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Russia/ 5.1 General legislation  

5.1.9 Language laws

The Constitution states equality of all languages (see chapter 5.1.1); language discrimination is forbidden. The Constitution clauses are detailed in the special Law on Languages of the Peoples of the Russian Federation (1991), amended in 1998, and in the Law on the State Language of the Russian Federation (2005), which emphasises the special role of the Russian language as the means of national communication, and protects and regulates changing its literary norms.

Each Republic-Member of the Russian Federation (except Karelia) uses its right to establish its own state language. Those languages are to be used in official paper work and public spaces as equal to Russian. For example, in the Mari El Republic, the Law on the Languages of the Mari El Republic states publication of important information in the two languages – Mari and Russian. However, changing the graphics (alphabet) may be approved only by a federal law.

The Law on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (1999) supports the use of related languages. The Law declares support for the use of all the other languages: minorities, whatever their number or administrative affiliation, are entitled to use their mother tongue in everyday life, in official documents of local importance, in the mass media (press, regional radio and television, etc.) and literature.

In 2001, the Russian Federation signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and since then its clauses are discussed within the special inter-ministerial working group. The decision-makers acknowledge that ratification will introduce important modifications to the systems of Law, education, justice, administration and mass media. Some are troubled by the implications and see the ratification as undermining tolerance and even the unity of Russia by abating the Russian language.

Chapter published: 11-04-2013

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