Russian language is still important in Central Asia even as its usage has declined/ Ãëàâíàÿ / Russkiy Mir Foundation / Publications / Russian language is still important in Central Asia even as its usage has declined
Russian language is still important in Central Asia even as its usage has declined
What is the future of Russian language in Central Asia? This question is still open and the prospects are rather unclear. According to the 1989 census, 80% of the inhabitants of Soviet Union spoke Russian. In 2019, everything changed dramatically. More than half of residents throughout Central Asia (except Kazakhstan) do not speak Russian.
“Considering the changes that occurred after the collapse of Soviet Union, we can rightly say that Russian language is disappearing from public space,” independent researcher Nurbek Bekmurzaev states.
At the same time, there are significant differences in the status of Russian language in different states of the region. There are reasons for this in each country.
Turkmenistan: is Russian coming back?
In Turkmenistan, Russian language has lost its former positions primarily because of mass emigration. The number of its speakers decreased three times (exact data is not available). They are not only representatives of Russian nationality, but also Koreans, Germans, Armenians and many other diasporas. Most of them traditionally lived in the capital and regional centers.
However, interest in language has gone back to growth today. Most likely this happens due to a drop in the level of education. Russian-language information environment significantly wins the official one.
Immediately after gaining sovereignty, the country decided to undertake a “total Turkmenization”.
“Russian ceased to be the official language of Turkmenistan. It has become more common to mention the new phrase, “titular nation”. These structural changes entailed mass migration of citizens of non-titular nationality,” the author claims.
In addition, universities reduced the admission of young people of non-Turkmen nationality. This strengthened the migration flows even further.
“The education reform was the main blow to Russian language. The result was a significant reduction in teaching Russian. Russian schools first became joint with Turkmen, and then disappeared at all, leaving behind 1 or 2 Russian classes sometimes. Due to decline of Russian-language education, as well as the “Turkmenization” of the state sector, younger generation began to speak less and less Russian. At the same time, in the 1990s, Russian as a “complementary language” had competitors in the form of Turkish and English,” the author states.
However, he also notes that neither English nor Turkish became the “language of communication”. English has become a "valuable skill and a sign of education", inaccessible to the masses. Russian turned out to be both a language of communication and an “instrument language”.
Russian language in Turkmenistan has several scenarios. As stated above, Russian returns again, and there are several reasons for it. In particular, Russian language knowledge is a good chance to continue education in Russian-speaking country. For example, about 8000 young citizens of Turkmenistan study in Belarusian universities. Both school and higher educations are at a very low level in the country.
The popularity of the Russian media, social networks and Internet resources also played its role. Although its share of Turkmen and Turkish content is also available.
“Initially, Turkmen Internet was occupied mainly by Russian-speaking urban population, which made Russian the main tool for Internet communication. Advertisements are also given mainly in Russian to reach a wider audience. Large number of advertisements in broken Russian can also be considered an evidence of this. Obviously, Russian language is being chosen mostly out of relevance, not for reasons of convenience,” the author maintains. In addition, knowledge of the language significantly increases competitiveness in cities.
However, he is not ready to predict its future, since the processes in the country are incomprehensible and unknown. But still, there is a high probability that it will be preserved.
In the foreseeable future, English language cannot compete, because universal education requires too many well-trained teachers. Turkmen education system will not be able to provide them.
“However, it is hardly worth considering the possibility of holding mass campaigns to popularize Russian language. The economic situation in Turkmenistan, along with the political situation, leads to a consistent emigration of Russian-speaking population, even Russian-speaking Turkmen. In this scenario, it is possible that Russian will remain only in the “pockets” of major cities of Turkmenistan, disappearing from public language field in the future,” the author says.
Russian mass media is too popular in Tajikistan
Tajik political scientist Muslimbek Buriev states that Russian language still takes an important place in the country. Albeit overall level of its possession decreased, especially compared with other countries in the region.
The story of the language in Tajikistan is generally similar to Turkmen. Previously, Russian language was not only a career advantage, but also an opportunity to join the world culture. Foreign fiction and scientific works were translated mainly into Russian. The level began to decline primarily due to the outflow of Russian-speaking population. Civil war and the policy of national construction also contributed to this.
About 70% of Russian-speaking population emigrated back in the 90’s. However, the language is still in demand almost everywhere, from business to art. In addition, Russian mass media (mainly TV) and Internet resources are popular.
“Russian language is of key importance in the academic sphere, since scientific and qualification works of academicians have the right to pass through the All-Russian Attestation Commission (HAC). In accordance with this, all works must be submitted in Russian. This is popular among local scientists, since Russian education is highly valued, and the scientific expertise approved by Russian HAC adds prestige,” Buriev writes.
Local commission also accepts works in English, but not on any other language. Officially, the status of language of international communication is enshrined in Tajik constitution. Russian language is necessarily studied in every school. If education is given in Tajik, Russian is taught starting from the second year.
“Russian language has acquired a peculiar political status at the level of interethnic economic and political relations. However, due to some political factors in Tajikistan, its importance for internal processes has also increased,” the expert notes.
To be finished ...