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Article

Linguistic Rights and Education in the Republics of the Russian Federation: Towards Unity through Uniformity

Review of Central and East European Law. 2020. Vol. 45. No. 1. P. 59-91.

This article traces the evolution of the debate on the balancing of federal and regional competences in regulating the use of minority languages in Russia’s education system. Taking into account relevant law and judicial practice, as well as developments in center-periphery relations since 2017, the article argues that the federal center has been increasingly depriving Russia’s republics of the ability to self-regulate in the education sphere – particularly over the question as to whether they may require the compulsory study of republican languages (recognized as co-official with Russian) in schools located within their administrative borders. These processes can be located in the context of the centralization of the education system and a corresponding reduction of multilingualism in Russia’s schools. This can, in turn, be seen as part of an underlying drive to promote national unity through uniformity, through the dilution of
the country’s linguistic and cultural diversity and a concurrent emphasis on the primacy of the Russian language. The article further argues that the Russian education system’s centralization has been ongoing: while it has intensified since 2017, the trajectory of the jurisprudence shows an earlier movement towards a concern for ‘unity’ that anticipated it.