Staunton, June 9 – Dagestani natives don’t divide the peoples of their republic between the more numerous and the smaller but rather between those who fought to the death for Daghestan against invaders and others which didn’t and instead surrendered quickly and collaborated, according to a professor at Daghestan State University.
Timur Aytberov said that “thinking people from among indigenous Dagestanis prefer to divide our people not into large and small linguistic-cultural groups but in terms of communities the members of which fought for Dagestan without sparing their lives … and those which surrendered to the enemy after the first attack.”
Aytberov’s observation, offered during a discussion of a republic draft law on languages at the end of May, underscores just how strong the memory of national resistance to outsiders and to Russians in the first instance remains there and how difficult if not impossible it will be for Moscow to overcome that anytime soon.
In thinking about how to support the numerically small languages of Dagestan, the professor said, one needs to look at European experience and “not close one’s eyes to the fact that on the territory of the Republic of Dagestan are languages which are promoted by independent countries (Azerbaijan) or Russian republics in which state life is conducted in the native language (Chechen).”
Dagestan needs to focus on and provide financial support for precisely those languages in Dagestan which don’t enjoy such advantages and not be distracted by a “false tolerance” or equal support for all. Making these choices won’t be easy, he continued, because most Dagestanis are now the products of ethnically mixed marriages.
But regardless, all Dagestanis should speak the language of the region in which they find themselves just as “a Lezgin or an Avar, who is a resident of Azerbaijan is required to study Azerbaijani.” Dagestan should follow that model but apply it region by region rather than choosing one language and eliminating the others.
To that end, public life in each of the regions should be conducted in the dominant local language, and a network of “several television channels for ‘indigenous’ Dagestani languages” should be set up, “as has been done in Great Britain and Spain for the Welsh, the Basques, and other peoples there which have prospects for development.”
Aytberov said that “every indigenous people which has its own language be it numerous or not should choose its future and struggle for it” and that the government should help rather than hinder this process because the loss of any language is a loss not only for those who speak it but for everyone else as well.