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Declaration on the Common Language

Zagreb – Sarajevo – Podgorica – Belgrade

So far, thousands of citizens across the territory of the former Yugoslavia have signed the Declaration on the Common Language. This Declaration ruffled a few feathers in all former Yugoslav republics, being perceived almost as a “coup”. For political elites the Declaration was a hostile gesture, for nationalists a terrible news that needs to be silenced...

Zagreb – Sarajevo – Podgorica – Belgrade

So far, thousands of citizens across the territory of the former Yugoslavia have signed the Declaration on the Common Language. This Declaration ruffled a few feathers in all former Yugoslav republics, being perceived almost as a “coup”. For political elites the Declaration was a hostile gesture, for nationalists a terrible news that needs to be silenced, and for everyone else an enlightening truth on the state of the linguistic affairs in the post-Yugoslav societies, since the disintegration of the SFRY in the 1990s. The reason why this document has upset so many could be found in its very first sentence, which reads: “The question - Is the same language in use in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia and Serbia? – has an affirmative answer”.

One could argue that, observing from a distance, this is a logical and simple answer, but when this is observed through the lenses of the 1990s wars and the regional political crises - compounded with tensions visible on all levels - one could understand why it took so long for this “logical statement” to be declared. Simply, it is not easy to utter this sentence after all that has happened in Yugoslavia and to its citizens during the 1990s. The political elites, more than anyone else, insist on those traumatic events, since they have based all their political existence on “differences” between languages, culture, even the civilizational roots that supposedly exist between the ethnic groups which fought each other in the 1990s wars. The confirmation that the common language – which used to be called Serbo-Croatian or Croato-Serbian (nowadays we have Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin) – is something that nevertheless remained of that detested Yugoslavia, despite all that happened there, is very difficult for some to accept, while for some others this is totally  unacceptable.

Croatian academic and linguist Snježana Kordić’s seminal work Language and Nationalism (Durieux, 2010) was the foundation for the text of the Declaration. The Declaration was drafted after four regional conferences, held in Podgorica, Split, Sarajevo and Belgrade during 2016. The participants included, beside Kordić, many intellectuals, linguists and authors, among which are Prof. Ranko Bugarski (Serbia), Bojan Glavašević (Croatia), Prof. Mate Kapović (Croatia), Prof. Hanka Vajzović (Bosnia), Prof. Rajka Glušica (Montenegro), Prof. Enver Kazaz (Bosnia) and many others.

Declaration on the Common Language comprises three parts: the first part is factual, where the common language is described as a polycentric language (as German, English, Arabic, French, Portuguese, Spanish, etc. are defined) with four standardised variants, with emphasis being placed on the fact that no change of the current names is required. The second part covers the list of freedoms which are  associated with the use of the common language, based on a fact that people already use this language across the region. Namely, people can call it as they like, they can codify it, but the regional differences and two alphabets in use remain perceived as the common language’s richness. In the third part, the signatories of the Declaration call for an end of language segregation and discrimination in public institutions. They also call for repressive measures and rigid laws regarding language standardisation to be abolished (as they lead to treating language variants as separate languages). Finally, they push for absolute freedom of dialectal and regional useage, as well as for freedom of expression using those regional variants.

Such a libertine declaration in the countries of the former Yugoslavia is unprecedented, as it calls for the suspension of violence and celebration of the common heritage, the very last thing remaining after the brutal destruction of the common country – namely, that of the common language.

Before being published in Sarajevo on 30th March 2017, the Declaration was signed by 200 academics, researchers, cultural workers, artists, authors and activists. The Declaration was signed in Sarajevo for a reason. Namely, the levels of language segregation in schools in the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina are alarming. The fact that translations between Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian are still compulsory in administration is equal to absurdity.

However, even before the Declaration was published the negative responses started to pour in. The most vicious attacks came from Zagreb and Belgrade. Both the Croatian Prime Minister and the President commented on the Declaration as something “that should not be discussed, given that Croatian language is defined by the Constitution of Republic of Croatia, being one of the official languages of the EU.” Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, the Croatian President, went a step further declaring that “the common language had died together with the Socialist Yugoslavia.” What followed were series of attacks by various language specialists and political analysts from both Zagreb and Belgrade. Refusing to even read the Declaration in the first place, they vilified the signatories from their own countries, accusing them of treason. The media was brimming with the deliberately distorted text of the Declaration, persisting on the old propaganda about the lack of mutual understanding and massive differences between the ethnic groups and cultures in the former Yugoslavia that are impossible to bridge.

The prominent linguist Snježana Kordić warns that the problem lies in the school curriculum and educational system which is framed by the ideology of nationalism: “In such a system the purpose of the education is purely political – to subjugate the will of the young people to the will of the nation. The schools are the tools of the state political agenda, just like the Army, Police or the Budget.” For such systems of education and politics, this Declaration on the Common Language presents a counterpoint and possibly, in the future, a significant platform for the necessary changes that are overdue in this region.

Translated by Svetlana Rakocevic

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Deklaracija o zajedničkom jeziku

Zagreb – Sarajevo – Podgorica – Beograd

U ovom času, hiljade građanki i građana sa teritorije bivše Jugoslavije već su potpisali tekst Deklaracije o zajedničkom jeziku koja je odjeknula u javnosti nekadašnjih jugoslovenskih republika kao “državni udar”. Za političke elite bio je to neprijateljski gest, za nacionaliste užasna vest kojoj se mora stati na put, a  za sve ostale relaksirajuća istina o jezičkom stanju u kome su se postjugoslovenska društva našla četvrt veka nakon raspada nekadašnje zajedničke države. Razlog zbog čega je ovaj dokument uznemiro toliko duhova, krije se već u njegovoj prvoj rečenici, koja glasi: “Na pitanje da li se u Bosni i Hercegovini, Crnoj Gori, Hrvatskoj i Srbiji upotrebljava zajednički jezik – odgovor je potvrdan.”

Reklo bi se, gledano sa strane, da se radi o logičnom i jednostavnom odgovoru, međutim, kada se posmatra iznutra, posredovano optikom minulih ratova i političke krize, kao i tenzija koje se do dana današnjeg održavaju na svim relacijama, moglo bi se razumeti zašto je put do ove rečenice bio toliko dug. Naprosto, nije lako izgovoriti ovakvu rečenicu nakon svega što se sa Jugoslavijom i njenim stanovnicima dogodilo tokom devedesetih. Na toj težini naročito insistiraju političke elite, koje su čitav svoj koncept i smisao postojanja zasnovale na razlikama u jeziku, kulturi i čak civilizacijskim matricama između nekada zaraćenih etničkih zajednica. Potvrda da je nakon svega od nekada omražene Jugoslavije, ipak ostao zajednički jezik, koji se nekada zvao srpsko-hrvatski ili hrvatsko-srpski, a danas srpski, hrvatski, bosanski i crnogorski jezik, nekima je teško prihvatljiva ili sasvim neprihvatljiva.

Rad hrvatske naučnice i lingvistkinje Snježane Kordić, poznate po svom kapitalnom delu Jezik i nacionalizam (Durieux, 2010), predstavlja osnov odakle se krenulo u pripremi Deklaracije, do koje se došlo nakon četiri regionalne konferencije, koje su u proteklih godinu dana održane u Podgorici, Splitu, Sarajevu i Beogradu. Na njima su pored lingvistkinje Kordić učestvovali intelektualci, lingvisti i književnici poput prof. dr Ranka Bugarskog (Sr), Bojana Glavaševića (Hr), prof. dr Mate Kapovića (Hr), prof. de Hanke Vajzović (BiH), prof. dr Rajke Glušica (CG), prof. dr Envera Kazaza (BiH) i mnogi drugi.  

Deklaracija o zajedničkom jeziku ima trodelnu strukturu: prvi deo je faktički koji opisuje aktuelno stanje jezika kao policentričnog jezika (poput nemačkog, engleskog, arapskog, francuskog, portugalskog, španskog dr.) sa četiri standardne varijante, pri čemu se ne zahteva bilo kakva promena imena jezika. U drugom segment se upućuje na čitav niz sloboda u korišćenju tim jezikom a na osnovu činjenice da se ljudi u ovom region služe zajedničkim jezikom. Dakle, mogu ga zvati kako žele, mogu ga kodifikovati, dok se razlike među njima kao i postojanje dva pisma tretiraju kao jezičko bogatstvo. U trećem delu, potpisnici Deklaracije pozivaju na ukidanje jezičke segregacije i diskriminacije u javnim ustanovama, zaustavljanje represivnih mera i rigidnih zakona u standardizaciji ovih jezika kao različitih, zalažući se za potpunu slobodu njegove dijalekatske i regionalne upotrebe, kao i za slobodu mišljenja koja se na njemu iskazuju.  

Ne pamti se kada je poslednji put formulisan ovakav libertinski proglas na teritoriji bivše Jugoslavije, kojim se poziva na suspenziju nasilja i afirmaciju zajedničkog bogatstva, poslednjeg koje je ostalo iza rušenje zajedničke države, dakle, zajedničkog jezika.

Ovu Deklaraciju je pre objavljivanja potpisalo dvesta javnih ličnosti iz sveta kulture, nauke i umetnosti i kao takva, objavljena je u Sarajevu 30. marta 2017. Nimalo slučajno, to je učinjeno u glavnom gradu države gde je stepen jezičke segregacije u školama otišao najdalje nakon rata devedesetih. Činjenice o administrativnom prevođenju između hrvatskog, srpskog i bosanskog dosegli su stadijum apsurda.

Negativne reakcije na Deklaraciju, međutim, počele su i pre njenog objavljivanja. Najžešći napadi su krenuli iz Zagreba i Beograda. Čak su se premijer i predsednica Hrvatske oglasili povodom Deklaracije, kao o nečemu “našta ne treba trošiti reči, budući da je hrvatski jezik definiran Ustavom Hrvatske i da je jedan od službenih jezika EU”. Predsednica Kolinda Grabar Kitarović je otišla i korak dalje, rekavši da je “zajednički jezik umro zajedno sa Jugoslavijom”. Usledili su napadi jezikoslovaca i političkih analitičara iz Zagreba i Beograda. Odbivši da pročitaju Deklaraciju, obrušili su se na predstavnike iz svojih zemalja koji su stavili potpis na Deklaraciju, optužujući ih za izdaju. Mediji su puni namernog krivotvorenja teksta Deklaracije, čime se istrajava na staroj propaganda o nerazumevanju i velikim nepremostivim razlikama među narodima i kulturama bivše Jugoslavije.

Problem je u nacionalističkom tretiranju školskog sistema, upozorava lingvistkinja Snježana Kordić: “U takvom sistemu svrha obrazovanja je sasvim politička – potčiniti volju mladih ljudi volji nacije. Škole su sredstvo državne politike poput vojske, policije i državnih financija.” Tako uređenim sistemima obrazovanja i politike, ovakva Deklaracija o zajedničkom jeziku predstavlja kontrapunkt, koji bi u budućnosti mogao biti važna platforma za promene koje bi morale uslediti u ovom delu sveta.  

 

 

Saša Ilić

Saša Ilić, 1972 geboren, ist ein serbischer Schriftsteller. Er lebt in Belgrad und ist Chefredaktionsmitglied von BETON (Beilage der Tageszeitung Danas).

Saša Ilić, born 1972, is a Serbian writer. He lives in Beograd and is member of the editorial board of BETON (literary supplement of the daily newspaper Danas).

Saša Ilić, 1972 geboren, ist ein serbischer Schriftsteller. Er lebt in Belgrad und ist Chefredaktionsmitglied von BETON (Beilage der Tageszeitung Danas).

Saša Ilić, born 1972, is a Serbian writer. He lives in Beograd and is member of the editorial board of BETON (literary supplement of the daily newspaper Danas).

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