Thursday, 14 December 2017 | News today: 14

Academic Kjulavkova: Albanian minority is repressing Macedonians psychologically

According to the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, the official language of our country is the Macedonian, meaning that everybody should use it in the official communication, regardless of existence of second language. Academic Katica Kjulavkova believes that the Macedonian language is experiencing some kind of genocide. We also talked with her about the change of toponyms, as well as the proposal to implement bilingualism in the country and about what is behind the empty phrase ‘ integrated education’.

You say the Macedonian language is experiencing linguistic genocide. Can you be more precise on what kind of genocide were are talking about?

Kjulavkova: The history of the human civilization does not only recognize systematic destruction of people and populations, but also recognizes a cultural genocide.  The word is partially symbolic, but, still, indicates to the alarming situation in the fields of culture, language, spiritual heritage (active). Language is a typical first-class spiritual and cultural heritage. If it is not cherished with love by the speakers of a certain language (they do not have to be native speakers) and the support of the country’s institutions (constitutional and legal provisions, financial support, research projects, lecturing, top literary/linguistic art, media use, editing, educational system), it can lead to a halt of the development of a certain language, to its reduced use, and timely, to its reduction to a level of a small exotic language moved from the first row of the social stage and the reality of the second to behind stage. If the situation lasts longer, the living language becomes ‘dead’ language, and that is a historical and linguistic fact.

The Macedonian language, at the time when it was logically, rationally and normally expected to strengthen its position, its social and cultural function, its achievements, its promotion worldwide, there are utterly unfavourable processes that are should be alarmed on.

Albanian parties keep trying to impose the Albanian language as the second official language. To what extend and in what way is this demand endangering the Macedonian language?

Kjulavkova: Paradoxically, but in the very time of existence of independent Republic of Macedonia, in the time when, according to the Constitution of Macedonia, our country has sovereign unitary establishment, instead of enhancing its status, the Macedonian language, actually denigrated it. Something suggests that the unitary character of the contemporary Macedonian country is not complete, that it is just declarative. When Macedonia was a republic within the frames of the Yugoslav Federation, the function of the Macedonian language in the society and the country was much more stable.

In the past thirteen years, Macedonia unjustly lost the status as an official language on the territory of the entire Republic of Macedonia, even though, according to the Constitution, it still has the right of that status. Some laws, especially some authentic interpretations of the Constitution and the laws (certain political agreements, the so-called May, for instance, which are rarely mentioned, as well as numerous practical applications of the laws) for the use of the languages in the Republic of Macedonia adopted since 2001 until now, are not in accordance with the Constitution.

The balance is broken and should be established once more, otherwise it will come to some tragic consequences. Even before the constitutional amendments of 2001, the languages of the minorities ( some of the people) have the linguistic rights according to the top international UN standards, as well as the Declaration on Linguistic Rights by the International PEN Club. Wherever there was a majority of one ethnic minority, the linguistic rights were placed at the highest level.  At republic and national level, though, they had free rights in the field of literature, media, publishing, theater and the like. Only one ‘agreement’ between the representatives of the political parties in Macedonia draw a series of contradictory laws and practice.

Although, according to the Constitution, the Macedonian language is obligatory on the territory of the whole country, meaning for all citizens, national and legal subjects, as well as for international use, the Macedonian language is excluded – first of all, is not learned as a national language in elementary education, in high school education, and in some universities as well, it has been put on the sidelines in just a few years, the administration in the local self-government is radically excluding it from use, Macedonians of Albanian ethnicity refuse to learn and speak Macedonian, political leaders, in that context, are the perfect example of conduct. Thus, while in every normal country in the world is not possible to gain nationality if not one does not know the language of the country, we have given thousands of nationalities to persons that do not know the Macedonian language. What is more shocking is that people refuse to speak Macedonian publicly, often using degrading discourse, and all that passes with no sanctions and becomes a regular thing for the so-called post-Ohrid or Framework Macedonia.

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What is your comment on the toponym change?

Kjulavkova: The use of toponyms is more than disastrous. It is the first and the key signal that something is not right with the status of a ceratin language and the relations of the subjects (citizens, institutions, parties) towards that language. It is unimaginable and inadmissible to translate toponyms. In the republic of Macedonia, the toponyms in Macedonian are translated into Albanian (translation has been made). That did not even happen in the Ottoman Empire, while today it became legal with an act of the Macedonian Parliament. Toponyms are transliterated, i.e. are written letter by letter in other orthographies, let’s say from the Cyrillic (as the official orthography in the Republic of Macedonia) to Latin, as the case with Albanian or Turkish. The acts on cultural heritage protection should have included ban on transliteration or translation of toponyms from one language into another. Toponyms are memory of the territory and the memory of the people, and it should be respected. We have a lack of respect towards the Macedonia’s  Slovenian linguistic heritage, instead of having a special protective treatment, because the Macedonian language can only hope to rely on the Macedonian country when it comes to protection of Macedonian language and culture. There is no other country interested in the Macedonian language.

Rapporteur for FYR Macedonia, Richard Howitt, proposed introduction of bilingualism in Macedonia. The reactions to his idea were fierce in both our country and among European Parliament members. To what extent is this proposal dangerous for the Macedonian language and the country in general?

Kjulavkova: Macedonians’ language, cultural and spiritual memory has already been systematically endangered. Once a nation’s language and cultural memory has been endangered, it automatically endangers its history, because it allows history revision and lump (“authentic”, political) interpretations, and it also endangers the future be the introduction of development strategies that oppose a nation’s language, cultural and communication rights. I will not even mention the financial implications, which are huge, and Macedonia is a small, poor country that does not have a budget big enough for language luxuries. I will not even comment on the damages caused by poor translations into Macedonian in the state institutions, which we commonly heard in the public.

Skopje’s and Brussels’ Development strategy, only seemingly indirectly, urges Macedonians to start learning the Albanian language by default, compulsory, because that is how the Albanian political corpus interprets the Constitution, and, in their opinion, is a pre-condition for survival of a shared country. That interpretation is wrong, international and harmful to the state’s unitary, to the survival of the Macedonian language and culture, the efficiency of state institutions, the representation of Macedonian identity  in international institutions and the world in general. Such twisted interpretation endangers fundamental language rights of the Macedonians. It initiates artificial identity constructions in Macedonia, which causes a confusion in Macedonian identity. Tourists in Greece, where there is large-scale and systematic propaganda of a Greek Macedonia, for instance, ask on the Internet what we are. Slovenian identity of Macedonian culture, undisputed until recently, is now being questioned. In terms of vision, communication and administration, Macedonian citizens are being hindered in their own state. Every Macedonian can learn the Albanian language or any other language if they choose to. Existence, economy and communication motivate citizens to do that but no one is allowed to legally oblige Macedonians, whose mother tongue is Macedonian language, to compulsory learn Albanian language, or any other language of the minority communities in Macedonia. What exactly is going on in Macedonia? Psychological pressure (sophisticated occupation) continues, Macedonian are being put in historically degrading position of uncertainty, threat, humiliation and affrontedness, forced to learn the language of the minority, while the minority itself declines to learn and speak Macedonian language.

What is the purpose of these strategies? What is hiding behind the strategic decorative phrase “integrated education”?

Kjulavkova: An urgent scientific research on these national, state and strategically developing issues for the Republic of Macedonia is required  and the state should react in accordance with the research results.

Macedonian language has silently lost the status gained by centuries-long efforts of the Macedonian people. It is common knowledge that depriving someone from the rights they are entitled to causes negative reactions. In this case, nobody reacts properly to the damage done to gained language and cultural rights of the Macedonian people and Macedonian citizens.

The same thing should be done concerning the remaining aspects of the psychological war and torture against Macedonians. Not the demographic changes of Macedonia and Macedonian turning into minority in their own country, but the accuracy of those parameters is in question. Why would no one undertake any emergency measures to prevent such outcome of this process, to disable these anti-Macedonian strategies and tactics? Why is everyone playing deaf? In former Yugoslavia no one dared to even mention Serbian-Croatian language option, although these two are languages that originate from the same linguistic group and tradition. It is nonsense today to talk about Macedonian language as official state language of the sovereign, independent and unitary Macedonia. I think that Macedonia being divided into regions, cantons, sectors, contributes to this, and the law and the Constitution are not even recognized in some of these local units or “cantons”. We can even talk constitutional disloyalty and e “wild league” that runs the developing processes.

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MANU has signed a memorandum this year with the scientific institutions for Macedonian language and will work on creating electronic corpus of literature written in Macedonian language. What does it mean for the Macedonian language?

Kjulavkova: Yes, an important step has been made for unification of staff and research capacities committed to studying the Macedonian language. Finally a cooperation memorandum has been signed, coordination body has been formed, the operational plan is finished, and we currently work on the creation of the Macedonian language electronic corpus, in order to make it available for scientific linguistics processing by all interests Macedonian, Slavic and Balkan languages researchers.

How do we preserve the language from daily attacks, from foreign words, additions, mixture of Macedonian and English language? It is not even a slang anymore, but a manner of speaking, living and behaving?

Kjulavkova: The language is a living matter, exposed to influence, just like it can influence other languages the gets in touch with. Those are aspects areal linguistics deals with. MANU’s Areal Linguistics Research Center, for instance, deals precisely with the influences and contacts between Balkan languages (Slavic or non-Slavic – Macedonian, Bulgarian, Albanian, Greek, Vlasic, Turkish, Serbian). We cannot strive for language isolation, it is impossible in times of modern communication and new technologies. But, we can strive for improvement of the language system and the language culture, more higher-quality education, for more efficient promotion of Macedonian language in the world through proofreading offices, cultural centers, Internet bases/pages etc. That should become one of the developing priorities of Macedonia very soon. We should offer leading translation of literature and scientific works. If we offer bad quality, educational and cultural function of those works and projects can be very wrong and counterproductive.

One thing should be clear: Macedonian minority communities language rights cannot be provided by denying and harming the language rights of Macedonian people. Multicultural politics means integration factors, common communication language, instead of disintegration and enclave of society and the state. Not disintegrating policies of radical multiculturalism and extreme multilinguism, but interculturalism policy should be of strategic interest.

 

By: Aleksandra M. Bundalevska

Photo: Aleksandar Ivanovski