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Problems Faced By Large Linguistic Minorities: An East-West Comparison. Jennifer Pyclik November 28, 2005. Catalan in Spain. Tension with Castilian speakers Catalonia established its own government in 1930s Catalan made official language. Catalan under Franco regime.

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problems faced by large linguistic minorities an east west comparison

Problems Faced By Large Linguistic Minorities: An East-West Comparison

Jennifer Pyclik

November 28, 2005

catalan in spain
Catalan in Spain
  • Tension with Castilian speakers
  • Catalonia established its own government in 1930s
    • Catalan made official language
catalan under franco regime
Catalan under Franco regime
  • Franco regime: 1939-1975
  • Prohibitions on use of Catalan; promotion of Castilian
  • Attempt to create unified Spanish state and identity
  • Influx of immigrants into Catalonia
catalan today
Catalan today
  • Became an official language of Spain in 1978
    • Castilian, Galician, and Basque
  • 7.3 million speakers
    • 7th most spoken language in EU
    • Given special status
  • Catalonia: 79% of population speaks it while nearly all can understand it
  • Catalan, not Spanish, identity
catalonian language policies
Catalonian language policies
  • 1998 Language Law
    • Catalan official language; all required to learn it
    • Government officials must use Catalan
    • Public documents must be produced in Catalan
    • Names of individuals must be in Catalan
education policy
Education Policy
  • Catalan primary language of education
    • Castilian may be used if mother tongue
  • Proficiency in Catalan and Castilian requirement for secondary school graduation
  • Either can be used at university level, but university required to promote Catalan
  • Latvia not incorporated into Soviet Union until 1944
  • Russians began emigrating to Latvia after the war, creating a minority
    • Today there are over 500,000 ethnic Russians
    • Russian mother tongue for 40% of the population
russification under soviets
Russification under Soviets
  • Russian official language of gov’t
  • 1958: children did not have to learn minority language
    • Almost all children “chose” to study Russian
    • Few ethnic Russians studied Latvian
  • Promotion of united Soviet identity
post communist language policy
Post-Communist Language Policy
  • 1989: declared Latvian to be official language
  • Latvian proficiency exam required for citizenship
    • Applied to those who had lived in Latvia for decades
  • Political candidates required to know Latvian
  • Government oversight office created to implement pro-Latvian policies
  • Promotion of Latvian in at all education levels
education policy10
Education Policy
  • Revised in 1998: promotion of bilingual education (at lower grade levels)
    • Separate minority language schools
  • Gradual increase of courses taught in Latvian culminating in Latvian-only education at secondary level
    • Gov’t claims student requesting more Latvian education
international reaction to latvian policies
International Reaction to Latvian Policies
  • Russian government upset over treatment of ethnic Russians
    • 1993: Duma policy “maltreatment of Russians in the geopolitical space of the former Soviet Union could be construed as grounds for Russian military intervention”
    • Cause taken up by ultra-conservatives Russians
    • International community wants to prevent war
osce intervention
OSCE intervention
  • Latvia revised language laws in 1998
  • OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities sent stern letter requesting that the law be revised
  • Law went through two revisions until OSCE approved
  • Attempts by repressive regimes to suppress minority/promote majority language
    • Unified identity
  • After regime, “regions” gain autonomy/ independence and promote their own language and identity
    • Minority languages can be used but majority language strongly encouraged or required
  • Official gov’t languages
    • National level: Spain has four; Latvia one
    • Catalonia recognizes Aranese in Aran Valley
  • International interference occurred only in the East
    • Threat of ethnic violence
    • Catalan policies only at regional level
    • Perceptions of what is harsh and what is acceptable language protection
  • Aasland, Aadne and Tone Flotten. “Ethnicity and Social Exclusion in Estonia and Latvia,” Europe-Asia Studies 53(7) (2001): 1023-1049.
  • Adler, Katya. “Candidates play Catalan card,” BBC News, 14 Nov. 2003, found at (last visited 29 Sept 2005).  
  • Adrey, Jean-Bernard. “Minority Language Rights Before and After the 2004 EU Enlargement: The Copenhargen Criteria in the Baltic States,” Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 26(5) (2005): 453-468.
  • Burgen, Stephen. “Barcelona faces a new challenge of diversity,” The London Times 23 Apr. 2003.
  • Dunoff, Jeffrey L., Steven R. Ratner, and David Wippman. International Law: Norms, Actors, Process-A Problem-Oriented Approach (New York: Aspen Publishers, Inc. 2002).
  • Generalitat (Government of Catalonia); Catalan, Language of Europe; found at (last visited 29 Sept. 2005).
    • Language Policy Report 2002; found at (last visited 29 Sept. 2005).
  • Grenoble, Lenore. Language Policy in the Soviet Union (Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003).
  • Kolsto, Pal. “The New Russian Diaspora: Minority Protection in the Soviet Successor States,” Journal of Peace Research 30(2) (1993): 197-217.
  • Lipset, Harry. “The Status of National Minority Languages in Soviet Education,” Soviet Studies 19(2) (1967): 181-189.
  • Llei de politica linguistica, Act No. 1, of 7th January 1998, on linguistic policy, found at (last visited 29 Sept. 2005)
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Latvia, “Integration Policy in Latvia-A Multi-Faceted Approach” (28 Sept. 2005) found at (last visited 28 Oct. 2005) [“Integration Policy”]
    • “Minority Education in Latvia” (11 July 2005) found at (last visited 28 Oct. 2005)
    • “National Agency for Latvian Language Training” (11 July 2005) found at (last visited 28 Oct. 2005)
  • Rees, Earl L. “Spain’s Linguistic Laws: The Catalan Controversy,” Hispania 79(2) (1996): 313-321.
  • Resolution of the European Parliament A3-169/90, December 11, 1990, on Languages in the Community and the Situation of Catalan (OJEC-C19, 28th January 1991)
  • Sharrock, David. “Catalan children leave their native tongue in class,” The London Times 17 June 2003.
  • Wilkinson, Isambard. “Young Catalans say ‘no’ to their regional language,” Daily Telegraph (London) 12 August 2003.
  • Wright, Susan, ed. Language, Democracy and Devoluion in Catalonia (Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters Ltd, 1999).