The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the status of Rusyn language

January 17, 2014 4251
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The status of minorities and their legal protection on the international and european level has longer/broader background than general protection of human rights. In fact, until the year 1998 the situation of minorities protection was connected just with human rights documents and agreements. There was no „lex specialis“ agreement which would deal in detail with the protection of national minorities and the languages of national minorities. The most important was the mission of  the Council of Europe. The primary goal of the Council of Europe is to protect and promote wealth and cultural diversity of European cultural heritage. The regional and minority languages are the immanent part of this heritage and that was the reason for working out the subsequent agreements. The first attempt to support the languages of national minorities was the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in 1992 („the charter“), and the second  attempt came in version of Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in 1995.

The main reason for adopting the charter was the fact that the regional and minority languages were protected against the language discrimination, but there were no measures providing the positive protection of minorities languages and minorities using such languages. The consequence of this situation was an adoption  of the charter as a convention on 25 June 1992 by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, and opened for signature in Strasbourg on 5 November 1992, and it entered into force on 1 March 1998. In the Slovak republic the charter was opened for signature on 20 February 2001 in Strasbourg and entered into force on 1 January 2002.

The primary goal of this charter is to provide the protection of regional and minority languages (the regional and minority languages are defined in Article I), which are the part of  European cultural heritage, and to enable using these languages in private and public life. It is clear that fundamental and assumed principle of the charter is cultural. The charter does not define the concept of national minority, does not guarantee the individual or collective rights. The cooperation with other legally binding acts in regard to the protection of human rights and minority rights is really important. The charter is devided in Preamble and five Parts, the most important is the second and the third part.

In the Slovak republic the charter entered into force in 2002, as mentioned thereinbefore. The Slovak republic recognize nine minority languages: Bulgarian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Croatian, German, Romany, Ukrainian and Ruthenian. It is questionable how real is observance of the charter in the Slovak republic? Poor, the charter includes monitoring mechanism, but there are no consequneces for breaking the rules. Every contracting state of the charter has to provide (one year after entering into force) the report with information about the implementation into domestic legislation and admission of the obligations. The contracting states have to provide subsequent reports in three-year cycles. The Committee of Experts of the Council of Europe is a body which prepares the evaluation report and The Committee of Ministers od the Council of Europe provides the recommendations. These recommnendations are not legally binding, the result of violation is practically none.

In my article I would like to write about one of nine minority languages, Rusyn- my mother language. The Rusyn language, like every language, is fundamental feature, which characterizes a nation, and important instrument for living in the society. Rusyn language belongs to the group Indo-European languages and is the bridge between East Slavic and West Slavic languages. Nowadays the Rusyn language is protected and recognized by the charter in the Slovak republic, Serbia, Croatia and Romania. The Rusyn language was codified in 2005 and gained the official status in 2012.

The first information about Ruthenian comes from the Hungarian Empire. Ruthenian or Carpatho Rusyn – minority which is deemed as the Ruthenian nation. The nation without a state, just in one moment, in the period of the autonomy/ self-administration of Ruthenia inside Czechoslovakia, was the closest to its „desired goal“. In my opinion, the situation of Ruthenian like a nation without state is similar to the situation of Catalans living in Spain. Catalan is an autonomous society and historic territory in the northeast of Spain, capital city is Barcelona.

The Ruthenian nation has a long history, very important and negative milestone in the history of Ruthenian are the years 1945-1946. In 1945 the Soviet Union gains Ruthenia, almost 150.000 Lemkos Ruthenian, 12.000 Ruthenian from Prešov region migrated forced or voluntarily to Ukraine. Ukraine considers Rusyn language like a dialect of Ukrainian language. Very important moment begins within 70.- 80.´s of 20th century. Ruthenian develop and initiative at home and abroad, too. In these years the Carpathoruthenian research centre started up in Canada, the association on Lemkos Ruthenian was established in Poland, the society of Carpatho Rusyn was found in Ruthenia and in 1990 Rusyn/Ruthenian Society was formated.

The Rusyn language is protected by the charter and should expand, boom and survive like the cultural heritage for next generations. The third part of the charter contains the series of concrete measures designed to facilitate and encourage the use of specific regional and minority languages in public life. The concept of public life includes: Education, Judicial Authorities, Administrative Authorities and public services, Media, Cultural activities and facilities, Economic and Social Life, Transfrontier Exchange. The Slovak republic adopted very pretentious obligations considering number of chosen establishments and chosen languages. Immediate realization of the obligations is not always possible. There are evaluation reports of the Committee of Experts of the Council of Europe. The Committee of Ministers mentions that the obligations which were adopted by the Slovak republic in the area of public life are not fulfilled, or fulfilled just partly. The Slovak republic has brought after the implementation of the charter three evaluation reports in three monitoring cycles. There are three evaluation reports of the Committee of Experts of the Council of Europe and three times recommendations of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The Committee of Experts of the Council of Europe mention it  the Slovak republic should rethink the number 20% for using the mother language in the area of public life. The determination of this number is an exclusive right of the Slovak republic and exactly there is no solution because the recommendation of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe is not legally binding, but just advisory, helpful nature. There is some assumption that this number will be lowered from 20% to 15%, but not earlier than 2021.

The last evaluation report of the Committee of Experts of the Council of Europe (2012) shows  not very positive outcome in a concrete example- Education. There are just three  Ruthenian preliminary schools- Prešov, Čabiby, Bajerovce. There is one elementary school which teaches in Rusyn language, then three  elementary schools teach Rusyn language like mother language, two elementary schools teach some subjects in Rusyn language and six elementary schools teach the subject: Rusyn language and culture. The Committee of Experts of the Council of Europe states that the obligations in the area  of preliminary and elementary schools are partly filled.  When we talk about  Ruthenian secondary schools, the situation is very poor, there is no secondary school which teaches  Rusyn language within regular teaching, there is just one, which teaches Rusyn language extra regular teaching in Medzilaborce. In the area of universities it is possible to study Rusyn language and culture on Prešov University in Prešov- Institute of Ruthenian Language and Culture.

The situation is similar in the other areas of public life; Judicial Authorities, Administrative Authorities and public services, Media, Cultural activities and facilities, Economic and Social Life, Transfrontier Exchange. From the last evaulation report of the Committee of Experts of the Council of Europe (2012) results the fact that Media- radio, television as the fundamental source of information shoul need better  public support,  not just the Rusyn language but every minority language. The Ruthenian broadcast takes 300 hours per year in a radio and just 6 hours per year in a television. I think that we need more  rusyn  broadcast in radios and televisions within statutory and private broadcast, for instance one hour per week. I am sure that it would help to improve the awareness of people and spread a culture. In the Slovak republic there is cultural association of Ruthenian- Rusyn Society (1990), this asscociation publishes the journal Inforusyn and every year organizes more than 50 cultural activities and has an representative in the Government Council for National Minorities and Ethnic Groups. There are other associations Združenie Rusínov Inteligencie Slovenska v Bratislave, Molody Rusyny, The Theatre of Alexander Duchnovič in Prešov, The Museum of Modern Art, etc.

The charter, which was implemented by the Slovak republic, adopted a lot of obligations in the all areas of public life, obviously we do not forget  domestic legislation. In my opinion there are two the most important elements: human and financial.

What is important in my opinion? The people cannot assimilate, they should cooperate, they should be active, stubborn and protect their cultural heritage. Ruthenian live everywhere in the world and they are successful, educated people, very good example is the painter Andy Warhol, whom parents come from small village Miková, town Stropkov.

Keep and cherish our language for our children and the children of our children because the nation without the language is the dead one!

Michaela Hermanová

I am 23 years old and I come from Slovakia. I am Ruthenian. I study law at Comenius University in Bratislava- master degree. I am really interested in human rights, minority rights.