Russian as official language in Karabakh? For and against
Russian may become an official language along with Armenian in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to a bill submitted to the National Assembly.
The bill reads that Armenian will retain state status, while Russian will receive “functions serving the literary and scientific needs of society.”
Changes and additions to the law “On language” were proposed by three out of five parliamentary factions.
The bill makes it possible, if necessary, to conduct office work in Russian. The authors of the project announce that the changes are due to a new agenda – taking into account “cultural, military, economic relations between Nagorno-Karabakh and Russia, historical memory and the fact that for many residents of the republic, Russian is a second language.”
“The long-term presence of Russian peacekeepers in Artsakh, the awareness of the need to jointly solve numerous social and communication problems, cooperation in the spheres of construction, health care, education and science requires a reassessment of the role of the Russian language,” the document says.
Opinions on the possible recognition of the Russian language as an official language in Nagorno-Karabakh.
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Situation after the war
Many in Karabakh now associate their security with the presence of the Russian contingent.
A number of schools have reopened in Stepanakert with banners reading ‘Thank you Russia’, and in some of them – the Russian flag.
However, the discussion of the issue of the status of the Russian language in the parliament has caused bewilderment of many both in Karabakh itself and in Armenia.
Supporters of the adoption of the draft claim that “Russia is an ally, a fraternal country, and there is nothing wrong with knowing the Russian language, especially since special attention has always been paid to this language in Karabakh.”
The opponents are sure that no matter how necessary the Russian presence in Karabakh is, Russian cannot have a status equal to that of Armenian.
‘The basis of the official language is the nationality of the people living in the country’
Former MP of the Armenian parliament Mane Tandilyan, who moved to Nagorno-Karabakh and headed the Ministry of Labor, Social and Migration Issues, considers it absolutely groundless to give the Russian language official status:
“Artsakh is Armenian and it will live in Armenian. […] Armenians living in Artsakh and Armenia communicate in foreign languages at their will and need, including officials. The basis of the official language is the nationality of the people living in this country. And discussing the issue of language in Artsakh, one of the most ethnically homogeneous states in the world, is like discussing whether its inhabitants are Armenians.
I speak Russian with Russians and English with English speakers. I would like to know other languages as well. Knowledge of languages is about you, and the official language is about the country. Learn languages, but you don’t have to trample on your own originality and dignity,” wrote Mane Tandilyan on her Facebook page.
Dearmenization of Artsakh
The problem is not in the status of Russian, but the fact that the Armenian language will not be the only official one, said Naira Hayrumyan, a political observer for Lragir.am:
“The issue here is not Russification, but that there is a process of de-armenization, which began to manifest itself openly after the war. I am even sure that there was a demand for the recognition of Russian as not an official, but even a state or the only official language. The Artsakh leadership is probably now proud of the fact that they managed to ensure that Russian was discussed only as a second official language.
They explain that the recognition of the Russian language at the legislative level is associated with the presence of Russian peacekeepers. Does this mean that if tomorrow, say, the Scandinavian contingent takes the place of the Russian peacekeepers, as the United States and other countries have suggested, then along with Armenian, ten more languages will have to be recognized (Danish, Swedish, etc.) – now for the Scandinavian peacekeepers?
The reverse effect of political fawning
The NK leadership, most likely, assumes that by giving Russian official status, it enhances security, but in reality the opposite is true, says political scientist, head of the Modus Vivendi research center Ara Papyan:
“Many in Armenia will regard this step as a departure from Armenia. Russia itself had to dissuade the Karabakh authorities from such an initiative, because in this way Russia loses the trust of millions of Armenians. This is a typical colonial policy. And pressure creates opposition. If people need Russian, they will learn it, because there are no restrictions.
And there is no doubt that what is happening is the initiative of local provincial politicians who are currying favor with Russia. At first glance, it seems that this is a pro-Russian step, but it backfired.
Less than one percent of Russians live here, so it makes no sense to give the Russian language official status. And it is strange to justify the recognition of the language by the presence of peacekeepers. They will not control the parliament or other state structures, will they? For special cases, you can get by with a translator.
If the law is nevertheless adopted, all documentation will be kept in Russian. And Russian will become not the second, but the first official language. A similar situation was present in Armenia during the Soviet Union. Over time, they will start to save money on documentation in two languages and will manage with just the Russian language alone.
Comments from social media
“This is a curtsey towards Russia and so hasty that I have the feeling that thousands of our soldiers gave their lives for the sake of the Russian language.”
“Our prisoners are returned from Azerbaijan by Muradov [the commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent], the borders of Syunik [the southern border region of Armenia] are protected by the Russian troops. Is it really so absurd to make Russian an official language? Or do you suggest that Muradov carry an interpreter with him?”
“Artsakh officials, being more Catholic than the Pope, apparently think that all the problems in the post-war country have already been resolved, and for the sake of complete happiness the only thing that remains is to introduce Russian as the state language”.
“The adoption of the bill is dangerous because tomorrow, for example, the parliament or government may decide that meetings should be held in the official Russian language accessible to peacekeepers, then this phenomenon will become widespread, which will lead to the ousting of the Armenian language.”
“Parents will prefer to send their children to Russian schools, we already had such a precedent. In Soviet times, our ‘elite’ spoke Russian, children went to prestigious Russian schools. Today, the vast majority study in Armenian schools and speak their native language. This is one of the small achievements of the past 30 years, and a change in the law “On language” can cross it out.”
“The Armenians, who painfully conceived of this this law, decided that the biggest problem for Artsakh and Armenia is not the Turks, not the Azerbaijani flag in Shushi, not the surrender of our lands and the death of thousands of soldiers, not homeless refugees, but the Russian language.”
“It’s not local officials who decide. The Russification of Artsakh was part of the plans of the Russian Federation. Why else has this question been hanging in the air for so many years? It was for such a case that they held back the decision.”
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