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Russian language non grata15.09.2011 | 20:59
A new school year will start in Georgia tomorrow. The authorities have prepared a big surprise for the citizens: about one thousand and a half English-speaking teachers from different countries will start teaching in Georgian schools located not only in big cities but also in the back country. Against this background, positions of the Russian language are getting dramatically weaker, the subject being no longer obligatory in the school program. GeorgiaTimes correspondent asked common residents of Sakartvelo whether they want their children to speak Russian.
A Polish journalist, an acquaintance, recently shared his impressions of a trip to Tbilisi. "I was awakened by a loud knock on the door. When I opened the door I saw three teenagers who were looking for a friend in the same block of flats. Having realized at once that I am a foreigner, they instantly repeated their questions in perfect Russian. I was astonished, for I do not regard Tbilisi as a Russian-speaking city", - he told.
The Polish colleague must have run across an exception: Georgian children either do not know Russian at all, or speak it very little.
Let's tell the truth. Even in the times of the USSR Georgia was among the few Soviet republics where the general level of the knowledge of Russian was rather low. Russian was most popular in the regions populated by Armenians and Azerbaijani, international Batumi and the capital, Tbilisi. But this knowledge was scanty among the majority of provincial population. Sakartvelo did not share the phenomenon that existed in Baku and the capitals of some Middle-Asian republics where the intellectual elite preferred speaking Russian. Even in Soviet times Georgia spoke Georgian.
Since the beginning of this school year, one thousand and a half English teachers will start working in Georgian schools. They are not just teachers; they are native speakers and their amount is enough to make good English available in every school of the most distant villages. The idea is nice, of course, especially that the teachers will work almost for nothing - for 250 dollars per month.
Against the background of the enhancement of English, teaching Russian is gradually wound down. Russian was transferred from obligatory subjects to optional ones and the teachers are getting ready to be sacked: there is no one to teach Russian to.
Mikhail Saakashvili happily said once that he would be the last Georgian president to read Yesenin in the original. But perhaps, he will be one of representatives of the last generation of Georgians capable of reading Russian literature at all.
Do Georgians really need Russian? We put this question to three people living in different Georgian towns.
Dmitry Avaliani, a reporter of a popular Georgian newspaper. He can hardly be suspected of pro-Russian sympathies; however, he believes that Georgia needs Russian today, for most tourists come from the post-Soviet countries and it is difficult to do without Russian to communicate with regional neighbours. "The number of Russian-speaking students reduces year by year; accordingly, classes and sectors are closed down. You can call it both a natural process and politics, for no one is interested in supporting Russian and encouraging it as a subject, neither our government, nor Russia, of course", - Avaliani says.
"My son goes to a private school where he is taught English and Russian - according to a Russian textbook, by the way. A graduate may choose a foreign language for his exams and as statistics shows, Russian is chosen more seldom, for today's youth does not know it, in fact", - the journalist goes on.
Avaliani says that there are many people in Georgia who believe it necessary to get rid of Russian.
Nana Khubutia, also a journalist, lives in another Georgian town of Zugdidi. The Internet edition she works for has recently conducted a poll among the town residents about learning Russian. She says the people are dissatisfied with Russian schools being closed.
Khubutia lives in a part of the country where people need a foreign language least of all. There are practically no tourists there; it is ten kilometers to the Abkhaz border; large resorts are far away and the region is almost one-hundred-percent populated by Georgians. Nevertheless, the journalist says that local folk would like their children to study Russian. However, there are still Russian teachers in many schools and kindergartens of Zugdidi.
Georgian authorities would make a big mistake if they openly forbade speaking Russian. But they've got one thousand and one methods to oust the "northern neighbor's" dialect. These methods are actively applied: the government can initiate a loud propagandistic campaign to make the people afraid to speak Russian; it can fire school teachers under any pretext so that the kids did not learn this language. In Georgia, the propagandistic machine is as effective as nowhere else and if Saakashvili says that Georgian goods do not need Russian market it will be so. If the president decided that he will be the last to read Yesenin - so be it.