In the future all state officials will have to pass the exam proving their knowledge of both Belarusian and Russian languages. This idea belongs to Alyaksandar Lukashanets, Director of the Institute of Linguistics at the Academy of Sciences of Belarus. According to him, the fluent use of both languages will have to be a necessary condition for those applying for a public job. He suggested that the scientific community should propose the lawmakers to develop the bill, regulating language knowledge requirements for officials.
Speaking during the meeting of the Section on Humanities Sciences and Art of the Institute of Linguistics, Alyaksandar Lukashanets stressed that this will help to bring up bilingual citizens, aware of the national and cultural priorities of the country.
The statement of Mr. Lukashanets, one of the godfathers of the looming language reform comes as a big surprise. Does it mean that the state is ready to abandon its policy of suppressing the Belarusian language and culture and start promoting bilingualism? During the past years we’ve already seen the governmental policy shift from the idea of merging with Russia to building “strong, independent Belarus”. Perhaps, strengthening the positions of Belarusian language will be a next step.
Both Belarusian and Russian are official languages according to the Constitution, but in practice the Belarusian language is very much discriminated in favor of Russian. Not a single major official in Belarus actively uses Belarusian language in public. The number of Belarusian-language schools and classes is steadily declining. In such conditions, many parents believe that the Russian-language education will create better perspectives for their kids.
Hopefully, the words of Mr. Lukashanets mean that this is about to change. Of course, even if the state indeed stops its policy of “cultural genocide” and begins to promote the Belarusian language, it doesn’t mean that general democratization will take be taking place as well. Most likely, the “pro-Belarusian” policy will be used to transmit the usual ideological messages of the “stable country” and “people’s president”. Still, in the long run, this will ensure further consolidation of people around the idea of independent Belarus, minimizing the influence from our big neighbors. Russia has already shown that it will not hesitate to use any means in order to manipulate the regimes in its neighboring countries. Often this is done through mass media. In a Belarusian-speaking (or even bilingual) society this will be a much more difficult task to accomplish.