Staunton, October 29 -- It has become a basic modus operandi of the Putin regime to organize much-ballyhooed public actions that suggest it is moving in a very different direction than it in fact is, confident that many in Russia and the West will focus on such publicity stunts rather than on what it is actually doing.
Nowhere has that pattern been more crass than with regard to the Kremlin’s supposed support for non-Russian languages. Not only has it highlighted its aid to the numerically smallest peoples even as it takes steps to destroy the languages of the larger minorities, but it has organized national conferences in Moscow designed to conceal what it is in fact doing.
Last year and again last week, the Russian authorities organized a forum in Moscow on “Language Policy: All-Russian Expertise.” At the first, officials came and their presence was much covered in government media. But at the second, the story was very different – and it has been exposed by Nail Gyylman (zamanabiz.blogspot.com/2019/10/blog-post_28.html).
As he points out, this year, the head of the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs did not show up at all, nor was there anyone from the leadership of the education ministry which is charged with dealing with languages in the schools. And two Duma deputies who did come stayed “for less than an hour.”
Only one non-Russian official, Olga. Starostina, who represents the Nenets National District in the Federation Council, spoke at the plenary session; and only one of the three panels the meeting then broke into featured speakers from the regions and republics who actually deal with the problems of non-Russian languages.
That panel allowed for the exchange of experiences among the non-Russians, Gyylman says, and as such it was valuable. Indeed, such exchanges are sufficient to make such forums useful even if their primary mission is to sent the inaccurate message that Moscow really is solicitous of the fate of the non-Russian languages and their speakers.
And such meetings are important in another way if people take note of what is going on. They show that “the structures and officials on which depend a real decision of the problems ignore the forum,” something that should send a clear message to the non-Russians and those who care about their fate what the real situation is.