Updated at 15:27,23-09-2020

Pro-government expert denies existence of language problem in Belarus

Naviny.by / BelaPAN

The "Belarusian language problem" alleged by pro-opposition political and cultural figures does not exist, Lew Kryshtapovich, deputy head of the Operational and Analytical Center of Belarus’ Presidential Administration, told reporters in Minsk on Wednesday.

In surveys conducted by the Operational and Analytical Center since 2007, 95 percent of the respondents say that there are no tensions between different nationalities and denominations in Belarus, Mr. Kryshtapovich said. This figure almost never changes, he added.

When asked about essential factors for national self-identification, only seven percent of the interviewees reply, "Speaking one`s own language," he said. More than 70 percent point to respect for one’s home country, about 50 percent to knowledge of national customs and traditions, about 40 percent to national pride, and about 20 percent to living in a certain territory, he said.

Mr. Kryshtapovich said that allegations by "certain cultural and political agents" regarding the state of the Belarusian language were absolutely contrary to "reality and the mentality of our people."

According to him, there is no such problem for people in Belarus as choosing between Belarusian and Russian. The proportion of Belarusians identifying Belarusian as their native language is roughly the same as the share of people calling Russian their mother tongue, he said.

It is wrong to say that only speaking the Belarusian language makes people true Belarusians, Mr. Kryshtapovich stressed.

He welcomed the elevation of Russian to the status of a state language as a result of a referendum held on President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s initiative in 1995.

"Our society maintains sociocultural unity, this is an indirect confirmation of the [correctness] of the president’s policy in other spheres as well," Mr. Kryshtapovich said. "The president’s policy is actually appropriate for all domestic and international factors, it is the basis of social and political stability in our society."

In 2009, the Belarusian language was included in UNESCO`s Atlas of the World`s Languages in Danger of Disappearing.

The Francisak Skaryna Belarusian Language Society appealed to the delegates to the December 2010 Fourth All-Belarusian People`s Assembly to ensure the prompt enactment of a law that would require the government to protect and support the Belarusian language.

As a result of the government`s policies in the last 16 years, the Belarusian language is no longer in official use and remains neglected by universities, the appeal said, adding that it was the language of instruction of a much smaller number of general education schools. The October 2009 General Population Census suggests that the number of those who speak Belarusian in daily life decreased by one million between 1999 and 2009, the appeal said.

The language problem was not even mentioned at the All-Belarusian People`s Assembly, widely viewed as the culmination of Alyaksandr Lukashenka`s reelection campaign. Almost all 2,500 delegates used Russian in their speeches.