Thursday, August 26, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Another Attack on the Prerogatives of Non-Russian Republics

Paul Goble

Staunton, August 26 – Leaders of the Bashkortostan sections of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, and the Just Russia Party have called on newly installed Bashkortostan President Rustem Khamitov to eliminate obligatory instruction in Bashkir in the schools of the republic.
Rifkat Gardanov, KPRF leader there, told the Ufa edition of “Kommersant” that he had taken the lead in calling for reducing the republic component of educational programs from the 30 percent of instructional time as it is in the Bashkir republic now to the federally mandated five percent and to make courses in Bashkir optional rather than required.
Perhaps significantly, the paper reported that the United Russia representative did not say whether he supported the idea and that Khamitov himself reacted cautiously. But the appeal and the way it was made – by party leaders rather than Moscow -- appears to represent another attack on the prerogatives of the non-Russian republics.
Indeed, this approach may reflect a desire in Moscow, both in the Kremlin and in United Russia, to use other party leaders to push forward the idea of eliminating obligatory instruction in a non-Russian republic language. If there is too much resistance, Moscow can back off without loss of face; but if there isn’t, the center can and undoubtedly will try to take credit.
The meeting took place in Khamitov’s office and after the obligatory photo session, representatives of the press were shown the door. But KPRF’s Gardanov told the newspaper that he had called on Khamitov to devote “attention to observing in the republic federal laws and in particular federal educational standards”
According to Gardanov, the paper said, “the crude violation of federal educational standards is allowed today ‘only in Bashkortostan and Tatarstan,’” the two republics that Moscow recently orchestrated the retirement of the longtime heavyweights, Murtaza Rakhimov and Mintimir Shaimiyev. Everywhere else, he said, “’the demand of federal law is fulfilled.’”
The republic LDPR and Just Russia party leaders told “Kommersant-Ufa” that they agreed with Gardanov. Just Russia head Konstantin Shagimuratov said that the Communist leader had simply beaten him to the gate in making this proposal on an issue that he called “’one of the main issues at present.’”
LDPR leader Yevgeny Bylin was even more blunt. He said the study of Bashkir must not be a question at the government level. And the president, [he said he thought,] sooner or later will come to the same conclusion. United Russia local chief Konstantin Tolkachev avoided speaking with journalists after the session.
According to Gardanov, Khamitov “said that he understands our concerns” but won’t make a decision on this point until he has had the chance “to study this question and listen to the other side.” In short, he said, he would take his time, something that Just Russia’s Shagimuratov suggested, was appropriate given how serious this issue is.
The republic Presidential Administration declined to comment, but republic procurator Sergey Khurtin said recently that “the obligatory study of the second state language is ‘lawful’ since the existence of two state languages is provided for by the republic Constitution,” and there is no reason to change it.
Meanwhile, Firdaus Khisamitdinova, the head of the Ufa Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of History, Language and Literature, said that one reason that Bashkir must continue to be studied as a required subject is the UNESCO in 2009 included that language in its Atlas of Disappearing Languages.
But Ufa political scientist Aleksandr Prudnik took a different view. He said that requiring the study of Bashkir was a survival of “political conceptions of Russia at the end of the 1980s” and no longer corresponds to the requirements of a “modernized model of the development of society. Indeed, he suggested, it “completely contradicts” such a model.
“The conception of national republics, presidents and sovereignty has shown is lack of a foundation and absence of prospects because this was a return to an archaic system, which was conditioned by the desire of people and the local elite in the crisis period to find something stable in a changing world.” But now with stability, it isn’t necessary.
One Khamitov aide, Rostislav Murzagulov, however, suggested that Khamitov may not move as quickly on this as others want. For him, the deputy head of the Presidential Administration said, “there exists only one party in which there are four million people and which is called the Republic of Bashkortostan.”

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