Minority Language Preservation Strategies
and Minority-related Conflict-evasion Policy
Suggestions for Eastern Europe and for Siberia


Alfred F. Majewicz

Copyright (c) 1998 by the Slavic Research Center. All rights reserved.


0. One would wonder whether a subject thus formulated does not require a thorough, book-size study. And indeed, it has constituted a label for a one-year-long research project proposal submitted to this very Slavic Research Center, prior to being suggested as the title for a contribution to the present Conference. Hence, out of necessity, it must be considered as being still of a sketchy nature, a harbinger of an intended monograph, rather than a complete presentation of this author's ultimate, as of today, opinion on what this wide subject potentially covers.
It is now thirteenth year since, on an invitation from the Institute for the Study of North Eurasian Cultures (Hoppo Bunka Kenkyu Shisetsu), I had the honor of delivering a lecture on the "national minorities in Poland", subsequently published in the esteemed and unfortunately no longer existing journal of the Institute*1 (Majewicz 1987).
In spite of its also sketchy character, it turned out to be the most complex survey of Poland's ethnic minority groups at that time, listing as many as 18 of them, and hence met initially with suggestions that at least a half of them must have been "invented" (sic !). Further studies, however, proved the correctness of the picture of the ethnic situation in Poland as presented in the said contribution. In 1989, a preliminary report on ethnic minority languages in media and education in Poland (Majewicz & Wicherkiewicz 1989) was compiled, expanding the list by two more items, to twenty groups, each of them having their language discriminant of their ethnic identity and separateness from others. No earlier publication seems to have listed so many indigenous minority groups in Poland,*2 and only Wŗclawski 1993 managed to add two groups*3 to the list, while Satava's 1994 general description of minority groups and languages throughout 41 European states*4 clearly placed Poland in the third or fourth place in Europe*5 as far as the number of ethnic minority groups is concerned, after Yugoslavia, the new Yugoslavia (sic !), and Rumania.
Work in 1984 on the above-mentioned contribution (Majewicz 1987) overlapped with this author's final touches on the typescript of the text of a series of lectures entitled "languages of the world and their classifications".*6 In it, over 6,500 ethnolects that could be considered as having the status of independent languages rather than their subclassifications have been classified and localized on the linguistic map of the world, triggering again the suspicion of inventive tendencies in this author's character. And again, results of further studies, and especially the magnificient linguistic atlas of the world (Moseley & Asher 1994), clearly show that the linguistic situation of the world as depicted in Majewicz 1989 was astonishingly faithful to realities. Also the recentmost "global language register" (Dalby, forthcoming) of the Observatoire Linguistique, with currentmost statistics on the numbers of languages spoken in the world, according to two alternative definitions of the term "language", is announced*7 to confirm that "numbers of languages are in any case higher than previously supposed".*8 In spite of the latter's alleged claim that "the proportion of seriously endangered languages is less" high than previously thought,*9 and in spite of the marvelous vitality of a number of languages being since decades ago constantly considered to be on the verge of extinction, even fairly optimistic analyses of the data provided by the opera maiora mentioned incline this author to share the said predictions that approximately half of this enormous number of the world's languages, of which only little less than 20% are known to us by more than merely linguonyms, face complete extinction in the coming two (not twenty !) decades. This perspective of an imminent (and seemingly unavoidable) ecological catastrophe in the dimension of the heritage of all mankind imposes upon researchers the task to urgently record as much as possible of what otherwise will perish without a trace on the one hand, and the task to develop and implement measures to preserve whatever still can be preserved as far as minor cultures and languages in peril are concerned, on the other hand.
1. Languages are social phenomena, and as such are doomed to change in time, and eventual death. Very rapid developments in ultramodern media and current sociopolitical mechanisms of power*10 constitute the most serious danger for lesser used languages and minor local cultures throughout the world but at the same time the very same media and mechanisms, when only appropriately applied, can play a decisive positive role. Hence the quest for appropriate strategies.
There is a saying that democracy is far from an ideal invention but so far nothing better has been proposed to more or less justly regulate relations between individuals regardless of their position in larger groups of people. It is Europe that claims responsibility for the "invention" of democracy in the sense it is implemented at present in what one refers to as its "democratic societies" or "democratic states", and it is Europe that, especially these days, pays so much attention and money, and saves no effort to promulgate and strengthen the kind of adjectiveless democracy*11 prevailing in the strongest economies of Western Europe and North America.
Europe displays now to the outside world, and to itself, two faces, dividing the continent. One is that of far-fetched integration and unification (but not uniformization !) in the West, the other is that of the dramatic, and often violent, disintegration (and uniformization, since many unique local values perish as victims of the process) in the East. What is often labeled as Central Europe seems somehow faceless, constituting fringes for both the integrating West and the disintegrating East, confused, but with clear-cut preferences, either pro-Western,*12 or pro-Eastern (with the extreme case of Lukashenkan Belarus at the forefront).
Europe has changed unbelievably since the time this author was in Japan working on the two creations of his mentioned above (i.e., Majewicz 1987, 1989). The major political events with consequences still difficult to perceive and even more difficult to perspectively evaluate, in the triggering of which Poland's massive "Solidarity" movement had its role escaping overestimation, were the joyful and full of hopes reunification of Germany, the peaceful divorce of Czechs and Slovaks, the dramatic and utmostly tragic collapse of the former Yugoslavia, and the relatively peaceful*13 and still potentially very dangerous disintegration of the USSR.
In the West, the European Community (EC) transformed itself into the European Union (EU), and in January 1995 started expanding to absorb such new state members as Sweden, Finland, and Austria. As a result, such languages of the Slavic Eurasian World*14 as Croatian, Slovak, Czech, but also... Tatar and Russian have been, as more or less officially recognized "lesser used languages" in the new state members, brought into the Union.
Much is being spoken of a further EU expansion to accept about the years 2000-2005 Poland, Czechia, and Hungary, with – among others – Rumania, Slovenia, and the Baltic states lining up. As mentioned above, Poland and Rumania are among the richest countries of the old continent as far as ethnic minorities are concerned, and e.g. Lithuania or Latvia are not far behind.
The changes in Europe have had also an important individual, personal dimension. Prior to 1990, this author as (and because of being) a Polish citizen, in order to travel abroad had to go through time-consuming and often humiliating passport and visa procedures, while now with his passport constantly kept in a drawer of his desk can set on a journey at any time to any European country, save... Russia and one or two more once equally brotherly countries now in political and social turmoil. We, once doomed Ossies, have indeed become true citizens of Europe, and astonishingly mobile.
Mobility, just like media, constitutes a thread to small communities culturally and linguistically distinct but, again just like media, it is also a chance, a motivation for these communities to continue their spiritual heritage, as no one would intend to visit a region, often a far-away, off-the-road one, if the latter has nothing to offer. Thus, ethnic consciousness itself becomes a merchandise of potentially superior value and quality.
1. 1. Now the time has come to explain another enigma of the title of the present contribution, namely the titular marriage of Eastern Europe and Siberia.
Superficially, it would probably suffice to ascertain that both are but the poles of the Slavic Eurasian World. Besides, both were for the last five decades under the overwhelming influence of the same communist ideology. But the matter is much more complicated than that. In fact, in the domain of the so-called nationality policies,*15 striking differences could be observed in their implementation on both territories in question. While in Siberia, and as a matter of fact in the entire USSR, a multinational element in the formation of a future allegedly homogenic nation labeled Soviet, and equalling some crisis-free and conflictless communist society was stressed, in the countries of Eastern Europe it was the focus on uni- and homoethnicity and on assimilation that prevailed.
For years this author was taught at school about the benefits of the "return of Poland to its ethnic borders", as the 1945 border shift was euphemistically called, and about the non-existence of ethnic minorities in Poland, especially the absolute non-existence of any German minority, only to come back from school to the family house shared with... Polish Germans.*16
Although in the Soviet Union one chosen nation was treated as much more equal among equals, and some were, quite to the contrary, treated as much less equal,*17 and entire domains essential to the cultural heritage of small ethnic groups were being ruthlessly destroyed,*18 much effort was spent, at least on paper,*19 on the promotion of education in small native tongues with the introduction of orthographies for until that time non-literary languages,*20 production of school handbooks in aboriginal languages and other books and papers.*21 Highly selectively, individuals from the aboriginal population were promoted to become highly placed party secretaries,*22 writers of world fame,*23 artists, scholars, and the like. All this was to give evidence to the whole world as to how sensitive, how concerned the Soviet house of power was about the ethnic minorities under its rule, how high the salvation and protection of their cultures and languages was on its agenda. And the world seems to have bought it all.
In Eastern Europe policies towards minorities varied from country to country, but generally the pattern was clearly that of harassment, persecution, discrimination, at best neglect. We have fragmentarily documented all this for Poland elsewhere (Majewicz & Wicherkiewicz 1989, 1991-1992). It was only following the 1956 post-Stalinist thaw that certain strictly licenced and limited activities of minority groups, deprived of the slightest even political element, layer, or hint except for unconditional support for the official "line",*24 were allowed.
The above-mentioned events of great historical proportions of the late '80s and early '90s brought about for the first time the chance to independently and objectively observe, record, and assess the actual state of preservation of ethnic minority languages and cultures, as well as of ethnic self-identification of individual members of those groups on both territories under concern.
The "Red Book of the Languages of Russia" (Neroznak 1994) describes as endangered 63 languages of a total of some 180 languages that are estimated to exist in the whole country. This figure includes virtually all languages native to Eastern Siberia save Yakut.*25 As the case of the Livs and the Livonian language in northern Latvia implies, the situation in at least some former republics of the Soviet Union may be similar. Many of these languages should be considered as already dead or moribund rather than endangered, since decades ago they ceased to be transferred from generation to generation, the condition sine qua non for a language to survive and be successfully revived.
Quite to the contrary, seemingly the majority of minority groups and languages in Eastern Europe have been preserved in conditions ranging from stable to excellent,*26 and some of them turned out to be impressively strong. In Poland, for example, the once officially non-existent German minority emerged to become the largest such group in the country with a population estimated at between 800,000 and 1,000,000. This fact probably in the best way proves the futility and failure of the short-sighted policy of neglect.
Unless one accepts the quite commonly shared opinion that nationality policies in the USSR served solely the purposes of propaganda (for outside) and actual Russification (internally), one must admit the complete failure of these policies in both the USSR and Eastern Europe, in spite of the contrast indicated. From this point of view, both policy packets failed, but the results of these failures were drastically different to the incomparable disadvantage of the minority groups in Russia.
2. Thus, we are back in Europe. As stated above, a majority of East European countries are knocking at the doors of NATO and EU, virtually begging to be granted membership of these exclusive clubs, and formal applications have already been submitted. In order to be admitted, the prospective members have to modify their legislations to match the standards set for the EU member countries. This also concerns minority rights protection, and regulations concerning it have been inscribed in a number of declarations, charters, conventions, etc., ratified by all or a majority of EU member states, while the ratification process continues.
The last two decades observed a remarkable progress in ethnic and linguistic group policies, from an ideological blab to very progressive and precise legal regulations on an international scale, particularly in what one refers to as the developed democracies of Western Europe and Northern America, above all following, and as the result of, the Helsinki Conference (CSCE) of 1975 and a series of specialist conferences concerning human and minority rights, particularly in Copenhagen,*27 Rovaniemi,*28 Leningrad,*29 Athens,*30 and Vienna,*31 to finally lead to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the framework for which was agreed unanimously at the meeting of Minister's Deputies in Strasbourg on November 10, 1994.
In the "Preamble" to the Charter, the member states of the Council of Europe among others define the goal of the Council as the achievement of "a greater unity between its members", and "considering that the protection of the historical regional or minority languages of Europe, some of which are in danger of eventual extinction, contributes to the maintenance and development of Europe's cultural wealth and traditions", and "that the right to use a regional or minority language in private and public life is an inalienable right (...)", and stress "the value of interculturalism and multilingualism (...)" on the grounds of "realizing that the protection and promotion of regional or minority languages in the different countries and regions of Europe represent an important contribution to the building of a Europe based on the principles of democracy and cultural diversity within the framework of national sovereignty and territorial integrity".*32 The 23 elaborate Articles that follow detail the minority rights of groups as well as individuals, and obligations of states and their institutions towards minorities. The Charter is backed by the Documents of the Conferences mentioned, and by such UNO documents as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National, or Ethnic, Religious, and Linguistic Minorities.*33 Thus, protection of minorities became firmly inscribed in international law, and since belonging to a minority group depends on an individual decision and declaration, the above-mentioned documents give every minority group or individual belonging to it a very powerful instrument for genuine protection of its/her/his cultural heritage, a powerful weapon in a struggle to execute the right for such protection.
This is precisely the reason why minorities in Eastern Europe feel more and more confident in what rights they enjoy and in what pressure they can apply to force the execution of their rights. The promulgation of this legal awareness among the minorities of Russia and of Siberia*34 in particular, and the distribution of information about minority rights and the state's obligations towards minorities, are suggested here among the most important minority language preservation strategies available.*35
2. 1. Linguistic diversity in Europe is considered an important part of the European cultural heritage, hence it should be protected. Astonishingly similar formulation can be found in the law "On the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation" adopted in October 1991, according to which all languages of the country have been "declared national property and part of the historical and cultural heritage protected by the state" (cf. Neroznak 1994:8). The problem, however, remains a Soviet-epoch one: access – and it still seems to be a very serious problem in today's Russia.
2. 2. Minority groups cannot devote their full time to the struggle for and protection of their rights, otherwise they would have to abandon the essence of what is to be protected – their very cultures and languages. Hence, various forms of institutional support, be it parliamentary or interparliamentary groups, government agencies, consultative bodies,*36 bureaux, etc., are indispensable. A very active, and of outstanding merits and importance, such institution in Western Europe is the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages (EBLUL), with National Committees in particular member states.
In spite of such advanced legislatory regulations and institutional support, Western Europe is no exception nor is it immune to minority-related problems: it also has languages that are utmostly endangered,*37 and there are still states stubborn in recognizing their minorities and the rights of the latter, with the shameful and unacceptable leadership of France irrationally resisting renouncement of its archaic centuries-long policy that "the sole language of the republic is French".*38 Legislatory instruments and insititutional support, however virtually guarantee that minority groups can protect effectively and develop their cultures and languages, should they only wish to do so.
Organizing themselves, persistently demanding that minority-protecting organizations and institutions be supported by respective governments when created, demanding respect for inalienable rights directly from governmental and parliamentaly bodies before appropriate specialized organizations and institutions are called into existence, is another very important strategy to be suggested here.*39
In any case, however, the key for the survival and proteciton of minority culures and languages is the strong will and determination of the bearers and users of these cultures and languages themselves, and the creation of the situation in which minority and regional values will attract younger generations and will be accepted as their own values worthy of cultivating and being proud of. This seems to have been working well in many instances, as e.g. the Kashubian minority of Poland (cf. Majewicz 1986, 1992, 1996) and the Ainu of Japan (Majewicz, forthcoming).
To achieve this, of crucial importance is the upgrading of the social status of a minority and the linguistic status of its language where appropriate and applicable (that is, in most cases). Minorities should demand official recognition from the state with a proper status ascribed as well as the recognition of the right for their language to be used, if one wishes so, in courts, schools, public offices, religious institutions, etc., and documents, in regions where particular minorities live in compact communities and constitute a regional majority.*40
Observing a drastic decline in the use of Rhaeto-Romance ethnolects ascribed to strong non-Rhaetic media influence and economic factors including significant influx of tourists and increased mobility, Switzerland's citizens by a 76% majority ratified an amendment to the Federal Constitution to grant Rumantsch a (partial) official status by stating that "Rumantsch is the official language for relations between the Confederation and Rumantsch citizens". Important legislative measures on a regional level have recently been undertaken to elevate the status of and protecting minority languages in Italy in relation to Friulan (in Friuli-Venezia Giulia region), Greek and Albanian (in Basilicat), and the German-speaking Walser community of 600 people (in Val d'Aosta). East European countries may soon be ready to follow suit, as harbingered by the case of the official recognition of Rusyn as "the literary language of Rusyns in Slovakia".*41
A peculiar case of the self-upgrading of a language on the verge of extinction could be observed in Russia's Far North-East with the ease of international contacts across the Bering Strait: since Russian was hardly known on the American side of the border and the same was with English on the Russian side, it was Yupik Eskimo that all of a sudden became the sole language of contact, which immediately resulted in the decrease of absentee rate among the Eskimo students obliged to attend Eskimo-language classes in... St. Setersburg.*42
2. 3. Characteristic of minority situations with their language seriously endangered is that poor knowledge or no knowledge of the language which, though predominant in younger generations, occurs in virtually all generations. Hence, in any attempt to revive the language, necessarily backed by strong determination to achieve this goal, very special models of education have to be designed and introduced.
They have to include, and interacively combine, adult-education with the normal, but expanded by native-language- and region-related classes, education of the youths, and additionally, with the so-called "early immersion education" of children two-to-three years old.
Certain fragments of such models, so urgently needed, have been developed and successfully used in a number of minority-language and endangered-language situations.
As far as adult education is concerned, the Basque experience with their euskaltegis, or centers which specialize in teaching Basque to adults and are conceived upon the, very successful in this author's opinion, ulpan system in Israel, is worthy of attention. The idea is said to have emerged in the '60s with the conclusion on the part of Basque youths that school education was insufficient to secure the survival and development of the language, and that adult education in residential centers was indispensable.
According to data from the Basque Government's Institute for Adult Literacy and Basquization, as cited in the Euskararen Berripapera,*43 during the 1993-94 academic year, 2,000 teachers provided Basque classes to 43,300 adults in 164 euskaltegis centers. The same bulletin reported*44 a considerable growth in Basque book publication, the increase of the number of Basque speakers,*45 and the increase of Basque-speaking youngsters whose parents do not speak the language.*46
Early immersion education, in turn, could follow the Irish model of na naíonraí, Irish-medium play-schools for groups of children between 3 - 5 years of age, who come together each day to play and learn by play, exclusively in Irish, for a few hours, under the guidance of a specially trained teacher-leader.*47 A recent extensive study on the naíonra (Hickey 1997) reveals that children make significant progress in the acquisition of the Irish language while in the naíonraí and this in turn leads to increased use of Irish in their homes, as one of assumptions behind the very idea of naíonraí was that "pre-schooling through Irish assists in expanding the use of Irish in the realm of the family, which in turn helps to promote integration in the community" (ibid., p. 4). The model is said to follow similar early-immersion education for Welsh children, also very successful.
In the realm of education for school-age children and youths, it is of extreme importance that programs are designed in such way that region- and regional language-related classes are not perceived as an additional burden, otherwise they will be rejected by the very would-be beneficiants. The attractiveness of such programs must be real, and significantly backed by and coordinated with local TV and radio broadcasting and publications, which are another must to save minority languages. Local performing groups have to be encouraged and sponsored, not only folkloristic ones, but also pop groups, as well as other fashionable forms of entertainment that would appeal to younger people, e.g. records and record rankings, including karaoke, etc. Besides, conditions should be created for every minority group to have its own eisteddfod,*48 and other forms of motivating competitions in singing, literary writing, recitation, tale telling, etc. All this may seem costly, but if a state acknowledges that all languages of all the peoples inhabiting it consitute its historical and cultural heritage,*49 such a declaration must not remain merely empty words.
Financial assistance for lesser used languages and academic lesser-used-language research projects is a necessity, and the weaker the economy of the state, the stronger the support, also as far as finances are concerned, should be.*50
Academic education in turn should encourage and subsidize diplomas in lesser-used-language planning and in methodologies of regional education, to guarantee a supply of specialists in language maintenance, and thus also attract more minority youths often generally reluctant to acquire university education.
It is possible that some experience from the Soviet-era boarding-school system for minority children in Russia's Far North and Far East could be of use, but one has to be aware that it was precisely that system that was the strongest weapon of Russificaiton, responsible for the disintegration of small cultures and the utmost endangerment of small native languages. While the multiethnicity of groups was its worst and most dangerous point, well conceived, well organized, and strongly supported at the initial stage homoethnic boarding schools for all generations with the applicaiton of experience from the above-mentioned models of special education from Western Europe, could be expected to bring about a still possible reverse in language shift in at least a number of situations.
2. 4. Mere "protection" is, however, absolutely insufficient in the case of minority groups, like e.g. the Karaims or Livonians in Europe, or Udeghe or Uilta in Russia's Far East, i.e. groups whose population is counted in dozens and in which the original language, traditions, and genuine customs are preserved with individuals only. It goes beyond any doubt that these constitute an important part of the heritage of all mankind, and it is the responsibility of all mankind to save it for posteriority. This requires very special, unique measures, already proposed elsewhere (Majewicz 1992a). One of them is a reimplementation and adaptation of the idea and notions of "living important cultural assets" and "living national treasures" (Jap. ningen kokuhō). They refer to the persons in the fields of traditional crafts and performing arts, who have been designated Bearers of Important Intangible Cultural Assets by the Japanese government within the governmental plan "to preserve and pass on to further generations cultural skills necessary for the preservation of certain traditional arts and crafts". Legislative measures should be implemented to enable such "living treasures" to make their living on what they preserved, financially sponsored by states and international institutions.

3. The simultaneous affirmation of Europe's common heritage and recognition of its cultural and linguistic diversity, with the equal respect for both enshrined in the international legislation of the unifying continent is regarded, "without any doubt", to be "the most valuable achievement of the European Community since the Second World War".*51
Although the continent has been basically free of international military conflicts on a larger scale for more than fifty years in spite of many dangerous moments during the cold-war period and later when the so-called Brezhnev's doctrine was tolerated to be in force, it was not free from violent internal clashes, almost exclusively interethnic in character: it is sufficient to call here the spectacular IRA and ETA terrorist attacks respectively in Great Britain*52 and Spain, the actions of Corsican "nationalists" in France,*53 or the stones in the hands of Welsh youths to win the battle for a Welsh-language TV channel, impossible to be won by the force of argument alone.
Already above, the cases of France and Greece*54 defying Maastricht and other conventions, even ratified by them, were quoted. Other countries, however, are also reluctant to recognize some of the minorities, grant them support, protect them.*55
Of a very special character is the problem of the socio-political status of the so-called Gastarbeiter in the richest countries of Western Europe, particularly Germany, Great Britain, and France. They were a working force clearly invited and encouraged to come to these countries to undertake necessary jobs that rich citizens therein would consider it beyond their dignity to get involved in. Now, in their third and fourth generation born in the host countries and with populations in the meantime swelled to millions, they are treated as not needed, unwelcomed, overtly persecuted, denied citizenship, etc., although there is a sound reason to believe that had e.g. the Turks left Germany tomorrow, the country would simply collapse in a week or two. Nevertheless, criminal acts of arson in which innocent people, children and women included, die, are frequent, the dreadful and noisy Ausländer raus is heard much too frequently all over Germany,*56 and Mr. Le Pen's National Front in France gathers far too many youths under similar populistic slogans. The Gastarbeiter issue should be closely observed in the countries of Eastern Europe, especially those with more stabilized economies, as the influx of similar categories of alien element there has already started.
It is precisely this alien element, non-native to the countries involved, that brings about confusion and significantly retracts the introduction of minority-protection-related legislative measures. In Germany, for instance, no parliamentary majority could be formed to amend the respective articles of the Grundgesetz (Constitution) to include the clause expressing the protection and promotion of ethnic minority groups native to the German soil exactly because it kept escaping the awareness of the legislators that they were dealing with the minorities with genuine German citizenship and not with policies regarding foreigners. Therefore, but anyway and unconditionally, legislative solutions concerning the status of these categories of alien ethnic element must be found to avoid serious internal ethnic conflicts with them but also to avoid ethnic conflicts involving this factor on an international scale: questions do arise how can e.g. Germany demand rights for German minorities abroad, if it chooses to neglect ethnic minorities, be it native or Gastarbeiter-like in its own Constitution.*57 All this, of course, applies very much to the entire territory covered by the present Conference.
The lamentable case of Yugoslavia, with its internecine war*58 followed by genocidal ethnic cleansings is a shame for the whole European community for its lack of imagination and determination to prevent the war foreseeable as early as 1989, or put an end to it for whatever price when it broke out.*59 The Yugoslav conflict has been in its nature entirely ethnic, and in the first place it again demonstrated the complete failure of the communist policies towards nationalities, and in the second, but equally important, place – how important it is to build political structures and intellectual awareness to prevent such ethnic cataclysms.
The very promising response to this challenge is the model of the Europe of Regions, with all cultures and languages, however small or big, treated with equal respect and on equal terms, without the majority languages trying to dominate the languages of minorities,*60 a Europe with borders between states existing but in the first place as an unchallenged inheritance from the past and elements of folklore enriching spiritually, uniting and attracting rather than dividing and making passers-by tremble and feel uneasy. In the development of such a model (already well advanced, this author would say) that can be followed anywhere, provided there is political will to initiate it, all measures and strategies discussed in the second part of the present paper are applicable.
To avoid conflict on a microscale, minorities, while rightly demanding the protection of their rights to be secured and appropriate support and assistance to be guaranteed, should self-impose restraint not to arouse negative attitudes with their ethnic neighbors; they must strive not only to demand to be given, but also to give themselves the best they can of their own, to share with the entire communitiy as much as possible of what they have as unique and most valued.
Exactly one month ago this author visited Latvia. In Riga, the language heard in the streets that still seemed to dominate was Russian*61 but, contrary to the situation from before regaining of independence when it was the Russian language that overwhelmingly dominated on any signs, inscriptions, captions, etc.,*62 practically all Russian characters have been removed from public sight. The Russians, who constitute what can hardly be called minorities as far as population figures are concerned in both Latvia and Estonia, must feel humiliated, and there is support in the West for protests against what Russians started calling apartheid in the Baltic states, but again restraint and patience are necessary: after all, it was the natives of the Baltic states, the true hosts in their own countries that were humiliated for decades by the Russian invaders,*63 arrogant enough to refuse to learn even rudiments of the languages of the peoples in whose countries they found living conditions better than in their own country, and whose very exsitence they seriously endangered. Time must elapse to balance and cure all this.
We shall conclude this contribution with a few remarks related to some positive microscale developments in the field of our concern here, that recently occurred in Poland. Both have to do with a potential conflict situation on a smaller scale*64 and in both appropriate solutions could be found to help avoid the conflict.
One situation concerns the education of Romani (Gypsy) children. In Poland, education is compulsory for children between 7 - 15 years of age, but the authorities themselves notoriously breached law by tolerating the fact that most Rom children in the prescribed age did not attend school at all, as it was far "less troublesome" for them. The children, in turn, did not attend school, rightly fearing outright discrimination and bullying for various reasons. It was only the creation of special ethnic classes for such children and special educational programs ad hoc designated and introduced in the Nowy Sącz region, and in Tarnów, with elements of professional education that caused a very positive change of attitude of both the children and their parents to schooling.*65
The other example is related to the installation of bilingual road signs on territories compactly inhabited by ethnic Germans (in this particular case the Opole Silesia / Oppeln Schlessien). The appearance of such signs (i.e. German, in addition to Polish) there caused indignation and fierce protests on the part of a majority of Poles still too well remembering the Nazi atrocities in World War II and the role the German minority had played*66 to give Germany pretence to wage the war against Poland in 1939. The authorities then ordered the removal, forcibly where necessary, of these signs. In 1995, however, Poland became signatory of the convention on minority rights protection, on the force of which the state instead of removing such signs is obliged to help install and protect them, should a minority group request so. Fortunately, however, the minority activists, remembering the previous indignation and protests, display much restraint, self-control, and understanding for the "sensitiveness" of the issue.
Thus, not only international legislatory measures but also individual wisdom are of crucial importance in conflict evasion.*67 Notes
  1. Today also alas degraded.
  2. The closest to it being Stolarczyk 1984.
  3. Georgians and French.
  4. Undoubtedly, the best reference book on this subject at our disposal so far.
  5. I.e., politically "new" Europe.
  6. Released later as Majewicz 1989.
  7. Cf. Bulletin de Géolinguistique 6/97/1, pp. 2-3.
  8. (Ibid.).
  9. (Ibid.).
  10. A majority can always easily outvote a minority, and thus in the most democratic way the most important principle of democracy, i.e. that of the equality of chances, can innocently be violated and go unpunished.
  11. The indirect reference here is to the corrupt concepts of "socialist democracy", "national-socialist democracy", and the like.
  12. Cf. the EU and NATO aspirations not only of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
  13. Though not without bloodshed, esp. in Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova.
  14. From the title of this Conference.
  15. First Leninist, later Leninist-Stalinist, Stalinist, later again Leninist.
  16. The existence of those Germans was particularly persistently denied by the authorities.
  17. Poles deserve here special mention, but also the Jews, Crimean Tatars, Chechen, Ingush, and a number of others.
  18. Cf. e.g. anything related to traditional beliefs, but also traditional occupations, as hunting, fishing (the reader is recommended here, if possible, to see the moving scenes of the burning of Livonian boats in A. Freimanis's 1991 Latvian television documentary Dzivoju libiesu majas ("I live in a Liv [onian] house").
  19. And much of it clearly for political propaganda purposes.
  20. Which was the pride of the Revolution; as it turned out, these orthographies were introduced hardly competently and proved hardly suitable in most cases.
  21. But, look what most of this stuff was about!
  22. Usually with little say.
  23. The state paid for translations and distribution of their works; at times, works created indeed were worth promoting, though far from always. The names readily coming to hand, without any intention to valuation, include the Udeghe Kimonko, the Chukchee Rytkheu, the Nivhgu Sangi.
  24. But exactly everything was politically sensitive at that time.
  25. But, can Yakuts be at all considered a minority in any sense? I personally have reservations about it.
  26. Byelorussian as a minority language in Poland, for instance, has been preserved in a far better condition than Byelorussian in Belarus, the latter having undergone strong Russification.
  27. Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on Human Dimension of the CSCE, June 1990.
  28. Rovaniemi Conference on Linguistic Rights of Minorities, May 1991.
  29. The Leningrad Minority Rights Conference, June 1991.
  30. European Congress on the Rights of Minorities and the Peoples, December 1992, at which the Declaration of Athens on the Rights of Minorities was formally accepted.
  31. The meeting of the heads of state and government of the Council of Europe's member states, October 1993.
  32. Quoted after the original text as appended to the EBLUL Contact Bulletin.
  33. Resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly, December 18, 1992.
  34. And the Caucasus for this matter, cf. Neroznak 1994:9.
  35. How powerful indeed such awareness can be, can be exemplified by the tiny Uilta minority group of Sakhalin who successfully requested from the Supreme Soviet that the ethnonyms Orochon and Orok in use in relation to them be replaced by the current ethnonym Uilta.
  36. As e.g. the European Commission for Democracy through Law, established and supported by the Council of Europe, with the supportive participation of the governments of Italy and the Veneto Region, or the Assembly of European Regions.
  37. Like e.g. Saterfriesian, the only remnant continuation of Old East Friesian in North-West Lower Saxony, Low Sorbian/Lusatian in the region of Cottbus, both in Germany, Scottish Gaelic and Lallans of Scotland, almost all Rhaeto-Romance ethnolects of Switzerland, Aromounian/Vlach and Arvanite dialects of Greece, Sardinian in Italy, but also Irish, the official state language of the Irish Republic, the only EU member-state official language endangered, and, unfortunately, the only one such by EU neglected.
  38. This continued policy, contradicting totally both the spirit and the letter of the Maastricht Treaty, has already brought about results quite opposite to those expected: French evidently ceased to be a language of the global sphere of influence it once was, alongside English, and its role as an international language rapidly diminishes. Already in 1981 President F. Mitterand showed signs of understanding the futility of France's stand stating that "the time has come to grant a status for minority languages and cultures of France, being the last country in Europe to refuse its citizens their elementary rights, recognized by international conventions France herself had signed" (March 14 speech in Lorient, slightly restructured here). As late as late in 1994 France's Education Minister Frances Bayrou became the first French high official ever to pronounce an opinion, revolutionary indeed in that country, that the age of monolingualism has passed and that "only through promoting the regional languages of France could the French language itself be protected" (cf. EBLUL Contact Bulletin, winter 1994/95, p. 3); the Minister was said to have promised a number of measures in education in this respect, without, however, apparent actions to back these promises following (ibid.). Another EU country pretending that Maastricht had not taken place is Greece, the only state, out of 27, that cast a negative vote to accord the legal form of a convention to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
  39. Minority and minority-protection organizations and institutions mushroom also in Eastern Europe. In Poland, at least 120 minority organizations were active, in this 61 German-minority related which in turn were associated in several unions (cf. Majewicz 1995, esp. p. 27). A special Bureau for Ethnic Minority (Biuro do Spraw Mniejszosci Narodowych) was called into existence in the Ministry of Culture and Arts, which was responsible, among others, for the coordination of policies towards minorities on central as well as local levels and for the finacial support of selected events and undertakings of particular minority groups; in 1994 the Bureau published its first bulletin on Poland's minorities, very informative though with the information provided not always complete, and certain "sensitive" issues deliberately and markedly omitted (cf. ibid., p. 3).
  40. It was routine in Poland's Silesia that when a person born there, often an ethnic German, requested e.g. a birth, marriage, or death certificate to present it in Germany, he/she received a Polish translation from the German-language original and had to retranslate it into German afterwards.
  41. In Poland, the Lemk minority, ethnically very close to Rusyns, is officially still perceived as a part of the recognized Ukrainian minority, although the Lemks have their own Society registered by the state, their own publications, and certain limited forms of their own organized education.
  42. I learned about it from a wonderful anecdote Nikolai Vakhtin of St. Setersburg told me.
  43. A bulletin published by the Basque Government Secretariat for Language Policy, vol. 2, no. 2.
  44. Vol. 1, no. 1.
  45. Vol. 2, no. 1.
  46. "Almost 20% of youngsters between ages of 12 and 15 with parents who do not know Basque language, are Basque speakers" (vol. 2, no. 2, p. 4). Of interest should also be experience accumulated in the Fryske Folkshegeskoalle Schylgeralan, in Dutch Friesland, a residential center for the cultural and language education of adults and youths.
  47. Such a group is called a naíonra.
  48. An annual competitive all-Welsh dance, music, drama, literature (bardic poetry!), and fine arts of Wales, probably the largest such cultural festival on a global scale.
  49. And any state aspiring to be one of law and democracy should.
  50. Also necessary seems either the creation of a new computerized information and documentation network for languages so-far not covered by the existing MERCATOR network, situated in the Frisian Academy in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, or the expansion of MERCATOR to cover the remaining minority languages, first of the entire continent, later to include also neighboring territories, and beyond.
  51. Words of Henri Giordan as Director of the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, responsible for a documentation center on linguistic minorities in France, from a July 1992 Libération article as printed in English in EBLUL Contact Bulletin.
  52. Northern Ireland, but also the very center of London.
  53. Where your citizen's obligation is to be a French nationalist; one has to remember here that the burning Parliament of Brittany (Bretagne) in Rennes and the violent protests of fishers there had also underlying ethic factors involved.
  54. But this list could also somehow be expanded: cf. Turkey (a NATO member state!) stand on the Kurdish problem (it could be looked upon as an "Asian problem", were it not frequent protest manifestations of Kurds and their clashes with police on the streets of German cities or the recent incident in the UN headquarters in Switzerland. Is it not an European minority-related problem?).
  55. The Roms (Gypsies) are particularly vulnerable to persecution often going unpunished, as strong prejudices and a largely negative attitude among most nations against them easily excuse the frequent lack of immediate action unless a tragedy occurs; many such cases from Poland could be quoted.
  56. Fortunately, sufficiently balanced by Auslander bleiben, Nazi vertreiben heard from the mouths of many young Germans.
  57. This issue may soon turn hot in the Polish-German relations in view of the emergence of the strong German minority in Poland and the strong presence of economic emigrants from Poland in Germany. The official German stand is that while Germans in Poland do constitute a true ethnic minority native to territories currently within the Polish borders, the Poles in Germany are not – which is true – for the most part: there is a centuries-old Polish minority dispersed all over Germany (we were neighbors for millenia, after all!), representatives of which are again interested in their ethnic roots.
  58. Internal? International?
  59. It seems necessary that international legislative regulations be developed to enable international communities to deprive murderers of their deadly toys too frequently abused behind the shelter of the ill-interpreted clause of non-interference in "internal" affairs of "sovereign" "states" (not only Yugoslavia, but also Cambodia, Burma, and many other human-inflicted disasters could have been prevented).
  60. It is precisely this that would in the end doubtlessly result in the uniformization of Europe, so much feared.
  61. It is even more so in other towns, like e.g. Daugavpils or Ventspils.
  62. Before, all what was written in Latvian had to be written also in Russian, while very many signs were Russsian-language only.
  63. Where were today's protesters in the West, one would like to ask sarcastically.
  64. What is, however, a small scale globally, can be of immense proportions when perceived individually.
  65. Previously, it was very often the parents who were also against the schooling of their children.
  66. Unfortunately, that of utmost disloyalty and provocation.
  67. Due gratitude is to be extended to all those who cared to examine this text by argument. The following note seems indispensable to clear up certain points that were raised during the discussion.
    A text made public should defend itself, hence it seems utmostly unusual that this author would wish to draw potential readers' attention to the fact that the present contribution does not deal with any problems beyond those clearly determined by its title. Preliminary and a bit interdisciplinary in character, it pertains to three fields of research, namely, language policies, language planning, and minority studies, i.e. disciplines of research, results of which shall be crucial for the search of survival strategies in any attempt at the preservation of local ethnic minority groups, local minority cultures, and what is euphemistically labeled their lesser-used languages, if anything is genuinely intended to be preserved at all. Contrary to numerous previously formulated "programs", "guidelines", and other lengthy and verbose didactics (for a quotation from one typical such document, see the text by Boris Chichlo in the present volume), the present remarks are very much practice-oriented (too much seems to have been said, far too little actually done), and they result from this author's rather not a bad knowledge of the realities in minority situations both in the so-called Western democracies (cf., however, note 11 above) where minority protection instruments and mechanisms (i.e., legislatory solutions, and institutional implementation and monitoring) are – in this author's opinion – the most advanced, as well as in the northeasternmost recesses of the Euroasiatic continent.
    Specifically, this contribution does not intend even to suggest that lesser-used language endangerment is confined to Russia or the former Soviet Union, or that it occurs exclusively under, or/and as a result of, communist ideology. It is also by no means "normative" in character, as conditional and potential forms are uncharacteristic of normative texts. Although the name of Belarus President Lukashenka and the bloody collapse of Yugoslavia have been mentioned, neither stands in focus of the present considerations. That Lukashenka won his post in the most democratic way possible, i.e. by a very clear majority vote, is patent to the present author, but this by no means compels the latter to appreciate the way Belarus President kept "strengthening" his grip on power following the election or to fail to observe that his orientation is hardly pro-Western. To maintain, in turn, that events of the '90s in what resulted from the former federal state of Yugoslavia constitute a "post-communist" development edges on nonsense to a European intellectual ear. There are voices that the Yugoslav disaster occurred in the first place because communism has never been abandoned in Belgrade. The answer to the question "why should small languages be protected" is all too obvious to the present auther: because their users want them to be protected and the very essence of democracy is to grant them the right to such demands.

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