• August 21, 2015
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Radczenko: The initiative of the defenders of the “saint Alphabet” does not resolve any problem

“We think that this way we can kill two birds with one stone: the state’s language will be preserved and people of another nationality who want to write their names in another language will have the possibility to do so”, Gintaras Songaila, one of the originators of the new civil legislative initiative explained it on Wednesday (20th of August) to the journalists. Nothing good should be expected when one of the nationalists’ leaders begins helping citizens of non-Lithuanian ethnicity and solving their problems.

This time, it is not different. Indeed, a group of 17 marginal politicians and ethno(ec)centric culture and science activists have presented an initiative to the Central Electoral Commission to collect 50 thousand signatures of Lithuanian citizens for the project of an amendment to the Law on the Republic of Lithuania Passport and Identity Card. This adjustment would allow to write names and surnames in identity documents with the use of the Latin alphabet’s letters but… only on the further pages of a passport and the reverse of an identity card. I have already said that this is a bad initiative the day before yesterday in a short interview for the LRT television. Now I will try to explain why it is so and what birds Songaila really tries to kill.

This initiative is bad, because it does not resolve the problem of original spelling of non-Lithuanian names and surnames. According to the Songaila & Co. project, the official status would be given only to the spelling of names and surnames of non-Lithuanians in the Lithuanian form. Such people would still appear under their name and/or surname in the Lithuanian form in every state, local register institution and data systems. Their original surname and name spelling which would be placed in their identity documents would be treated only as a decorative element without any legal effect. Only people who do not care about the spelling of their credentials would accept that solution. I think that those who care about the spelling should be given the option to write their names and surnames in the original form on the front page of their identity documents. Such credentials should have the full spectrum of legal effects. Let’s not fiddle with pseudo-solutions and pseudo-decorations. What is more, as we can see on the example of Latvia, which accepted such initiative many years ago, it does not resolve the problem of people who married a foreigner and their children, because the names and surnames not written on the first page of passport are usually not honoured as official ones in other countries. In addition, a person who has a name written in two forms in passport usually has to explain what meaning is attributed to both forms and present additional documents from adequate institutions which issued such credentials. This is why the initiative of the defenders of the “saint Alphabet” not only does not resolve any problems but can potentially create new.

Besides that, the Bill on the Spelling of Names and Surnames proposed by conservatives that predicts the writing of non-Lithuanian names and surnames on the further pages of a passport lies in the Seimas’ drawers since a long time ago. What is the point of suggesting an almost identical project then? Especially when collecting appropriate number of signatures does not guarantee that it will not be rejected. 50 thousand signatures under the civil legislative initiative obliges the Seimas only to consider the project, not to accept it. I think that the defenders of the state’s language –  I still do not understand against what they are protecting it, non-Lithuanian names and surnames are not part of Lithuanian language – mean to kill entirely different birds than those declared by experienced politician Gintaras Songaila.

Firstly, they want to remind the society about them in the perspective of upcoming elections to the Seimas, to try earn more political points by feeding once again on anti-Polish moods and to secure for themselves spots in electoral registers and the future Seimas. Secondly, they want to blackmail the current Seimas’ members with a perspective of people’s outrage (at least in the number of 50 thousand) before the Seimas’ session in autumn, during which the Bill on the Spelling of Names and Surnames proposed by social-democrats, which allows the spelling of non-Lithuanian names and surnames on the first pages of passports and identity documents with the use of the letters “w”, “q” and “x”, will be discussed. In the past year, before the elections to the European Parliament, similar fiddling by the nationalists about forbidding selling land to foreigners was successful. Even though the supporters of such idea utterly lost the elections to the European Parliament and the referendum, they scared the Seimas’ members and as a result so many restrictions regarding selling land not only to the foreigners (it would be a violation of the European law) but also to the Lithuanian citizens were introduced that now no one is interested in buying and only Lithuanian oligarchs are happy from renting out farming land for a song…

In this situation one can only hope that an old proverb comes true – if you run after two hares, you will catch neither…

Author: Aleksander Radczenko

Translated by Marcin Wus within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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