Recent data on education and reading in minority languages in several regions of the Russian Federation have been presented. The use of minority languages in education and reading is of vital significance for intellectual development of younger generations. Concrete situations in the Vepsian National Region of Karelia and other republics within the Russian Federation, as well as different types of bilingualism have been discussed. A role of libraries in education of minority-origin students has been stressed. A comparison with situations in Germany and South Africa has been made.
b) refusal from its standardisation,
c) introduction of the Finnish language as a language of common use along with russian,
d) repeated attempts to standardise the Karelian language with a Latin-based script,
e) repeated attempts to introduce Finnish along with daily used Russian.
The Vepsian language in Karelia and two Russian regions of Leningrad and Vologda with less than 12 thousand speakers, which belongs to the second type, i.e. is a secondary functional one for most of its speakers, had the same (if not worse) fate. It was officially neglected before 1917, alphabetized in the 1920-ies, abandoned in the 1930-ies and, finally, is being revived, standardises and enhanced nowadays. After the 1991 events and the adoption on a new "Act on Languages of the Peoples of the Russian Federation" which for the first time in the history of Russia legally stated that "the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation are historical and cultural heritage to be protected by the State", a new paradygm of the linguistic policy in the country has been introduced. In the 1992/93 academic year of 55 non-Russian indigenous languages of the Russian Federation, 39 are taught at schools as a subject of instruction from the first to the eleventh classes (Abazin, Adyghe, Agul, Avar, Altaic, Balkari, Bashkir, Buryat, Chenchenian, Cukcha, Chuvash, Dargwa, Dolgan, Eskimo, Evenian, Evenkian, Ingushi, Itelmeni, Kabardinian- Circassian, Kalmyk, Karachai, Khakassian, Komi, Komi-Permian, Koryak, Kumyk, Laki, Lezghin, Mari, Mordovian, Nanai, Nogai, Ossetic, Tatar, Tati, Touvinian, Udmurtian, Yakutian, Yukagiri), 9 - from the first to the ninth classes (Karelian, Mansi, Nenets, Nivkh, Tabasarani, Tofalarian, Khanti, Tsakhuri, Vepsian) and seven - from the first to the fourth classes (Itelmeni, Neghidali, Ruthuli, Saami, Selkup, Udeghe, Shori). Besides, some of the these languages are used in a number of schools as a medium of instruction from the first to the fourth classes i.e. at the primary level (Avar, Adyghe, Altaic, Balkari, Chenchenian, Chuvash, Dargwa, Evenian, Ingushi, Kabardinian-Circassian, Kumyk, Laki, Lezghin, Mari, Mordovian, Ossetic, Tabasarani, Tatar, Khakassian, Yakutian) and from the first to the eleventh classes (Bashkir, Tatar, Chuvash and Yakutian). (3) The cited figures seem to be formidable and impressive. However, in practice it is not so smooth as on the paper. Let us take an example of Vepsian, which, according to the data given above, is taught as a subject of instruction from the first to the ninth classes. In the Vepsian National Volost (Region) of the Republic of Karelia there are three secondary (eleven-class) schools. The ethnic distribution of the population in the Volost in 1994 was as follows: Vepsians 41.6%, other nationalities (mostly Russians) - 58.4%. Intensive explanatory work in which participated scholars, educators, librarians, journalists has resulted in full attendance of Vepsian lessons in the primary classes (first-fourth), irrespective of ethnic origin of the pupils and the fact that these lessons are officially optional. The lessons are sufficiently supported with literature: text-books, vocabularies, books for out-of-class reading. Certain difficulties are experienced with the teaching staff: either a teacher does not have a good possession of the Vepsian language, or she does not possess necessary teaching experience. The fist graduates of University of Karelia and Petrozavodsk Pedagogical University have begun to work at schools only this academic year. The way out was found, to a certain extent, by attracting patronage on the part of elderly speakers of the language who attend lessons and work together with the teacher in class and alone out of class. By the way, such practice is also used in other minority language regions, for example in the region of Nordfriesland in Germany. The patrons-curators take and active part together with the teaching staff in organising annual Vepsian language and cultural competitions which are held every summer at one of the schools. Real troubles begin on the secondary level. First and foremost, the complete lack of text-books and books for reading is to be mentioned. While a Russian-Vepsian and Vepsian-Russian Dictionary of 14 thousand words (the circulation of 2 thousand copies) and a book "Vepsian Folk Tales" (the circulation of 5 thousand copies) are sufficient for the primary level, the secondary one requires additional materials which can be partly found only in a monthly four-page paper "Kodimo" (the circulation of 990 copies) which publishes articles in Vepsian or in Russian. In this connection it would be proper to note that lore literature is often more interesting for literators and culturologists than for common speakers of a certain language. The latter would prefer pieces of fiction of various genres, social, political, probably popular scientific, literature without which the very existence of the language, leaving aside its enhancement, is hardly possible. The lack or insufficient amount of such literature provides no motivation for continuous learning of the language, discourages the students. Another difficulty, which hopefully will be overpasses in the complete lack of elaborated methods of minority language teaching in the local conditions.
The data of the 1995/96 academic year collected at the three secondary schools of the Vepsian region in settlements Rybreka (Kalajogi), Sheltozero (Shoutjarv) and Shoksha are as follows:
Settlements Kalajogi Shoutjarv Shoksha Classes number of students (pupils) Kindergarten - - 13 1st 11 23 28 2d 18 20 - 3d 12 17 - 4th 10 18 - 5th 8 8 - 6th 8 8 - 7th 9 8 - 8th 10 9 - 9th 8 7 - 10th - 3 - 11th - 1 -
Note: The absence of pupils after the first year at the shoksha school is explained by the fact that the school was opened only two years ago. In general, a dramatic reduction of students in senior classes of the secondary school can be observed. To a great extent it can be explained by the lack of literature in Vepsian which can be read by senior students with proper interest.
This decrease is not inevitable. However, pooled efforts of educators, librarians, journalists and public figures are required in order to oppose this trend. Without proper literature, a system of language teaching of adults is practically impossible. That' why such system for the time being does not exist in the Vepsian Region. Taking into consideration all mentioned above, one may see a most significant role of writers, publishers, librarians and libraries, practical teachers and scholars in care for minority languages. By the way, there are several books in Vepsian published in Finland which are not widely available in the libraries of the Vepsian Volost. An important task of the local librarians is to try one's best to collect all the existing literature in Vepsian and to actively popularise it among the users. IFLA's assistance in this field would be welcomed. Similar situations are observed in other parts of the Russian Federation. The research of the reading domain in the Buryat language performed by the National Library of the Republic of Buryatia showed that for every citizen of the Buryat nationality only 0.2 books in the Buryatian language are in library circulation, while for every Evenk residing in Buryatia - only 0.06 books in the Evenkian language. Now let us imagine the quality of teaching these two languages with practical absence of books in them. There is no doubt that no modern language practically can exist without written literature of various genres. Such situations are to be in the forefront of attention of local publishers and librarians because without their assistance educators will be unable to do anything, irrespective of the number of classes and lessons of local non-Russian languages.
Kind of institution Number of institutions Kindergartens 2 84 Junior Secondary Schools 18 903 Senior Secondary Schools 5 111 Real Schools 2 25 Gymnasiums 3 57 Auxiliary Schools 1 10 Altogether: 31 1190
There are adult language courses which in the 1996/97 academic year are attended by over 200 evening students. As in the Vepsian National Region in Russia, an active role in native language teaching in Nordfriesland belongs to out-of-class work by elderly curators (grandmothers and grandfathers); as in the Vepsian National Region, to a great majority of children Frisian is the second functional language with standard German (Hoochdeutch) as the first. However, a great difference can be observed in number and content of publications in Frisian(s). Small-circulation publications are widely published by several publishers, the main role belongs to the Publishers of the North-frisian Institute - a scientific and educational institution whose principal aim is to promote and develop the Frisian languages. Every year the Institute issues a booklet of books in print both in standard German and in various Frisians. For example, in the booklet of 1995 more than one hundred titles were mentioned. Some of the books with the same text, illustrations and design have been published in six or even more Frisian languages. Fortunately, the Frisians can afford to have such publications in such amounts. For the Russian federation it is thus far unattainable luxury. My personal observations in nordfriesland permit me to say that large amounts of books of different genres in Frisian languages together with periodicals which regularly publish articles in all of them provide a very good motivation for learning the language and using it in every day life.