The future of the Estonian &
Latvian languages
Dr Uldis Ozolins
Royal Melbourne Institute of
Technology University
Historical background
The short history - Estonia &
Latvia
•
•
•
•
•
Pre-Christian - amber, seafaring, rural
Crusaders C12-13
Danes in Tallinn, then sold it to Germans!
Germans in Riga (1201)
Crusaders became city merchants (Hansa
League) and rural ‘barons’ - German
speaking ‘Livonian order’. Protestant in 1520s
• Sweden C17
• Russia C18-19 - World War I
Classical Tallinn
Riga at fin de siècle
The short history of language
policy - I
• Estonian/Latvian “Peasants’ language”
• Studied by German pastors, academics (eg
Herder)
• Bible translated into Estonian/Latvian C16-17
• Education in own language patchily from
Swedish times (C17), increasing in C19
• Growth of national literature mid C19
• For Estonian, C19 influence of Finnish
The short history of language
policy - II
• Russification moves from 1880s restricted Estonian/Latvian but also
restricted German: a 3-cornered
battle
• Estonian/Latvian education largely
restored after 1905 revolution
• National language from 1918
National independence period
1918-1940
• Estonian, Latvian as national languages Estonian in constitution, Latvian in legislation
• Wide use of German, Russian, other
languages; multiligualism common
• Very high educational levels
• Minority policies - cultural autonomy, high
status of especially German
• National turn after 1934, stronger promotion
of titular languages
Three Occupations
•
•
•
•
USSR 1940-41
Germany 1941-44
USSR returns 1944 - 1991
Most Germans leave Baltics after
Molotov/Ribbentrop pact
• Most Jews killed in WWII
• Massive influx of Soviet settlers
Titular nationals in respective
countries, 1920s to 2000/1 (%)
1920/30s
1989
2000/1
Estonians in
Estonia
92.4
61.5
67.9
Latvians in
Latvia
73.4
52.0
57.7
Lithuanians
in Lithuania
84.2
79.6
83.5
Non-titulars in the Baltic States
claiming proficiency in the titular
language, 1989 Census (%)
Non-Estonians in Estonia knowing
Estonian
15
Non-Latvians in Latvia knowing
Latvian
20
Non-Lithuanians in Lithuania knowing
Lithuanian
35
Language change in the Soviet
period
• Growing use and status of Russian
• Growing asymmetric bilingualism
• Growing number of domains where
Russian favoured
• Strict control & censorship over
Estonian and Latvian literature, films,
cultural events
• Russification of other non-titular
minorities
The Soviet linguistic regime
• Leninist “equality of languages”
cf Stalinist to Brezhnev favouring of
Russian
• In education, 2 streams - Estonian/
Latvian & Russian; little Estonian/
Latvian taught in Russian schools;
rewriting of history
• Self-sufficiency of Russian
• Still strong Estonian and Latvian
maintenance, loyalty
Which is the minority language?
“Russian is thus a majorized minority
language (a minority language in terms
of numbers, but with the power of a
majority language), whereas the Baltic
languages are minorized majority
languages (majority languages, in need
of protection usually necessary for the
threatened minority languages).”
(Skutnabb-Kangas, 1994)
Towards regaining independence
1987-1991
• Gorbachev’s Glasnost-Perstroika period
> growing national reassertion
• Revival of national symbols - flag,
anthem, significant calendar days
• Growing political resistance - ‘Baltic
way’demonstration Vilnius-Riga-Tallinn
on 50th anniversay of RibbentropMolotov pact, 1989
• Violence in Vilnius, Riga, barricades
January 1991
Language Laws 1988/9 (while
still in Soviet Union)
• Reasserted status of Estonian/Latvian as
national language (‘Republican’ language)
• All government, admin & public contact
personnel must know Estonian/Latvian - time
limit stipulated to prove competence
• Transitional status of Russian, other
languages
• First resistance to national movements Interfront, defence of Russian
monolingualism
Reasserting national language
status from August 1991
• Amending the Language Laws - transition
ended, Estonian/Latvian sole State language
• Massive program of language attestation for
all public contact occupations, for those
without Estonian/Latvian language education
• The question of citizenship - restricted to
those who were citizens in 1940 or their
descendents; naturalisation based on
language proficiency & knowledge of country
Reactions
• Russia begins offensive on human
rights restrictions - language &
citizenship
• International institutions wary
• Growing use and prominence of
Estonian/Latvian - decyrillisation of
public displays, notices
• Hundreds of thousands sit language
attestation tests
Nature of language laws
• Estonian/Latvian sole language of
government, public administration (Russian
used informally), higher education
• All those in positions of public contact must
have capacity to use Estonian/Latvian
• Language use as such not monitored (eg in
shops, institutions), but must have capacity attestation tests taken at a level appropriate
to demands of employment
International dimensions
• Continued political pressure from Russia,
often through other international
organisations (OECD, Council of Europe etc)
• European concerns over strict citizenship;
over language requirements in private
economic sphere; over language
requirements for publicly elected persons
• Language Laws softened in mid-late 1990s
eg in some aspects of language
requirements in private economic sphere
The Latvian language today
and its future
The Latvian language
• Indo-European, close to Lithuanian
• Not Slavic, not Germanic, not FinnoUgric, but influenced by each
• Pronunciation stress on first syllable
(Finno-Ugric)
• Case grammar not unlike Slavic
• Loan words from everywhere
Latvia: Changes in national compostion of
inhabants 1935-1989
90
80
70
60
Latvians
50
Slavs
40
Others
30
20
10
0
1935
1959
1979
1989
Post-Soviet changing functions of
language - example of education
• Continuation of separate Latvian-stream and
Russian stream primary schools; Latvian
taught as a subject in Russian schools
• Steady contraction of Russian stream system
• Small growth of non-Latvian, non-Russian
schools
• Secondary education - continued separation
of language stream schools, but from 2004,
non-Latvian schools have 60% of lessons in
Latvian, 40% in other language permitted
What is your attitude towards the teaching
of subjects in Latvian in minority schools?
(By native language, %)
Do not Rather Rather Fully
Hard to
support do not support support say / not
at all
support
interested
Latvian
1
3
26
69
4
Russian
14
19
31
26
12
Other
-
16
27
47
11
All
responses
6
9
26
52
7
Balti
nstit
Proficiency in Latvian of persons who
have a mother tongue other than
Latvian
June
1996
April
2008
Level of proficiency claimed
Highest Intermediate Lowest Do not
know
Latvian
9%
27%
44%
22%
26%
31%
36%
7%
Baltic
Opinion about the right of the state to
regulate language use in private
enterprises (1999, % all respondents)
Answer
In total
Riga
Daugavpils
Yes
No
Don’t
know
Other
No reply
64.7
17.1
17.1
66.2
15.3
16.6
65.6
18.8
15.6
0.4
0.8
0.6
1.3
-
•Latvian Language Institute, 1999
The future
Factors often considered important
for language endangerment
•
•
•
•
•
•
Numbers?
Vitality?
Self-regard?
Lost domains?
Global English?
Other threats…?
•
•
•
•
•
•
~ 2 million
Strong, EU
Highly literate
In all domains
Limited concern
Only political?
Specific perceived threats
• Habits: deference in language use; the
two faces of tolerance
• Media
• Language use in private economic area
• Political threats
Internal threats
External threats
- Russia
- European institutions
Latvians, choice of Latvian in
communication with non-Latvians who
know Latvian, 1999, %
Always choose
Latvian
Sometimes
choose Latvian
Never choose
Latvian
No reply
In institutions,
organisations
57.9
In everyday life
46.0
34.2
46.8
2.0
4.4
5.6
2.8
International norms: language rights
• OSCE Oslo Recommendations (1998) Judicial administration & corrections :
20) The director of a penal institution and
other personnel of the institution shall be able
to speak the language or languages of the
greatest number of prisoners, or a language
understood by the greatest number of them.
Recruitment and/or training programmes
should be directed towards this end.
Whenever necessary, the services of an
interpreter shall be used.
Relevant notions of human rights
and language rights
“The Baltic countries represent a unique case,
probably not taken into consideration when
universal declarations on linguistic human
rights are written. The situation shows that
the linguistic rights of state language
speakers can also be infringed and that the
official state language in an independent
country may be an endangered language at
the same time.” (Druviete, 1997)
Implications
• National languages can also be
threatened language
• Extrinsic minorities (Bratt Paulston
2007)
• Colonialism in many guises - how do
you ensure that the Soviet language
situation is not perpetuated?
• Linguistic, not primarily ethnic dispute
internally; foreign relations dispute
externally
Baltic outcomes - the balance
• Knowledge of Baltic languages by non-titulars
doubled or tripled since 1989
• Russians: still fully extant though contracting
school systems; media, language loyalty
• Diversity of ‘Russian-speaking’ minorities;
continuing aggression from Russia
• Debate over the relevance of international
norms on minority languages
• Titular population: survived, claimed
nationhood, status, perpetual multilingualism
- still the likely future
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The future of the Latvian language