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Language Policy in the Soviet Union Chapter 4: The Baltic States.

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Presentation on theme: "Language Policy in the Soviet Union Chapter 4: The Baltic States."— Presentation transcript:

1 Language Policy in the Soviet Union Chapter 4: The Baltic States

2 Introduction to the Baltics Declared independence after Bolshevik revolution, became part of USSR , last regions annexed to USSR Estonian is Finno-Ugric, Latvian & Lithuanian are Baltic (I-E); all have written traditions since 16 th c 1989 –Latvia: 54% Latvian, 30% Russian –Lithuania: 80% Lithuanian, 10% Russian –Estonia: 65% Estonian, 30% Russian

3 Introduction to the Baltics, cont’d. In post-WWII era, USSR did not have resources to immediately develop Russian-language education in the Baltics Intense Russification in Brezhnev era 1978 nation-wide decree imposed Russian from pre-school through university Lithuania and Estonia held off, did not institute Russian in 1 st grade until , and both declared themselves independent countries in 1990 (though not recognized by USSR)

4 The Estonian SSR High literacy rate, near 100% at time of annexation Prior to annexation, most influential foreign language was German By late 1970s Russification perceived as a threat to linguistic and cultural identity Student protest in Tartu in 1980 – crushed by police, and Russification went forward

5 The Latvian SSR Information on use of Russian vs. Latvian in instruction is not clear Latvians tended to learn Russian, but the reverse was not always true Latvia suffered great losses during WWII, and there was a shortage in the labor force – Russians and “Russianized Latvians” (those who had sided with Russia in WWI and subsequently lived in Russia) moved in to fill these posts Friction between Latvians who were viewed as “unreliable” by the Russians and Russianized Latvians Russians were concentrated in the cities, which “became oases of Russian culture and traditions”

6 The Lithuanian SSR The largest Baltic state, with the best- established literary language, but dialectal differentiation is strong and impedes comprehension Lithuanian resisted Soviet “liberation” and regime into the early 1950s Proportion of ethnic Russians remained low

7 The Lithuanian SSR, cont’d. Lithuanian, Polish, and Russian were the languages of instruction and Russian was taught in all schools Impact of Russian was greater in higher education and specialized schools Russification becomes intense in 1970s Massive influx of terms from Russian, imposed by decree (rather than allowing Lithuanian to develop words of its own)

8 Reform and Revolt 1980s there was alarm about Russification in all Baltic states Russian required for higher education and spread in media Industrialization happened quickly in Baltics, bringing more people into cities and thus intensifying Russification, and numbers of Russian immigrants This all led to anti-Soviet animosity

9 Reform and Revolt, cont’d demonstrations & revolts begin in Estonia and spread through Baltics Language issues were a key factor 1989 all three Baltic states declare their languages state languages, local Russians protest discrimination 1989 Estonian law gave non-Estonian state employees in public service 4 years to learn Estonian

10 Reform and Revolt, cont’d Lithuania declares independence, 1989 they passed a law on language similar to Estonia’s Latvia lagged behind, but also stipulated that state employees must learn Latvian and suggested graduation examinations in Latvian 1991 Independence of all Baltic states recognized by Soviet Union


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