Obviously, no other state, no other government
elsewhere in the world will ever do that for them. Hence, we urge
the Parliament, and the President to meet our legitimate demands and
designate Bashkir, along with Russian as the official state languages of
Bashkortostan. The reality is that other minority languages can not be
made official here, because historically this republic epitomizes first
of all the Bashkir people’s statehood. Other minority groups have
come here to live by way of migration, but this is not to say they
should not enjoy all necessary rights within the framework of a
national-cultural autonomy. Furthermore, these groups’ languages
have already been declared official state languages in their respective
republics, like Tatar in Tatarstan, Chuvash in Chuvashiya, and so
on. For example, should Bashkirs, living in Tatarstan
demand an official language for themselves? Definitely not.
The same argumentation applies here. I am sure this is the only
way to avoid chaos and linguistic conflicts" .
Altaf Gaifullin, chairman of a moderate Bashkir National
Party has a similar point of view: "Bashkirs, the only indigenous people
of Bashkortostan, have in fact become outcasts in their native
land. Our rights are compromised for the sake of preserving a
semblance of inter-ethnic peace and harmony. Why should Bashkirs
be happy in the republic bearing their name if one of their basic
rights, the right to language has not been fully realized? And my
understanding is if the Bashkir language is not official in
Bashkortostan, then their sovereignty is incomplete. In fact,
those Russians and Tatars who claim to be democrats and
internationalists should support us.".
In the opinion of Airat Dilmukhametov, one of the leaders of an
extremist Union of Bashkir Youths:
"If the Bashkir language is not made official in Bashkortostan then we
will have to call for full independence of the Bashkir people. And
believe me, Bashkir youths will support us. We will also start a
campaign of civil disobedience if the Bashkortostan parliament passes a
law making Tatar, an official language alongside with Bashkir, because
should this happen, the Bashkir language will soon be assimilated by
Tatar. The ethnic composition of the republic reflects a dire
reality -- Bashkirs are becoming a minority in their home.
Bashkortostan should be first of all for Bashkirs, this land is our last
resort, we do not have any other place to go. The unwillingness
of the republican leaders to meet our demands is explained by the fact
that they are simply currying favors with Moscow and Kazan. Thus
the Bashkir people have become hostages to a bigger political
Although, the declaration of the titular ethnic group’s language as an
official language, mostly along with Russian, has been an important part
of the "drive to sovereignty" in all the ethnic republics of Russia, in
Bashkortostan the issue of the official language remains unresolved.
The Declaration of Sovereignty, the constitution, and other legislative
acts do not include articles identifying official languages of the
republic. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Bashkir national activists
put forward various arguments in support of guaranteeing Bashkir and
Russian the status of official state languages. The thrust of their
argument is that only the Bashkirs, who gave the republic its name –
are the truly indigenous to Bashkortostan.
On the other hand, the Tatar activists have been just as vocal about
the need to declare both Tatar and Bashkir as official languages, along
with Russian. They cite the fact that there are more Tatars in the
republic than Bashkirs and argue that with Bashkir and Russian as the
only state languages, Tatars will slowly lose their linguistic
distinctiveness and become assimilated to the Bashkir tongue. In
fact, as the above figures indicate, the opposite is taking place, as
the Bashkirs are subject to "Tatarization" in their "own" republic.
Debates over language issues became so heated during the wider
discussion over adoption of Bashkortostan’s new constitution in late
1993, that an unofficial moratorium on linguistic problems was created:
articles about the issue disappeared from the newspapers, while the
constitution was adopted without reference to language.
How long the government will be able to avoid the
pressure from both sides remains to be seen. However, a more important
issue is whether the language rights of the Bashkirs are fully observed?
Obviously, as long as their power is not threatened, the
President and parliament of Bashkortostan will be more preoccupied with
preserving the appearance of interethnic stability (at the expense of
the indigenous Bashkirs) than solving real linguistic problems. As a
result, demographically and therefore politically dominant ethnic groups
(Russians, Tatars) are going to develop more rapidly thus widening the
gap in the level of social and cultural advancement between them and
the Bashkirs. The ethnolingual stability in the Republic of
Bashkortostan is largely dependent on the actual status of the Bashkir
language in social and political life. As many events in the republic
have demonstrated, the Bashkir population’s dissatisfaction with the
status of their native tongue can become a major source of instability
in the republic, although so far violent clashes have been largely
avoided. For instance, a Bashkir nationalist youth
organization called “The Union of Bashkir Youths”(Soyuz Bashkirskoi
Molodezhi) made an attempt to seize the local State Television
headquarters to make their political, cultural, linguistic demands
known to the public. There were also hunger strikes of popular Bashkir
activists in down-town Ufa, who put forward similar demands.
In light of that, a complete overhaul of the language policy in
Bashkortostan is needed because the “complete equality” principle, as it
has been applied up to the present time, has failed to maintain an
adequate environment for the Bashkir language, the most threatened of
the three major language communities.
Equal treatment of languages in unequal positions is tantamount to
giving the stronger language an edge, allowing it to increase its
influence and spread. The Bashkortostan government is in fact ignoring
customary norms of international law  being increasingly
implemented elsewhere in the world, specifically, the right of
indigenous peoples to cultural integrity, which is one of the major
norms constituting the self-determination principle .
While the international community has come to consider indigenous
cultures equal in value to all other cultures, the cultural integrity
norm has developed to entitle indigenous peoples to affirmative measures
to remedy past threats to their linguistic survival and guard against
the continuing dangers in this regard. Therefore, it is not sufficient
for the governments simply to refrain from coercing linguistic
assimilation of indigenous peoples. In general, virtually all
republics of Russia have manifested their assent to affirmative action
programs for the titular language, although with some divergence in
XI. Conclusion: Implications for Federalism in Russia
The former Soviet republics are the most striking incarnation of the
dramatic transformations that occurred in many multi-national
states in recent years. Unfortunately these transformations may
potentially lead to a return to former methods of social, political, and
economic organization that have already outlived their usefulness.
Naturally this situation has an affect on the ethno-linguistic situation
in the post-Soviet states.
The situation in Russia has deteriorated faster than many expected. The
deepening economic crisis, devastation of the country’s industry and
agriculture, growth of its foreign and internal debts, rapidly
diminishing human potential, wage arrears, demoralized army, and, above
all, the total collapse of central power – these are the alarming
by-products of Russia's transition. On the eve of the millennium,
the greatest threats to Russia’s stability and unity do not come from
outside its borders, but from internal problems, resulting mainly from
the Kremlin’s bankrupt economic policies and persistent nationalism
which are largely the unhappy legacy of Soviet rule. Although the
international community generally tends to focus on the difficulties
arising from the economic debacle in Russia, the "national question", in
my opinion, has even more serious implications for the future of Russia
and world stability.
Contrary to widely held assumptions, the threat to
Russia’s integrity as a multiethnic state comes not from secessionism on
the part of its own ethnic minorities – Bashkirs, Tatars, Yakuts,
Chechens, Kalmyks—but from great-power chauvinism, and xenophobia on the
part of certain forces within the Russian society and political
A successful state, especially the one as large as Russia, must turn
its diversity into a source of strength by fostering a system of
governance that would allow ethnic republics to take part in the
decisions that affect their specific interests, such as for instance,
the survival of their cultures and languages. The unique reality of
Russia is that it is comprised of 89 subjects, including 21 ethnic
republics with different economic and political structures.
Considering these specific circumstances, the only viable path for
Russia's survival lies through building its statehood on the principles
of asymmetrical federalism, thereby providing for self-governing
entities within a larger state. Unfortunately, a nationalities policy
has failed to make the list of the federal government's priorities,
despite the fact that one of the causes of the war in Chechnya derived
specifically from the absence of clearly-defined rules regulating the
relationship between the center and ethnic republics.
While the issues pertaining to the protection of individual human
rights are discussed with much regularity in Russia, it is often
forgotten that individual rights are not sufficient for protecting the
rights of peoples. The international law on minorities favors the
recognition of collective rights, and if Russia considers itself to be a
multi-national state (which is explicitly stated in the country's
Constitution), it should abide by international law on minority rights,
favoring the recognition of collective rights, and safeguard these
basic rights on its territory.
Whatever the future may hold for the non-Russian minorities, they are
unlikely to abandon their national cause. Yet their cause can be best
addressed by the renewal of national-territorial federalism within the
framework of a single multiethnic state. Russia’s ethnic regions,
especially, those with considerable bargaining power, such as
Bashkortostan and Tatarstan, will hardly agree with any unilateral moves
aimed at downgrading their present status. Too many people have tasted
freedom and been inspired by the successes of self-determination
movements elsewhere in the former Soviet empire.
The main lesson of the tragedies in Chechnya and Kosovo for Russia and
any other multi-ethnic society is that liquidation of autonomies never
works and that it is impossible to handle nationality issues by force
The Russian Federation is faced with an enormous number of problems,
among which national questions occupy a particular place. There is no
doubt that Russia's evolution toward pluralism stimulated, among other
things, Russian linguistic nationalism, as well as ethnic linguistic
nationalism. The non-Russian peoples normally invoke the idea of
collective rights to affirm the primacy of their mother tongue in
respective ethnic territories, while ethnic Russians are loathe to
recognize special rights for groups and do not see why minority
languages should be encouraged within a cultural framework that is
predominantly Russian. In their efforts to understand the causes of
ethnolinguistic development, politicians and scholars should begin from
the premise that there exist various methods for integrating peoples and
ethnic minorities into larger political and state formations, from
colonization of previously independent peoples to voluntary resettlement
and immigration of individuals and families. The means of ethnic
integration used by the center influences the general behavior of
national groups by shaping the kind of relationships they wish to
establish with the broader society and, more specifically, by defining
the character of their linguistic rights.
The foregoing analysis of the linguistic situation in Russia points
towards the eventual decrease of linguistic insecurity in some republics
(Tatarstan, Chuvashia, Tyva, Sakha), but not in Bashkortostan,
where the sentiment that the Bashkir language is "losing" vis-a-vis
Tatar and Russian is as acute as it was several decades ago
. Even though in the past decade almost every conceivable
political compromise has been tried in Bashkortostan, the fundamental
linguistic problem has not been resolved, and has gotten even worse
from the point of view of the Bashkirs, since the republic is
becoming almost entirely Tatar and Russian, with native Bashkirs
turning into a minority in their "own" homeland.
As might be expected in such an ethnically diverse setting, Russia's
autonomous republics exhibit a broad range of practices with respect to
the linguistic rights of indigenous peoples and minorities. Many of
these differences are due to basic demographic factors. Ethnic republics
with a larger percentage of titular ethnic groups and consequently a
smaller number of ethnic Russians usually pursue linguistic policies
that are more active than in the republics with a more diverse ethnic
composition. The differences may also be traced to economic development
of the region and subsequent resources available for language revival
programs; and to the degree of rootedness of concepts of democracy and
linguistic human rights.
It would seem that the federal government and some republics (such as
Bashkortostan) need to be better aware of international language
standards. Bashkortostan would be well-served by setting its
policies in this area through more official and legal channels, i.e.
legislation. A legal framework for the protection of linguistic rights
is a crucial first step in overcoming arbitrary interference with
minority rights and towards the full implementation of international
standards . The policies pursued by Bashkortostan’s
government should indicate broader acceptance of affirmative action
programs in order to secure the Bashkir people’s cultural-linguistic
Can multi-national Bashkortostan remain a stable component of the
strong multi-national federation? Yes, both Bashkortostan and
Russia can coexist and be stable but not due to the deceptively
appealing concept of an ethnically-blind "civic" state, which glosses
over important issues concerning minority rights. States can be stable
when people who perceive themselves as minorities, and consequently fear
for their cultural survival are successful in reversing assimilatory
trends and develop a sense of cultural autonomy and security .
The experience of developed democracies suggests that, in carrying out
a language policy, a multi-national state should not strive towards
imaginary equality and an undifferentiated status of indigenous peoples
and other ethnic groups. In accordance with modern norms of
international law, indigenous peoples and certain minorities are
provided with special rights, the realization of which can, in part,
help to effectuate the restitution of their primordial lands; promote
special programs for socio-economic development; and, finally, preserve
their linguistic and cultural values. "Special" rights in this
context do not represent privileges, but rather a means for securing the
development of indigenous groups, thus granting them rights equal to
those of dominant groups. While, in principle the cultural integrity
norm can be understood to apply to all ethnic groups, the norm has
developed remedial aspects particular to indigenous peoples because
historically they have always existed under conditions of severe
disadvantage. Therefore, governments should make greater efforts to
promote the revitalization of indigenous languages.
Whatever hopes we may have for Russia's future, it is clear that in
times when the ethnic factor is on the upswing throughout the world, it
is impossible for a multinational state to walk away from attempting to
solve the urgent problems of language and work out a balanced national
policy based on standards of modern international law. The post-Soviet
republics and, above all, Bashkortostan, must urgently resolve the
problems of ethnicity and language. Political elites of multi-national
states should start from the premise that ethnic diversity is an
integral part of their statehood and search for mutually acceptable
means of resolving national and linguistic problems. Any attempt by the
central government in Russia to disregard the particularities of the
federation’s various ethnic republics, or to homogenize their powers and
competence in relation to the center, may further destabilize the
political situation in the country.
The nineteenth-century English theorist A. V. Dicey once observed that
a stable multinational federation requires: "a very peculiar state of
sentiment among its citizens, since they must desire union, and must not
desire unity" .
Henri Bourassa made a similar point when he pointed out that the
"special development of the French-Canadian nation must come about in
conjunction with the development of a more general patriotism that
unifies us, without fusing us" .
As the examples of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan (and even the 1996 peace
pact between Moscow and Chechnya) demonstrate, a federative structure
based on bilateral treaties is one possible way to join heterogeneous
elements – ethnic republics, ordinary provinces, oblasts, and krais – to
the whole, without “fusing them". If Russia is to remain a single
multiethnic, democratic state, asymmetrical federalism seems to be
the only reasonable option.
Finally, several proposals can be suggested that would enhance the
effectiveness of international legal instruments aimed at protecting
linguistic human rights.
1. The wording of any normative document, especially
the declarations relating to such a delicate sphere as the rights and
responsibilities of peoples and minorities should be precise and clear
in order to minimize the potential for misinterpretation of the most
2. The norms established by the law can not serve as
“soft recommendations” but must be legally-binding for all the parties
signing the treaty. Furthermore, international legal norms must become a
component of the legal system of the states themselves.
3. The documents must prescribe concrete procedures
for carrying out international monitoring over the implementation of the
treaties’ articles by the states.
4. The documents should include clear definitions
regarding the institution (a state organ) responsible for guaranteeing
adherence to the norms established by the law.
5. The drafts of documents must include concrete
sources of financing of the envisioned programs and clarify financial
obligations of all interested parties.
6. If the rights outlined in conventions, covenants,
and other documents are infringed upon, individuals as well as groups,
including whole peoples (and the states themselves) must be able to
submit a complaint to corresponding organizations.
Percentage among the Middle Volga nationalities considering the
language of their own people to be their native tongue 
as a whole in the USSR in
1970 1979 1989
92.1 89.2 85.9
90.8 86.9 81.7
66.2 67.0 72.3
77.8 72.6 67.1
Komi-Permyaks 87.6 85.8
The Percentage Share of Major Nationalities in Bashkortostan 
Nationalities 1926 1939
1959 1970 1979
21.2 22.1 23.4
23.3 24.6 23.0
24.7 24.5 28.4
44.2 45.5 43.0
Population of Bashkortostan (in thousands) 
Nationalities 1926 1939
1959 1970 1979
671 738 892
621 777 769
945 940 1121
1281 1418 1546
The Percentage Share of Bashkirs and Tatars in the Total Population of
North-western Bashkortostan 
1970 1979 1989
Chekmagushevsky 30 34
62 56 76
1. See Gosudarstvennaya politika Rossii v konfliktnykh zonakh
(analiticheskie materialy) [The Policy of the Russian State in Areas of
Conflict: Analytical Materials] (Moscow: Center for Ethno-Political and
Regional Research, 1994): 5.
2. Drobizheva Leokadia "Power Sharing in the Russian Federation: The
View from the Center and from the Republics". Presented at the
conference on Preventing Deadly Conflict: Strategies and Institutions
(Moscow: August 15, 1996).
3. More serious conflict-generating political tendencies have emerged
in these multiethnic republics since several competing non-Russian
ethnic communities or different clans belonging to the same ethnic group
strive for power and predominance. For example, in 1992 when an ethnic
Kabardin, Valery Kokov, was elected President in Kabardino-Balkaria, a
serious political crisis engulfed the republic. Currently, the
most difficult situation is in Karachaevo-Cherkessia, where the
election of ethnic Karachai, Vladimir Semenov, to the post of President
of the republic brought the Karachai and Cherkess population to the
brink of civil war with the latter demanding the partitioning of the
republic into two separate ethnic entities. [For details on these
republics see Ormrod Jane "The North Caucasus: Confederation in
Conflict" in Bremmer Ian, Taras Ray (eds.) New States, New Politics:
Building the Post-Soviet Nations (Cambridge University Press, 1997):
96-139; Tishkov Valerii Ethnicity, Nationalism and Conflict in and
after the Soviet Union (SAGE, 1997): 247-273].
4. In January of 1999 when the Bashkortostani legislature began to
consider a draft bill which granted the status of an official language
only to Bashkir and Russian, many Tatar public organizations advocated
secession of the republics’ northwestern dominated by the ethnic Tatars.
Bitter antagonism between Bashkirs and Tatars arose back in 1919 when
areas populated mostly by ethnic Tatars were included into the
territory of the newly founded Bashkir autonomy. This created a serious
territorial dispute between Bashkirs and Tatars. Since then
interethnic tensions between these two ethnic groups never really
ceased to exist, surfacing with much regularity in occasional disputes
over their representation in the institutions of power or the status of
their respective languages and cultures.
5. Interethnic tensions existed under for many years in Buryatia,
surfacing in the ethnic Buryats’ demands for a wider introduction
of their native language in the public life, Moreover,
ethnic Buriats insisted that their culture, especially the Buddhist
religion be more actively revived. On the other hands, ethnic Russians
resented the increasing representation of ethnic Buyriats in local
government. Activists of the Buryat-Mongol People’s party even demanded
the reunification of all Buryat-Mongol lands and the establishment of
Buryatia without Russians (See Balzer, Mandelstam Marjorie "From
Ethnicity to Nationalism: Turmoil in the Russian Mini-empire" in Millar
James, Wolchik Sharon (eds.) The Social Legacy of Communism (Woodrow
Wilson Center Press and Cambridge University Press: 1994): 78-79.
6. Ethnic strife in the republic exists predominantly between the
indigenous Sakha and the newcomer Slavs, mostly Russians and
Ukrainians. These tensions usually have simmered beneath the
surface of calm ethnic relations, but occasionally bursting into the
surface of social life. In fact, the Sakha republic became first
to open a long line of disturbances in the Soviet Union during the
perestroika period, preceding the better known clashes between
local youth and the police in Kazakhstan in December of 1986. (For
details see Balzer, Mandelstam Marjorie "A State Within a State: The
Sakha Republic (Yakutia)" in Kotkin Stephen, Donald Wolff (eds.)
Rediscovering Russia in Asia: Siberia and the Russian Far East (Armonk,
New York, London, England: M.E.Sharp, 1995): 142-144.
7. Numerous interrelated factors contributed to the exceptionally tense
interethnic situation in Tyva, among which Prof. Marjorie Balzer names
extractive central economic policies, the high unemployment among Tyvan
youths, large proportions of Russian settlers since 1944 (before that
Tyva was not part of the Soviet Union), the mandatory Russifying
education of Tyvans in Soviet boarding schools, and the undermining of
Tyvan spiritual values. In general Russians are perceived as a
linguistic and demographic threat (See Balzer Mandelstam Marjorie "From
Ethnicity to Nationalism: Turmoil in the Russian Mini-empire": 56-88
(73); See also Sheehy Ann "Russians the Target of Interethnic Violence
in Tuva", RFE/RL Report on the USSR, 14 September 1990, 13-17.
8. Rannut Mart "Beyond Linguistic policy: the Soviet Union versus
Estonia" in Skutnabb-Kangas Tove, Phillipson Robert (eds.) Linguistic
Human Rights: Overcoming Linguistic Discrimination, (Berlin, New York:
Mouton de Gruyter: 1995): 179-208 (195).
9. See EWI Russian Regional Report, Vol.4, No.8, 4 March 1999,
Tatarstan’s President Goes It Alone in National Politics.
10. See for details Starovoitova Galina, Sovereignty After Empire:
Self-determination Movements in the former Soviet Union (Washington, DC:
United States Institute of Peace, 1997).
11. Tishkov Valerii Ethnicity, Nationalism and Conflict in and after
the Soviet Union (SAGE, 1997): 277.
12. Carley Patricia, Self-determination: Sovereignty, Territorial
Integrity, and the Right to Secession (Washington, DC: United States
Institute of Peace: 1996): 1-2.
13. See for example Gurr Tedd, Minorities at Risk: A Global View of
Ethnopolitical Conflict (Washington, DC: Institute of Peace Press,
1993); Kymlicka Will, Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of
Minority Rights (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995); Drobizheva L.,
Gottemoeller R., McArdle Kelleher C., Walker L. (eds), Ethnic Conflict
in Post-Soviet World, (M.E.Sharpe, Armonk, New York, London, England,
14. For instance, to understand more deeply the underlying reasons of
the Armenian-Azeri conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh one can not ignore the
Armenian genocide of 1915 in Ottoman Turkey and the subsequent
Armenian-Azeri hostilities in the 1920s. Similarly, the Ossetian-Ingush
conflict over the Prigorodnyi district can not be considered out of the
context of the Stalinist deportations of some of the Northern Caucasus
15. For instance, when the European Community came into being, it
designated the official state languages of all of its creators as its
official languages. As the EC expanded over the years, it has
correspondingly expanded the number of its official languages and
eventually the Language Service has become one of the EC’s largest
administrative budgetary items. The “principle of complete
multilingualism” proved to be equally impractical from the viewpoint of
effective management of the organization. However, the adoption of one
or two “administrative/working” languages for the public operation of
the European Parliament, has thus far been absolutely impossible, since
neither Germany, nor Italy, Spain, and particularly France cannot bring
themselves to recognize English as a "primus inter pares".
16. Rustow Dankwart A., “Transitions to Democracy: Toward a Dynamic
Model”, Comparative Politics 2, 1970: 337-63.
17. Deutsch Karl W., “Space and Freedom: Conditions for the Temporary
Separation of Incompatible Groups”, International Political Science
Review 5, 1984: 125-38.
18. Sniderman Paul M., Fletcher Joseph F., Russell Peter H., Tetlock
Philip E., “Political Culture and the Problem of Double Standards: Mass
and Elite Attitudes Toward Language Rights in the Canadian Charter of
Rights and Freedoms”, Canadian Journal of Political Science 22, 1989:
19. Weinstein Brian, The Civic Tongue: Political Consequences of
Language Choices, 1983, New York: Longman.
20. Fishman Joshua, “Language Modernization and Planning in Comparison
with Other Types of National Modernization and Planning”, Advances in
Language Planning, Fishman J. (ed.), 1974, The Hague: Mouton: 92-94.
21. Pool Jonathan “The Official Language Problem”, American Political
Science Review, Vol.85, No.2, June 1991, p.496.
22. See for example Fishman Joshua A. Language and Nationalism.
Cambridge, MA: Newbury House, 1973: pp.63-71; Pool Jonathan
“Developing the Soviet Turkic Tongues: the Language of the Politics of
Language”, Slavic Review 35,1976: pp. 425-42; Vaillancourt Francois “The
Economics of Language and Language Planning”, Language Problems and
Language Planning 7, 1983: pp. 162-78; Woolard Kathryn A.
“Sentences in the Language Prison: The Rhetorical Structuring of an
American Language Policy Debate”. American Ethnologist 16, 1989: pp.
23. Isaev Magomed I. National Languages in the USSR: Problems and
Solutions, Moscow: Progress, 1977: pp.21-23.
24. Pool Jonathan “Thinking about Linguistic Discrimination”, Language
Problems and Language Planning 11, 1987: pp.3-21;
25. O’Barr William M. “The Study of Language and Politics”, Language
and Politics, O’Barr William M., O’Barr Jean F.(eds.).The Hague:
Mouton, 1976: p.19.
26. Pool Jonathan “The Official Language Problem”, American
Political Science Review, Vol.85, No.2, June 1991: 495-514.
27. Atkins J.D.C. “The English Language in Indian Schools”,
Americanizing the American Indians, Francis Paul Prucha (ed.). Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press, 1978.
28. For example Amnesty International provides the following evidence:
"In 1990 and 1991 the Serbian authorities introduced a uniform
curriculum throughout the whole of the Republic of Serbia and abolished
the province’s educational authority. The total number of enrolments in
secondary Albanian-language schools was drastically reduced and a
considerable number of educational institutions were closed. Many
subjects at Pristina University were no longer taught in the Albanian
language but only in Serbian. More than 18,000 ethnic Albanian teachers
and other staff in Albanian-language schools and the university who
refused to recognize these changes and follow the new curriculum were
dismissed. Instead they created a parallel educational system,
using the old curricula, and lessons began to be held in private homes.
The issue of education has thus become one of the key points of
confrontation in Kosovo (my emphasis). See Kosovo: the Evidence
(Amnesty International United Kingdom, September 1998): 66; See also
Open Wounds: Human Rights Abuses in Kosovo (Human Rights Watch/Helsinki,
March 1993): 112-125.
29. The official policy of Baku involved the frequent implementation of
practices which infringed on the rights of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians to
develop their native language and culture and communicate freely with
their co-ethnics in Armenia. This policy prepared the soil for
today’s inter-ethnic conflict. See Yamskov Anatoly "Inter-Ethnic
Conflict in the Transcaucasus: A Case Study of Nagorno-Karabakh" in
Rupesinghe Kumar, King Peter (eds.) Ethnicity and Conflict in a
Post-Communist World (New York: St.Martin’s Press, 1992):
138-139. In a statement concerning the situation in
Nagorno-Karabakh, the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium had to admit that:
"For a long period, many problems touching the national interests of the
Armenian population were not being solved in the Autonomous Region,
especially in the field of culture and education, and in the field of
cadres policy. The constitutional rights of the Autonomous Region were
violated". See Izvestia, 20 July 1988.
30. See, for example, Tove Skutnabb-Kangas , Robert Phillipson .(eds.),
Linguistic Human Rights: Overcoming Linguistic Discrimination. Berlin,
New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1994.
31. See UN Charter, Art.1, para.2.
32. For example International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights, Dec.16, 1966,G.A. Res.2200 (XXI), art.1(1), 993 U.N.T.S.3
(entered into force Jan.3, 1976); International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights, Dec.16, 1966, G.A.Res.2200 (XXI), art.1(1), 999
U.N.T.S. 171 (entered into force Mar.23, 1976); Declaration on
Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and
Co-operation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United
Nations, G.A. Res.2625, Oct.24, 1970, U.N. GAOR, 25 th Sess., Supp.
No.28, at 121 (U.N.Doc. A/8028, 1971).
33. See Hannum Hurst, Autonomy, Sovereignty and
Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990): 45.
34. Carley Patricia, Self-determination: Sovereignty, Territorial
Integrity, and the Right to Secession (Washington, DC: United States
Institute of Peace: 1996): 1.
35. Some provisions contained in the introductory article written by
Robert Phillipson, Mart Rannut, Tove Skutnabb-Kangas for Linguistic
Human Rights: Overcoming Linguistic Discrimination. (Berlin, New York:
Mouton de Gruyter, 1994: 1-18) can be helpful for defining the concept
of “the linguistic rights of peoples”. Many of my own views have been
shaped under this work’s direct influence.
36. Remarkably, the OSCE has undertaken recently a comparative study on
the enjoyment of linguistic rights in all OSCE participating states. It
was found that: “That the enjoyment and preservation of the minority
culture turns upon the freedom to transmit ideas, customs, and other
indicia of culture in the original language of the minority. Their
[minorities] ability to speak that language generally distinguishes them
from the majority group in OSCE states”. Report on the Linguistic
Rights of Persons Belonging to National Minorities in the OSCE Area
(Organization For Security and Cooperation in Europe: High Commissioner
on National Minorities, The Hague, 10 March 1999): 1.
37. See Phillipson R., Rannut M., Skutnabb-Kangas T., Op. cit., p.2.
38. Alfredsson G.“Minority Rights: Equality and
Non-Discrimination”, in Krag H., Yukhneva N. (eds.) The Leningrad
Minority Rights Conference. Papers. Copenhagen: The Minority Rights
Group.- 1991: 19-41.
39. See Phillipson R., Rannut M., Skutnabb-Kangas T., Op. cit.: 3.
40. For Russia that citizenship could involve the idea of Rossia (an
accurate transliteration of the name of the country into the Latin
alphabet) as a national state of “Rossians” (rossiyane is a word, quite
distinct from the word “russkie”, defining ethnic Russians).
Consequently, the concept of a “Rossian” citizenship is not loaded with
ethnic meaning as it is with “Russian” (russkaya) nation, as well as
that of Bashkortostani or Tatarstani citizenship, as compared to purely
ethnic notions of Bashkir or Tatar nations.
41. In 1990 when the autonomy of Kosovo was abolished, the independent
education councils of Kosovo and Vojvodina were merged with the
education council of Serbia. Instead, one unified council was created
which instituted a new curriculum to be administered centrally from
42. Some scholars believe that such practices may even result in an
international linguistic crisis with many unique tongues being lost
irretrievably. See Krauss M. “The World’s Languages in Crisis”, Native
American Languages Act of 1991, Hearing before the Select Committee on
Indian Affairs United States Senate. One Hundred Second Congress, Second
Session, June 18, 1992, Washington, DC., U.S. Government Printing
Office, Washington: 1992.- pp.62-68.
43. Craig C. “A Constitutional Response to Language Endangerment: The
Case of Nicaragua” in Native American Languages Act of 1991, pp.75-82.
44. See Phillipson R., Rannut M., Skutnabb-Kangas T., Op.cit.,p.4.
45. Gurr T. Minorities at Risk: A Global View of Ethnopolitical
Conflict (Washington, DC: Institute of Peace Press, 1993); Kymlicka W.
Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1995), 1.
46. Grin Francois “Combining Immigrant and Autochthonous Language
Rights: A Territorial Approach to Multilingualism” in Skutnabb-Kangas
T., Phillipson R.(eds.), Op.cit.: 38.
47. Phillipson R., Rannut M., Skutnabb-Kangas T., Op. cit., 15.
48. Arel D. “Political Stability in the Multination: the Civic State
and the Fear of Minorisation” in Alain Gagnon and James Tully (eds.) In
Search of Justice and Stability: Liberal Justice and Political Stability
in Multinational Societies (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).
49. Kymlicka Will, Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of
Minority Rights (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995): 13.
50. See Tishkov Valerii Ethnicity, Nationalism and Conflict in and
after the Soviet Union (SAGE, 1997): 241; On the role of
linguistic differences in political conflicts see Hroch Miroslav
"Linguistic Conflicts in Eastern Europe and Their Historical Parallels"
in Rupesinghe Kumar, King Peter (eds.) Ethnicity and Conflict in a
Post-Communist World (New York: St.Martin’s Press, 1992): 199-208.
51. Klopcic V., “Le droit des langues dans l’ex-Yugoslavie” in Giordan
H. (ed.) Les minorit_s en Europe: droits linguistiques et droits de
l’homme (Paris: Kim_, 1992), 325-344.
52. Alfredsson Gudmundur, “Minority Rights: Equality and
Non-Discrimination”in Krag H., Yukhneva N. (eds.) The Leningrad Minority
Rights Conference. Papers (Copenhagen: The Minority Rights Group,
53. Specifically, she presents the following criteria: intolerability
of existence for a population; historical right to a territory; ethnic
composition of the population; expression of the people’s will;
responsibility for consequences. See Starovoitova Galina, Op.cit.: 36-38.
54. Ibid.: ix.
55. See Draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples, adopted by the Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination
and Protection of Minorities by its Res.1994/45, Aug. 26, 1994 art. 33,
U.N.Doc. E/CN.4/1995/2, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1995/56, at 105.
56. See for example comments by Mexico, Peru, Canada, Colombia, Chile,
and Guatemala in the Report on the First Round of Consultations
Concerning the Future Inter-American Instrument Legal Instrument on the
Rights of Indigenous Populations, Annual Report of the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights, 1992-1993, O.A.S.Doc.OEA/Ser.L/V/II.83,
1993: 293-298. Moreover, as James Anaya points out, “in general,
an integral part of international human rights law is the duty of states
to secure enjoyment of human rights and to provide remedies where the
rights are violated. This duty relates to the substantial corpus of
international law on the responsibility of states in regard to unlawful
acts and omissions.” See Anaya James, Op.cit.: 129. For a
discussion on the law of state
responsibility see Brownlie Ian, Principles of Public International
Law. 4th ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990): 432-476.
57. See on Non-Territorial Self-Determination Bauer Otto “The Nation”
 in Balakrishnan G. (ed.) Mapping the Nation (New York, 1996) :
58. See the Preamble of the European Charter on Regional and Minority
59. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,
Dec.16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200 (XXI), Article 2 (2), 993 U.N.T.S.3
(entered into force Jan.3, 1976).
60. Ibid., Article 13 (1).
61. Capotorti Francesco, Op. Cit.; Eide Asbjorn., “Possible Ways and
Means of Facilitating the Peaceful and Constructive Solution of Problems
Involving Minorities”. Progress Report Submitted to Sub-Commission on
Prevention of discrimination and Protection of Minorities at its 42nd
62. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Dec.16, 1966,
G.A. Res. 2200 (XXI), 999 U.N.T.S. 171 (entered into force Mar.23,
1976), Article 27.
63. UN Convention of the Rights of Child, Article 20, paragraph 3.
64. Ibid., Article 17 (d)
65. Ibid., Article 30.
66. See the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages,
67. European Charter, Preamble.
68. Ibid., Preamble.
69. Ibid., Preamble.
70. Ibid., Article 2, Paragraph 2.
71. Ibid., Article 1 (a).
72. Ibid., Article 7, Paragraph 2.
73. Ibid., Article 8, Paragraph 2.
74. Ibid., Article 9, Paragraph 1(b, iii), (c, iii).
75. Ibid., Article 10, Paragraph 1 (a, i).
76. Ibid., Article 13, Paragraph 1 (a).
77. Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human
Dimension of the CSCE, Article 32.
78. Ibid., Article 35.
79. Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National, Ethnic,
Religious and Linguistic Minorities, G.A.Res.47/135, Dec.18, 1992, Human
Rights: A Compilation of International Instruments,
U.N.Doc.ST/HR/1/rev.4 (vol.1, pt.1) at 140, Sales No.E.93.XIV.1, 1993.
80. Ibid., Article 1.1.
81. Ibid., Article 4.2.
82. Ibid., Article 1.2.
83. Ibid., Article 4.3.
84. Report on the Linguistic Rights of Persons Belonging to National
Minorities in the OSCE Area (Organization for Security and Co-operation
in Europe: High Commissioner on National Minorities, the Hague, 10 March
1999). I express my most sincere gratitude to Prof. William Schabas,
for providing me with the text of that report.
85. Cited from Skutnabb T. and Philipson R., Op. cit., 98.
86. See for details Ilishev Ildus, "Russian Federalism: Political,
Legal, and Ethnolingual Aspects -- A View From the Republic of
Bashkortostan", Nationalities Papers (Vol.26, #4, Dec.1998): 723-761.
87. Zorin Vladimir “Natsional’nye Aspekty Rossiiskogo Federalizma” in
Svobodnaya Misl, (No.10, 1996) :19-30 (24).
88. See Lijphart Arend Democracy in Plural Societies (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1977).
89. See Sisk Timothy Power Sharing and International Mediation in
Ethnic Conflicts (Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict:
Carnegie Corporation of New York, US Institute of Peace: Washington, DC,
90. See Horowitz Donald Ethnic Groups in Conflict (Berkeley and
Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985); Horowitz D.
"Democracy in Divided Societies" in Journal of Democracy 4 (4): 18-38.
91. Frank Allen, Wixman Ronald, “The Middle Volga: Exploring the Limits
of Sovereignty” in Bremmer I., Taras R.(eds.) New States, New Politics:
Building the Post-Soviet Nations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1997): 140-189 (157).
92. From 1993 to 1997 I worked in the office of the president of
Bashkortostan and, among other things, my responsibilities involved
maintaining contacts with governments of the ethnic republics of Russia.
93. Lenin and Stalin also embraced the rhetoric of self-determination
in the early part of this century, while viewing this principle in
association with Marxist precepts of class liberation. See Lenin
Vladimir, “The Right of Nations to Self-Determination” in Vol.20 of
Collected Works. 45 vols. English edition (Moscow: Progress Publishers,
1947); Stalin Joseph, Marxism and the National-Colonial Question (San
Francisco: Proletarian Publishers, 1975).
94. See Donelly Alton, The Russian Conquest of Bashkiria, 1552-1740: A
Case-Study in Imperialism (London: Yale University Press, 1968).
95. See Rossiiskaia Gazeta (July 4, 1995).
96. Fedorov Andrey “A recent Russian Study of Center-Regional Issues”
in Federalism in Russia: How Is It Working?, Conference Report: 9-10
December, 1998 (Washington, DC: US National Intelligence Council and US
Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, February
97. See Mnogonatsionalny Tatarstan: Informatsionno-Spravochny
Material (Kazan: Apparat Presidenta Respubliki Tatarstan, 1993), 36.
98. Faroukshin Midkhat Kh., Moukhariamov Nail M. “Dvuyazychie Glazami
Studentov” in Sovetskaia Tataria (12 August 1989), 4.
99. See Kiyekbayev Murat, Bashkiry v Gorodakh Bashkortostana: Istorija
i Sovremennost (Ufa: Nur-Poligrafizdat Press, 1998): 90-93.
100. Allen Frank, Wixman Ronald, “The Middle Volga: Exploring the
Limits of Sovereignty” in Bremmer I., Taras R.(eds.) New States, New
Politics: Building the Post-Soviet Nations (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1997): 140-189 (155).
101. Balzer Marjorie Mandelstam, “A State Within a State: The Sakha
Republic (Yakutia)” in S.Kotkin, D.Wolff (eds.) Rediscovering Russia in
Asia: Siberia and the Russian Far East (M.E.Sharpe, Armonk, New York,
London, England, 1995): 139-159 (145).
102. Historically, the Bashkirs and culturally, linguistically close
Tatars were always leery of each other and clashes between them were not
unusual. This however did not stop them from joining efforts in
resisting the Russian Czar. Cooperative efforts between the Bashkirs and
Tatars were possible because they perceived each other as being
civilizationally closer vis-a-vis the Russians.
103. See Allen Frank, Wixman Ronald, “The Middle Volga: Exploring the
Limits of Sovereignty”: 154-155.
104. Ibid.: 166-167.
105. For example Valeev Damir “Zdravy Smysl Podskazyvaet: O Statuse
Yazykov v Bashkirskoi SSR” in Izvestia Bashortostana (January 23,
1992); Gilyazitdinov Dzhavad “Vybiraem Soglasie?: Natsionalnye I
Mezhnatsionalnye Problemy v Bashkirii na Sovremennom Etape” in
Sovetskaya Bashkiria (May 20, 1992); Dusyev V. “Kuda vy Tianete Nas,
Vozhdi Natsii?: Mezhnatsionalnye Otnoshenia” in Sovetskaya Bashkiria
(July 15, 1992); Ilishev Ildus “Problemy Iazykovoi Politiki v
Bashkortostane” in Izvestia Bashkortostana (July 8, 1994); Irnazarov R.I
“Suverenitet Bashkortostana i Gosydarstvenny Iazyk” in Izvestia
Bashkortostana (December 10, 1992); Katz Sholom “O Natsionalnoi Politike
v Bashkortostane: Mysli Posle Kurultaia” in Izvestia Bashkortostana
(August 1, 1995); Ramazanov Rafail “Bortsy za Svobodu ot Rabstva ili
Kto Provotsiruet Mezhnatsionalnyi Konflikt v Bshkortostane?” in
Izvastia Bashkortostana (June 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 22 1993); Tryaskin P.
“Zhivem na Odnoi Zemle: Trudnaya Tema Natsionalnykh Otnoshenii” in
Sovetskaya Bashkiria (February 13, 1992); Uraksin Zinnur “Yazykovaya
Situatsia v Bashkortostanei Problemy Rasshireniya Obschestvennykh
Funktsii Bashkirskogo Yazyka” in Bashkortostan Ykytyusyhy (may, 1992):
14-16; Yuldashbayev Bilal “Za Natsionalno-Suverennye Prava Avtonomii v
Sostave Demokraticheskoi Rossii” in Leninets (September 24-29, 1992).
106. Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov’s interview with
Nezavitsimaya Gazeta (May 17, 1997).
107. See Central State Historical Archives of the Republic of
Bashkortostan (TSGIA RB), the Bashkir Language Act of the Central
Executive Committee and Council of the People’s Commissars of the
Autonomous Bashkir Soviet Socialist Republic (March 30, 1926); Ibidem.,
Directive on Conducting Administration and Usage of Non-Russian
Languages in Local Bodies of Government and Republican Ministries in
Bashkortostan (“O Poryadke Vedeniya Deloproizvodstva i Razgovornoi Rechi
v Selsovetakh, Volostyakh, a Takzhe v Kantonnykh Tsentralnykh
Uchrezdeniyakh i Narkomatakh na Natsionalnykh Yazykakh, Prisposablivaya
k Usloviyam Bashkirskoi Deistvitelnosti”) (October 6, 1924).
108. For their own part, Russia’s ethnic republics also count on the
federal government’s and generally public’s understanding and support
when realizing measures aimed at reviving their national cultures and
languages. Total rejection by them of the ethnic revival programs can
only exacerbate interethnic relations and jeopardize civic peace. Hence,
all the parties concerned should rather exercise extreme caution and
maximum tact, have more tolerance and patience. For example, it is not
difficult to foresee what kind of feelings the following racist remarks
will cause on the part of the Sakha people. “...The Yakuts living on
the territory inhabited by indigenous peoples of the North are as much
colonizers as Russians ... accordingly, there is no reason to consider
them more indigenous there than Russians and Ukrainians. ... It can be
doubted that any lofty morals should be inherent in the Yakuts ... How
could the Yakuts have developed respect and mercy for old age, if in
the recent past they would practize killing old and sick people”. See
Natsionalnaya Politika Rossii: Istoria i Sovremennost (Moscow: Russkii
109. The Interview was conducted by the author on June 14, 1999.
110. The interview was conducted by the author on July 2, 1999.
111. The interview was conducted by the author on July 10, 1999.
112. It is worth noting, for instance, that the UN Human Rights
Committee established under the ICCPR has stated that the right of
minority ethnic groups to enjoy their own culture, profess their own
religion, or use their own language represents customary international
law. See UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment No.24, Issues
relating to reservations made upon ratification or accession to the
Covenant or the Optional Protocols thereto, or in relation to
declarations under article 41 of the Covenant, 4 November 1994, para. 8,
in Report of the Human Rights Committee, UN GAOR, 50 th Sess., Supp. No
40, Annex V, at 124, UN Doc. A/50/40 (1995).
113. Anaya S.J. Op.cit.: 98-104.
114. Tatar and Russian nationalists would probably disagree with the
fact that the language problem in Bashkortostan is being resolved in
115. Report on the Linguistic Rights of Persons Belonging to National
Minorities in the OSCE Area (Organization for Security and Co-operation
in Europe: High Commissioner on National Minorities, the Hague, 10 March
116. As Dominique Arel observed: some nationalist, ‘politically
incorrect’ measures may be needed to actually defuse nationalism and
interethnic tension in the long run. "Political Stability in the
Multination: the Civic State and the Fear of Minorisation" in Alain
Gagnon and James Tully (eds.) In Search of Justice and Stability:
Liberal Justice and Political Stability in Multinational Societies
(Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).
117. See Kymlicka Will, Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of
Minority Rights (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995): 192.
118. Cook Ramsay, French-Canadian Nationalism: An Anthology (Toronto:
Macmillan 1969): 149.
119. Frank Allen, et al, Op.cit.:166.
120. The statistical data were calculated from tables 5 (1920);8
(1926); 9 (1939) and 10 (1959-89) in Yuldasbayev Bilal Kh., Bashkiry I
Bashkortostan: Etnostatistika (Ufa: Vsemirny Kurultai Bashkir, 1995).
122. This and some other tables have been created by Dmitry Gorenburg
for the report, titled “Tatars into Bashkirs and Back: Identity Change
in Bashkortostan” made on April 27, 1997 at the annual meeting of the
American Association for the Study of Nationalities.