Accepted Paper:

Official designation of the state languages of Russia's national republics: a revivalist, instrumentalist or institutionalist choice?  

Author:

Konstantin Zamyatin (Helsinki University)

Paper short abstract:

The aim is to apply different theories for understanding the official designation of the state languages in the Finno-Ugric Republics of Russia. The argument proposed in the light of existing theories is that one should distinguish at least three types of recognition: symbolic, formal and legal recognition.

Paper long abstract:

At the time of the disintegration of the USSR most Russia's Autonomous Republics established their state languages. The national movements justified their claim for an official status of titular languages by the need of national revival and language revival. Some Russian scholars argued that national elites, despite their revivalist rhetoric, actually intended to use the official status of languages instrumentally to ensure a privileged position for the titular groups and, foremost, for themselves. At the same time, international scholars illuminated a special role that institutions had in Soviet and post-Soviet nation-building. Based on findings of the latter theories, this study extends the institutionalist view to the state languages as yet another 'ethnic institution', which, however, had only a symbolic meaning for reinforcement of ethnicity. What was the rationale to designate the state languages of the Republics? The aim of this paper is to evaluate applicability of the proposed theories based on the exploration of the official designation of the state languages in the Finno-Ugric Republics. The argument advanced in the paper is that one should distinguish at least three types of recognition of the state languages that were parts of parallel processes with different goals, meanings and consequences: symbolic, formal and legal recognition. The first should be seen, above all, as being a part of the center-periphery relations, the second should be considered in the context of the ethno-political battle between regional Russian and national elites and the third interpreted mainly in terms of the interactions between authorities and the population.

Panel P34
The institutions and practices of nation building of Finno-Ugric minorities in Soviet and post-Soviet settings