''Ethnic languages have been brushed aside in school curricula''

The State Council of Tatarstan suddenly turns into a place for discussion

The proposal on voluntary study of state languages brought in the State Duma has caused a new, slightly calmed down before the presidential election, wave of discontent in Tatarstan. This time deputies decided not to be silent and categorically spoke about ''stupidity, illogicality'' and even ''meanness'' of the new bill. At a session of Tatarstan State Council, deputies accused its Chairman Farid Mukhametshin and President Rustam Minnikhanov of being too sluggish in defending the Tatar language. The correspondent of Realnoe Vremya attended the meeting.

''We have the right to expect more active participation of our president''

Forty-one issues were on the agenda at the 37th session of the Tatarstan State Council, but almost all the time before a break was spent on the discussion of the topic that was even absent in the agenda at all. After bringing in a proposal on voluntary study of state languages to the State Duma of the Russian Federation on April 10, Tatarstan deputies rebelled and wrote a petition of the State Council of Tatarstan to the chairman of the lower house of the parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin.

Rinat Zakirov was the first to speak about the sore subject. For his speech, he chose the state language of the republic — Tatar. After him, other members also started to speak out. Razil Valeyev said that the right to establish state languages is one of the features of the constitutional and legal status of the republics, different from the status of other subjects of Russia. The chairman of the committee on education, culture, science and ethnic affairs fears that the amendments in the draft law will lead to gradual emasculation of ethnic languages studied in school, and in the future it threatens a loss of ethnic languages and ethnic identity.

''We hope that our voice will be heard by deputies of the State Duma and this bill won't be adopted. It is necessary to preserve the right to study ethnic languages in the mandatory part of the educational programme,'' said Valeyev.

Razil Valeyev fears that the amendments in the draft law will lead to gradual emasculation of ethnic languages studied in school, and in the future it threatens a loss of ethnic languages and ethnic identity

The speech of the deputy had also some criticism of the State Council and the president of Tatarstan, the latter was absent at the meeting.

''We see in the press and feel that the State Council and the president of the republic are often criticized for the lack of consistency in defending positions on preservation of the Tatar language. We have the right to expect our president to take a more active part in resolving this issue, especially given his authority in Russia. Our deputy corps and its chairman Farid Mukhametshin must keep the realization of the constitutional rights of the people of the republic under constant control,'' angrily stated Razil Valeyev.

Unlike the usual meetings of the State Council of the Republic of Tatarstan, this time the deputies were more live and listened attentively to speakers without being distracted by other matters. The next in line to the rostrum was Deputy Dmitry Samarenkin, who began with the fact that the last two weeks he had been receiving messages from the Chuvashs, who were also dissatisfied with the new bill brought in the State Duma.

''People are seriously concerned about the future of their language. They immediately caught true tonality and the purpose of this bill as destructive and inhumane by nature,'' Samarenkin noted and expressed, according to him, the general opinion of the peoples, which consists in that this bill won't do any good. ''The State Council should say its firm 'no' to this bill,'' the deputy laconically concluded.

''It seems that these deputies have clearly made haste and do not understand where they are going''

''What Dmitry Samarenkin have said about the Chuvashs also fully concerns to all peoples. We fixed it during the general meeting in the House of friendship of the peoples of Tatarstan, when we reached the peak in the discussion of the study of the Tatar language a few months ago. Unanimously, all the chairmen of ethnic cultural associations of the Republic of Tatarstan voted for compulsory study of the Tatar language in the framework of the school programme,'' Irek Sharipov supported his colleagues.

''People are seriously concerned about the future of their language. They immediately caught true tonality and the purpose of this bill as destructive and inhumane by nature,'' Samarenkin noted

The proposal to exclude ethnic languages from the compulsory curriculum caused bewilderment of the deputy.

''The initiative of these deputies of the State Duma, in fact, is a revolution in quotation marks. This is a 'revolution' in the language sphere, the turn of the tide of national policy. The ethnic languages, which identify our ethnicity, are brushed aside in school curricula, turned into optional, to the option with… sewing?! It seems that these deputies have obviously made haste and don't realize where they are going. It is known that the road to hell is paved with good intentions,'' Sharipov noted.

He called the bill under discussion extremely ill-considered and even harmful for multinational Russia.

''Our country has been tested for strength by enemies many times, so why do we need to dig ourselves a hole instead of having to stand together against external challenges? There are already bells,'' the deputy warned.

He explained that today children of different ethnicities are divided according to the school programme and deputies want to legalize it.

''Slavery was also legal once. And colonialism was legitimate. The Holocaust was legitimate from the point of view of the state that was later criminalized. Reprisals were legal at the time of Stalin. We must not allow anything that is not accepted by the people to become legitimate. Legality does not always mean justice — it may also be a sign of power. But our laws must be of good quality and fair. We consider that this law is unfair in relation to hundreds of the peoples of the Russian Federation,'' Sharipov expressed his opinion.

Irek Sharipov called the bill under discussion extremely ill-considered and even harmful for multinational Russia

''There are cases when silence is tantamount to complicity''

By this time, it had become clear that a free rostrum was opened in the State Council meeting room. There were still more than enough of those willing to speak out, and the chairman of Tatarstan State Council, Farid Mukhametshin, decided to give them the floor. Although he could not do this.

''It is very easy to press [the button] and say: let's put to the vote the suggestion to adjourn the debate. I think we did this at the last meeting of the State Council, for which you criticize me today. People of different ethnicities, especially the Tatar part of the population, also criticize. At that point, I do not justify myself to you and our voters, there was a very responsible election campaign of incumbent president Vladimir Putin. The choice was small, let's face it, in this list. And continuation of the debate in the parliament on this topic was tantamount to driving a wedge between the Russians and Tatars. And further – in families, schools, educational institutions. We, I think, acted right that time,'' Mukhametshin responded to the criticism about inaction of the authorities.

According to him, 15-16 deputies have already signed up to the list of those wishing to speak out. The chairman of the State Council asked the deputies not to register any more, and the speakers — to be more concise and not to repeat each other. The turn came to the director of the Musa Dzhalil Opera and Ballet Theatre, Raufal Mukhametzyanov, who spoke in a soft, bland voice about globalization, the spread of the Internet and migration of the population from the villages, which negatively affects the preservation of ethnic languages.

''In this regard, the restrictions in development of the Tatar language of the people with more than a thousand-year history and spiritual culture are deprived, to put it mildly, of common sense,'' the creative person expressed his opinion, noting that ''the development of the language does not tolerate ignorance''.

The next speaker after the director of the opera theater was Ilshat Aminov, whose voice thundered on two floors of the meeting room. The deputy said that for various reasons they did not want to aggravate this problem for a long time and, as a consequence, received not very pleasant result.

Ilshat Aminov: ''There are cases when silence is tantamount to complicity. What have we got as a result? We have not been heard. We have got a natural result''

''Everyone wanted to resolve this issue delicately. And this critical remark I address, first of all, to myself. There are cases when silence is tantamount to complicity. What have we got as a result? We have not been heard. We have got a natural result,'' at this moment Aminov was disconnected a microphone due to time limit, but with Mukhametshin's permission it was turned on again. However, the speaker could easily cope without it. ''A group of deputies of the State Duma secretly prepared and without a broad discussion has already introduced a bill, according to which the study [of ethnic languages] becomes optional. These deputies, among whom there are also representatives of national republics, I hope, not out of malice, but rather of thoughtlessness actually signed the verdict to ethnic languages,'' the director general of TNV channel perplexed.

In sequence, Khafiz Mirgalimov was already preparing for a speech, who was dissatisfied with the fact that such important issues relating to languages were solved not in public discussions, but on the sidelines of the State Duma.

Since there were no fewer speakers willing to speak out and the main agenda of the meeting had not even started to be considered, Farid Mukhametshin took the floor again and offered to finish the discussion with the speeches of Marat Galeyev and Rafil Nugumanov.

''Maybe they will say something together. I will say it again — there is no need to convince us, to persuade us. We are all for a united, indivisible, multi-ethnic Russia. What's for to convince us from this rostrum? We need to think about how to solve this problem and determine with what we will come to the federal level in order to find the right solution,'' the chairman of the State Council outlined the tasks.

How the Tatars have been ''deceived''

Marat Galeyev started to speak about the Constitution of Russia, its federated system and powers of the republics, part of the federation. In particular, the definition of state languages and, as a result, the presence of educational standards of the state taking into account multilingualism. But with the voluntary study of ethnic languages — the chairman of the committee for economy, investments and entrepreneurship strongly disagreed.

Marat Galeyev strongly disagres with voluntary study of ethnic languages

''How can it be voluntary? It is a nonsense. I think there is a substitution of notions of voluntary study with voluntary use,'' Galeyev concluded, summarizing that Russian federalism needs to be comprehended.

Rafil Nugumanov, who is also undoubtedly concerned about the preservation of the Tatar language, in his speech focused on unfulfilled promises. According to him, both the public and deputies expected that their opinions and appeals would still be taken into account. But later it became clear that they had been ''deceived''.

''We have been ''deceived'', and our authorized representative [Mikhail Babich] promoted. He reassured the public, reassured us. It is a shame, of course, for myself, for all, for the people,'' the deputy chairman of the committee of State Duma on legality and law and order admitted.

At the suggestion of Communist Artyom Prokofyev, Mukhametshin gave the opportunity to speak directly to the deputies representing Tatarstan in the State Duma. But for some reason they didn't have the desire to speak out. But a part of deputies of the State Council didn't receive an opportunity to speak — the decided to terminate the discussion.

On the path of struggle for the language

It was the chairman of the State Council who closed the sore topic. First of all, he thanked his colleagues for the reserved tone of the discussion and reiterated that their main task was to find a solution with the federal centre that would allow to preserve ethnic languages and would not infringe on the Russian state language. That is, he specified that it was necessary to resolve the issue peacefully.

It was the chairman of the State Council who closed the sore topic

By the way, according to Mukhametshin, in Tatarstan, in addition to the Chuvashs, about whom Samarenkin spoke, the Yakuts, residents of the Caucasus, Finno-Ugric and other peoples, who are also dissatisfied with the bill submitted for consideration in Moscow, are also applying for support in defending their ethnic languages.

Apparently, they will receive such support – the Tatarstan State Council though not unanimously but approved the prepared petition to Volodin on preservation of obligatory study of ethnic languages.

By Maria Gorozhaninova. Photo: gossov.tatarstan.ru