#3 - JRL 7251
RUSSIAN SPEAKERS FACING DISCRIMINATION IN FORMER SOVIET REPUBLICS
MOSCOW, July 15 /from RIA Novosti's Olga Lipich/ - Russian speakers are discriminated against in almost all of the former Soviet republics, except for Belarus, Konstantin Zatulin, Director of the Institute for CIS Studies, said Tuesday at a conference highlighting the Russian language's status in the post- Soviet area.
As Zatulin put it, "the ruling national elites [in the former Soviet republics] are pushing the Russian element aside." "In Latvia and Estonia this is being done openly whereas in Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries, as well as in Ukraine, this happens surreptitiously." He cited the example of Turkmenistan, where schools and colleges last year stopped teaching in the Russian language. According to him, Turkmenistan University has closed down its Department of Russian Language & Literature, and it now offers only one-hour of Russian per week instead of the usual three hours, thereby giving it the status of a foreign language. This despite the fact that there are 200,000 to 300,000 ethnic Russians living in the republic now, of whom 100,000 have Russian citizenship.
Zatulin believes that in trying to stop the Russian language from being pushed to the sidelines in the CIS and in the Baltic States, efforts should be focused primarily on the preservation of the human resource-that is, educated native speakers who could pass their language skills on to the younger generation. The promotion of Russian media could also help strengthen the language's positions out there, he said.
In conclusion, Zatulin also stressed the need to support Russian-speaking communities outside the Former Soviet Union, too.