Belsat launches campaign to improve de facto status of Belarusian language


GOMEL REGION, BELARUS – OCTOBER 4, 2017: A pupil washes the blackboard at the Kolno village school ahead of International Teachers’ Day celebrated on October 5 in Belarus. Viktor Drachev/TASS

Belsat is launching a public campaign “Belaruskamouny” (Belarusian language speaking person) in order to make the Belarusian and Russian languages equal in daily life.

According to the 1999 census, Belarusian was the mother tongue for 73% of our country inhabitants. However, only 37% of the people spoke it at home.

Ten years later, 53% of the population called Belarusian their mother tongue, with only 24% of citizens speaking it at home.

The dynamic suggests that during this year’s census, which will be held in October, the number of Belarusian speakers may drop by another 10-15%.

The language situation in Belarus is the result of discrimination activities conducted towards one of the state languages ​​over the past two decades. The number of Belarusian-language classes, schools and kindergartens is declining, not to mention the fact that there is not a single Belarusian-language higher education institution in Belarus.

Belarusian-speaking parents have to fight for their children’s right to be educated in their own language. They do it so often that their behavior may seem weird to some Belarusians.

The struggle with the state system, which does not support the desire to live in the Belarusian way, requires energy and knowledge. While the Belarusian-speaking people are the minority in Belarus, the young, educated and active people are the minority in the minority. According to the last census, the language characteristics of a Belarusian person are directly related to their age and education. Most often the Belarusian language is spoken by a mature village resident who only has primary education.

The graph shows the distribution of the inhabitants of Belarus over 15 years old, who responded to the question about education and marked Belarusian or Russian as the communication language at home. Source – National Statistical Committee via Tut.by
The graph shows the distribution of the inhabitants of Belarus over 15 years old, who responded to the question about education and marked Belarusian or Russian as the communication language at home. Source – National Statistical Committee via Tut.by

In accordance with our mission — to give Belarusians access to independent information in Belarusian — we want to mobilize our viewers and all Belarusians to take active steps in favor of equal rights for the Belarusian language.

We, as a television company, are already confronted with the fact that the global Internet sites where our channel is broadcast refuse to place our advertising.

“Google wouldn’t place our Belarusian-language ads, arguing that they don’t support the Belarusian language,” says Volha Shved, editor of Belsat interactive media unit. They even refuse the money that we offer, just because they do not support the language: they say it is not useful for them to introduce new languages ​​that nobody uses. Everything that is in Belarusian does not exist as content for them.”

We want to change this situation — and not only by complaining to the administration of the American corporation.

Not only our arguments in disputes with Google depend on the census results, but also the arguments of the Belarusian nation in talks with its eastern neighbor, who may want at some point to defend the “Russian world” in Belarus.

Thus, together with our partner, we are launching a public campaign “Belaruskamouny” in order to support actions in favor of the de facto equality of both state languages.

Belsat 2019 calendar design

To do this, we urge you to indicate “Belarusian” in the field of the native language and language of communication during the census.

This campaign is aimed at giving Belarusians the right to their native language not only in Article 17 of the Constitution or by reading announcements in the metro, but also in swimming pools, café menus and movie theaters.

The Art Syadziba, the Talaka platform, the Symbal.by store, the public association Batskaushchyna, the Belarusian PEN Center and the Assembly of NGOs of Belarus have already announced their desire to join the campaign.

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