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United Russia wants to raise status of Russian language at home&abroad

November 07, 2011, 15:52 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, November 7 (Itar-Tass) —— The United Russia party, which  categorically condemns nationalism, intends to raise the status of the Russian language both in Russia and in the world. With this in mind the ruling party promises to launch two major projects in the near future. On the one hand, it is proposed to introduce a legal requirement migrant workers know the Russian language. On the other, the United Russia party decided to support the initiative of promoting its status to one of the official languages ​​of the European Parliament.
A group of United Russia legislators last week submitted to the State Duma a bill that obliges migrant workers employed in public utilities, retail trade and the services to take a Russian language exam. The authors argue that migrant workers who do not speak Russian "provoke tensions in society and create a potential threat to inter-ethnic harmony."
The explanatory note to the bill says that "this provision will make the process of attracting foreign workers more civilized and reduce the number of ethnic ghettos in the big cities."
Migrant workers will be expected to confirm in a documentary way their knowledge of the Russian language at a level "not below the elementary one." The term “confirmation” refers to a diploma or certificate of secondary education, issued by the former Soviet Union before September 1991, or issued in Russia after 1991. All others who do not have it will have to prove their knowledge of the Russian language in an exam. The migrants who have failed will be required to cede their jobs to those who know Russian better. The migrants themselves will be obliged to pay for the exam themselves.
At Russian universities and foreign educational institutions there have been established more than 160 centers which are authorized to test foreigners for the knowledge of the Russian language. In 2010, according to the State Duma Committee on Education, of the 1.2 million migrants only 3,503 received such a certificate. Of the 9.1 million foreigners in Russia 29% do not know the Russian language, the daily Vedomosti quoted data the Federal Migration Service released in October.
One of the authors of the bill, chairman of the Duma’s committee on constitutional legislation, Vladimir Pligin, is confident the bill is balanced. He believes that the new requirement will benefit the migrants themselves. "With the proper knowledge of the language they will understand the requirements posed to them. This will help address many issues involving labor safety, for instance. Sometimes one can meet people who just do not understand the command "Run away!".
Experts warn, however, that the new law could lead to abuse.
"We believe that the proposed rule is a restrictive one,” Kommersant quotes the head of the information and legal center Migration and Law, Gavkhar Jurayev, as saying. “Mandatory knowledge of Russian is necessary when people apply for Russian citizenship. And since the guest workers are employed at jobs requiring heavy physical work, they do not have time to go to language courses. If the law is adopted after all, it will create a new cause for corruption. The list of forged certificates that can be obtained for money will be complemented with another one."
"The adoption of the bill will not affect the influx of migrants, the selection of the workforce is the employers’ business, and they are guided by several criteria, among them, the knowledge of the language," says Yelena Tyuryukanova, of the Institute for Socio-Economic Studies of Population at the Russian Academy of Sciences, quoted by the daily Vedomosti. She agrees that the law will expand the market of false documents: proofs of the knowledge of Russian will be faked just as medical certificates.
If the bill is adopted, there will become more illegal migrant workers, the director of the Center for Migration Studies, Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya, said. In the event the examination will be commercial and the standards, very challenging, there will emerge an environment for corruption and fraud, the expert said.
The second idea, related to the spread of the Russian language, has not raised objections so far. It was launched immediately after the introduction of the bill – on the National Unity Day on October 4. The informal leader of the movement Motherland-Congress of Russian Communities, Dmitry Rogozin, speaking at a meeting of the representatives of this movement and clubs of United Russia called upon Russian-speaking citizens of the European Union to gather one million signatures in support of promoting the Russian language to one of the official languages ​​of the European Parliament.
Rogozin said that as of April 1, 2012 the EU’s rule called European Citizens’ Initiative will take effect. It allows for initiating decisions for consideration by the European Parliament. "We can unite our compatriots there, create a civic committee, which will demand the recognition of Russian as the language of the European Parliament," Rogozin said about the proposal.
In his opinion, if the relevant decision is taken, a number of important problems of the Russian-speaking population in the foreign countries, in particular, the Baltic States, will be resolved. Rogozin is sure that in case of such a decision in the Baltic states there can be restored the system of secondary and higher education in the Russian language, and their Russian-speaking inhabitants will be able to contact the EU authorities in their mother tongue.
The idea was supported by the United Russia party. The deputy secretary of the Presidium of the party’s General Council, Yuri Shuvalov, called it correct. "We believe it is useful and necessary for Russia and Europe," he said. He promised that there would follow a corresponding message to the party’s leadership with a request for support and permission to work with the "Russian world" of Europe.