Resolution on Russia – Minority Languages
The Assembly of Delegates of International PEN, meeting at its 76th International Congress in Tokyo, Japan, 25th September- 1st October 2010,
Notes that the Finno-Ugrian peoples within Russia are in a difficult position. Many of them are in danger of extinction or becoming absorbed by the Russians. The proportion of the Finnish-Ugrian population within the different republics is as follows: Republic of Mordovia 32%, Udmurtia 30%, Mari 43%, The Komi Republic 25%, Nenetsia 9%, Hanti-Mansia 1,2%, Komi Perm 59%. All together there are c. four million Finno-Ugrian people inhabiting Russia.
Pressure is exerted on minority media. Central powers have taken over many independent media and journalists are oppressed in many different ways. According to a report by the Foundation for the Defence of Glasnost published in 2010, there is no free media left in any of the regions of Russian Federation. Only the Internet enables some independent Finno Ugrian writings.
Legislation developed since Vladimir Putin came to power in 1999 has been openly hostile to minorities. The use of the cyrillic alphabet has been legally authorized in every federal language. Russian has been declared the only official language of the country and is compulsory in all official communications. The language legislation of the republics has lost its legality when the laws of the administrative districts and republics have been harmonized with the constitutional laws of Russia.
According to the school law of 2007, schools, parents and pupils are themselves allowed to choose the language of instruction. According to the minority organisations, these legal changes have lead to a drastic decrease in minority language teaching.
The Federal Security Service of Russia (FSB) is also increasingly using laws against so-called extremism to suppress dissidents and minority activists whose only actions are to criticise the government.
Despite this, there are positive developments such as the birth of a strong literary and artistic ethnofuturistic movement in Udmurtia and the creation of Wikipedia in Erzyan. Also the first Assembly of Russian Minorities in February 2010 passed a resolution demanding the repeal of the disputed school law (2007). The Forum showed what a sensitive and important issue the preservation of the mother tongue is for the 30,000,000 non-Russian individuals in Russia.
Referring to the above, International PEN demands that the Russian government cease the repression of Finno-Ugrian and other minorities and to make secure all minority languages media outlets and their users.