Strengthening Of The All-Russian Identity And Problems Of Ethno-Linguistic Education


The article analyzes the modernization of models of ethno-cultural (ethno-linguistic) education in the context of solving the tasks of the state national policy to strengthen the all-Russian civil identity, support for languages and cultures of the peoples of Russia. It is proved that an important task of ethno-national policy is not only to strengthen the all-Russian (state-civil) identity, but also its harmonious interaction with other identities, first of all, with the ethnic (ethno-cultural) identity. The complexity of developing a mechanism to address this target setting is due to Russia's multi-ethnicity and the peculiarity of its Federal structure. It is shown that different models of ethno-cultural (ethno-linguistic) education were implemented at different historical stages of Russia's development: Unitarian, autonomist, and multicultural, or a combination of them. The priorities are given to strategies for developing students' civil (political) identity at the present stage of educational language policy, because the ideological and methodological attitudes of ethno-national policy is dominated by views about the competitive nature of national and ethnic identity, so the problems of development of ethno-cultural identity desactualizada. The organization of language education in accordance with this approach, based on the free choice of native languages, including Russian, leads to the refusal of some students to study the ethnic languages of the indigenous peoples of Russia. It is proved that an important condition for the harmonization and strengthening of national and ethno-cultural identity is the development and implementation of cultural and developmental models of ethno-cultural education.

Keywords: Linguistic policyethno-cultural identityeducation models


At present, the most important tasks of the internal national policy of the Russian Federation are to strengthen the General civil identity in order to form the Russian nation, and to support and preserve the ethno-cultural identity of the country's autochthonous peoples (Order, 2018).

The complexity of solving these competing tasks is due not only to Russia's multi-ethnicity – according to the 2010 census (All-Russian…, 2010), the country has more than 190 peoples, including indigenous small – numbered and autochthonous peoples – about 100, and operates more than 270 languages and dialects, but also to the peculiarity of its Federal structure.

The Russian Federation is divided into 85 regions, which in its turn breaks apart into regions, republics, territorial areas, cities of Federal importance and autonomous districts unequal in size and importance in economic activity of the country, social and ethnic constituents.

In accordance with modern Federal legislation, the state language of the Russian Federation is Russian, and in all the republics of the country, except Karelia, the languages of the titular peoples have received the status of Republican state languages.

The complexity of the Russian language picture is due to the fact that peoples’ languages belong to different genetic groups and families, and the speakers of these languages are settled in different regions with different degrees of compactness. The most favorable conditions for the ethnic languages development, the expansion of their social functions and their use in the educational sphere are found in the republics. For languages that have acquired the status of national state languages (35 languages), various conditions are created for their development, improvement and dissemination. But the languages of "non-titular" ethnic groups do not have such support from the state. Therefore, the problems of managing cultural and linguistic diversity at the level of the state, regions, local communities and even individuals in the context of ensuring civil unity of the multi-ethnic people of Russia have proved to be one of the most complex and urgent.

In Russian science, the growing importance of the category of "identity" was due to political and socio-cultural transformations in the state due to the collapse of the USSR, which led to the identification crisis in society and the actualization of the problem of ethnic identity.

Introduction to the interdisciplinary scientific usage of the scientific category "identity" is associated with the name of Erikson (1968) and was due to the need to explain the motivation of human behavior in a social environment. The concept of "identity crisis" formulated by Erickson was widely recognized and applied in the study of the content characteristics of human personality and mechanisms of its formation.

One of the social identities of a person and group is ethnic identity which is the most important characteristic of the ethnic community as a key element of subjective reality and is supported by mechanisms of social construction (Barth, 1969; Drobizheva, 2017, pp. 417-418).

Modern States and societies do not exist without the awareness of their citizens of their identity, without the awareness of cultural, economic and political ties. Therefore, an important task of any state is the formation and strengthening of state and civil identity. At the same time, the problem of determining the content of national identity and the development of theoretical and methodological bases on which it is based is the subject of acute discussions among the academic community (Hebel & Lenz, 2016; Isaacs & Polese, 2016; Popkov, 2017; Tishkov, 2018; Yekelchyk, 2015).

Problem Statement

The formation of an all-Russian identity is not an easy task, since it is not so much about "maintaining parity" between belonging to the Russian people and a certain ethnic group, as about the synthesis of state-civil and ethno-national consciousness, while not depersonalizing national languages and cultures (Gorshkov, 2016, pp. 312-313). In this regard, the main task of identity politics of the state is not only to strengthen the state and civil identity, but also its harmonious interaction with other identities, primarily with ethno-cultural identity. The future of the country highly depends on whether such interaction and solidarity between different identities can be achieved. Therefore, the search for a mechanism for transforming ethnic identity into an effective resource for consolidating and ensuring the civil unity of Russian society is one of the important tasks of identity policy (Regulirovaniye, 2017, pp. 73-74).

Support and strengthening of the all-Russian civil identity is a process that integrates the activities of many subjects, among which a special place is taken by the policy in the field of education.

Since traditionally, both in Russian and foreign science and practice, it is considered that one of the main factors of identification of an ethnic group is the language (Drobizheva, 2017, p. 420; Tanaka, 2018, p. 52), and the question of language is part of the state's ideological policy (Curdt-Christiansen & Weninger, 2015, p. 1). Language education performs an important role in identity politics.

In modern multi-ethnic countries, language policy is based on the philosophy of priority and self-worth of the language itself, without linking this category of social reality to certain groups (Tishkov, 2019, p. 136). In countries such as Belgium, Switzerland, France, and others, the object of language policy represent language communities, not ethnic groups (Andersen & Carter, 2016).

Research Questions

In this regard, the subject of this research is the consideration of the problem of the development of ethno-cultural education as a factor of support for ethnic identity in the context of the formation of civil identity of the individual.

Purpose of the Study

On this basis, the purpose of this article is a historical and pedagogical analysis of the modernization of models of ethno-cultural (ethno-linguistic) education in the context of solving the problems of state ethno-national policy at different historical stages of Russia's development.

In accordance with this aim, the following questions were raised:

- to describe the main stages and models of ethno-linguistic education development in the context for ethno-national policy of the state;

- to identify the relationship between the theoretical and methodological foundations of various models for ethno-linguistic education and socio-political preferences and ideological attitudes of the state in solving the problems of ethno-national policy in the combined formation of ethno-cultural and national identity.

Research Methods

In modern multi-ethnic communities, based on the ethnic, cultural and confessional structure and their own capabilities, different approaches to managing ethno-social processes are used: "integrative-assimilative" (Unitarian), "integrative-adaptive" (autonomist) and "spontaneous-relativistic" (multicultural) or their combination (Banks, 1999; Erokhina, 2016).

The peculiarity of multiculturalism as a socio-cultural paradigm of the globalizing world of the late XX – early XXI centuries, actively developed in Western countries (USA, Germany, Great Britain, Canada), is that it is associated with the concept of liberal nationalism aimed at the problems of immigrants, refugees, and various ethno-religious groups people of different ethnicity, religion, race must learn to live side by side with each other, without giving up their cultural identity (Garcia, 2002; Kymlicka, 2001). Thus, the German political scientist Y. Habermas considered the equality of the majority and minorities to be the main principle of multiculturalism, and this is the basis of social harmony and stability (Habermas, 1991, p. 29).

The political practices of multiculturalism have different goals: "if in Canada its goal was to ensure the coexistence of French- and English – speaking cultures, as well as indigenous cultures, in Europe multiculturalism was aimed at solving the problem of migrants-primarily from Islamic countries" (Pogrebenskiy & Tolpyg, 2013, p. 10).

The existence of various strategies for implementing the idea of multiculturalism has led to the formation of different target orientations models of multicultural education. In some countries, multicultural education is targeted to take into account the content of the educational process the cultural characteristics of students, ensuring equal educational conditions, rights and freedoms, others on development, and search technologies for the preservation of national identity in the course of implementation of intercultural dialogue in education (Banks, 1999; Grant & Sleeter, 2002; Suprunova, 2014, p. 83).

The implementation of the ideas of multiculturalism, along with the positive ones, has also brought negative effects. An analysis of the practice of implementing multiculturalism policy shows that efforts to support cultural diversity often lead to the opposite results – to the reproduction of borders and the deepening of differences, the emergence of closed "parallel" communities and the preservation of social archaic (Heyes, 2016; Sartori, 2000; Van Reekum & van den Berg, 2015).

The discrepancy between the theoretical ideas of multiculturalism and the practical realities of their implementation in the social and political life of a number of Western European countries served as the basis for the statements of their leaders –A. Merkel, N. Sarkozy, D. Cameron, about the "failure" of the policy of multiculturalism. Therefore, it was concluded that the concept of multiculturalism, both in the UK and in other European EU member States, has outlived its usefulness (Bemalyan, 2019, p. 109; Interculturalism, 2011).

Empirical research shows that a large part of European society supports identification with Europe. The European identity is considered as a complement to the national identity and is not associated with the formation of a single European people, but rather assumes the presence of a community of different peoples involved in the implementation of a common project (Tareva, 2016; Westle & Segatti, 2016; Zheltukhina et al., 2016). In this context, we discuss the idea of a political regime based on the recognition of multiple demos and identities that would form part of a common political entity, but would not become one demos with a common identity (Cheneval et al., 2015).

Based on the national specifics of the historical and cultural traditions of Russia, the Russian scientific community determines and develops its own strategy and approaches to the formation of a political community based on the principles of citizenship.

Historically caused ambiguity in determining the essence and content of such phenomena as ethnos and nation , ethnic and national ( as state ), etc., has become the basis for the emergence of different methodological approaches to solving the problem of nation-building and the formation of all-Russian civil identity.

In Russia, the concept of "nation" is mainly understood in the ethnic sense, as an ethno-nation, while in the Western European tradition – mainly in the civil sense, as a nation-state. At present, when the country's ethno-nation is not opposed to the political (civil) nation, the government structures are working on and implementing the idea of the Russian nation as a "nation of Nations" (Tishkov, 2018, p. 21). And "the concept of Russia as a civilization preserves the understanding of ethno-nations (Russian, Tatar, Yakut, etc.), nationalities, ethnic minorities, does not close the possibility of national development of the peoples of the Russian Federation as a Federation, including republics», at the same time, Popkov and his colleagues believe that the idea of the Russian nation is unproductive. In their opinion, it is fruitful to consider the Russian Federation as a special civilization in which ethno-nations are preserved, and Russia as a Federation of peoples and republics (Popkov & Kostyuk, 2015, p. 78).


Models of ethno-cultural education exist in the formation of national identity. In different periods of state development, various models of ethno-cultural schools were implemented in the educational system in order to solve the problems of ethnic and national policy, the conceptual foundations of which were developed in accordance with the socio-political tasks and ideological attitudes of the state

So, in 1960-1980-s orientation of state policy on the Sovietization and cultural unification of a multi-ethnic population with the aim of forming a new historical community – the Soviet people, led to the transformation of the national education system and implementation of integrative and assimilative models of schools.

Russian education reform in 1958, which gave students and their parents the right to choose between Russian and national schools, led to a massive transition of national schools to the Russian language of education and to a reduction in the number of national languages studied at school. Measures taken by the government to strengthen Russian-national bilingualism received support from parents since education in Russian expanded the opportunities for young people to obtain professional education and contributed to their subsequent successful careers. The result was a growing number of people from among the non-Russian peoples that recognize native Russian language, and a decrease in the number of people who consider the native language of their ethnic group.

According to the Soviet census of population for the period 1970 to 1989 to 50% of Karelians, more than 30% of Bashkirs, Komi, Mordovians, Udmurt, 20-25% Chuvash and Mari began to recognize native Russian language, and share, the loss of possession ethnic language, among the Buryat, Komi, Mari, Udmurt, Chuvash, Yakut has doubled, and among Karelians and Mordovians – half (Baskakov, 1992, p. 34). Among the Khakass for 1959-1989 the share of people considering the native language of their people decreased from 90.2% to 76.1% (Borgoyakov & Borgoyakova, 2018, p. 20).

The languages of the indigenous peoples of the North (IPN), Siberia and the Far East were disadvantaged under double pressure: Russian and a larger regional language, for example, Yakut in the Yakut ASSR. If in 1959 only 15% of the IPN called Russian their native language, in 1989 it was 36%. Accordingly, the proportion of Northern aborigines who call their native language their native language has decreased: 76% in 1959, 52% in 1989 (Borgoyakov & Boziev, 2018, p. 6).

As a result, by the end of the 1980s, most of the national languages of the peoples of Russia passed into the category of school subjects. Only the Yakuts and Tuvans – 7 forms, and the Bashkirs and Tatars – 10 forms have preserved the middle and upper levels at school in the ethnic language. At the same time not more than half of the children of non Russian peoples of the country attended national schools.

Thus, the implementation of the integrative-assimilation model of national educational policy through Russification of secondary schools indifferently to the "need for identity of speakers of minority languages" was accompanied by an increase in ethno-linguistic assimilation of the country's autochthonous peoples.

The transition of Russian national policy in the early 1990s to a new paradigm – the ideology of multiculturalism , as a policy of preserving the cultural identity of the country's peoples, supporting and developing their languages and traditions, was associated with the political and socio-economic transformations of the state after the collapse of the USSR.

During this period, in accordance with the legislation, cultural pluralism in the form of institutionalization and "sponsorship of multi-ethnicity" became the main principle of ethnic and national policy of the Russian Federation, and the dominant strategy of national elites – the formation of ethnic identity.

The essence of multicultural education becoming a valuable reference point of the Russian school, in accordance with the theoretical developments of national scientists, is the combination of several cultural traditions in the content, methods and organizational forms of education for the purpose of educating a person with formed humanistic values, who respects the cultural diversity of the modern world and is ready for interethnic and interfaith interaction) (Suprunova, 2014). At the same time, the subjects of multicultural education are not only children and youth of ethnic minorities, but also representatives of the dominant ethnic group.

The reform of General education schools has allowed many peoples to restore their native language education and expand the content of national culture education. In Russia as a whole, in the 1990s, the total number of native languages studied at school increased from 44 to 81, including from 20 to 33 as languages of instruction. The number of students studying their native languages, both as a subject and as a language of education, has also increased.

Thus, the total number of students studying, for example, the Tatar language, from 1992 to 2005 increased from 410,2 thousand to 681,6 thousand, Chuvash – from 101,1 thousand to 137,3 thousand, Komi (Zyryan) – from 24 thousand to 44,3 thousand, and Khakass – from 7,1 thousand to 8,3 thousand (Borgoyakov & Boziev, 2018, p. 7). If in the 1980s Dolgan, Chukchi and Yukagir languages were not studied at schools of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), in 2006 these languages were studied by 230 students. The number of students studying Evenk and Evenk languages has increased 3.3 times over the years.

However, the insufficiently developed mechanism for interfacing targets and the uncertainty of methodological and methodological grounds for integrating and differentiating the Federal and national-regional components of state educational standards (SES) have led to the formation and dominance of autonomous models of ethno-cultural education in the republics of the country. The approach was not able to solve properly the problems of strengthening the all-Russian identity of the younger generation and the spiritual consolidation of society, to ensure a rational balance between the all-Russian civic consciousness and ethno-cultural identity. In this regard, there was a rejection of the national-regional component of the state SES and the transition to Federal state standards (Federal Law…, 2007; Federal state educational standards, 2007).

A new stage of modernization of the state's ethno-national policy has begun with the setting of tasks for integrating the Russia peoples into a single civil (political) nation (Order, 2018). Despite of the fact that the Strategy of national policy sets a two-pronged goal: strengthening the unity of the Russian civil nation and promoting the ethno-cultural development of all the peoples of the country, its main principle is to establish the Russian nation. This act does not formulate requirements to the results of preservation, studying, development of languages and cultures of the Russia peoples. There are no clear criteria for the effectiveness of balanced formation and strengthening of national-civil identity and supporting ethnic and cultural diversity. Therefore, the development of ethno-cultural identity is given a secondary role, since consolidation based on ethnic identity is considered as a threat to the integrity of the country (Popkov, 2017, p. 158). Although research by ethno-psychologists and ethno-sociologists (Drobizheva, Popkov, etc.) shows the compatibility and symbiotic interaction of civil and ethno-cultural identity, in real practice models of multicultural education are focused primarily on the formation of Russian civil identity.

The danger for the integration of the country's peoples into the civil community is not ethnic identity as such, but its transformation into hyperidentity in the form of nationalism (Popkov, 2017, p. 158).

Sociological surveys of the population of Russian regions show that the basis for the compatibility of ethno-national and national-state (all-Russian) identities is a single state, the state language and a common history (Gorshkov, 2016, p. 301-303). Moreover, positive interaction and compatibility of ethno-national and Russian identity becomes real if both are expressed within the norm (Drobizheva, 2019, p. 12)

The implementation of the spontaneous-relativistic (multicultural) principle of regulating ethno-social processes as a methodological basis for the formation of the all-Russian nation has led to the formation of models of schools in the system of ethno-cultural education that have a cultural-recognizing character . The modernization processes of Russian education first of all began to focus on its integration into the world information and educational space with insufficient theoretical and methodological study of issues that take into account the features of multicultural Russia and are aimed at preserving the unique spiritual and moral experience of its peoples in the education system. As a result, a combination of factors has led to a deterioration of the situation with the teaching of ethnic languages and a noticeable narrowing in the content of education of ethno-cultural issues.

For the period from 2005 to 2016 the number of languages studied in the state education system decreased from 81 to 72, including the number of school languages-from 33 to 29. The Number of students learning their native languages in both forms decreased by 21%, and the number of schools – by 25%. Moreover, the most intensive decline was in the scale of education in ethnic languages (Borgoyakov & Boziev, 2018).

At this stage of language education, the most acute contradiction was between teaching Russian as the state language of the Russian Federation – Russian, and the norm of mandatory study of national state languages at schools of the republics of the country (Bashkortostan, Komi, Mari El, Mordovia, Tatarstan, Chuvashia, Sakha (Yakutia), etc.). The obligation study of national state languages often led to a reduction in the volume and quality of Russian language learning and was perceived by Russian-speaking schoolchildren as a compulsion to study a non-native language and a violation of their language rights.

In this regard, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, speaking at a meeting of the Council on interethnic relations in 2017, stressed the importance of the Russian language as the state and language of interethnic communication, which "everyone should know", as well as the languages of the peoples of Russia, the study of which is "a right guaranteed by the Constitution, a voluntary right". Therefore, "forcing a person to learn a language that is not their native language is just as unacceptable as reducing the level and time of teaching Russian" (“The Meeting of the” …, 2017).

In 2018, a law was approved that gives students and their parents the right to choose freely their native language for compulsory study at school, including Russian. With the adoption of this law, the concept of a " second native language " was legalized. In Russian science and practice, it is ingrained that only one language can be native, and most often the native language was not the "main language of knowledge and communication" or even the first learned language, but the language of ethnicity .

Meanwhile, in modern language law, an approach is being developed and supported according to which one person can have several native languages. The mother tongue can be defined by origin (the mother language, the first language learned), internal and external identification (the language with which the individual identifies himself, or the language that others consider her/his native speaker), competence (the language that they know best), and functionality (the most used language) (Skuttnabb-Kangas & Bucak, 1995, pp. 360-361).

On the one hand, the law has increased attention to the state Russian language and strengthened the position of native languages in the educational process, since local authorities are now obliged to create conditions for learning minority languages. On the other hand, as the concept "native language" has no definition in normative documents of the law, so school subject "the Russian native language" is chosen not only by ethnically Russian schoolchildren.

Comparison of quantitative indicators of national language learning in the republics of the country before and after the adoption of the law shows a marked decrease in the number of students choosing the national language as a subject of study. Thus, in the Republic of Bashkortostan 87.1% of the total number of schoolchildren studied Bashkir and 63.4% studied it as their native language in 2017 (Borgoyakov & Borgoyakova, 2018, p. 22). In 2019 — 63.05% of students chose Russian as their native language, Bashkir — 15.6%, Tatar — 9.45% and other languages – 11.9% (How are Nationals…, 2019). If we take into account the ethnic constituent of the population of the Republic of Bashkortostan, then just under half of ethnically non-Russian schoolchildren began to choose "Russian as their native language" as a school subject».

There is no doubt that the refusal of schoolchildren to study ethnic languages will contribute to the strengthening of ethnic-language assimilation among children and youth of the indigenous peoples of Russia. Therefore, in the conditions of implementation of the cultural-recognizing model of ethno-cultural education, ethno-linguistic education in the regions of the country ceases to be a full-fledged translator of ethnic languages and cultures and loses its ethno-identity function .


Thus, the analysis of the ethno-cultural (ethno-linguistic) education development in the regions of the country as an element of ethno-national policy shows the complexity of developing an effective model for the formation and strengthening of state and civil identity, which harmoniously interacts with other identities, primarily with ethno-cultural identity.

At different stages of the historical development of Russia, various models of regulation of ethno-social processes were used to solve problems of national educational policy: Unitarian, autonomist, multicultural, or their combinations, the conceptual foundations of which were developed in the context of socio-political tasks and ideological preferences of the state.

The orientation of the basic principles of national educational policy and, consequently, of national (ethno-linguistic) education to the primary support of one of the identities at the expense of the frustration of the other eventually created new problems in this sphere of public life. An unbalanced policy on the formation of one of the components of social identity led either to the disintegration of the educational and socio-cultural space of the country and the "loosening" of the unity of Russian society, or to the strengthening of Unitarian-assimilation tendencies.

In this regard, one of the important directions of solving the problem of forming a harmonious all-Russian identity and strengthening civil unity is the development of conceptual foundations for integrative-developing and cultural-enriching models of multiethnic-cultural education, justification of its goals and principles and technologies of implementation.

The idea of forming and developing a balanced multi-level all-Russian identity, which presupposes interaction and combination of several key components, including ethno-cultural, regional, state-civil and civilizational identities , can become the conceptual basis for models of poly/ethno-cultural education that meet the challenges of the time.

When setting and implementing the idea, the support and development of ethno-cultural identity as an integral component of the all-Russian identity can become an important indicator of the state's educational and language policy in solving the problems of strengthening the unity of the multi-ethnic people of Russia.


The work was carried out under project No 11.12. within the framework of the state task of Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.


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20 November 2020

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Sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, bilingualism, multilingualism

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Borgoyakov, S. A., Burnakova, K. N., & Borgoyakova, T. N. (2020). Strengthening Of The All-Russian Identity And Problems Of Ethno-Linguistic Education. In Е. Tareva, & T. N. Bokova (Eds.), Dialogue of Cultures - Culture of Dialogue: from Conflicting to Understanding, vol 95. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 29-39). European Publisher.