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Bashkir Activists Demand Investigation Into Russian Comic For Alleged Insults

Russian comedian Ruslan Beliy (file photo)
Russian comedian Ruslan Beliy (file photo)

Activists of an unregistered Bashqort organization that promotes Bashkir culture in the Russian region of Bashkortostan have urged the regional leadership to investigate a recent performance by a Russian comic, in which, they say, he insulted the Bashkir language and a historic figure.

Bashqort activists wrote on the VKontakte social network that they sent requests on April 24 to the regional leader Rustem Khamitov, Bashkortostan’s parliament and Russian lawmakers representing the region, asking them to make sure that the comic, Ruslan Bely, was held responsible for the "insult" and "punished in accordance with the law."

Earlier in April, the Moscow-based TNT TV channel broadcast Bely's performance, in which he mocked Bashkir national hero Salavat Yulayev, who in the 18th century joined Yemelyan Pugachyov's rebellion against the Russian Tsar.

Bely called Yulayev "a bandit" and compared specific phonetic peculiarities of the Bashkir language with "a drunkard’s mumbling."

The performance sparked an outcry in Bashkortostan.

Hundreds rallied in Bashkortostan’s capital, Ufa, on April 19, demanding an investigation into TNT TV, accusing it of "inciting ethnic hatred."

Language has become a touchy subject in recent months in Russia's so-called "ethnic" regions, where indigenous, non-Russian groups are well represented.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in July that children in these regions must not be forced to learn languages that are not their mother tongues, and ordered prosecutors to determine whether that was taking place.

That led to the abolition of mandatory indigenous-language classes in the regions.

The move caused an outcry in Bashkortostan and other regions where local languages have official status alongside Russian.