Information Memo No.1
Roundtable on Endangered Languages
of Indigenous Peoples of Siberia

Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of RAS
Moscow, October 27-28, 2005
Organized with support of the UNESCO Moscow Office

It is common knowledge that about 90 per cent of about 6,000 languages that exist now in the world are expected to be replaced by dominant languages by the end of the twenty-first century. Siberia is one of the regions where a good part of the native population is presently not marked by the language diversity anymore, though generally, they spoke various unique languages formerly. At least some 30 languages in the region of Siberia can be seen as endangered.

In most cases, the situation can be defined as critical and requiring expeditious measures to revive and develop the majority of the languages mentioned above. One of the important incentives to changes and levers to influence the present situation in the Siberian region is the UNESCO recommendations on preservation of the traditional culture and folklore (1989) and the nonmaterial cultural heritage preservation programme. Preservation and revival of the endangered languages is the part of this programme. The proposed project should be considered as a logical extension of the seminar on the application of the UNESCO recommendations on the safeguarding of traditional culture and folklore (1989) in the region of Siberia, Russian Federation (was held in Yakutsk, August 2001).

Main purpose of the project:

To estimate the modern social, political, and ethnocultural context of existence of the Siberian minority languages threatened with extinction and work out the basic specific measures to anchor, preserve, and develop them.

Strategic objectives:

  • to guarantee protection of the threatened Siberian languages and provide the context for their revival and development by enacting appropriate laws at the federal and regional levels;
    1. to adapt the most acceptable provisions of UNESCO and the world expertise in preservation and revival of the threatened languages to the legislative and executive practice of Russia.

Practical tasks/results:

  1. Creating the data base representing sets of information about the socio-political and ethnocultural contexts of existence of the threatened languages in Siberia, the history of their study including basic bibliography, the foundations and societies whose main purpose is documenting and studying these languages, the main principles of language material recording and software for processing of the data collected, the illustrative audio and video materials on the threatened languages;
  2. Creating the first Russian electronic information portal at the site of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of RAS (linked to the UNESCO site), devoted to the threatened languages of Siberian peoples;
  3. Arranging a round table with participation of experts in linguistics, ethnology, folkloristics, teachers of the native languages of Siberian peoples, researchers from Siberian research institutes located in the ethnic districts (autonomous regions and republics of Russian Federation), UNESCO intangible cultural heritage experts, and other interested parties, in order to:
    • discuss the UNESCO, foundations, and societies experience in preservation of endangered languages, as well as the experience of academical and other institutes and organizations acting in the field of preservation and development of the threatened languages of Siberian peoples;
    • analyse the problems of existence and teaching the threatened languages of native peoples of post-Soviet Siberia in the sociopolitical and ethnocultural contexts;
    • analyse the problems of preservation of existing unique archival audio, video, and handwritten materials on the threatened languages;
    • define the basic criteria for ranking languages as “endangered languages”;
    • work out the basic principles and objectives of monitoring of the threatened languages of Siberian peoples;
    • develop an international cooperation strategy in preservation and development of the threatened Siberian people languages and define the tasks for the nearest future (until 2015).
  4. Preparing the compact disc containing the data base and the round table working materials.

Invited partners:

Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of RAS (main executive body – Department of peoples of the North and Siberia), local communities of indigenous Siberian ethnic groups, Association of Indigenous Minorities of the North, Siberia and Far East of Russian Federation, Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation to UNESCO, National Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO, Sector of Culture of the UNESCO Secretariat, RAS Institute for Linguistic Studies, RAS Institute of Linguistic Problems, RAS Institute of Russian Literature (IRLI – Pushkin House), Laboratory of Siberian People Languages of Tomsk Pedagogic University, Institute of Northern Minority Problems of Siberian branch of RAS (Yakutsk), S.S. Surazakov Institute of Altaistics (Gorno-Altaisk), Institute of Linguistics of Siberian branch of RAS (Novosibirsk).


We cordially invite all the scholars and coordinators of the special funding programs dealing with endangered languages, especially in Siberia, and ask to express their intent to participate in the Moscow Roundtable by 15th May 2005. After receiving of all the informal letters of intent/interest the working group will prepare and provide you with the 2nd, more detailed information letter.

Organizing Committee/working group and Contact addresses:

Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology,
Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS)
Russia 119334 Moscow, Leninskij pr., 32a
Tel. of.: (095)9381871 (Tue., Th.), 9385719
Fax: (095)9380600

Dr. Sc. FUNK Dmitrij, Head, Dept. of Northern and Siberian Peoples, IEA RAS
Dr. Sc. BURYKIN Aleksey, SPb. Institute for Linguistic Studies, RAS
C. Sc. BITKEEVA Aisa, Institute of Linguistics, RAS
C. Sc. GOUSSEV Valentin, Institute of Linguistics, RAS
CHAKHOVTSOV Kyrill, fellow researcher, Dept. of Northern and Siberian Peoples, IEA RAS

© IEA RAS, 2005
This website was created with support from UNESCO Moscow Office