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Russification

From Academic Kids

This article is about the political term. For localization of computers and software, see Russification (computers).

Russification refers to both official and unofficial policies of Imperial Russia and Soviet Union with respect to their national constituents and to national minorities in Russia proper aimed at Russian domination. In a narrow sense, Russification is used to denote influence of the Russian language on other Slavic languages.

The two main areas of Russification are politics and culture. Some consider shifts in demographics in favour of Russian population to be a form of Russification as well. In politics, an element of Russification is assigning Russian nationals to leading administrative positions in national institutions. In culture, Russification primarily amounts to domination of the Russian language in official business and strong influence of Russian language on the national ones.

One of the examples of Russification was replacement of the Polish language by Russian in areas of Poland-Lithuania after the Partitions of Poland. In particular, after the January Uprising of 1863, in 1864 Polish together with Belarusian was banned in public places; in the 1880s Polish was banned in schools and offices of the Congress Kingdom. A similar development was in Lithuania: its Governor General Mikhail Muravyov instituted a complete ban on the Latin alphabet and Lithuanian printed matter. The ban was lifted only in 1904. Mikhail Muravyov said about Belarus and Lithuania lands: "What Russian rifle did not succeed in doing, will be finished off by Russian schools" (что не доделал русский штык доделает русская школа.) Still another example is Ems Ukaz of 1876, banning the Ukrainian language.

After the 1917 revolution, the intellectuals of several Central Asian countries and Tatarstan established new standards for the local language. In many cases they substituted the Arabic alphabet with adapted versions of the Latin alphabet, usually inspired by the Turkish alphabet. During the rule of Stalin, these alphabets were replaced by adaptations of the Cyrillic alphabet. This also happened when Moldova was taken from Romania after the Second World War. The Moldovan language restored the Cyrillic alphabet abandoned by Romanians in the 19th century. Several of these countries have changed to a Latin alphabet since the break up of the Soviet Union.

Karelia, Chechnya and Tatarstan republics of Russia also tried to switch their alphabets to Latin, but the Latin alphabet was officially banned for Russia's official languages for two reasons: a) switching needs finances, but they are limited; b) it is difficult to make adult people accept the changes. Sometimes this move has been viewed as remants of policy of russification.

In the Soviet Union, publications in technical and scientific journals were mostly in Russian; this led to underdevelopment of modern technical and scientific terminology in national languages, further degrading their status. While formally all languages were equal, in almost all Soviet republics the Russian/local bilingualism was "asymmetric," as in India: the titular nation learned Russian, whereas immigrant Russians generally did not learn the local language.

Russification is no longer Russia's official policy, but it continues for non-political reasons: in all Russian regions, including those of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, Russian is the language of higher education, trade and business. Many people prefer to speak Russian with their own children, believing that this will provide them a happier future.

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