Konstantin Yu. Zamyatin

University of Helsinki, Finland


The struggle of political elites for power was cited as the main reason for the designation of the state languages of republics as the key device of language policy during the USSR disintegration. Indeed, political actors in republics raised the agenda similar language problems and proposed similar ideas and alternatives for their solution in the parallel processes of democratization, nation-building and state building of the period of social and political changes of the early 1990s. Partly, this policy borrowing could be explained by the fact that the actors were largely constrained in policy choices by institutions and other structural factors. Yet, to explain the policy formation only as an outcome of the conflict of interests channelled by institutional settings is to underestimate the role of human agency. The significance of agency most perceptibly manifested itself as the conflict of ideas and values at the stage of the formation of policies in republics. The purpose of this paper is to study language policy formation in the republics of Russia in order to contribute to the elucidation of the role of ideologies, interests and institutions in the structure-agency debate. I study policy formation diachronically, contrasting the Soviet and post-Soviet periods and following the interplay between policy and its environment through its substages, as well as and synchronically across republics. In this mixed study, the analysis of quantitative and qualitative data on the republics of the North-West and the Volga and Ural region allows demonstrating that the interaction of actors on the “language issue” was characterized not so much by a conflict of interests as by a conflict of ideologies, which was expressed in the “nationalist” and “democratic” discourses and fuelled them. The rise of ideologies resulted in the change of social and political order, including language policy formation.

Keywords: policy formation, language policy, state languages, ideology, ethnic mobilization, national republics, Russian Federation

For citation: Zamyatin K.Yu. The formation of language policy in Russia’s republics in the early 1990s: ideologies, interests, institutions // Sociolinguistics. 2021. No. 2(6) [online]. Pp. 61–127 (In Eng.). DOI: 10.37892/2713-2951-2021-2-6-61-127