- May 20, 2013
Lithuanian linguists: the state discriminates, and yet, expects integration and tolerance
Today the government of the Republic of Lithuania has announced that it will have a close look at the issue of the original spelling of non-Lithuanian names and surnames next week. Minister of Justice Juozas Bernatonis suggested that the decision should be made by the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language.
The State Commission of the Lithuanian Language claims that such decisions are beyond its capacity. Regina Dobelienė, the Commission’s representative, says that “this problem has nothing to do with the Lithuanian language” because, as she explains, it is the non-Lithuanian spelling of surnames that is the issue here. The Commission therefore does not have a say in the case.
Some politicians have suggested that surnames be written down on a subordinate page of the passport, which Dobelienė considers to be a sort of a “keepsake.”
Regina Dobelienė thinks that it is a legal paradox that, contrary to the regulations requiring only the official, i.e. Lithuanian, spelling of names and surnames, in 1997 the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language passed the following resolution: “In scientific literature, advertising, information brochures, and special texts names and surnames are written down in accordance with their original spelling. (…) The adapted and original forms can be written down next to each other (one of them in brackets).” Dobelienė thinks that the mutually contradictory regulations concerning the spelling of names and surnames in official documents and other areas create an absurd situation.”
The representative of the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language claims that the current system of writing down names and surnames in the first place discriminates against Lithuanians since it introduces restrictions mainly for Lithuanian names and surnames.
Dobelienė also claims that the current legal custom of the spelling of names and surnames does not have anything to do with the protection of the Lithuanian language or the ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania.
“The saddest thing about it is that Lithuania, which considers itself to be a state of law; by the law, has divided its citizens according to their nationality; and treats them according to different rules, expects civic integration, mutual toleration, and toleration towards the state,” adds Regina Dobelienė.
Tłumaczenie by Elwira Łykus w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Elwira Łykus within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.