Board of Foundation for Preservation of Native Languages sentenced to prison
Two former employees of the Foundation for the Preservation and Study of Native Languages of the Russian Federation, the head Vladimir Sobolev and his deputy Dmitry Fedorov, were convicted of sixty criminal charges and sentenced to six years of imprisonment in a high-security colony for causing damage of 44 million rubles, or more than 500,000 euros.
According to the prosecutor’s office, their abuses took place from July 2019 to April 2020. In particular, they were accused of using subsidy funds intended for the publication of educational literature for primary classes in Dolgan, Veps, Aleut, Itelmen, Nivkh, and other languages. Money was embezzled by falsifying documents, concluding fictitious transactions, as well as by paying for the services or tools provided for sums significantly higher than their value.
The foundation was created on the basis of the decree of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin in 2018, and the statute was registered by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation on the International Mother Language Day on 21 February, 2019. The foundation’s founders were the Ministry of Education and the National Policy Agency of the Russian Federation. The founding of the foundation was accompanied by criticism from language activists, who found that the foundation does not really deal with language problems and that its activities are sham. Due to the financial scandal and the low performance of the foundation’s activities, it was decided to liquidate the fund and establish a new organisation at the end of 2021. As far as is known, no new organisation has been created.
The foundation was intended to compensate for the decision of the President of the Russian Federation on the voluntary teaching of national languages in general education schools. After that, the number of students learning the national language as their mother tongue rapidly decreased. The fact that a new organisation and support mechanism has not been created to replace the foundation indicates that there is not enough money in the Russian state budget. This year, state budget subsidies intended for indigenous peoples also decreased, which is tried to be compensated for through budgets for local autonomies, e.g. Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District.