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Law on Language Turns Fifteen

2005 2005-01-27T10:00:00+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”


Fifteen years ago, on 26 January 1990 the law on languages was adopted in our country. The law declared Belarusian the only state language. After it there started gradual Belarusization.

Naturally, those who wanted began to speak Belarusian in their everyday life, but at work many people had to it because the law demanded to lead accountancy in Belarusian language only. Occasionally, adherents of pan-Slavonic ideas protested against it and damned the “nationalists” who adopted the law.

Duty officials were showing a good example to ordinary people at that time: they took from their grandchildren schoolbooks and learned Belarusian, held their councils in it. They tried to give interviews on TV and radio in Belarusian language, though many of them made mistakes. Now many of the state officials have problems expressing their thoughts even in Russian, which they don’t speak correct.

“Trasianka” (ugly merger of Russian and Belarusian, often spoken in villages of Eastern Belarus, thought it can be heard anywhere in Belarus) is still alive!

According to the head of Frantsishak Skaryna Belarusian Language Society Aleh Trusaw, trasianka will save Belarusian language. In his interview to BelaPAN he said that on the territory of Belarus Russian language transforms in Belarusian through this hybrid. “This process is a result of the sovereignty of Belarus, as a result of which yuppies from Russia who speak good Russian come here no more and those who live in Belarus are gradually assimilated in the environment, where the majority of the population, including the state officials, speak trasianka. BLS head is of the opinion that in 20-25 years all population of Belarus will speak it and then – in literary Belarusian language.

President of Belarus also values trasianka as a linguistic accomplishment. “Some people reproach for Russian language. Is it Russian? Why do we refuse from what we created for the years of the Soviet rule? Clean Russian language differs from that which we speak. Somebody calls it trasianka. Let it be so. We created this language.”

The Belarusization of the first half of 1990-ies was really slow – nobody made people learn Belarusian and nobody persecuted or intimidated speakers of Russian. The linguistic policy in Belarus was dozens times milder than in the Baltic countries. As a result in 1995 Russian still prevailed in all spheres in Belarus. However, were it not for the referendum that gave the status of the state language to Russian along with Belarusian, Russian wouldn’t have preserved its leadership till present time. As a result of the cessation of Belarusization Russian language overwhelms Belarusian.

To all pretensions of the national democrats the authorities answer that people are given linguistic choice and speak the language they want to speak. The majority speak Russian. But why the state doesn’t popularize Belarusian? Why it deals with ideology, but not with language and ideology is flogged into heads without any choice?

For it the authorities could introduce changes to the existing law on languages, the more that the deputies of the National Assembly have already prepared such amendments on the basis of proposals of Belarusian Language Society and even Constitutional Court applied to the Parliament with the proposal to amend the law for giving equal rights to Russian and Belarusian. By that the court confessed the decline of Belarusian language.

This draft law wasn’t considered in 2004 and the National Assembly is not going to consider it in 2005.

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