Monday, October 31, 2011

Preservation of Linguistic Diversity - Tatarstan

Zilya Valeeva
Moscow 2008

Republic of Tatarstan

The all-Russia population census of 2002 specifies the population of Tatarstan as 3.8 million (a 3.4% increase—by 137,500—since the 1987 census). Of these, Tatars account for 52.9% and Russians 39.5%. Tatar and Russian are official languages. The share of Tatars has grown by 4.4% since 1989 due to immigration and higher birth rates, while that of Russians has shrunken to 3.8%.

Tatarstan adopted a number of republican laws on ethnic cultural development in the 1990s and the present decade—On Languages of the Republic of Tatarstan, of July 8, 1992, and its amended and supplementedversion On the Official Languages of the Republic of Tatarstan and Other Languages in the Republic of Tatarstan, of July 28, 2004; On the Protection and Use of Historical Cultural Values, of October 2, 1996; On Culture, of July 3, 1998; On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Communities, of July 14, 1999;On the reinstitution of the Roman-based Tatar Alphabet, of September 15, 1999; On Ethnic Cultural Autonomies in the Republic of Tatarstan, of April 11, 2003;On the Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Tatarstan, of April 2005, and others. Each of these laws stresses themulti-ethnic and multi-cultural arrangement of the republic, and many religions coexisting there. However, certain instruments of the 1990s emphasized, to an extent, the support of the titular nation’s language and culture in the transition period.

The regional language policy found reflection in the developmental programs and concepts of education, languages and culture adopted in the 1990s-2000s. In particular, the State Program of the Republic of Tatarstan for the Preservation, Study and Development of the Languages of Tatarstan was adopted in 1994, and a draft concept of the republican language policy elaborated in 1999. These documents determined the goals and implementation mechanisms of the republican language policy, whose essence lay in the acquisition of the official status by the Tatar language to get it on a par with Russian, and providing practical conditions to extend the field of its social functioning.

The second ten-year State Program of the Republic of Tatarstan for the Preservation, Study and Development of the Official Languages of the Republic of Tatarstan and Other Languages in the Republic of Tatarstan entered into force in 2004. The implementation of the latest information technologies in humanities and formation of databases on the Tatar language and culture is one of the program targets. Apart from the development of the Tatar and Russian languages, the program envisages promoting the preservation and development of the languages of other ethnic entities populating Tatarstan, and the improvement of general speech culture and inter linguistic tolerance.

Tatarstan has formed an integrated system of satisfying the cultural and educational demands of its ethnic groups. Out of a total 2,261 comprehensive schools, 1,147 have tuition in Tatar—of these 92 grammar schools, lyceums and schools with extended curricula of certain disciplines. 380 schools have classes with bilingual—Tatar and Russian tuition. The republic has 119 Chuvash, 44Udmurt, 20Mari, 4Mordovian schools and 1 Bashkir. There is a school with Jewish ethnic cultural curricula, where modern Hebrew and Jewish history, culture and traditions are taught, and a kindergarten where modern Hebrew is spoken.

The study of Tatar and Russian is compulsory in all general educational institutions in compliance with Clause 9 of the Law On the Official Languages of the Republic of Tatarstan and Other Languages in the Republic of Tatarstan. At present, all schoolchildren are studying Russian, and 99.8%Tatar. 53%of Tatar Children study in their native language.

52 weekend schools teach languages of 27 nationalities (Ukrainian, Azerbaijani, Armenian, Polish,German, Yiddish,Georgian,Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Bashkir, Lezgin, Assyrian, several languages of the Volga country, Arabic, French, English, Italian, Hindi, Pashtu and others).

Tatar is spoken in 67%of kindergartens. Their number has grown from 692 in 1988 to 876 in 2008. Another 532 kindergartens have Russian- and Tatar-speaking groups. 69%of Tatar children are brought up in their native tongue. There are also 51 Chuvash, 14 Udmurt and 10Mari kindergartens.

15%wage rises come as an incentive for bilingual, Tatar-Russian employees. The annual contest Teacher of the Year has categories Best Tatar-Language Teacher Year and Best Russian-Language Teacher.

The population approves the official status of two languages. 88% of Tatar parents and 44%Russian approve the tuition of Tatar in Russian language schools. 82% of respondents acknowledge the necessity of a working command of Russian and Tatar for government functionaries, and 79% for consumer services.

The number of Russians knowing the Tatar language grew from 1.1%in 1989 to 4.3%in 2002. 43%of Russians understood spoken Tatar, to varying extents, and 16% spoke it in 2002. 76% of Tatar respondents were fluent in their native language, and another 16%spoke it fairly well. However, a considerable part of Tatars seldom use the language outside home.

Secondary vocational training and higher education also extend tuition in Tatar, though not so dynamically as secondary education. 10 vocational schools have tuition in Tatar, as compared to 7 in 1989. Each college or university applicant can choose Tatar or Russian for entrance examinations. 12 higher educational establishments had established classes with tuition in Tatar by 2002. The Tatarstani State Humanitarian Pedagogical University, established in 2005, widely uses Tatar in tuition. The total collection of Tatarstani libraries exceeds 24.8million copes, more than 4.7million of these in other languages used in the Russian Federation than Russian. The collection of literature of the Volga country peoples comprises 153,700 documents. There are 10.9 books per capita for ethnic Russians, 2.2 forTatars, 0.9Chuvash, 0.42Mari, 0.77Udmurt, 0.06Mordovian, and 0.03 Bashkir. The Culture Ministry of Tatarstan makes regular allocations for the purchase of literature of the Volga country peoples.
The National Library, the largest in the republic, has more than 3 million copies, 96,000 of these in Tatar. Work to establish the Tatar language National Electronic Library started in 2007 to include 100 Tatar classics. It is on the website of the National Library of the Republic of Tatarstan ( Close on a thousand virtual calls are registered every day, coming from the whole world— in particular, from the United States, Australia, Japan and Iraq. Places densely populated by ethnic Diasporas have 220 libraries (147Chuvash, 32Udmurt, 24Mari, 14Mordovian and 3 Bashkir). 20 centralized library systems have libraries or desks for Diasporas, and 14 libraries are zonal cultural method-setting centers for ethnic Diasporas.

Tatarstan has an Association of Ethnic Cultural Societies, which unites 33 such societies, and a House of Friendship. 35.3% of all Tatars in the Russian Federation and 31.2% of the entire Tatar people live in Tatarstan. The republic satisfies cultural and linguistic demands of Tatars outside it in compliance with Russia’s state policy of support for compatriots living abroad, and with Clause 14 of the Constitution of Tatarstan and Clаuse 2.4 of the Treaty on the Delineation of Competences between State Ruling Bodies of the Russian Federation and of the Republic of Tatarstan.

Tatarstan offers regional ethnic Tatar societies research method setting and other assistance mainly through agreements treaties on inter regional cooperation, which envisage promotion of cultural development. The republic has for today concluded such agreements with 68 Russian regions, a majority of CIS countries and some other post-Soviet countries (Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova).

The Executive Committee of the World Tatar Congress coordinates activities of ethnic cultural organizations and Tatar communities in Russia and other countries within and outside the former Soviet area. The Congress presently unites 358 Tatar ethnic cultural organizations— 68 outside the former Soviet Union, 81 in other former Soviet republics, 164 in the Russian Federation and 46 in Tatarstan.

The problems of preservation of the Tatar language and ethnic cultural development are especially acute in other parts of the Russian Federation and abroad, whether in or outside the former Soviet Union. Tatarstan made agreements with other Russian regions on which inter regional Tatar language and literature contests were established in 1992.

They gather more than 60 school pupils from16-20 Russian regions every year. The Duslyk summer camp, based on the Zarechye camp in Kazan and established in 1997, provides Tatar language practice. It accommodated 190 schoolchildren from 23 Russian regions in 2007. A similar camp, the Mizgel, appeared in Naberezhnye Chelny in 2002. The republican Education and Science Ministry holds Tatar Public Education Days in Russian regions. It has organized 24 such events since 2002 with delegations of Tatar educationists visiting previously appointed areas for methodological assistance and educational opinion exchanges. 30 such visits took place in 2005-2007.

Tatarstan launched a project, supported by the federal ministries of Foreign Affairs and Education and Science and federally funded, in 2004 to enroll ethnic Tatars from other CIS countries and post-Soviet Baltic countries in Tatarstani higher educational institutions. Leading institutions have prepared entrance tests in 10 disciplines for examinations held in other CIS countries. School curricula in those countries occasionally do not coincide with those accepted in the Russian Federation, so the Kazan State University is organizing online courses for tentative ethnic Tatar applicants. The Federal Education Agency of the Education and Science Ministry of the Russian Federation earmarked 70 appointments in 2007, 165 applicants competing. The republican Institute of the Development of Education established postgraduate courses for Tatar language teachers in 2005. They enroll professors teaching their disciplines in Tatar from other CIS countries and post-Soviet Baltic countries. The 4th Tatar language teachers’ congress, held in Kazan on March 28-30, 2006, gathered 25 Tatar weekend school teachers from Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan.More than 100 teachers from other Russian regions undergo postgraduate training in Tatarstan every year. There are permanent courses visiting other parts of Russia. They were held in seven parts of the country (the Kurgan, Sverdlovsk, Orenburg, Tyumen, Permand Kirov regions and the Republic of Bashkortostan) in 2005-2007.

Problems that still persist demand solution at the state level or by particular educational institutions.Many Tatar schools retain their ethnic identity only thanks to language classes, while Tatar schools in many parts of Russia are switching en masse to Russian as tuition language. Thus, according to the Education Ministry of the Republic of Bashkortostan, it had 397 schools teaching in Tatar in 2006, compared to 604 in 2000, and 207 schools with Tatar language classes in 2006, as against 553 in 2000. A majority of the 30 Tatar schools in the Nizhny Novgorod Region have switched to tuition in Russian at the basic and middle levels. The introduction of Unified State Examinations and specialist and pre-specialist schools is also to blame for the decreasing number of Tatar schools and cutting Tatar language and literature curricula. There are problems in supplies of Tatar-language study books, fiction and teaching aids. Teachers from many parts of Russia shower Tatarstan with requests for free literature supplies as a majority of Russian regions cannot afford Tatar-language school books. 91,000 copies of study books and teaching aids to 2.5 million rubles were purchased in Tatarstan on regional budget allocations in 2005 and 66,000 copies to 2.8 million rubles the next year, while in 2007, only the republics of Bashkortostan and Chuvasia, and the Perm Region bought such literature. That is why Tatarstan has to supply Tatar language and literature study books to educational establishments with the Tatar ethnic cultural component on the curricula in other parts of Russia and CIS countries through its own Education and Science Ministry. 17,000 copies of school books to more than 650,000 rubles were passed to 22 Russian regions and to other CIS countries within the first half-year 2007, compared to 10,000 copies to 236,000 rubles in 2005, and 6,500 copies to 244,000 rubles in 2006.

Tatarstan possesses 825 printed media outlets, including 110 Tatar-language newspapers (52 of them government) and 28 magazines (11 government). There are five Chuvash-language newspapers (a republican and 4 district) and one Udmurt-language district newspaper. There are also bilingual—Russian and Tatar—periodicals.

Tatarstan has 50 television companies, 30 of them (25 of these government companies) broadcasting in Russian and Tatar. 58 out of a total 86 radio companies broadcast in Russian, 22 in Russian and Tatar, and 6 in Tatar. The satellite television and radio company Tatarstan— New Age broadcasts in Russian and Tatar, and is available in many parts of Russia and in other countries. Bashkir and Udmurt television is transmitted to Tatarstan.
Two of the 10 news agencies of Tatarstan are republican.Tatar-Inform news agency ( works in Russian, Tatar (Cyrillic and Roman writing) and English. Tatar-language information is provided by the official server of the Republic of Tatarstan, the republican government portal, and the Internet portal of all Tatarstani media outlets 22 constituent entities of the Russian Federation presently possess 67 Tatar-language media outlets, including 39 newspapers and supplements to local editions. Other countries, within and outside the CIS, have 12 such outlets. The Tatar-language information field is steadily shrinking. Tatar-language broadcasts finished in the Omsk, Chelyabinsk, Tyumen, Orenburg and Ulyanovsk television and radio companies in 2006 alone. The ethnic press encounters bad problems—difficulties with press circulation in areas densely populated by Tatars; the necessity for a federal Tatar-language newspaper and television channel; the necessity to support Tatar-language editions in and outside Russia; and circulations of the Tatar-language press lagging far behind public demands in areas densely populated by Tatars.

Tatarstan bases the development of multilingualism in cyberspace on its comprehensive program for developing information technologies for 2005-2010, also known as Electronic Tatarstan. Among other goals, the program envisages parity development of information resources in the official languages of Tatarstan. It stipulates the establishment of a system of backbones and resource centers for information, research and methodological support of education in Russian and Tatar; the elaboration of Tatar-language computer standards, drivers, types, and model; the establishment of Tatar-language information resources in the Internet, and of a system of machine translation from and into Tatar, etc. The program acknowledges that Tatarstan is lagging behind, to an extent, with ethnic information and cultural development of information technologies. There are a negligible number of Tatar-language information resources in the library network, and information technologies are introduced too slowly in museums, art galleries, theatres and other cultural establishments.

Microsoft introduced the operating system Microsoft Windows
XP with a Tatar-language interface in 2006, and Tatar-language Microsoft
Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007 appeared the next
year—which means that Tatar has joined the number of leading languages
in the global information space.
Ethnic Tatars are dispersed all over the world. This is why the
rapid development of the Tatar Internet, popularly known as Tatnet, is
ever more important.

Information about Tatar history, culture, art and traditions can
be found in the websites of the institutes of the Tatar Encyclopedia
(, history (, language,
literature and art ( of the Academy of Sciences
and the National Museum of the Republic of Tatarstan
(, and project Turkic-Tatar World
( Information about Tatars’ life in Tatarstan and
the whole world is provided by the website of the World Tatar Congress Executive
Committee ( and the world Tatar server
( The Tatar-language Wikipedia in Roman writing
is on the website Bit.
Project Virtuan Tatar School ( provides free
access to online studies of the Tatar language, literature, history and
other disciplines, with 23 electronic study books. The website offers extensive facilities for Tatar language studies.
A Tatar-Russian online dictionary is on the website There are other dictionaries, as well: Tatar-
Turkish ( and English-
Tatar ( The information and
reference portal Tatar tele treats the problems of Tatar shifting to the
Roman alphabet (

Several newspapers have Tatar-language websites: the
Vatanym Tatarstan (, Tatarstan yashlere
(, Tatarskaya Gazeta (,
Magrifat (, and Shakhri Kazan
( The Internet offers Tatar-language
broadcasts of Radio Liberty (, Radio Kuray
(, Tatar Radiosi (, and
Radio Tatarica ( Lyrics of Tatar folk songs
are available on the website,
while the website the sound
version of such songs. Tatar literature is available on the websites of the
Tatar Electronic Library ( and
The Stars of Tatnet contest of Internet projects, established in
2004 (, gives many Tatar Internet projects a good

No comments: