Study of indigenous language education in Russia leads to intercontinental collaboration

Kazan Federal University

The rationale for the research is in the fact that despite the high number of recognized Indigenous groups who are struggling to maintain their languages, cultures, and identities in Russia, there is little research done on the matters of cultural and linguistic revitalization. This study sought to address this gap by exploring the views of two Indigenous groups, Karelian and Mari, on the development of their Indigenous languages and educational strategies to protect and revive their languages. The study relied on in-depth one-on-one interviews with 20 participants, ten from each Indigenous group.

The findings show that despite older generations’ relative proficiency and interest in their respective Indigenous languages, motivation to master them is fading among younger Indigenous populations. There is also a lack of opportunities to learn the languages including informal settings despite protections within the federal legal system. The participants identified three reasons for the rapid decrease of language speakers which include assimilation of the Indigenous groups, differences in rural and urban development, and globalization.

We singled out three areas where the research results can be implemented. First, those responsible for education policy for the country’s indigenous population can draw on the findings of the study to develop educational initiatives. Second, the study design can be used to conduct similar studies with a different sample. Third, the results of qualitative research will be used to design a tool for quantitative research on the problems of this project.

During the project, the team members held a number of meetings with overseas colleagues and agreed to start developing the design of a collaborative study planned for 2022-2023. The purpose of the future research is to conduct a comparative analysis of the ways of adapting the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples and the national educational laws adopted on its basis (including laws for cultural and linguistic revival) in Russia, Mexico, Taiwan, Bolivia, Australia, and Canada.

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