An unusual experiment was announced in Avdarma village of the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia: if the children enrolled at school know perfectly the Gagauz language, the parents will receive 10,000 lei. The goal of the initiative is to motivate the inhabitants to know and teach their children the mother tongue that has lost ground during the past few years even in rural areas. The public and the authorities of the region do not doubt that the problem can be solved only by determined actions, but the chosen methods weren’t welcomed by everyone.
Language as a source of income
Deputy of the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia (APG-Y) Elena Caramit is one of those who sounded the alarm concerning the critical situation of the Gagauz language. Besides being a deputy, she also serves as the director of the local lyceum in Avdarma village and knows the state of affairs in the field from firsthand experience. She said that out of 35 children who in 2017 were enrolled in the first grade, only three spoke the Gagauz language fluently.
“The conversations and exchanges of opinions with the people convinced us that the parents seldom use the Gagauz language when they talk to the children. We decided to create in Avdarma conditions for motivating the inhabitants to communicate with the children in the family in the Gagauz language so that when they go to school, to the first grade, they speak it freely,” Elena Caramit was quoted as saying on the official website of the village.
The 10,000 lei “in motivation” will be distributed from extra-budgetary funds. As the deputy of the APG-Y noted, her initiative was supported by the “patrons of the village” – the Cazmalî brothers who were born in Avdarma (Ilia Cazmalî is one of the founders of ‘Sheriff” holding in Tiraspol) and who sponsor a number of cultural and infrastructure projects in the native village.
The conditions for awarding the parents will be assessed as part of a conversation with children in the Gagauz language. The program refers to the students who will be enrolled in the first grade in 2019. The decision to continue the given program will be taken depending on the achieved result.
“We conceived this as an experiment and hope this motivation will be liked by parents and we will be able to engage a larger number of grownups in the process of looking after and keeping the Gagauz language. The point is that the communication environment in the family will enable the children to learn the mother tongue from parents and to know it since childhood. We have an obligation before the next generation,” stated Elena Caramit.
Not the money counts?
It could happen that the provision of money for knowing the mother tongue will produce the expected result, but could also lead to the situation when the ordinary values and obligations will be permanently associated with the financial aspect. This is the opinion of the head of the NGO “Pro-Eurasia” Anatolii Talmaci.
“It is an attack on common sense, an immoral and depraving issue. I’m categorically against such experiments,” Anatolii Talmaci stated for IPN.
He also drew a parallel with the building of a democratic society in Moldova, which was supported financially by the country’s foreign partners during 28 years. “But this actually does not exist now. It means that the problem resides not in the money, but in us,” concluded Talmaci.
Language is not learned out of patriotism
According to Victor Copușciu, president of the cultural and educational association “Aydînnîk”, the patriotic calls will not be efficient until the people are affected by particular economic difficulties.
“History teaches us that the Gagauz people should be motivated to learn the mother tongue. In the countries where the Gagauz people form a minority, there is no kind of motivation. On the contrary, effort is made to help them forget their language and to identify themselves in a different way. The tales of the ancestors, the songs and people’s maani (quatrains like shouts, e.n.) no longer motivate the Gagauz parents in Bugeac to talk to their children in the Gagauz language. Moreover, the given function cannot be supported by the few calls made by the people of arts or representatives of the power,” Victor Copușciu stated for IPN.
He thinks that in such a situation, they have to only offer the parents something that would entice them.
“In Avdarma, they tried to implement namely this procedure – financial motivation. If the inhabitants of Gagauzia have had average incomes, not lower than ever as now, the situation with the language wouldn’t have reached a critical point. The people of Gagauzia say: "Aç ayı oynamaz" (“hungry bear does not dance”). The people should also be fed and then can be also taught,” stated Victor Copușciu.
Minority community between yours
Elena Caramit is one of the authors of the law on the extension of the sphere of application of the Gagauz language that took effect in Gagauzia at the start of 2019. The document envisions the provision of special bonuses to the salaries of Gagauz language teachers and professors of the national culture faculty of the Comrat State University. A series of school disciplines will be taught in the Gagauz language and the writers and poets of Gagauz language can bank on financial support.
The executive committee of the ATU is also making efforts in this regard. In Comrat, there was inaugurated the first kindergarten where the Gagauz language is studied comprehensively. Until 2020, the authors of Gagauz-Yeri plan to launch an educative complex where the Gauze language will be given priority in the teaching process. The 2019 budget of Gagauzia includes 5 million lei for supporting the language.
The argument that the financial stimulus will represent the main reason for which the people would study the mother tongue is really strange. The paradox resides in the fact that the problem of building a Gagauz language environment manifests itself in villages where 95% of the inhabitants are Gagauz people. The mother tongue is simply eliminated by Russian, which is preferred in communication by young and average-age people. With such tendencies, in several tens of years the Gagauz language risks becoming a minority language in the Gagauzia ethnic environment.
“Our language is close to extinction”
The Gagauz authorities bank on the Moldovan Government’s support in the development of the Gagauz language. However, during its existence the ATU had to mainly bank on its own forces. That’s why the appearance of official or private initiatives like that in Avdarma is rather justified. If they are efficient is another question and it is highly improbable that those from Gagauzia will deal with the identification of an ideal solution at all costs. Otherwise, the ATU will face the situation when the critical tendencies related to the Gagauz language could no longer be overcome. Güllü Karanfil, Gagauz public figure and doctor of philological sciences, has a similar opinion. He considers the experiment in Avdarma wouldn’t have appeared if the danger of disappearance of the Gagauz language hadn’t been so real.
The philologist stated for IPN that the program to pay 10,000 lei in Avdarma will most probably not cover a large number of families. “Four-five families will get the money and this would be right. This cry of the soul of the Gauze people shows the language really disappears. The essence of this project resides in the fact that our language dies! The project is a cry about the tragedy of the Gagauzia people and the money are just a means,” stated Güllü Karanfil.
The alarming calls concerning the destiny of the Gagauz language are frequent in the Autonomous Unit. This viewpoint became more solid in the Gagauz community after 2010, when UNESCO included the Gagauz language in the Atlas of World’s Languages in Danger.
Interese profesionale: regionalism, procesele politice din UTA Găgăuzia, relațiile autonomiei cu autoritățile centrale ale Republicii Moldova
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