No Money For Books
The collapse of the Soviet system demolished the ideological rationale and the hothouse conditions, including generous state subsidies, that existed for encouraging the use and teaching of small languages. At the same time, a knowledge of Russian as lingua franca remained crucial, especially within a multiethnic society such as Daghestan, where, in addition, unemployment is high and competition for jobs intense.
Moreover, Daghestan's government, which as of 2005 depended on subsidies from Moscow for 80 percent of its budget, was forced to revise spending priorities, with education getting short shrift. This has led to chronic shortages of school textbooks in languages other than Russian.
Even the language of Daghestan's largest ethnic group, the Avars (who numbered 758,438 people in 2002, or 29.4 percent of the republic's population), is under threat, and has been for some time.
In 2002, a language teacher in Kaspiisk told RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service that several factors were contributing to the decline in the use of Avar: a lack of qualified teachers and up-to-date textbooks (not all schools had an adequate number of textbooks, and the limited number available were up to 20 years old); the lack of an up-to-date Avar-Russian dictionary; and, crucially, lack of interest among school students in studying their own native language. Some wealthy businesspeople sponsored the publication of language textbooks, but those textbooks were not always approved by and coordinated with the republic's Pedagogical Institute.
The situation does not seem to have improved greatly over the past five years. In 2003, a new Avar-Russian dictionary was published, the first for over 50 years, but native speakers say it is not of outstanding quality, and the print run was only 3,000 copies.
And the problem of school textbooks remains acute. Magomed Gazaliyev, the director of a school in the village of Andikh in Shamil Raion in west-central Daghestan, told RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service in July that his school cannot buy new textbooks for students in 10th and 11th grades, and that teachers comb villages in the hope of buying old ones.
"We have been without books for more than 10 years," he said.
Gazaliyev said the republican Education Ministry claims it does not have sufficient funds to finance the publication of a new series of textbooks. He said the ministry is apparently hoping that a private sponsor might be found.
Study Time Reduced
Gazaliyev further complained that the number of hours devoted to the study of Avar in schools is being reduced, but did not specify how drastically. In rural schools, instruction in all subjects is in Avar for the first four grades. From fifth to ninth grade, instruction is in Russian, with two hours per week devoted to the Avar language and two to Avar literature. In 10th and 11th grades, two hours per week are devoted to the Avar language.
"They are reducing the time spent on teaching the native language and literature and increasing the number of hours spent studying other subjects at their expense," Gazaliyev told RFE/RL.
Radio and television broadcasting in languages other than Russian has also been subjected to cuts. Republican television now broadcasts exclusively in Russian, although there are still daily radio programs in the 13 other titular languages, in addition to Russian. The number of hours broadcast is directly proportional to the number of speakers of a given language, with Avar and Dargin having the most and Tsakhur the least.
All these factors serve to undermine many Avars' commitment to their native language. And the decline in the use of Avar is not confined to urban areas with a multiethnic population, but extends to districts where the population is almost exclusively Avar.
A correspondent for RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service recently quoted Bata Aliyev, a resident of the village of Mesterukh in Akhvakh Raion, as saying that with every year that passes, it becomes clearer that members of the local Avar population are losing respect for their native language.
"The raion administration, the local education board, schools, and local television are contributing to the gradual decline of the Avar language, because the Russian language is used everywhere," Aliyev said. "Very little time is devoted to the study of the Avar language in school."
The published summary of the July 12 roundtable discussion in Makhachkala did not give any indication whether participants came to the conclusion that some languages are in greater danger of becoming obsolescent than others, and if so, which.
The participants said much of the blame for the decline of Daghestan's indigenous languages lies with the Education Ministry. They characterized many of the ministry's staff members as having no relevant expertise and implied they are indifferent to the issue of teaching small languages
They contrasted the situation in Daghestan, where high-school students spend a maximum of four hours per week studying their native language, literature, and history, with that in Kabardino-Balkaria, where the comparable figure is 36 hours.
The roundtable participants appealed to Daghestan President Aliyev to take urgent measures to reverse the decline in the use of small languages. But even if the republic's leadership could secure funds for programs to promote the study of Avar and other state languages, it could take years before such programs yielded the desired effect.
AVAR LANGUAGE FACES MARGINALIZATION IN DAGHESTAN.
The development of native languages faces major obstacles in the Republic of Daghestan. Scarce attention is paid to native languages, including Avar, either within the education system or at home. Even in Avar villages, the language goes largely untaught in a formal sense. Classroom hours prescribed for Avar are usually added to those assigned for psychology, sociology, and other newly emerging subjects. In many schools, Avar is taught by history teachers, librarians, recent graduates, and even by those who simply failed their university entrance examinations. Teachers prefer to find better-paid jobs rather than add more work by teaching Avar, and they often leave the field of education altogether.
In urban environments, while there are teachers of Avar, children do not appear eager to learn it. Some even feel ashamed to speak it and continue to harbor stereotypes and misconceptions about the Avar-speaking population. Other children claim they already know Avar, since they speak it at home. However, most are children who speak in a regional dialect and whose parents and relatives do not always recognize the difference between the dialect and the Avar language. Khadijat Bechedova, a teacher in Kaspiisk, told RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service that parents often complain to her that, because of Avar classes, their children frequently arrive late for mosque prayers and sports activities. The fact is that neither the population as a whole nor many officials consider developing their own language a priority, and they often speak Russian.
Another reason children are unfamiliar with their native language lies in the lack of textbooks. Both in cities and villages, teachers often must rely on 20-year-old books -- when they can find them at all. Daghestan has few funds to publish textbooks. Some have been written by nonacademics and sponsored by wealthy Daghestani citizens, but they are often published without prior consultation with the Daghestan Pedagogical Institute. The same situation prevails with Avar-Russian dictionaries, which have not been printed for decades. In order to promote such publications and similar initiatives, some foundations and institutions have been created, but they are not always efficient. And Avar journalists and academics have launched several ad hoc initiatives. But, without state-initiated and large-scale reforms, the Avar language will not be able to develop in the Republic of Daghestan.
zhiguli wrote:For the Arabists and Persianists among you there's also a dictionary of Arab/Persian loan words in Lak:
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