Libmonster ID: KZ-2430
Author(s) of the publication: V. M. ALPATOV

L.: Hurst and Company, 2001. 260 p.*

(c) 2002

The book by renowned Turkologists J. Landau (Hebrew University, Jerusalem) and B. Kellner-Heinkele (Institute of Turkology at the Free University, Berlin) is devoted to contemporary sociolinguistic problems of six post - Soviet Muslim states-Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. One cannot help but regret that there is still not a single book or generalizing work on this problem, as well as on many similar ones, in Russia. The peer-reviewed study is based on a large number of publications, including those published in the studied countries, as well as on the authors ' own impressions, who visited five of these countries (except Tajikistan) in 1997 and 1998.

The introductory part of the book - "Language and the Search for identity" - provides a general analysis of ethno-linguistic processes in the modern world, especially in the countries under consideration. The authors rightly point out that almost everywhere in the world now ethnic problems are becoming more noticeable (p. 1). Many peoples strive to maintain or develop a national identity, and one of its most important components is language.

In this regard, the book's assessments of the ethnolinguistic situation in the USSR by the end of its existence are important. The authors point out that in the six Muslim union republics of the USSR, as in other parts of the state, cultural assimilation did not occur; all these peoples clearly felt their difference from the Russians, including cultural and civilizational ones (p.3-4). Each of the union republics was like a proto-state: without control over many spheres of life, but with its own name, border, and administrative apparatus,


Landau Ya., Kellner-Heinkele B. Language policy in post-Soviet Muslim states. London: Hurst & Company, 2001. 260 p.

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the political and cultural elite. All this facilitated the formation of new independent states. Among other national slogans in these republics, language slogans played an important role.

The next two chapters of the book describe the process of forming six new independent states and the situation with Russian diasporas in them. Then there is a chapter on language policy in the six corresponding union republics of the USSR. This part of the book mainly contains fairly well-known information, which is presented in a clear and compact form. Most of the authors ' statements are quite reasonable, but at the same time some comments can be made on these chapters.

Often, the authors repeat the usual stereotypical assessments, mainly in relation to the USSR, which sometimes contradict other formulations of the book. For example, it is hardly possible to call the USSR a unitary state without reservation (p. 3); this assessment is not entirely consistent with the description of the Union republics as "proto-states" mentioned above. It was the language policy in the country that was perhaps most inconsistent with what usually happens in unitary states, when the social roles of the main state language and all other languages, whose status, as a rule, is the same, are contrasted. In the USSR, there was a multi-level hierarchy of languages: the top level was occupied by the Russian language, the next-the titular languages of the union republics, then there were several more levels, and at the very bottom of the pyramid were the languages of small peoples of non-titular nationalities, for example, within the area described in the book - Talysh or Lezgin in Azerbaijan, Pamir in Tajikistan, etc. The latter languages were usually replaced not so much by Russian as by Azerbaijani or Tajik.

It is also hardly necessary to talk about "artificial borders imposed by the totalitarian state from Moscow" (p. 9). It turns out that the local democratic government, if it existed, could draw natural borders. However, here we must distinguish between two issues. One is whether the creation of "proto-states" and national demarcation were justified at all. It was determined not only by the nature of the government, but also in many respects by the utopian ideas of the new government about the universal operation of the principle of national states, which at that time prevailed in Europe. Another question is where to draw the boundaries. It is clear that a natural border, for example between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, could not be drawn in principle, since Uzbeks and Tajiks lived in the same territories. The borders that were adopted can hardly be considered the most artificial, although there were and still are many mutual grievances.

The authors of the book, like many other foreign authors, attach too much importance to the well-known decree of March 13, 1938 on the teaching of the Russian language in national schools (p.36, 54). According to their logic, Russian was not a compulsory subject in national schools until 1938. However, this was the case before, and the decree only intensified the teaching of the Russian language, introducing it from the first grades of school. Even less accurate is the statement that J. V. Stalin's policy from the late 1920s was directed against the development of national cultures (p. 51). It contradicts the data immediately given that not only in the 1920s, but also in the 1930s, many new literary languages were actively developed, new scripts were created, and a number of languages were saved from extinction (pp. 51-52); the authors quite rightly rate this process highly. Indeed, as I correctly point out. According to Landau and B. Kellner-Heinkele, since the late 1920s, the state's language policy has become tightly centralized, although initially it was aimed at developing the functions of different languages down to the smallest, and centralization made it possible to carry it out on a larger scale. A decisive turn of policy towards Russification took place only in the second half of the 1930s (the decree of March 13, 1938 was certainly important here, but not as decisive as it is usually considered in the West).

The authors are not entirely correct when they say that in the USSR the Latin alphabet for many languages was introduced in 1929 and replaced by the Cyrillic alphabet in 1940 (p.54): both processes took several years and were not simultaneous for different languages. It is also difficult to agree with the statement that persons of indigenous nationalities in Soviet times could occupy leadership positions only at the lower and middle levels (p. 36): in all the Union republics, most of the highest posts were replaced by Russian speakers (who occupied leading positions in the Soviet Union).

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1920s and partly in the 1930s) representatives of the titular nation. In Azerbaijan, for example, this process was mostly completed by the mid-1930s.

However, in general, the authors ' position in relation to Soviet realities is quite objective, and their assessment of Moscow's language policy is far from unambiguous. The initial situation in the formation of new national states is characterized quite accurately: with some statistical variation, bilingualism for the titular nation and monolingualism for the Russian population prevailed everywhere. It is also important to conclude that the Russian diaspora in each of the republics did not think much about language problems until 1991 and, feeling supported by Moscow, did not care about any protection of their own interests (p.38). As a result, even now the Russian-speaking part of the population in all six republics is poorly organized and does not know how to defend their common interests (p.43). This is especially evident against the background of the purposeful policy of the elite of the titular nation.

The most important and interesting part of the book consists of chapters 5-9 describing the situation of the last decade. Often they contain little-known facts scattered across various, often inaccessible, publications. The fifth chapter is devoted to the general principles of language policy in the newly independent states, the sixth - to language legislation, the seventh - to the problems of changing the alphabet, the eighth - to issues of vocabulary and spelling, and the ninth-to the educational systems that are developing in each of the republics.

In general, language processes in each of the republics are assessed as derusification, which is the most important component of desovietization (p. 65). However, these processes take place at different speeds, due not so much to differences in the policy pursued, but rather to different objective situations in various republics (politics itself, even with the same subjective intentions, is forced to take into account objective reality). Some attempts to artificially force derussification, such as in Azerbaijan under Elchibey (p. 79), have made little difference.

Among the objective factors influencing the speed of change, the authors distinguish two. First, there is the number of Russian-speaking diasporas, which is significant in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and rather small in the other four republics. However, it should be noted not only the total percentage of the Russian-speaking population, but also its distribution by territory, which the book does not do enough. For example, despite the overall low percentage of Russian speakers in Uzbekistan, its capital, Tashkent, is still a multi-ethnic city where the common language is Russian. Secondly, it is the attitude to the Russian language of the titular nation itself. Here again, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz are different from the rest. As the book points out (pp. 86, 93), in Soviet times, educated Kazakhs and Kirghizs usually perceived the native language as low-prestige, "the language of home", and Russian was considered not a "colonial language", but a full-fledged means of information and communication. Among the national elites, there are many people who know Russian better than Kazakh or Kyrgyz. None of this can change quickly. Attempts to replace the Russian language with English have so far yielded little in all six states. In Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and partly in Azerbaijan, the level of Russian language proficiency has never been very high, and national languages have never been so low-profile as in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. However, the authors emphasize that the situation in Kazakhstan is also slowly changing in favor of the Kazakh language (p. 91). At the same time, the Russian language has not yet been relegated to the level of a foreign language in any of the countries, and its role in everyday life is more significant everywhere.

The difference between the intentions of the ruling elite and reality is clearly seen in the example of language laws. Adopted during the Soviet era, in 1989-1990, these laws were drawn up without any consideration of the language situation and had little contact with life (p. 110). All of them were based on giving the language of the titular nation a status that did not correspond to its actual role. Only in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (and since 1994 in Tajikistan) the role of the Russian language as a language of interethnic communication was stipulated.

The same discrepancy is reflected in the measures taken to change the writing system. This chapter of the book is particularly interesting because information about this process reaches Russia poorly and often with distortions. As shown by Yandex. Maps. According to Landau and B. Kellner-Heinkele, the rejection of the Cyrillic alphabet (everywhere in favor of the Latin alphabet) is officially proclaimed in three states-Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The experience of Turkey, which is a role model for the elites of the Turkic republics, is significant. In Azerbaijan-

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In Jana and Turkmenistan, the orthography of the new alphabets is as close as possible to the Turkish one and has nothing to do with the one that existed in the 1920s and 1930s (there is no such orientation in Uzbekistan). The other three countries still use the Cyrillic alphabet. In Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, this is probably due to the above-mentioned greater orientation of the respective titular nations towards the Russian language and culture. In Tajikistan, the situation is different: there is no question of Romanization at all, but there are active supporters of Arabization. The reason is that, on the one hand, no Iranian language currently uses the Latin script, on the other hand, the country is significantly influenced by Iran. However, even here we have limited ourselves only to the reform of the Tajik Cyrillic alphabet, from which letters that were used only in borrowings from Russian are excluded (pp. 145-147).

As shown in the book, Romanization is not complete in any of the new states. Everywhere it is more or less consistently carried out in two areas: signs of state institutions are written in the Latin alphabet, textbooks for elementary school classes are published on it. For example, books, newspapers, and magazines are still printed in Cyrillic. The authors cite photographs that show complete alphabetic diversity in all three republics (our observations during a business trip to Tashkent in 1999 fully confirm these data). Here is a very recent example: the Azerbaijani writer Anar, an active proponent of Romanization, complains in the Moscow newspaper (Obshchaya Gazeta. 07.02.2002), that now Azerbaijani schoolchildren study the Latin alphabet, although fiction is still printed in Cyrillic. All this creates a gap in the cultural tradition.

J. Landau and B. Kellner-Heinkele note another aspect of Romanization that is often overlooked. A number of Central Asian languages are torn apart by newly drawn state borders, and the language policy in the new states is not uniform. In particular, the Latin alphabet is introduced in Uzbek schools in Uzbekistan, while the Cyrillic alphabet is retained in Uzbek schools in Kyrgyzstan, which is why textbooks for the latter are no longer purchased in Uzbekistan and are printed in Cyrillic in Kyrgyzstan itself (p.201). If this situation continues for a long time, the linguistic unity of Uzbeks may be disrupted. The book also discusses attempts to create a single Turkic literary language or at least a single Turkic alphabet based on Latin. Such ideas were popular in the early 1990s, but you can hardly expect them to be implemented.

The book examines in detail the process of adding vocabulary and clarifying terminology in the new states of Central Asia and Azerbaijan; both are necessary in connection with the acquisition by the titular languages of these states of the functions previously performed by the Russian language (in the army, diplomacy, large-scale industry, technology, natural sciences, etc.). Along with this, in all six states, although with varying degrees of radicalism, there is a desire to push out borrowing from Russian as much as possible from the language. It is shown that the main sources of vocabulary replenishment are Chagatai and other old written Turkic languages, Arabic and Persian, while the vocabulary of their own dialects is used (in contrast to the 1920s - 1930s) to a small extent (p.148).

Derucification in the field of education is also considered in the book. And in this area, the process is proceeding steadily, although more slowly than initially expected: they are reflected as a lack of funds. teachers, etc., as well as the established habits of people. For example, by 1998, only one engineering university in Kazakhstan (in Ust-Kamenogorsk) had translated all training into Kazakh (pp. 183-184). On the one hand, this indicates that the complete displacement of the Russian language from the prestigious spheres of life is still far away. But on the other hand, if we take into account that until 1991 the Kazakh language was practically not used in the field of engineering and natural sciences, and Ust-Kamenogorsk was almost entirely a Russian-speaking city, the appearance of a university there in seven years, where all technical subjects are read in Kazakh, shows a rather high rate of de-Russification, which, of course, it can be completed only after a change of generations.

The situation in the new Central Asian states and in Azerbaijan is far from stable, and much can still change. The peer-reviewed book was published in the summer of 2001, but a number of events occurred after that. In Kyrgyzstan, the only country in the region so far, Russian has been declared the second state language. This is due not only to the role of the Russian-speaking population, which continues to leave, but also to the great prestige of the Russian language for the Kyrgyz themselves. Another important event is the introduction of US and allied troops in four new go-

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Central Asian states, for the first time in the history of these peoples. Of course, this fact will not lead to immediate results, but in the long run it may contribute to the gradual replacement of the Russian language by English in cultural spheres.

In general, the book by J. Landau and B. Kellner-Heinkele is reasonable in its approach, contains many facts and is very informative.


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V. M. ALPATOV, J. LANDAU, В. KELLNER-HEINKELE. POLITICS OF LANGUAGE IN THE EX-SOVIET MUSLIM STATES // Astana: Digital Library of Kazakhstan (BIBLIO.KZ). Updated: 28.06.2024. URL: https://biblio.kz/m/articles/view/J-LANDAU-В-KELLNER-HEINKELE-POLITICS-OF-LANGUAGE-IN-THE-EX-SOVIET-MUSLIM-STATES (date of access: 25.07.2024).

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