Almost 200 nationalities live in the Russian Federation. Each of them has its own history, traditions and language. How to preserve this originality and uniqueness? And at the same time maintain a common identity within a country? Anna Polezhaeva, Chairwoman of the Russian People’s House, spoke about this in the Komsomolskaya Pravda studio at VEF-2023.
– Tell us in general what the “House of the People of Russia” is, whether it is a physical building or some kind of virtual house. And what does your organization do?
– Several answers can be given here. First. We are a structure dependent on the Federal Agency for National Affairs and we apply the strategy of state national policy. This is our basic function. Secondly, we are a young and creative team working in Moscow. And thirdly, we have a practical platform for implementing our ideas at the federal level – this is the “House of Peoples of Russia”, which is located on the Morozov estate in Podsosensky Lane. The federal, national and cultural autonomies of the Russian Federation work and live together in the House, like true members of the family. Its leaders are mostly members of the Presidential Council for Interethnic Relations. That is, this is the space of the actors of national state policy, where we all work together on the agenda that the State establishes for us.
– What is the main agenda of interethnic work?
– Acting together, thinking as one country is our main motto and basic working principle. An example is the Alyosha tank, everyone knows it and reads about it. In this tank there were no nationalities, there were guys of different religions, representatives of different regions of the Russian Federation, but there was a reason, there was a level of thinking, united by common meanings.
– In the Far East and the Arctic, one of the frequent topics is support for the indigenous peoples of the North. What kind of work do you do here?
– This is a traditionally important issue for national state policy. Since its formation, the Federal Agency for National Affairs has been involved in issues of sustainable development of indigenous peoples. We learn from them. Indigenous peoples are an important component of our society, they are people whose basic principles force us to pay attention to the issues of environmental management, love of nature, spirituality and love of the Homeland. Because we all know the reindeer herding detachments, which during the Great Patriotic War fulfilled the function of state protection. When we talk about forms of support for indigenous peoples, we ourselves gain much more from it. At the same time, when a dialogue is built about indigenous peoples, I believe it must start from their needs.
– What are your needs and priorities?
– Language issues are an immutable factor in development. This is the top level factor of our identity. This is our culture, communication, our manifestation in the world at large. Language is also a way of thinking, access to a certain history, to the culture of our ancestors. This is expressed in language, in writing, in fairy tales in the native language. Therefore, supporting language projects is very important. The House of Peoples of Russia has a center for studying the languages of the peoples of Russia. It is an expert platform and a space for direct language practice.
– What is the main difficulty in sustaining the languages of small towns? How can the government help here?
– As with all the best things in society, it comes from the family. Therefore, a personal determination for each person who participates in this process. For example, a decision on multilingualism, that the family traditionally uses the mother tongue. And only then will support arrive at the regional level. When, for example, public events begin with greetings in the native language, poems and fairy tales are read, and events that popularize the language are held. Then the language lives. For example, yesterday in the section that was dedicated to the issues of sustainable development of indigenous peoples, representatives of the largest companies gave greetings in their native language to the peoples who inhabit the territory where they operate. It was excellent, it created an atmosphere and showed a very important element of the companies’ respect for indigenous people, who pay great attention to environmental issues. This always creates a dialogue between companies and indigenous peoples about environmentally friendly production.
– How, in your opinion, can we maintain a balance between the study of the Russian language and national languages? It turns out that we need to develop both. How to find the golden mean here?
– When we talk about national politics in the country, two years ago, for example, to a greater extent, in perception, national politics was associated with the fact that we clearly demonstrate the cultures of the people. But that was two years ago. And today, when we interpret national politics as a unifying bond, when we stand shoulder to shoulder in the common tasks of the State, then we must understand that now is not the time for individual demonstrations. The first sentence of our Constitution: we are the multinational people of the Russian Federation. And no one ever warns us that our ethnicity or our multi-level identity should take a backseat. But today we ourselves make this a priority, because it is important in geopolitical terms. We emphasize that the Russian language is the same spiritual link, it is a first-class task for everyone today, especially when in a number of, let’s say, hostile states, it is somehow oppressed. And when on June 6 we celebrate the Day of the Russian Language at UNESCO headquarters, thanks to the collective request of the CIS countries, this is a basic factor of protection by national policy, which is based on the principles of promoting Russian identity as a bastion of many truly important values in the world.
– What happens to indigenous languages?
– A second, no less important vector of work opens up here. If we see a stable understanding in the first point, then a person develops access to his sociocultural needs, and this is his internal development, this is the development of his community, this is what concerns individual responsibility for his native language. Representatives of indigenous peoples are brave defenders of their culture and history, so I have no doubt that tools will always be built to protect this ethnocultural right: language. And then we need to divide this task into functions and tasks of the State, into a list of priorities, and determine those activities that are necessary in the short term. For example, if we talk about unwritten languages, then music libraries in unwritten languages need to be organized quickly.
– Is it possible to outsource some of these tasks to artificial intelligence?
– The digitization of indigenous languages is now a State priority. It includes features such as converting the indigenous alphabet to digital format. To appear in keyboard layouts. This is an important task. And we also work in creative format. This is, for example, working with the Yandex.Translator service so that you can translate a basic set of expressions into your native language. This is both an element of the image task and an applied and understandable function associated with translation. Therefore, the more partners we have among digital platforms, the better and easier it will be for us to do this work. And all this will work for everyone, for the general culture of our society.
From September 10 to 13, 2023, the Eighth Eastern Economic Forum will be held in Vladivostok. The motto of the forum is “Towards cooperation, peace and prosperity”. The organizer of the event is the Roscongress Foundation. Komsomolskaya Pravda is the official information partner of EEF 2023.