The Sociolinguistic Situation: Past, Present and Future in Bashkortostan
In the region between the Volga and the Urals, the Federal Republic of Bashkortostan is placed. Its natural gas and oil resources have maintained this region always as a prominent region within the Russian Federation. Looking back to its history, Bashkortostan with a surface of 143,000 sq km and more than four million population, has been a significant region regarding its ethnic and linguistic diversities (Gorenburg, 1999; Grimes, 2000).
According to Gorenburg (2003), Bashkortostan was the first autonomous republic which the Communist government created to prevent the dominancy of a Tatar-Turkic republic. Thereafter, Bashkir and many other ethnic groups and Turkic languages have been under the influence of Russian for over a century. This Russification process has ceased after the Soviet Union dissolution on the whole. But, accordingly, in some regions resolute tendency of ethnic language revitalization has become prevailing in the present Russian Federation Republics.
In this essay, the sociolinguistic situation of the past, present and the future of Bashkortostan will be discussed as a case study.
From 13th to 15th century, Bashkirs were living under the rule of Mongol Khanate. When Tsar Ivan IV conquered the Kazan Khanate, Bashkortostan then became a Russian colony and Ufa was founded as the capital city of Bashkortostan. Consequently, many Russians settled in the region along with their colonization and centralization policies. Regarding the region was so wealthy in natural resources (gas and oil), an industrialization era started in the 19th century by the Russians. During this period, Bashkirs turned to a minority group then in their home land as many Russian immigrants came to the region (Gorenburg, 2003; Yagmur & Kroon, 2003).
In 1919, two years after the communist revolution in Russia, Bashkortostan become the first autonomous Republic in the Soviet Union according to Grävingholt (1999a & 1999b). In the new Bashkortostan placing after Russian and Tatars, Bashkir was the 3rd major ethnic group. By anew oil-based industries, more immigrants arrived to the region which caused Bashkirs a 25% decline in population. In reality, the Soviet dominancy was a dark era in Bashkir history regarding the ethnic vitality and linguistic maintenance. That was the time when the Bashkir language was totally restricted to rural parts and ethnic groups and mainly domestic domains by the communists and Russian was the dominant language in the whole regions within the Soviet Union. This intentional Russian language domination lead to gradual and in fact forced language shift among the Bashkir younger generations. Russian became the dominant language for education and even for the public purposes.
Intense language assimilation policies were planned by Soviet...