''If there is no additional protection of local languages, they will definitely be absorbed''

Interview with the Latvian political expert. Part 2: 'not to show off' for governors, the language issue, and managed 'schizophrenia' in the country

Kristians Rozenvalds, the general secretary of the Latvian Badminton Federation, political scientist, who has recently visited Kazan, met with the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya. In the second part of the interview, the guest from the Baltic state told our journalist about regional 'knyazes' and Putin's governors, shared his opinion on the abolition of compulsory teaching of the Tatar language at schools and gave an explanation for the 'schizophrenia' seizing Russia today.

The problem of the elites — not to show off

Kristians, do you think new people in the presidential administration — Vayno, Kiriyenko and others — will be able to change anything in the governance structure of the country?

It is a bit wrong to tell that the head of the presidential administration is the key figure in changing the country. A new effective finance minister, cabinet, not a presidential administration can change the country. These people are to help improve the effectiveness of the president's office, not the country. Although I understand that changes in the country are perceived through the prism of the presidential administration, which for me as a Balt or European is odd.

Nevertheless, they often say about appointed governors – they say 'Kiriyenko's people', 'Volodinsky's' or 'Surkov's'. By the way, what will happen to regional elites?

It is difficult to speak about regional elites now. It would be one of the forms of effectivization as well. Despite the fact that the vertical is being built in Russia, the governor should be a governor, not a manager or a 'little knyaz'. Such 'little knyazes' are already few when we can say that he is the president of a subject of the federation.

Ramzan Kadyrov — why not a 'super knyaz'?

This is what I am talking about – they are few. Besides, they all cite him as an example. Outside the Russian information space, perhaps, only Sobyanin is known. But earlier there were different governors, presidents of republics. I do not remember that the president of Tatarstan or the governor of St. Petersburg has been mentioned in the Latvian media recently. The heads of regions are mentioned when they are dismissed or in connection with corruption and bribery cases. People still remember Shaimiev as president of the subject. There were also active governors such as Ayatskov. But there are already no them — Nemtsov, Sobchak, Luzhkov. They were truly regional leaders.

''I do not think that Putin summoned the incumbent president of Tatarstan and said: ''Do not show off.'' He'd rather say: ''Here's a field for action for you.'' Photo: kremlin.ru

Are you saying that regional leaders have become smaller and lost their influence?

Physics of influence still remains. The thing is that they obey the social contract for the vertical that needs to be serviced, and local structures do not ask any questions. The central government does not need a governor who creates problems at the local level with their non-compliance or vice versa — with their excessive activity. By and large, the problem of Russian structures, especially regional elites, unfortunately, is the same — not to show off.

Is it their new task?

I do not think that Putin summoned the incumbent president of Tatarstan and said: ''Do not show off.'' He'd rather say: ''Here's a field for action for you.'' Knowing that when someone behaved too actively, too independently, expressed an opinion, then he is found in some other problematic formats, then why should I show off? This is the problem of the entire vertical. To properly manage this vertical, it must have a huge brain that gives impetus. People get tired of it over time, the momentum stops working, and they're looking for something else. Momentum is not working, you have to come up with something new. And there follows the problem. How does the West look at what is happening here? People are afraid of initiatives, so they have no initiatives.

Putin has come not to stand above the table all the time. He has come to make ideas appear, which should be approved by the people. Yes, now there is order and other good things. But people have forgotten: where are we going after all? What is the main motive, what is the common driver?

The problem of management is facing not only Putin, it faces any church, party. This corporate structure was more self-regulating: people thought themselves, answered, communicated in some way, interacted. Today there are many dead schemes. It would seem that we communicate via Facebook, but, in fact, we go inside ourselves. There's no communication, we are looking for confirmation of information, not thinking. When there is a strong vertical, in which there are brain centres that can update something and get it down, then everything is fine. I even judge by the union (the Badminton Federation of Latvia — editor's note): people expect from me ready-made decisions where ranks should go. They have already left off the habit to make decisions how to hold a championship. Sometimes they say: ''It is a pity that we have no one to act in the process of communication.'' On the other hand, they themselves have got out of the habit of this communication: they are either look for confirmation or communicate only in the format of social networks. They also got used to block themselves with like-minded people, not arguing. Dispute is an exaggerated struggle, and this is not the easiest way. You want to follow the path of less resistance: you get a salary, watch Comedy Club in the evenings, eat with your wife, wake up in the mornings. You don't want to bother yourself with things that will bother you additionally, like, let's do running.

''Putin has come not to stand above the table all the time. He has come to make ideas appear, which should be approved by the people.'' Photo: kremlin.ru

About the language issue

Last year Russia discussed the abolition of compulsory teaching of local ethnical languages at schools. In Tatarstan and Bashkortostan it was perceived particularly painful. In your opinion, was the abolition of such lessons a forced measure or hasty decision of the federal centre?

I don't fully understand the motive of this decision. On the contrary, it always seemed to me how interesting it turned out in Russia, let's be honest, to impose the Russian language and, at the same time, incubationally promote and not let the ethnic languages die. The issue of ethnic languages will always be relevant, especially where people actively use it. This changes the 'glade'. You come home and have to communicate with your son almost in Russian because at school he learns Russian more than Tatar.

''If the preservation of small languages is not raised to the level of the national programme, they will not be able to stay afloat.'' Photo: Ramil Gali (kazved.ru)

They explained it with the following formulation: it is wrong to force Russian children to study local languages. Tatar or Bashkir should be studied voluntarily.

If there is no additional protection [of local languages] with such a great development of dominant Russian, they will definitely be absorbed. If the preservation of small languages is not raised to the level of national programme, they will not be able to stay afloat. People will think: what is the point to make children study Tatar, to which you have no ethnic relation? It will not work out to teach it as optional either. People have limited resources of time. Otherwise it won't be possible to give additional English, Russian or Math. And the easiest way will be not to give Tatar lessons. If Tatar does not become dominant here, in a hundred years it may virtually disappear. I do not exclude that it may survive if the local elite retains some patriotism, finances some projects: the best books should first appear in Tatar, then in Russian, local films are primarily shown in Tatar. But I don't see it so far.

Now it is parents who decide, if they agree that their children study the Tatar language, then they write the corresponding application and their children continue to study Tatar.

All the same for me such decision of the president was a surprise. First, because he accepted it; second, why it should be implemented? Putin has all the resources to change their mind. But, as I understand it, in Russia many things are understood not because Putin decided so. If the majority in the country pulls in one direction, it becomes a kind of state ideology, and the Kremlin becomes the standard bearer of this process. The Kremlin, with its resources, could even convince the population that Americans are good. But if people are so structured, then why come up with a new line, when you already can lead and act. It was the same here. Probably, in Russia the majority in general was for abolishing [mandatory teaching of the Tatar language].

''How can you live in this schizophrenia?''

And we are back again to the issue of management…

Another example showing how Russian society is governed. On the one hand, there is Stalin — a leader whom they can be proud of. On the other hand, there is Stalin, who created condemned Gulag. There is also Lenin, who lies in the Mausoleum. And, at the same time, there is the tsar, who was consecrated a saint, which allegedly was killed by Lenin. You look at it all and think, ''Guys, aren't you crazy? How can you live in this schizophrenia?!'' In fact, everything is very clear. Like one restaurant serves one dish, the other — the other dish, and they are synchronized. New discussion platforms are not being created, there are simply no such discussions. Why do they need them? Let's discuss here, then there, and it'll settle down by itself eventually.

By Timur Rakhmatullin