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27.08.2001 - The Karelian Language is on the Way to the Law Status

State Committee on national policy of the Republic of Karelia

The Karelian Language is on the Way to the Law Status

The Republic of Karelia is one of the four republics of the Russian Federation, which have not adopted yet the law of the language. The law should be based on the Constitution of Russia and Federal Law "About the languages of the Russian Federation minorities." Two attempts had been made in order to pass the law in the Legislative Assambly, and both failed (in 1998 and 2000).

Practically all Russian republics have established the languauge of indigenous population as a second state language. Politically it is very important. The state language is one of the symbols of the state system as well as a banner, a coat-of-arms, an anthem; actually, it's a token of respect to the state forming ethnos, given the republic its name; the status of the law language quarantees its preserving and devlopment, and also the governmental support.

Modern Russian experience proves that the second state language can't exert all its function to the fullest immediately after introduction. Introduction calls for transition period.

Why? The matter is that most of the so called title nations in the republics of the Russian Federation are actually minorities both in terms of number of native speakers and volumes of functions performed. Then a discrepansy arises between actually existed minority situation and the status of the second state language, juridicially declared.

National population structure in the Republic of Karelia is the following: the Russians make 73,6%, the Karelians - 10%, the Vepsians - 0,8%, the Finns - 2,3%.The Karelian Constitution says that the Republic of Karelia has the right to establish other state languages based on referendum. Referendum means that all the citizen can take part in voting, despite of their nationality. That's why the draft of the law "About the languages in the Republic of Karelia" was focused on the concept "the language of a minority."The definition is relevant to the International standards, stated by the European charter of reginal languages (1992) and Frame Convention of minority protection (1994).

The definition sounds like this: Regional languages are languages traditionally used on the territory of the Republic of Karelia by the citizens of the Russian Federation, living permanently in the Republic of Karelia and forming groups, fewer in number than the rest of the population of the Republic of Karelia, and serving communication purposes and the purposes of expression the cultural heritage, distiguished of the official state language. According to the definition, the regional languages of the Republic of Karelia are Karelian, Vepsian, and Finnish.

The adoption of the law will allow to build relations with native speakers of regional languages on a a more flexible base, taking in the account their demands. The regional language are supposed to use in administrative activities, in cultural and educational institutions, in mass-media, in social-economic aspects of life.

Not counting only on introduction of the law status of the languages, we were gradually enwidening the volumes of functioning the Karelian Vepsian, and Finnish languages, trying to make them prestigeous and forming favorable public attitude.

In the absence of the law, decrees of the Head of the Government have been adopted, like " About the mesures on development the methods of teaching the Karelian, Vepsian, and Finnish languages in high scholls in the Republic of Karelia" (June, 1999). A special comission was set up for revival of the vocabulary of the Karelian, Vepsian, and Finnish languages, some of the republican programs had been adopted and accomplished, two chairs of these languages had been opened in Petrozavodsk State University and the Karelian State Pedagogical University, the system of teaching to these languages in high schools had been developed, the number of newspapers, TV programs, Internet sites had been enwidened.

The objective of the law is to preserve the languages and culture of the Karelian, Vepsian, and Finnish, living in the Republic of Karelia, to increase and bring in order the use of the national languages, to strive to achive their modern pronunciation.

We have a real option, having adopted the language law, to break the deadlock. This idea is quite relevant to the idea of multipolar, multinational, and multicultural world.

Tatyana Kleerova
Deputy Head of the State Committee of National Policy RK

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Created: 27 August 2001. Last updated: 28 August 2001.
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