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Chechnya schools to teach math in local language
by Musa Sadulayev

The Associated Press    Translate This Article
2 July 2008

MOSCOW (AP) - Officials in Chechnya said Tuesday that local schools will start teaching mathematics in Chechen language—the latest move by a self-assertive provincial leader to broaden the region's autonomy.

The decision apparently will make Chechnya the first area in all Russia to teach a major subject in public school in a language other than Russian.

Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's Moscow-backed regional president, has tried repeatedly to strengthen his rule and push for a broader economic and cultural autonomy.

The Kremlin has relied on Kadyrov to stabilize the restive region after two separatist wars in 13 years, tacitly allowing him to claim a broader authority compared to other provincial leaders.

Following Kadyrov's calls for wider use of Chechen language in education, the region's education minister, Anzor Muzayev, announced Tuesday that schools will begin teaching mathematics in Chechen starting from first grade. Muzayev did not say why math was chosen, and no changes were announced in other subjects.

'We must feel full responsibility for that so that our children don't lose our traditions and our native tongue,' Muzayev said.

The move has drawn criticism from schoolteachers and parents in Chechnya who are concerned that a hasty transition to the native tongue could hurt the quality of education and make it more difficult for the Chechen children to adapt in other Russian provinces.

Malika Dadayeva, 60, an elementary school teacher in the village of Nadterechnoye in northern Chechnya, said that Chechen simply lacks words for mathematical terms.

'Children won't get the proper education,' she said.

Dadayeva said that local officials had ignored teachers arguments against the planned switch to Chechen.

She said the exodus of ethnic Russians during hostilities in the region led to children losing their Russian language skills which affected their ability to learn other subjects.

Liza Mamakayeva, a 40-year-old art teacher from the provincial capital, Grozny, also dismissed the planned switch to mathematics in Chechen as 'ill-considered.' She said a switch to the Chechen would make it more difficult for children to move to another Russian region.

'They will have to learn everything from the start,' she said. 'I'm happy, at least, that my own children have grown up and won't have to go through that.'

Chechens, conquered by Russia in the nineteenth century, used Arabic letters before switching to the Latin alphabet after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and to Cyrillic in the 1930s.

Chechnya declared independence in the fall of 1991 in the waning days of the Soviet Union and ran its own affairs until Russian forces entered the region in 1994 to crush the separatists.

The Russian troops withdrew after a devastating 20-month war that left rebels in charge, but returned in 1999 and drove the separatist leadership from power.

Kadyrov's father, Akhmad Kadyrov, was elected as Chechnya's first pro-Moscow president in 2003, but he was assassinated by rebels the following year.

The younger Kadyrov was elected in a Kremlin-engineered vote in 2007.

The Kremlin has seen the gruff-talking, rough-mannered Kadyrov as the only person who can maintain order and keep large numbers of former rebels under control. Many former rebels have joined the regional police and security forces.

Large-scale battles in Chechnya ended years ago, but small groups of militants continue regular hit-and-run attacks on law enforcement and federal troops.

While Kadyrov has pledged loyalty to Russia, he has taken an increasingly assertive posture in relations with federal authorities, pushing for a larger share of taxes to be kept in the oil-rich region.

He also has taken the point in toughening the social customs in the mainly Muslim region, calling on all women to cover their heads with scarves and urging to end European-style weddings and switch back to local traditions.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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