European linguists’ statement on behalf of Russia’s minority languages


Pravo_na_jazyk_HelsinkiOn 19 June 2018, the State Duma of the Russian Federation approved a law that would make the study of all minority languages spoken in the territory of the country voluntary. The law is being discussed again in the Duma on 24 July, but still there is no evidence that this law will protect minority languages rather than weaken their situation.

The law will also exclude from the official curriculum those national languages of republics and regions that have until now been official languages alongside Russian or have enjoyed other legal protection, and even some languages that are spoken by a majority of the local population. This law will even further weaken the status of Russia’s minority languages, which are already endangered.

In Russia, minority languages do not receive sufficient support in other areas of society, and the weakening of their teaching in school is a crushing blow to the country’s minority language communities. Many languages already have a very poor status in the education system, and, for example, it is not possible to receive education in the local language in any of the Finno-Ugric areas of Russia (the languages are taught only as school subjects, while all other subjects are taught in Russian).

Defenders of the law base their view on the contradictory statement that no one (in this case, mostly Russian speakers) can be forced to learn other languages. Despite the significant shortcomings and problems involved with the teaching of Russia’s minority languages in schools, the mother-tongue education that has continued up until today has unquestionably been one of the factors that have supported the preservation of the languages. Minority-language media and other communications can continue only if new generations of speakers receive regular school education, preferably in their mother tongue.

We the undersigned experts in linguistics appeal to the State Duma and authorities of the Russian Federation to repeal this law/not to approve it. In light of scientific studies, it is clear that bi- and multilingualism has only positive impacts. The results of numerous studies from around the world confirm that support for the mother tongue of children who speak minority languages also promotes their ability to learn the majority language as well as their success in the majority-language education system.

Furthermore, the broad spectrum of minority languages spoken in Russia is a unique part of the cultural heritage of the world, and the death of these languages would be a severe blow to the world’s language diversity and would significantly impoverish the intellectual heritage of humanity. The languages of Russia also have a historical right to receive support from a state that has aimed, for centuries, to oppress, dominate and assimilate its minorities in various ways. The fact that minorities are denied their linguistic human rights in many other countries does not relieve Russia of its responsibilities toward its own minority peoples.

Signatures received by 22.7.2018.


Maria Ahlholm, University of Helsinki
Elina Ahola, University of Turku
Erika Asztalos, ELTE
Mariann Bernhardt, University of Turku
Jeremy Bradley, University of Vienna
Kati Brummer
Márta Csepregi, ELTE
Andrei Călin Dumitrescu, University of Helsinki
Svetlana Edygarova, University of Helsinki
Aleksi Elovaara, University of Turku
Pirkko Forsman Svensson, University of Helsinki
Maria Frick, University of Oulu
Ekaterina Gruzdeva, University of Helsinki
Nikolett F. Gulyás, ELTE
Auli Hakulinen, Professor, University of Helsinki
Susanna Hakulinen, University of Bordeaux-Montaigne
Helena Halmari, Professor, Sam Houston State University
Juhani Härmä, University of Helsinki
Jukka Havu, University of Tampere
Mervi de Heer, University of Uppsala
Katja Heikkonen, University of Helsinki
Katri Hiovain, University of Helsinki
Sampsa Holopainen, University of Helsinki
Laura Horváth, ELTE
Ilmari Ivaska, University of Bologna
Kelvin Charles Parker Jackson, University of Turku
Lotta Jalava, Institute of the languages of Finland (KOTUS)
Vesa Jarva, University of Jyväskylä
Santeri Junttila, University of Helsinki
Petri Kallio, University of Helsinki
Simo Kantele, Suomi-Venäjä-Seura
Anneli Kauppinen, University of Helsinki
Alexandra Kellner, University of Helsinki
Jeongdo Kim, University of Helsinki
Nikolai Kirsanov, University of Helsinki
Iivari Koutonen
Kata Kubínyi, ELTE
Leena Kytömäki, University of Turku
Johanna Laakso, Professor, University of Vienna
Kimmo Laine
Lea Laitinen, Professor, University of Helsinki
Sirkku Latomaa, University of Tampere
Yrjö Lauranto, University of Helsinki
Hanna Lehti-Eklund, University of Helsinki
Jyri Lehtinen, University of Helsinki
Heini Lehtonen, University of Helsinki
Unni Leino, University of Tampere
Jouko Lindstedt, Professor, University of Helsinki
Erkki Löfberg
Seera Luukka, University of Turku
Outi Merisalo, Professor, University of Jyväskylä
Niklas Metsäranta, University of Helsinki
Arto Moisio, University of Turku
Marja-Leena Niitemaa, University of Turku
Mari Nikonen, University of Turku
Pirkko Nuolijärvi, University of Helsinki / KOTUS
Tiina Onikki-Rantajääskö, Professor, University of Helsinki
Miikul Pahomov, University of Helsinki
Niko Partanen, Institute for the Languages of Finland
Kaisa S. Pietikäinen, NHH Norwegian School of Economics
János Pusztay, Professor, ELTE
Ulriikka Puura, University of Helsinki
Toini Rahtu, University of Helsinki
Michael Rießler, University of Bielefeld
Mirja Saari, University of Helsinki
Janne Saarikivi, Professor, University of Helsinki
Sirkka Saarinen, University of Turku
Esa-Jussi Salminen, Udmurt State University
Stephan Schulz, University of Helsinki
Mari Siiroinen, University of Helsinki
Kirsti Siitonen, University of Turku
Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Roskilde University
Sachiko Sosa, University of Helsinki
Silja-Maija Spets, University of Turku
Ritva Takkinen, University of Jyväskylä
Anne Tamm, Central European University
Outi Tánczos, University of Helsinki
Marika Tandefelt, Svenska handelshögskolan
Reetta Toivanen, University of Helsinki
Hannu Tommola, University of Tampere
Eva Toulouze, INALCO / University of Tartu
Heli Viita-Louhio, University of Tampere
Maria Vilkuna, University of Helsinki
Susanna Virtanen, University of Helsinki
Mikhail Voronov, UiT Norges arktiske universitet
Joshua Wilbur, Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg
Jussi Ylikoski, Professor, University of Oulu


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  1. Pingback: Ученые Европы выступили против языкового законопроекта РФ | MariUver

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