State Language, Official

State Language, Official


in bourgeois countries the language that is compulsory in the given country for business transactions in institutions, judicial proceedings, teaching in schools, and so on regardless of the nationality composition of the population.

The ruling class usually introduces the compulsory use of its own national language, thus belittling the rights of national minorities. V. I. Lenin indicated the negative attitude of Marxists to the forced propagation of the language of the dominant nationality. A democratic state, wrote Lenin, “is bound to grant complete freedom for the various languages and annul all privileges for any one language” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 25, pp. 71–72).

In multinational states the official state language, as a rule, is stipulated in the constitution (in India, Canada, Switzerland). In the developing multinational states of Africa the most widespread national language in the country is usually established as the official state language. During a transitional period, however, the language of the country that had previously possessed the state as a colony is sometimes retained as the official state language (for example, in Burundi there are two state languages—Kirundi and French).

A consistently democratic state structure requires unconditionally equal rights for its nationality groups, without any privileged language whatsoever. Proceeding from this principle, socialist countries guarantee complete linguistic equality; their national minorities are assured the use of their own native languages. Thus, the USSR, in accordance with the Constitution of 1936, publishes the laws adopted by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in the languages of the Union republics; the laws of the Union republics are published in the languages of the majority of their population, and so on. Business correspondence in state institutions is conducted in the language of the majority of the population. Judicial proceedings in the USSR are conducted in the language of the Union republic, and in autonomous republics, autonomous oblasts, and national okrugs in the respective languages of these divisions, or even in the language of the majority of the local population. Moreover, persons who do not speak the language in which the judicial proceeding is being conducted are assured of the right to use their own native language as well as the services of an interpreter. Teaching in the schools is conducted in the native language.

The constitutions of certain Union republics (for example, the Armenian SSR and the Georgian SSR) use the term “state language” to designate the most widely used language spoken by a majority of the population of the given republic. But such a state language does not enjoy any privileges whatsoever, since every citizen is guaranteed the use of his own native language.


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