INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
                        EXPERIENCE, GOALS, AND PERSPECTIVES”
                               (Yoshkar-Ola, 25-27 April 2011)

The participants in the present international conference, conducted under the auspices of the project
“Computer Technologies for National Minorities: Creation of New Resources for the Development of
Mari Language (www.marlamuter.ru),” with the support of the joint program of the European Union,
Council of Europe and Ministry for Regional Development of the Russian Federation “National
Minorities in Russia: Development of Languages, Culture, Mass Media and Civil Society,” having
heard the presentations and papers of colleagues from the Republics of Bashkortostan, Buryatia,
Chuvashia, Kalmykia, Komi, Mari El, Mordovia, Sakha (Yakutia), Tatarstan, and Udmurtia, Kirov
Oblast, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region-Yugra, the cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, as well
as those of colleagues from Austria, Estonia, Norway, and the United States,

note the following:

     1. The languages of Russia are the highly important historical and cultural patrimony of the
        multinational people of Russia and of all humanity. Their preservation for future generations is
        our civil duty and an urgent social and state objective.

     2. The speakers of the majority of the languages (first and foremost, speakers of so-called minority
        languages, i.e., languages with a comparatively small number of speakers and limited
        technological, infrastructural and other possibilities for use) of Russia and many other countries
        are experiencing serious problems in connection with the presence of the so-called
        “information” or “digital divide,” described as a “limit on a social group's abilities as a result of
        its lack of access to modern means of communication”1 in its native language.
The continued preservation of the situation whereby the majority of the languages of Russia are not
represented in the electronic information space, despite the latter's rapid development, will only
exacerbate this situation.
In connection with the positive efforts being made at present by the the Government of the Russian
Federation to introduce information technologies into the spheres of government structural
development and the provision of government services,2 the role and significance of digital
technologies (including internet services) will increase even more. At the same time, the lack of the
possibility of using native language while working with various digital services will, for significant
groups of the populace, lead to the aggravation of their digital inequality, of the “digital divide.”
Despite the validity of Federal Law No. 149-FZ, 27 June 2006 “On information, information
technologies and the protection of information,” which discusses the responsibility of government
bodies and local governments to create information systems and provide information on their activities
in Russian and in the state language of the corresponding republic within the Russian Federation
(clauses 3, 8, 12), necessary and adequate measures have thus far not been undertaken; the “digital
divide” in the sphere of informing the populace of the work of federal, regional and local authorities is

1 See “Digital Divide,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_divide
2 “All services must be made electronic within five years,” (from the speech of Russian President D. A. Medvedev at the
  Joint Meeting of the State Council and the Council for the Development of Information Society),

still preserved.
More broadly, the “digital divide,” in light of the continuing informatization of society, threatens the
very existence of the absolute majority of languages of the world. Even though the “digital divide” is
seen by international organizations (UN, UNESCO, and others) and by the leadership of our country as
an intolerable situation demanding urgent measures for its elimination, 3 the efforts currently being
applied to its effacement are clearly insufficient.

    3. Positive examples of work on the creation and/or development of electronic textual resources
       were presented at the conference, for the Abkhaz, Bashkir, Buryaad, Chuvash, Kalmyk, Khanty,
       Komi, Mansi, Mari, Tatar, Udmurt and Yakut languages.
This demonstrates that the regions of Russia have significant personnel, technological and
methodological potential to carry out projects in support of the electronic representation of minority
languages in a wide range of directions.
       a) Fundamental linguistic and lexicographic research in the area of electronic representation of
           minority languages:
            “Fundamental Electronic Infrastructure for the Komi Language,” a joint project of
               Syktyvkar State University and the University of Tromsø (Norway);
            “Machine Fund of the Bashkir Language Linguistic Information System,” Institute of
               History, Language, and Literature of the Ufa Academic Center of the Russian Academy
               of Sciences;
            Projects of the Applied Semiotics Scientific Research Institute (Kazan) in the field of
               supporting Turkic languages in information technology;
            Work on the electronic representation of the Abkhaz language by the company Linux
       b) Work on the creation of publicly available electronic dictionaries (Abkhaz, Buryaad, Ingrian
           (Izhorian), Komi, Mari, Udmurt, Yakut, and others).
       c) Work on the creation of practical tools for the electronic representation of minority
            Creation of pan-national fonts by ParaType, Inc. (Moscow) with support for the majority
               of the written languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation;
            Work by the company Linux Ink (Saint Petersburg) on the creation of a basic level of
               free software localized in minority languages, currently realized in the form of the
               operating system NauLinux Abkhazia with an Abkhaz interface;
            Work on the localization of Linux in Buryaad (OOO Security Information Systems,
            Work on the localization of proprietary Microsoft products in Tatar (Applied Semiotics
               Scientific Research Institute, Kazan);
            Initiatives of regional internet communities to localize the interfaces of popular web
               services (search engines, social networks) and software in the languages of the peoples
               of Russia (Buryaad, Mari, Tatar, Udmurt, Chuvash, Yakut, and others).
       d) Creation of internet resources in minority languages, as well as support and reference
           internet resources and user manuals, work on educating people in the use of minority
           languages with information technology:
            the sites www.marlamuter.ru, www.sakhatyla.ru, www.buryadxelen.com,
               www.udmurt.info, www.chuvash.org and others;

3 Medvedev called for people to fight the information “divide” (statement at the meeting of State Council of the Russian
  Federation, 17 August 2008) http://www.tass-ural.ru/lentanews/39061.html ; “Medvedev calls to decrease the “digital
  divide” between Moscow and the regions,” http://rus.ruvr.ru/2009/12/23/3203702.html

             contribution to and support for the national Wikipedias in Mari, Udmurt, Komi, Bashkir,
                Yakut, and other languages;
             work by the Institute for Continuing Education of Education Professionals of the
                Republic of Udmurtia in propagandizing and incorporating electronic writing systems in
                accordance with international standards.
         e) Introduction of electronic materials for teaching in minority languages and for teaching
            minority languages (Buryaad, Kalmyk, Mari, Mordovian, Udmurt, Yakut).
These developments enjoy varying degrees of support from regional governments of the Russian
Federation, which crucially increases the significance of these efforts and the effectiveness of their
incorporation in the language community. Several of the projects were carried out with the support of
international grants.
Efforts to overcome the “digital divide” are being made not only in Russia, but also in many other
multinational parts of the world, including those countries with representatives who participated in the
conference: Estonia, Norway, Austria, and the United States.
Experience working towards the preservation and development of languages in various regions and
countries shows that the use of linguistic information technology can effectively promote positive
change in the sphere of language, provide a new impulse to expand a language's spheres of usage,
attract young people's interest to their native language, and give new hope and confidence to a
language's speakers.

     4. Questions of the development of language components in the electronic information space in all
        its diversity, from the localization of software in minority languages on through the creation of
        specialized information and reference systems in these languages, cannot be examined solely
        with the goal of profitability or budget economy, shifting responsibility to the shoulders of a
        language's speakers themselves.
The creation and development of electronic textual resources in minority languages is key to their
survival in the face of globalizing processes, a deposit securing cultural and linguistic diversity on the
Efforts to preserve and develop languages and, in turn, to provide them with representation in the
electronic information space, must therefore be an essential part of government policy in the sphere of
ethnocultural development, culture, education and informatization, as enacted both by regional
governments and by the Government of the Russian Federation and the leaders of all countries.
Efforts in this area also require the support of grant-making funds.
The non-commercial, philanthropic approach to supporting minority languages in information
technologies produced by regional and international software and development companies must
become a foundational principle of today's global “digital culture.”

     5. In general, efforts in the sphere of electronic representation of minority languages in various
        regions of the Russian Federation are carried out piecemeal, without coordination, both in terms
        of the sequencing and delineation of development projects and in terms of methodology.
This leads not only to a diversity of approaches and methods for analogous goals and to the scattering
of developers' and enthusiasts' efforts in vain, but also to a situation where it is impossible to distribute
and spread the results of previous development and optimal solutions found in other regions of the
Russian Federation.
Furthermore, such efforts have not, even on the most basic level, even been initiated for many
languages of the Russian Federation and of many other countries. The small number of speakers of
these languages and the lack of native personnel with proper qualifications makes it impossible to work
effectively towards the preservation of linguistic diversity without the assistance of government
agencies, civil groups, and charitable sponsors.
Given the above, the conference participants consider it necessary to:

    1. Arrange for the more active exchange of information between project participants in different
       regions of the Russian Federation, to exchange information on results and further plans, prevent
       the duplication of developers' efforts from different regions of Russia, and deter the spread of
       unqualified decision-making in the area of informatization of minority languages. In order to
       achieve this, it is necessary to undertake the following:
        a) Encourage the formation of regional working groups to coordinate efforts to develop
           electronic language resources in minority languages, and to cooperate with developers in
           other regions. The first results of the work of such groups could be:
            creation of electronic dictionaries under free licenses, development of wiki-movements;
            creation of regional centers for localization of essential software (first of all, products
               for primary, secondary, and post-secondary education);
            encouragement of discussion and positive treatment of these questions in mass media.
        b) Found the Association for the Support of Electronic Language Resources for the Languages
           of Russia, on the basis of the community that formed and proved its viability over the
           course of the conference.

    2. Recommend to government bodies responsible for the enactment of governmental policy with
       regard to informatization and education, to educational and research organizations involved in
       the study and teaching of minority languages, to regional groups of software developers, as well
       as to representatives of related spheres, that they developing additions to the National
       Technological Platform4 under the section for projects to support minority languages, beginning
       with the creation of computer tools to allow these languages to function fully in the electronic
       information sphere. As part of this project, the following goals must be pursued:
            standardization of the electronic representation of the graphical systems of national
               languages (on the basis of the Unicode standard);
            distribution of keyboard layouts and computer fonts with support for national alphabets
               and in accordance with the relevant international standards among speakers of minority
            creation of electronic dictionaries under open licenses;
            creation and introduction of spell-checker systems;
            creation of packages of educational software localized in minority languages;
            creation of search engines with complete support for searches in minority languages, as
               well as localization of search engine interfaces in these languages;
            creation of educational computer programs, electronic textbooks and open-access
               repositories of multimedia materials in minority languages, for use in education to teach
               such languages;
            creation of automatic translation systems.

    3. Request that the Government of the Russian Federation, through the Ministry of Regional
       Development of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media
       of the Russian Federation:
            initiate proceedings with the international Unicode Consortium regarding the inclusion
               in the Unicode standard of those graphical symbols of languages of the peoples of the
               Russian Federation, not yet represented in the Unicode tables (see Annex);

4 http://www.fcpir.ru/catalog.aspx?CatalogId=411

            examine the question of establishing targeted financing of projects for the creation and
             development of electronic language resources for the languages of Russia, including the
             creation of electronic dictionaries and translators, increasing the number of pan-national
             open fonts, software localization, and the creation of electronic informational resources
             in the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation;
            steadfastly support the incorporation of projects to support electronic representations of
             the languages of Russia into the National Technological Platform;
            steadfastly support the incorporation of the goal of creating appropriate conditions for
             the electronic representation of the languages of Russia into federal and regional
             governmental plans and programs for informatization;
            consider this question when conducting reviews of regional and federal normative and
             legal acts and programs with respect to their correspondence to the goals and objectives
             of state national and information policy of the Russian Federation;
            propose the inclusion of pan-national open fonts in the corresponding state standards

    4. Request that executive and legislative government bodies of the regions of the Russian
       Federation, universities and research institutes undertake efforts and provide support for
       scientific research and applied projects in the area of electronic representation of the languages
       of Russia.

    5. Recommend to universities and other educational institutions that they actively incorporate and
       utilize linguistic information technologies and the products of the developers' and enthusiasts'
       work to create electronic language resources in minority languages, and that they consider it
       essential for their graduates in pedagogical, linguistic, and other fields involving language and
       ethnic cultures, in accordance with the conditions and priorities of modernization in Russian
       society, to have sufficient skills and knowledge regarding the use of computer technology for
       their professional goals, and, first and foremost, familiarity with electronic writing systems in
       minority languages.

    6. Request that university rectorates and the leadership of scientific research organizations provide
       all means of support (material, technical, staff, financial, etc.) to those institutional divisions
       working to create and develop electronic language resources in national languages.

    7. Bring to the attention of research institutes and developers the necessity of working towards the
       international standardization of their languages of study: first of all, the assignment of ISO 639
       codes, the absence of which presents serious difficulties in the development of localized
       software and the resolution of other issues in the development of electronic language resources
       in these languages.

    8. Recommend that educational institutions and language communities develop programs of
       distance education in the area of national languages and cultures, and regional history.

    9. Consider it a central principle of the successful future development of electronic language
       resources, that, as a matter of necessity, free open access be provided to all research results and
       developments in the area of linguistics and linguistic information technologies.

The participants in the Conference would like to thank the organizers of the joint program “National
Minorities in Russia: Development of Languages, Culture, Mass Media and Civil Society” – the
European Union, Council of Europe, and the Ministry of Regional Development of the Russian
Federation, as well as the Government of the Republic of Mari El, the Institute of Finno-Ugric Studies
at Mari State University, and the Mari Scientific Research Institute for their support of the project
“Computer Technologies for National Minorities: Creation of New Resources for the Development of
Mari Language (www.marlamuter.ru),” and also express their hope for continuing effective cooperation
in the interests of preserving the linguistic diversity of the whole world.


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