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Russian Revival?

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Since the collapse of the Soviet Union over 20 years ago, the importance of Russian as an international language has dwindled. However, over the last few months, there seems to have been a resurgence of interest in the language of Pushkin, perhaps as a consequence of the conflict in Ukraine where the Health Minister Alexander Kvitashvili has forced Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to make Russian the working language at governmental meetings.

According to the Ukrainian edition of Glavcom, Yatsenyuk had to use all his language skills at the first government meeting, The open part of the meeting was held in Ukrainian, but when the government passed to the closed part of its meeting Yatsenyuk had to speak different languages. At first he started speaking English and finally passed to Russian. Health Minister Alexander Kvitashvili, an ethnic Georgian, who lacks Ukrainian language skills made the premier take this step, the newspaper reported.

In the U.S., a new resolution passed by the House of Representatives calls on the President and the State Department to increase media influence on Russian speakers in their native language.

Resolution 758, overwhelmingly passed by the US House of representatives, condemns Moscow’s “aggressive” policy towards Ukraine and calls to isolate Russia from many international co-operation opportunities .

The resolution “calls on the President and the United States Department of State to develop a strategy for multilateral coordination to produce or otherwise procure and distribute news and information in the Russian language to countries with significant Russian-speaking populations which maximizes the use of existing platforms for content delivery.”

In October, the Belarusian parliament ratified the treaty on Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) the day before its first three members – Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan – were due to hold discussions in its working language – Russian.

When the EEU comes into operation, on 1 January 2015, it will be the most advanced organization for regional cooperation the former Soviet bloc has seen. Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are expected to join the Union soon.

The Estonian government has decided that it will give 4 million euros ($5.5 million) to the National Broadcasting Company ERR to produce 20 hours of Russian-language programming a week.

Margus Allikmaa, board chairman of ERR, said that ERR offered the government a choice between three options – minimum, maximum, and optimal service – and that the government chose the optimal one.

The optimal service package will include about 20 hours of own Russian-language production a week including a morning show and evening infotainment as well as general-interest programming, two news programs a day, and at least one entertainment program on the weekend.

Under current plans, the channel will be launched in September 2015.

While in Moldova, situated between Ukraine and Romania, the Russian language is a key election issue. Moldova is holding parliamentary elections that could decide whether the former Soviet nation continues on the path it has followed for the last five years, towards the European Union (EU), or turns back towards Russia. Polls suggest the vote will be close, with the latest showing the pro-EU parties holding a slim majority. Arcadie Barbarosie, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy, a Chisinau-based thinktank, said: “The percentage of undecideds is very high, so it’s difficult to predict the results.”

Moldova, home to a population of 3.5 million, is often described as the poorest country in Europe. A quarter of the country’s GDP is estimated to come from remittances of Moldovans working abroad, most of them in Russia.

The official language is Romanian, but many Moldovans’ first language is Russian and, like Ukraine, the country is divided between those who feel they are more European and those who feel closer to Russia. Moldova even has its own breakaway self-governing region in the east, Transnistria, where 1,500 Russian soldiers are stationed, the legacy of a 1992 civil war.

In June, Moldova, alongside Ukraine and Georgia, signed an association agreement with the EU allowing for greater economic relations and visa-free travel across Europe. Members of the governing coalition saw it as the latest step towards full EU membership, but not all Moldovans were happy. A recent report by the Institute of Public Policy found that more Moldovans (43%) would like to join the (Russian-backed) EEU than the EU (39%).


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