Sunday, April 27, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Tatarstan Seeks Larger Nationality Component for Non-Russian Schools

Paul Goble

Baku, April 27 – The State Council of Tatarstan at the end of last week submitted a legislative initiative to the Duma calling on Moscow to live up to the provisions of the federal constitution and allow the non-Russian republics a greater say over the regional component of educational programs in their schools.
Ravil Valeyev, who heads the State Council’s Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Nationality Questions, said that Tatarstan’s submission would introduce changes in the Russian Federation law on education in order to “guarantee” the regions the right to determine the size and content of the regional component of educational programs.
When that law was being discussed in Moscow, 21 republics and regions, including Tatarstan, protested its content. But this latest action by Kazan raises the stakes because the Russian legislature will have to respond, even if that response is to reject Tatarstan’s proposal out of hand.
Correcting the new Russian legislation is necessary, he continued, because it imposes severe “limits on the rights of peoples of the Russian Federation to national-cultural development” and to meet Constitutional mandates and also to “satisfy the national-regional requirements of multi-national Russia” (
Expanding on that point, Valeyev said that “the objectively evolved reality of [his] country is its multi-national quality, and the preservation and development of the native languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation is guaranteed by Paragraph 68 of the Constitution of Russia.”
The Tatarstan legislator said that “”practice shows that the most optimal arrangement is to devote 25 percent of required coursework to national-regional programs,” including native language and literature, local history and the like, far more than most non-Russian republics are able to do now.
And he noted that in his opinion and the opinion of the majority of the members of Tatarstan’s State Council, existing federal educational standards put “under threat” all schools with “an ethno-cultural component.” In Tatarstan there are 1150 Tatar schools, 119 Chuvash, 44 Udmurt, 20 Mari, four Mordvin, one Jewish, one Bashkir and one Kryashen.
Tatarstan President Mintimir Shaimiyev has already made clear that he intends to maintain current levels of Tatar instruction in the schools of his republic whatever the federal legislation requires. That is because both the Constitution of Tatarstan and the republic’s law on languages require equal treatment of Tatar and Russian.
But Shaimiyev’s position leaves unclear the fate of both Tatar-language schools in other republics and other non-Russian schools as well. By sending in this legislative initiative, he and the republic he heads are thus speaking out not only for themselves but for all the non-Russians of the country, something Kazan has done in the past.
Whether this initiative represents an act of despair by Shaimiyev who may be replaced in the near future or a clever calculation on his part of just what the market in Moscow will now bear remains to be seen, but there is no question that this latest move by Kazan is likely to affect more than either educational programs or the center’s relationship with Tatarstan

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