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BRIEF THOUGHTS ABOUT LANGUAGE, RELIGION, ETHNOS

Professor G.Kh. Ibragimov,
Professor I.A. Dibirov
Makhachkala, Dagestan

 

 

God who created the World… built the human race from blood alone to inhabit the whole face of the Earth…

(Apostle Paul)

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The modern humanitarian science has not yet found the answers to the questions: how many languages are there in the world? Is the number of languages and ethnos always identical? What is the relationship between the language and the ethnos in the life of the society? How do language, ethnos and religion communicate? What place does language occupy in ethnic con-sciousness? These questions are endless. And there are no simple answers to them. However, there is a world experience of their solution in space and time.

The modern linguistics assumes that more than eight thousand languages have been func-tioning in the world (though the criteria that serve to draw a line between a dialect and a lan-guage are not developed yet). The number of languages determined in educational literature is 3000 to 3500 (according to official UNESCO statistics at the end of 70s, the number of lan-guages was 5557). The modern science has no clear data about the number of ethnos.

The world practice has shown that language and ethnos are not always identical. Thus, the bearers of one and the same language can be ethnically different. The German language is the mother language of Germans, Austrians and a part of the population of Switzerland. At the same time neither the Swiss, nor the Austrians call themselves Germans. The same thing with the French-speaking population of France, Switzerland and Belgium, the English-speaking popula-tion of Spain, Mexico, Cuba and other regions. Here new ethnos have been developed on the ba-sis of one language (for which there are proper grounds and reasons), ethnic consciousness gains freedom and gets disentangled from language consciousness without conflicts and differences and one and the same language services newly formed ethnos.

There have been other cases in world practice when the bearers of a number of geneti-cally close languages are united into one ethnos. These phenomena are particularly characteristic of the Caucasus. The antique sources revealed 26 tribal languages in the historical Caucasian Al-bania, but they are represented in one ethnos under a common name "Albanians" (or "Gargari-ans" ); after the collapse of the Caucasian Albania (10th century) the Albanian-speaking people were known as "Lezghins". Nowadays this ethnic notion partly exists. Further on, however, it acquires a wider notion such as the "Dagestans". For the nations of the North-West Caucasus (the Adygeis, the Kabardians, the Abazians, the Abkhazians, the Circassians), the "Circassians" has always been and is now a unifying term. Outside the Caucasus the ethnos "Circassians" has often included all North-Caucasus nations (Dagestan, Nakh, Abkhaz, Abkhaz-Adyghe). The word-combination "persons of the Caucasian nationality", negatively used by the mass media certainly has its historic background. Before the Great October revolution the ethnonyms "Cir-cassians", "Lezghins", "Highlanders" were free from narrow language-oriented consciousness and corresponded to the notion of the region's monoethnos: Lezghin – Highlander - Dagestan, Circassian - North-Caucasians – Abkhaz-Adyghe. All this reflects the consciousness of historical ethnic and linguistic as well as the cultural unity of the Caucasian nations. And more: the Cauca-sian "ethnical" unity goes beyond the limits of the genealogy of languages; the true nature of the following notions is indisputable: Avar - Caucasian, Armenian - Caucasian, Karachay - Cauca-sian, Georgia- Caucasian, etc. The Cossacks from Terec and Kuban regionas consider them-selves to be the Caucasians. Ethnical integration is, probably, a rather natural phenomenon. In this case language consciousness does not enter into conflict with ethnic consciousness.

Side by side with language and regional orientation, ethnic consciousness and ethnic mentality are directly linked with religion. There are such deep-rooted notions as: Christian world, Islamic world, Judaic world, Buddhist world, etc. The world practice has shown that the world of religion is often superior than the ethno-linguistic world. There is no need to go deep into history to illustrate it by examples: administrative structure in India established after colo-nial collapse by religious principle, opposition of ethnic Arabic Christians and Moslems in Leba-non, civil war in modern Yugoslavia, etc. At the same time, there are numerous examples when the combating parties confess one and the same religion: war between Iraq and Iran, civil war between Serbs and Croats, between Georgians and Ossetians. The mankind is not free from in-ternal ethnic and religious collisions (fresh facts are: Afganistan, Tajikistan, Yemen and Leba-non; the opposition of Shiites and Sunnites, Catholics and Protestants and other branches).

World religions (Buddhism, Islam, Christianity) permit ethno-linguistic plurality: repre-sentatives of any ethnos and bearers of any language may confess any of there religions. Judaism permits neither language nor ethnic plurality. A Jew is always a Jew, he/she cannot be a Russian, or Georgian, or Englishman, or Arab. For a Jew an official language is Hebrew, but in Israel the knowledge of Hebrew is obligatory. For Judaism there is neither language nor ethnic problems, though the Judaic community consists of different genotypes (ethnic, anthropological and lin-guistic). Certainly, for this reason the number of those who confess Judaism is small (about 20 million). The original Islam supposed the unity of language and believers (Umma, Mohammed's Ummat). However, world religions cannot be confined by a common language and a common ethnos (or by the unity of believers).

Language, ethnos, religion are historical categories. They are interrelated and socially de-termined. Practical actions, either language-, ethnos- or religion-oriented, should be supported by historical experience and should serve the mankind.
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