Monday, April 17, 2017

Is the Instruction of Crimean Tatar Language Benefiting Under Russian Occupation?

Victory Day Parade. Sevastopol, Crimea
Is the Instruction of Crimean Tatar Language Benefiting Under Russian Occupation?

By Nicholas Higgins

Nicholas Higgins is a M.A. student with the Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Center, looking to finish his degree by the summer of 2017. He is interested in the study of new ways of understanding the development of identity during Glasnost’ and Perestroika, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He wrote this text during his time in 418 “Languages and Minorities in Europe”.

At the time of the return of the Crimean people to the Crimean peninsula, the only people who still knew the Crimean Tatar language were those who had known it before the exile. Demographic data shows that the Crimean Tatars who knew the language were the older generations, as the people born in exile were taught only Russian (Emirova, 2007).

According to Professor Adile Emirova, an avid researcher of her native language, Crimean Tatar, there are four types of competency:


  • symmetric bilinguals, who fluently speak both Russian and mother tongue in all social spheres;
  • asymmetric bilinguals, using mother tongue only in family and Russian in all other spheres of life, including family;
  • asymmetric bilinguals, using the Crimean Tatar language (in the form of local dialect) in family and having limited usage of Russian;
  • monolinguals, having the command of only Russian or only Crimean Tatar. (Emirova, 2007).


With these levels of competency, the Crimean people have worked to try and resurrect their language. As of 2007, there were fifteen schools in Crimea that offered adequate instruction of Crimean Tatar, offering instruction to 5,000 students out of 40,000.

Now jump to March 2014. At the tail end of the Euromaidan, a highly controversial referendum was held that ended with the Crimean Peninsula joining the Russian Federation. With the Crimean Tatars now back under the rule of the Kremlin, the situation regarding the spread of the Crimean Tatar language has come under a possible threat. The operative word here is “possible”.

Protester at May 18th Commemoration of the Crimean Tatar Deportations.
Maidan Square, Kiev, Ukraine
It is undeniable that the Crimean Tatars are currently facing repressions under Russian rule, as the Mejlis, the highest legislative body of Crimean Tatars, has recently, as of the 27th of April, been banned from the Crimean Peninsula under the pretext of being an Islamic extremist organization (Al Jazeera, 2016). In addition, a number of Crimean Tatar media sources have been shut down, including ATR, a Crimean TV channel that was vocally critical of Russian rule.

The Russians claimed to be providing Crimean Tatar schools with language textbooks to allow for the teaching of Crimean Tatar, as textbooks for language instruction became a needed commodity for Crimean Tatar schools. The Russian publishing company, Prosveshchenie, has reportedly produced over 600,000 textbooks to the region in 2014, included in those are supposedly Crimean Tatar language textbooks. A total of at least 3,000,000 textbooks were sent to the region between at least six different publishing companies (Дон ТР). With these textbooks, the Russians had planned to help improve the instruction and availability of the language for education. However, this may not be the case, as a Turkish human rights delegation, led by Professor Zafer Uskul, observed (Goble, 2015).

The delegation claimed that the language rights of the Crimean Tatars only existed “on paper”. The evidence provided shows that only fifteen schools teach Crimean Tatar. Given that we already know that there were only fifteen schools that had Crimean Tatar as the language of instruction as early as 2007, it shows zero percent growth in terms of number of institutions provided. According to various reports, the academic years after the Russian occupation began contain no schools that are strictly instructed in Crimean Tatar, all the schools are now dual-language with Russian. Russian has dominated, as 96% of students are learning Russian instead of Crimean Tatar, and Crimean Tatar children are taught in Russian in schools where Crimean Tatar is the main language ((Coynash, 2015) (112 UA, 2016) (Goble, 2015)).

What about the textbooks, then? Are the numbers and claims of the Russians accurate to what the Crimean Tatars are experiencing? The textbooks that were promised did not arrive when they were supposed to, and the number of textbooks provided for Crimean Tatar instruction are woefully lacking in population (Goble, 2015).

In addition, the hours of instruction and the importance of Crimean Tatar language instruction have fallen since the Russian occupation began in 2014. Crimean Tatar has lost necessity in instruction in some schools, including the Crimean New School for Kids and Youths, where Crimean Tatar is only used outside formal lessons (Network of Schools). Only three hours a week of instruction of the language is in place currently amongst schools that offer the language (RISA, 2014).

The answer to the question of the status of Crimean Tatar instruction under Russian occupation is clear: the status has experienced little to no growth. With the promise of textbooks for the Crimean schools, the Russians have failed to deliver while lowering the hours of instruction and elevating the instruction of the Russian language while suppressing Crimean Tatar. Perhaps most damning of all, the Kremlin and Putin have stated that the push for Crimea was for the protection of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers (Coynash, 2015). As long as the Crimean Tatars are being suppressed by their Russian occupiers, the instruction of the Crimean Tatar language will continue to suffer.

Sources:

"Russia Continues to Oppress Crimea's Tatars." - Al Jazeera English. March 19, 2016. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/03/russia-continues-oppress-crimea-tatars-160308054208716.html.

"Russian Court Bans Crimean Tatar Governing Body." Al Jazeera English. April 27, 2016. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/04/russian-court-bans-crimean-tatar-governing-body-160426191324707.html.

Coynash, Halya. "Ukrainian & Crimean Tatar Pushed out of Schools in Russian-occupied Crimea." Ukraine Law Blog (blog), September 6, 2015. http://ukrainianlaw.blogspot.com/2015/09/ukrainian-crimean-tatar-pushed-out-of.html.

"News:." Crimean Tatar in Ukraine. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://www.networkofschools.eu/schools/crimean-tatar-in-ukraine/#c2619.

Emirova, Adile. "On the Revival of the Crimean Tatar Language: An Interview with Professor Adile Emirova." Interview by Inci Bowman. International Committee for Crimea. 2007. http://www.iccrimea.org/reports/emirovainterview.html.

"Crimea's Forgotten Children Fight Back." Foreign Policy Crimeas Forgotten Children Fight Back Comments. March 11, 2016. http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/11/crimeas-forgotten-children-fight-back-tatars-ukraine-russia/.

Goble, Paul A. "Russian Occupiers Cut Classes and Schools in Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian -- EUROMAIDAN PRESS." Euromaidan Press. September 9, 2015. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://euromaidanpress.com/2015/09/06/russian-occupiers-cut-classes-and-schools-in-crimean-tatar-and-ukrainian/.

Goble, Paul A. "Under Russian Occupation, Crimean Tatar Language Rights Exist 'only on Paper,' Turkish Rights Activists Say -." Euromaidan Press. June 17, 2015. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://euromaidanpress.com/2015/06/17/under-russian-occupation-crimean-tatar-language-rights-exist-only-on-paper-turkish-rights-activists-say/.

"Moscow Changes School Curricula of Crimean Tatar Language on the Peninsula." Moscow Changes School Curricula of Crimean Tatar Language on the Peninsula. February 5, 2016. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://112.international/politics/moscow-changes-school-curricula-of-crimean-tatar-language-on-the-peninsula-2456.html.

"Crimean Schools Shortened Crimean Tatar Language Classes." Religious Information Service of Ukraine. September 16, 2014. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/other_confessions/islam/57665/.

"Russian-appointed 'Prosecutor' Poklonskaya Suspends Crimean Tatar Mejlis." Uatoday.tv. April 13, 2016. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://uatoday.tv/politics/russian-appointed-prosecutor-poklonskaya-suspends-crimean-tatar-mejlis-630326.html.

"Сражение за Крым." Издательство «Просвещение» изо всех сил стремится заполучить контракт на оснащение школ полуострова: Общество: Россия: Lenta.ru. October 6, 2014. Accessed April 15, 2016. https://lenta.ru/articles/2014/10/06/krim/.

"Дон ТР." От российского издательства ‘Просвещение’ Крым получит почти 600 тысяч школьных учебников. August 7, 2014. Accessed April 15, 2016. http://dontr.ru/vesti/obshchestvo/3723269-ot-rossijskogo-izdatelstva-prosveshchenie-krym-poluchit-pochti-600-tysyach-shkolnykh-uchebnikov/

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