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Putin's Plan to Russify the Caucasus

How Russia's New Language Law Could Backfire

Vladimir Putin during the Navy Day parade in St Petersburg, July 2018. Sputnik / Reuters

Russia is undergoing a fundamental internal transformation. In a development lost amid headlines surrounding the World Cup, U.S. President Donald Trump’s Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Moscow’s ongoing row with the United Kingdom over the Sergei Skripal affair, on June 19 the Russian Duma adopted a bill that will profoundly affect the status of the country’s hundred-plus ethnic minorities. The bill makes education in 34 of Russia’s 35 official languages—every language except Russian—optional, limiting instruction in ethnic-minority languages to two hours per week. Previously, native-language instruction had been exclusively the purview of regional governments in Russia’s 26 ethnically defined autonomous republics and okrugs, which often offered at least the first years of primary education in their own official minority languages. This is now set to change by federal decree.

The bill is the result of a new policy announced by Putin last July.

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