On September 10, an elderly man committed self-immolation in front of the local council building of the Russian town of Izhevsk.
He had a poster bearing a quotation from the Dagestani poet Rasul Gamzatov ‘And if tomorrow my language disappears, I am ready to die today’ .
The victim suffered burns over almost 100% of body’s surface. A few hours later, he died in hospital.
His name is Albert Razin, he made the audacious move at the age of 79. The man was a honoured worker of science in Udmurtia and active participant in the Udmurt national movement.
In such a fatal way, he protested against the Russian authorities’ discriminating his ancestors’ language. The meeting of the State Council that was to be held in Izhevsk, the capital of Udmurtia, was deferred to 24 September.
The Udmurt language belongs to the group of Finno-Ugric languages and is related to the Komi language. According to the official data collected in 1989, it was the native language of 550,000 Udmurts living in Russia. Another 15,000 native speakers live in Kazakhstan.
Udmurt is the official language of Udmurtia (a federal subject of Russia); in theory, its status is equal to that of Russian. However, the number of newspapers, films, TV and radio programs in the Udmurt language is insignificant. Only every third Udmurt child has the classes of their native language at school.
The Udmurt language is becoming a thing of the past under the influence of Russification. Its situation bears a strong resemblance to that of Belarusian in Belarus.