Russia will take steps to strengthen the positions of the Russian language in Armenia after the South Caucasus joins the Moscow-led Customs Union, according to a senior Russian diplomat in Yerevan.
Viktor Krivopuskov, the head of the Russian Federal Agency, Rossotrudnichestvo, in Armenia, has told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that these steps will be made not only by Russia, but also by the Customs Union, which also includes Belarus and Kazakhstan, and the Eurasian Economic Union, a post-Soviet integration bloc expected to be formed by a number of former Soviet nations after 2015.
“Because the Russian language will be the [official] language of the Customs Union and the Eurasian Union,” Krivopuskov explained. “The Russian language is the cement of our whole relationship, and I hope there will be no need for revolutionary changes here, as we should simply respond to the [existing] demand.”
The official, who heads the branch of the state agency promoting Russia’s cultural ties abroad, added that there is a specific program aimed at achieving that goal and that funding will be allocated for the purpose of implementing it. Nevertheless, Krivopuskov emphasized that personally he is against the idea of declaring the Russian language as a second state language in Armenia.
After President Serzh Sarkisian announced in the Russian capital last month that Armenia will join the Russia-led Customs Union concerns have been voiced locally that among other initiatives the Kremlin will also try to take steps to strengthen the positions of the Russian language in Armenia to create additional connections between Yerevan and its former “metropolis”, Moscow.
After Sarkisian’s announcement on September 3 Russian President Vladimir Putin outlined the scope of initiatives “in the humanitarian sphere” that Moscow planned to pursue in the future.
“The proposal on the establishment of a Russian gymnasium and a branch of the Moscow State University in Yerevan is being developed. In this sense we have a successful experience, I mean the Russian-Armenian (Slavonic) University and the branches of our six universities, which have been opened in Armenia and which are attended by more than 2,000 students,” said Putin.
Head of the Armenian National Assembly’s Committee on Science, Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs Artak Davtian said on Wednesday that the Armenian authorities did not have concerns that Moscow’s steps on popularizing the Russian language in Armenia could pose a threat to the country’s national security. At the same time, the lawmaker affiliated with the ruling Republican Party stressed that Armenia is a sovereign nation and that the Armenian language is “one of the major pillars of our identity”.
Poet Marine Petrosian, however, voiced concerns that after Armenia’s accession to the Customs Union, Russia will launch the policy of cultural expansion, including by means of spreading the Russian language.
“I think that if this language ‘attack’ is launched, it will cause a reaction. Until recently I myself treated this matter very calmly because I did not see any danger, but now if there is such an ‘attack’..., they often say that Armenians rise to their feet only at the moment of danger, and I believe that will be the case,” said Petrosian.
Armen Hovannisian, a member of a local pressure group opposing the use of foreign languages as languages of instruction in Armenian schools and educational establishments, considers the policy of raising the profile of the Russian language in Armenia at the expense of the Armenian language to be a threat to national identity. He believes that the popularization of the Russian language in Armenia will come not at the expense of English, French or Persian, but at the expense of the mother tongue as it once already happened during the Soviet times.
“This will mean that in order to be successful in life a person will have to get his education in Russian,” Hovannisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “The most dangerous thing that can happen is the formation of an elite that will not speak [good] Armenian and will not think in categories favoring Armenian statehood.”