Yakutsk is the Capital of Indigenous Languages

As a world-famous Russian author and play wright, Anton Chekhov put it: “You are as many times a human as how many languages you know.” In this respect the people of Russian Federation who speak nearly a hundred living and developing languages are among the most “human” in the world.

On Russia’s initiative, the United Nations declared the current 2019 year the Internati­onal Year of Indigenous languages. Its purpose is to focus the attention of the world community to the problem of integrity of national languages, essential vehicle of the intangible cultural and civilization heritage for different ethnic groups. 

The high-level international conference “Preservation of World Languages and Develop­ment of Linguistic Diversity in Cyberspace” took place from July 1 to 5, 2019 becoming one of the central events of this year.  The Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), a unique north-east region of Siberia and a home for dozens of ethnics and languages, co-hosted the international conference in partnership with the Russian Committee of the UNESCO Information for All Programme (IFAP).

The conference brought together over 500 participants from 60 countries: scholars and teachers, journalists and diplomats, political and public figures. Aisen Nikolaev, Head of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Moez Chakchouk, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, Dorothy Gordon, Chair of IFAP, and Evgeny Kuzmin Chair of Russian National IFAP Committee took floor at the opening ceremony. The greetings were delivered by Valentina Matvienko,  Chair of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, and Irog Barinov, Head of the Russian Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs.

Absolutely respectful, intense and even heated debates were centered on various aspects of language policy, multilingualism, cross-cultural communication, modern linguistic technologies; educational, media, and everyday life context of language functioning. On the last day of the conference, a final document was adopted; it is to be used in taking stocks of the International Year.

In the intervals between intensive meetings, the participants of the forum discovered distinct culture and traditions of the peoples of Sakha Republic. Olonkho Theatre theatrical performance opening the mystery of heroic Yakut epic produced a deep impression.

In the era of steadily coming globalization, preservation and development of national languages is the priority for all humankind, and its effective solution requires the joint efforts of all parties concerned.  Russia has accumulated a unique and positive experience in language politics, and we happy to share it. 

Konstantin Emelin