ELEN calls for measures to promote and protect the Udmurt language

The European Language Equality Network (ELEN), the NGO that works for the protection and promotion of European lesser-used languages, has written to the leader of the Udmurt Republic, Alexei Prasolov, and politicians in the Russian Federation, concerning the death of Udmurt scholar Dr. Albert Razin, and to call on the government for new measures to protect and promote Udmurt, as well as all indigenous languages in Russia. Dr. Razin died after burning himself to death after a protest last month in support of the Udmurt language.

After consulting with Udmurt experts, and following examples of best practice in lesser-used language revitalization from across Europe, ELEN supports the call for measures to be put into place for Udmurt language revitalization. These include:

  • The introduction of Udmurt-medium education at the primary level in Udmurt-speaking areas. Currently, there is no Udmurt-medium education in the Udmurt Republic at any level despite indigenous language medium education being one of the most effective measures to develop the language;
  • Establishing a publicity campaign on the importance of protecting Udmurt;
  • Introducing bilingual signage for place-names and on road signs;
  • Provide support for Udmurt language media. At the moment local radio has only 3 hours of Udmurt language broadcasting and the local TV station “Moya Udmurtiya” (My Udmurt Republic) only broadcasts for 2 hours per day at the most;
  • Develop a comprehensive language plan, with financing, covering all sociolinguistic domains for the long-term development of the language.

The organization has also called on Russia to ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages so as “to give indigenous language protection and development some oversight from the Council of Europe.” Russia signed the treaty in 2001 but is yet to ratify.

The Udmurt language is of the Uralic group, which also includes Finno-Ugric languages. According to Ethnologue the number of people who speak the language has decreased from 550,000 in 1989 to 324,000 in 2010 (census figures). There are some 560,000 ethnic Udmurts living in Russia’s Volga region, Kazakhstan, and Estonia. (Eurolang 2019)

ELEN letter to Mr Alexei Prasolov, Chairman of the State Council of the Udmurt Republic: ELEN Udmurt letter Sept 2019.

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