Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 43

The city council in Kazan, capital of Tatarstan, has adopted a controversial program aimed at encouraging the Tatar language in the city’s schools. The Monitor’s correspondent in the Volga region says that the program is provoking strong feelings because it calls for a 15-percent salary bonus for teachers who speak both of Tatarstan’s state languages. Because everyone in Tatarstan speaks Russian, while less than half the population speaks Tatar, the program is effectively a bid to raise the number of teachers of the Tatar language.

In the Soviet period, education in Tatar was abolished in schools in Tatarstan’s towns (where 70 percent of the Tatar population live) and other restrictions were put on the spheres in which the Tatar language might be used. The result is that today only 50 percent of city-dwelling Tatars speak their own language fluently.

The salary bonus was strongly opposed by ethnic Russian members of Kazan’s city council, who said it would squeeze Russian-speaking teachers out of the schools. They argued, too, that the program will violate Tatarstan’s constitution, which declares both Tatar and Russian to be state languages with equal status within the republic. Supporters of the program countered that the russification implemented in Tatarstan during the Soviet era was so effective that, unless positive discrimination is urgently introduced, the Tatar language will be extinct within a generation. The Monitor’s correspondent reports that, even though the new language program has now been approved, its supporters are far from jubilant. They point out that the program will cost 120 million rubles and they fear that, like many other policies adopted in Russia, budget constraints will mean that it will never be implemented.

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