- スラヴ研究 (ISSN:05626579)
- vol.46, pp.155-190, 1999
Hitherto, Soviet language policy was often interpreted to be aimed at "Russification." Although this viewpoint is not entirely groundless, it is often exaggerated and tends to lead to a one-sided picture. It is true that many non-Russian nationalities in the Soviet Union have been, more or less, linguistically russified. But it cannot be denied that some nationalities, especially those with Union republics, have retained their national languages to a fairly high degree. Thus, it is necessary to investigate the language situation more fully on the basis of empirical data. It is well-known that in the 1920s the Soviet authorities adopted the policy of "korenizatsiia," which meant extending education among nationalities by their own national languages. For the central political leaders, this policy was merely a means for spreading the official policy to the masses. In the localities, however, some activists tried to use this policy for nationalistic purposes. Thus, the meaning of the policy of "korenizatsiia" was ambivalent and the process of its implementation was not consistent. The 1930s saw several policy changes, but the process of the changes was not so straight-forward as was often supposed. First of all, at the beginning of the decade political centralization was greatly enhanced, and as a result some republican leaders were demoted. This personnel change entailed the strengthening of political control over nationalities. It is important, however, not to confuse this political centralization with Russification, for Russian people also suffered severely by the political control, and the old Russian national tradition was not officially glorified, at least until the mid-1930s. The attitude of the Soviet authorities toward old traditions began changing around the mid-1930s. The fervent anti-traditionalism of the early revolutionary days subsided and the queer amalgam of Sovietism and pre-Revolutionary tradition came into being. This situation made it possible for Russian nationalism to creep into the official ideology. This, however, did not necessarily mean that the policy of Russification was established once and for all. Along with Russian nationalism, Ukrainian, Armenian, Uzbek and some other kinds of nationalism also crept into the official ideology, although it is clear that the latter were relatively low-ranked in comparison with Russian nationalism. The Soviet nationality policy after the late 1930s was characterized by its hierarchical nature. At the top of the hierarchy, needless to say, stood Russians. Some relatively large nationalities, such as Ukrainians and Uzbeks which had their own Union republics, came on the second echelon. Then followed the third-ranked nationalities, such as Tatars and Bashkirs, which had Autonomous republics or Autonomous regions, as contrasted with Union republics. At the bottom of the ladder there were minor ethnic groups which were not officially recognized as separate nationalities. The lower an ethnic group was ranked in the hierarchy, the stronger it underwent the tendency of Russification. In contrast, the relatively high-rank ed nationalities maintained their own national languages, with the only exception of Ukrainians and Belarussians who belong to the Eastern Slavic family and are easily russified without administrative pressure. After Stalin died, Khrushcev took an ambivalent nationality policy. On the one hand, he rehabilitated some "punished peoples" who were deported en masse by Stalin and took several decentralizing measures, which enhanced the autonomy of some nationalities. On the other hand, he advocated the all-out construction of full communism and the complete fusion of nationalities under communism. The 1958-59 education reform abolished the principle of compulsory education in native languages and instead introduced the principle of an optional system, which meant that parents could choose which school to send their children to, i.e., to a national- language school or a Russian- language one. Thereafter, education in national languages has continued to decline and some minorities have tended to lose their national languages. It is clear, then, that some of Soviet language policies were explicitly aimed at extending the education of the Russian language among non-Russian nationalities. Among the most prominent were: the 1938 decision to make it compulsory to teach Russian in non-Russian schools; the 1958-59 education reform referred to above; and the more intensified policy of extending the Russian language after the late-1970s. This, however, does not mean that the aim of these policies was the straightforward Russification. As far as the relatively large nationalities were concerned, education in their own nationality language was maintained and Russian was taught as the second language. In this case the official aim was not simple Russification but the spread of bilingualism. As concerns the smaller nationalities, in contrast, the education in their own national language was impossible to enforce, and therefore the Russification progressed through education in Russian. Thus far, we have surveyed the history of the official Soviet language policy. But the effect of the policy is another matter of discussion. In the Soviet Union, especially under Brezhnev, the official policy was often proclaimed only on paper, and the real situation was left far from the state at which the official ideology aimed. It is necessary, therefore, to investigate the real situation on the basis of empirical data. Although the Soviet statistics and sociological research are poor both quantitatively and qualitatively, it is not impossible to examine this situation which differs greatly from the official ideology. Most of the relatively large nationalities, with a few exceptions, have kept their own national languages as mother tongues. Besides, those languages were used quite extensively in education and publishing. As concerns publishing activities in 1985, the number of items published per population was highest in Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Georgian. Russian came in at the fifth place and Armenian the sixth. In contrast, Belarusian and Ukrainian came in at the sixteenth and eighteenth, respectively. As for education, Soviet languages were classified into three categories: first, those used extensively both in general and higher education. This category includes not only Russian, but also the three Baltic languages, Georgian and Armenian. The second category , which included the Central Asian languages, Moldovan and Azerbaidzhan, was used widely in general education only. In these national republics higher education was mainly conducted in Russian. Finally, the third category, to which Ukrainian and Belarusian belonged, was scarcely used whether in general or in higher education. Those facts we have examined above clearly indicate that the language situation varies from one nationality to another. What factors, then, explain the variation? We may suppose that at least six factors are related. The first one is the position held by each nationality in the Soviet federal system. As was already noted, the Soviet federal system constituted a unique hierarchy, consisting of Union republics, Autonomous republics, Autonomous regions, Autonomous okruga, and those without national autonomy. This hierarchy was closely related to education policy, and the latter influenced the language situation of each nationality. The second factor is the cultural-ethnic proximity of each nationality to the Russians. In this regard, the two Eastern Slavic nationalities, Ukrainians and Belarusians, are, needless to say, most easily russified. Those nationalities who were converted by the Russians into Orthodox, e.g. Chuvashi, Udmurtians, Mordvins etc., have also been greatly russified. In contrast, the degree of Russification of most Moslem and Turkic nationalities remains generally very low. Thirdly, we have to consider the tradition of literary and scientific works in national languages. The greater tradition a nationality has, the more strongly it tends to cling to its own national languages. The Baltic nationalities and Georgians are clear examples. Fourthly, the degree of urbanization influences the process of Russification. In major cities the language of official administration is usually Russian, and Russification proceeds more intensively than in rural areas. This fact is especially important in the Central Asian republics, where the percentage of rural population remains still high. The fifth factor is the percentage of Russians among the population. Needless to say, in the localities where Russians live in mass, Russification tends to be stronger than other areas. Lastly, we have to consider the degree of diaspora of each nationality. Those nationalities who reside scattered all over the whole Soviet Union tend to be more strongly russified than those who live closely in their home republic. It suffices to mention the contrast between Jews, Tatars, or Armenians, on the one hand, and Georgians and the Baltic nationalities, on the other hand. These six do not exhaust the related factors, but we can surmise that these are among the most important ones. By combining these factors, we can make a typology of the language situation of Soviet nationalities. We hope this typology can serve as a solid stepping stone for further investigation.