The Peculiarities of Secret and Open Lingual Planning in Georgia of the 19th-20th centuries (Censorship)

There were two major types of the lingual planning in the Soviet Union: a) "open lingual planning", which was declared by the constitution and special resolutions; b) "secret lingual planning", which was carried out by special offices and the State Censorship Committee (all-union and local). Both of them worked for the creation of promised "Soviet people" by means of the growth of the role and rights of the Russian language. Both processes implied the establishment of Russian-national bilingualism and "Russification" of national languages.

"Open lingual planning" needed propagating and the preparation of the appropriate theoretical argumentation. This process was carried out under the name of general public demands and comprised almost all spheres of the functioning of the language. In state institutions all the official documents were created in the Russian language. Partial and administrative meetings of a republican and a city-wide character were carried out in Russian. It became a compulsory language in all schools and institutes. Dissertations were written in Russian too. Almost all movies were translated into this language. The highest court, central ministries and offices were located in Moscow. The capital ascertained the building of streets and more or less important objects. Moscow had to discuss a script of a film or a question of the validity of a translated work [Tabidze, 1999].

Therefore, not only the knowledge of the Russian language, but its profound knowledge was needed. A significant part of the population found an easy and a cheap way of acquiring the Russian language - giving their children the Russian education (Georgian is spoken at home. Therefore, Russian will be studied at school or at nursery school). The more expensive way was the Russian nurse or the Russian private teacher (simultaneously with visiting Russia). Some families tried "to break a child's tongue" (teach the language) at home. It's obvious, that there was the cheapest and the easiest way chosen by the majority of the Georgian population - entrusting the destiny and remaining unilingual Georgians by suffering appropriate losses. This population carried the burden of the maintenance of the dialectic resuscitation of the Georgian language. It defended (from the interference) a free lingual taste enriched with the reading of the Georgian literature. Moreover, the population transformed the demand of functioning of Georgian as a state language into the defense of its social rights.

"Secret lingual planning" comprised the movement of the masses to those regions, where the relationships with the local population was "built on" the required knowledge of the Russian language. This fact stipulated the emergence of the so-called military and civil "gorodoks" (towns) in the "bowels" of unilingual population. These "gorodoks" had the Russian schools, special supplies and priority financing. They were intended for servicemen's and workers' families and appeared like the Russian-speaking islands on the territories of republics. "Secret lingual planning" was also carried out by the censorship. The management of the lingual situation had several directions. On the one hand, the censorship tried to increase the authority of the Russian language and observed the accenting of eulogistic information about the Russian language and culture in all philological works. It was necessary to draw parallel with Russian, to find the analogy in the Russian history and culture, to include a positive character of the Russian origin, etc. On the other hand, the reference of the Georgian (generally, the national) language and culture had to be limited as much as possible[1].       

During the Middle Ages, in our country the function of censorship in the sphere of obeying moral rules was performed by the church authorities. In the 16th century the censorship moved to the secular authorities. This is a short list of the literature used in royal affairs. It is presented in accordance with the work of David the Builder's (David Aghmashenebeli) historian. We single out only the material depicting an ideological control [The life... 1955: 350-351].

The law and the theory of state management:

  1. Organization of frontier affairs:
  2. Military affairs:
  3. Organization of services of the internal security of the state:
    "Prohibition of dissidence"
    "The notes about heads' perfidy"    
    "Secular fears"
    "Meeting and speaking with ambassadors"
  4. Economy:
  5. State ideological services:
    "Strong attitudes"
    "Etiquette corresponding to the time"
    "Explanations of parables"
    "Equalizing the future and the past"[2]

David's historian made the note about the state censorship service, which was obliged to observe the language (one of the most significant defenders of moral and aesthetic values) and put it in the appropriate "course":

Instructions: "And the court applied the rules of praying and ecclesiastical services (as an infallible, agreeably arranged statute and the honesty of prayer and fasting) for monasteries, episcopacies and churches." [The life... 1955: 352].

Prohibition: "But devil's songs and chants as well as the abuse of God and every outrage were annihilated in the army and in the languages of kindred similarly to the inhabitants of the heaven".

In the old times, printed editions were controlled by the ecclesiastic censorship.

After Georgia's and Russia's unification, Russia's autocracy had difficulties in imposing censorship on the Georgian (as well as the Southern and Eastern languages) printed production. The Caucasian Censorship Committee was established on 18 December 1848. It became a constituent part of the Caucasian teaching region and was headed by the guardian's assistant. This period is known as the epoch of "censorship terror". The Censorship Committee was obliged to control all books, newspapers and journals, which were published in Georgia or were brought from abroad. Musical notes were also checked. In 1860 the Censorship Committee became a separate institution. Hence, in 1863 it was placed at the disposal of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In 1867 the Censorship Committee subordinated the Management of the Viceroy of Caucasia, while during 1906-1917 it functioned as Tbilisi Committee of Printed Word [Khurtsilava, 1980].

The institution of censorship is one of the oldest ideological services, which originated in ancient times. On every stage of its existence, the given institution implied the relationship with texts.

This relationship usually considers the following components:

  • The content of the text;
  • Key words;
  • Symbols;
  • Sub-texts;
  • Paralinguistic side;
  • Style and orthography;
  • The expression of relationship towards a particular question, phenomenon and object.

Therefore, the attention of censorship services is concentrated on the direct and secret sub-textual information of the text as well as on the lingual and non-lingual phenomena (or the questions pointing at these phenomena), which influence public opinion in a particular period of time. According to its ideological and military-political interests, the state pays attention to those directions of public thinking, which can be directed against the defense of its solidity and security. In the conditions of a colonial regime, the security of Metropolis can be threatened by patriotic rage and the aspiration towards the self-determination of the nation. For this reason, the censorship aims at the suppression of the texts (often only with words) arousing the desire of national independence.   

In our case, this course had several directions:


  1. Materials, phrases and words pointing at nationality, motherland and Georgians' national full value were forbidden. For example: the censorship of the 19th century prohibited the word "Georgia" and demanded the usage of "Tbilisi and Kutaisi Gubernias"; in December of 1883 Gr. Kipshidze's letter "Renaissance of Greece and its liberation from Ottoman slavery" was forbidden for "Iveria" [ДКЦК. 1883.№24[3]], in 1882 the letter "About hopelessness of teaching the native language at schools" was also prohibited [ДКЦК, 224,1876]. Such letters were discussed by the Georgia's Exarch and a guardian of the Caucasian Teaching District. They competed each other in the fight for banishing the Georgian language from schools.

    Archbishop Ioanik, the Exarch of Georgia, forbad the letters about the conditions of teaching at the Theological Seminary of Georgia. On 14 November 1885, according to the resolution of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the newspaper "Droeba" (editor - Ivane Machabeli) was forbidden "forever" as the organ "preaching separatist-tendentious ideas". In the second half of the 80s, a famous censor Luka Isarlishvili was hostile towards "Iveria". On 28 January 1887 L. Isarlov prohibited D. Machkhaneli's poem "Hunter", which was created for "Iveria" (The hunter killed a wolfman and made people happy, while the killing of the pigeon made them cry). This poem was considered as "tendentious" and "immoral" and was forbidden under Articles 6-90 of the statute [ДКЦК,1887, № 24\494].

    In his memoirs Catholicos-Patriarch Kalistrate described the following occasion: "...the Exarch expressed indignation: "Which country is Georgia? Tbilisi and Kutaisi Gubernias exist, but Georgia does not exist!" Young inspector Kalistrate, who stood nearby, told him: "Georgia is a country where you have a position of the Exarch". In reality, the word "Georgia", which was not presented in the imperial vocabulary, remained only in the name "Georgia's Exarchate", which was one of the official structures of the empire. The Russian ecclesiastic officials tried to replace "Georgia's Exarchate" with "Caucasus Exarchate..." [Japaridze, 2001: 3-4].  

    From the memoirs of Catholicos-Patriarch Kalistrate: "The Exarch forgot, that he had often visited the persons named Tamar, Rusudan, Vakhtang. Once he asked: "Where can I find the acts about canonizing the Georgian saints?" He was answered: "Such acts are not preserved, but the above mentioned names have been uttered in the Georgian church during the centuries". The Exarch ordered to change the Georgian names with Greek and Russian ones and to fine those priests, who gave the names in honor of the Georgian saints. They were not allowed to fill the birth-certificate with them. Some priests, who gave the Georgian name to the christened child according to his/her parents' wish, had to pay "the fine" [Tsintsadze, 1987:47].
  2. The texts arousing the feeling of national nihilism were specially created and printed with the permission of censorship. "The idea, that Georgians were weak-minded and did not have the ability of doing something, became the general idea" [Kldiashvili, 1988: 424].
  3. The censorship fought with the symbols of a special national value (the flag, the language, the hymn, the history, the idea of ethnical unity). Sargis Kakabadze wrote: "The Georgian Mensheviks did not believe in the restoration of the Georgian state system. They hated everything Georgian. The words "Georgia" and "Georgian" were excluded from the terminology of press. This pathological element characterized the Georgian Menshevism throughout the existence of the Russian Empire - before the February Revolution of 1917 and some time after it" [Kakabadze, 1997: 249].     

    The chairman of Censorship Committee sent a secret report to the chief of main Management in Saint Petersburg: "Your Excellency asked me to make a resolution about the court counselor Kandelaki's request to allow him to publish an agricultural newspaper "Sitkva" ("The Word"). I am returning you this request. I want to inform you, that this newspaper guarantees little success and profit. Kandelaki is going to prepare publications in the local Georgian language. This determination is not quite clear. In Kutaisi the local language is Megrelian, which belongs (together with the Georgian, Laz and Svan languages) to the group of the Avar languages. They have not got their own writing and therefore, use the Georgian alphabet" [The Central..., fund 480, case 1239].

The censorship did not allow the Georgian newspapers to present even the works translated from the Russian language and selflessly fought against the republishment of published stories and the remake of these stories or poems [The Central..., The Caucasian Censorship committee, fund 480, case 628, 632, 633, 793]. The given case presents the Russian journalist Zagurski's protest towards the Censorship Committee concerning the banning of the usage of the word "Georgia".    

Here is Dimitri Kipiani's answer to the High Commissioner Dondukov-Kursakov's letter of 17 December 1885: "... there is the tendency of persecution of the Georgian language. Everybody had understood Georgian since the time of apostles. Nowadays, a new culture is being established - the Megrelian language is taught according to the different alphabet. If we follow this example, new cultures can be created for the Adjarians, Pshav-Khevsurians, Ingiloys, the Mountaineers and others" [The Central..., fund 12 (001), case 457, paper 11-12].

A representative of a reactionary government Ianovski said, that Svans and Megrelians were the separate nations: "Like Kipiani, the Georgian patriots aspire to assimilate Georgia, Megrelia, Abkhazia and Svaneti. They belong to the circle of nobles and therefore, are obliged to care about their nobiliary, material and mental interests. Hence, the patriots aspire to the spread of the Georgian national education and try hard to prevent the spread of the Russian education in this region. The population displayed sympathy for this fact. These agitators do not pose a threat to us, because they are not numerous and bear small moral influence on the inhabitants. It does not mean, that the government must not take appropriate measures against these persons for avoiding future obstacles" - the material of the Central Historical Archive of Georgia (fund 12 (001), case 457, paper 16-19) [Kikvidze, 1959: 154].

The censorship functioned even in the Soviet period, when it formally defended the safety and integrity of the Soviet Georgia. Hence, in reality, it tried to observe, that nothing caused Georgia's separation from the common all-union body. During this period of time, the activities of censorship became more secret and an internal arrangement turned into an exceptionally closed system. Censors' motto was the phrase from Hobbes' "Leviathan": The state needs the following sabers: the saber of law, ..., "the saber forbidding harmful books" and others.

The Main Management of Governing the Literature and Publishing Houses and the functioning of state censorship have been limited since 1990, when the all-union governing system was replaced by the national government. Hence, this service was not abolished at that period of time. The production of mass media had to go through this system and the right of its publication had to be ascertained with the appropriate rectangular (right-angled) seal. Hence, this system was officially abolished and newly formed in 1997: a resolution about state secrecy was adopted in 1997. It presented a new and the only function of censors - the defense of state secrecy[4].  

In the USSR, principles and instructions of functioning of censorship were presented orally - in the form of conversation. There were three categories of information:


  1. Especially significant (this information was known to the Political Bureau, which discussed these questions only with particular workers (not with everybody)).
  2. Absolutely secret (this material was known to the chief of inspection and to the head of department).
  3. Secret (this information was known to a special worker).


Giving information to this or that person was arranged by means of a closed letter and a classification of the instruction. There was an original pyramid system. The information, which "came from the upper", was known to a representative of the appropriate classification. He/she gave a necessary piece of information to the other representative of the classification, etc... There was a "secret letter", which was not known to every worker. Instructions were given orally or during the meetings. There were special agreements (the so-called "system of oath"). Under these agreements a worker of the censorship, who kept the state secrets in his/her mind, could not go abroad or correspond with a foreigner.

After the collapse of the USSR, different republics reorganized the work of the censorship system differently[5].    

The questions of translation were solved by the All-union Society of Author's Rights (ВОАП: Всесоюзное общество авторских прав). This system decided what to translate. Sometimes regulations were changed, but the essence remained the same. All-union society made agreements with foreign countries about the right of translating. The state paid for it or made an exchange - a "return" translation was offered by the USSR. Two major factors - a) money and b) content - acted there:


  • Money was paid for translating into Russian (translation into the languages of republics was an internal affair and money was not paid for it);
  • During the discussion of the question of making the Russian translations, the problem of the validity of the book (was it harmful for the state or not) was solved. Therefore, the republics did not need a special evaluation of this material.


It was strictly forbidden to translate foreign literature into a republican language, if such translation did not exist in the Russian language. In addition to the ideological control, there was a secret aim - all translators (voluntarily or involuntarily) used the Russian version. This fact influenced the language of translation [Tabidze, 1998].

Several factors are significant in this case: 1) a systematic translation of a lot of material from one and the same language, caused the emergence of particular stamps and calques (one of the types of a lingual merge); 2) The role of the constant "informational source" increased already existed high prestige of the Russian language; 3) the lexical fund was changing (the Russia words and international vocabulary "set on" the Russian language were established in the dictionaries of national languages (for example, in contrast to the edition of 1929, the number of the Russian words increased by two times in Turkish-Tatar Dictionary of 1958. At the same period of time, 20% of words presented in the Uzbek Dictionary were of the Russian origin)). The process of borrowing became more and more intensive. National languages borrowed not only the words, but transformed their national forms according to the Russian manner. The dictionaries created with these words were called "dictionaries of a new conception". 70%-80% of their vocabulary was presented by new forms (mainly, in the scientific terminology) [Glyn, 1972: 154; Насырова, 1997]. For example, the Congress Dedicated to the Establishment of Terminology was held in Baku in 1926. Its main theme was specification of terminology needed for the translation of Marx's, Engels' and Lenin's works into national languages [Glyn, 1972: 150]. Bilingual dictionaries (English-Russian, French-Russian, German-Russian and others) surpassed bilingual dictionaries of national languages in size, circulation, quality and practical usage. Therefore, lingual contacts (mainly, with the European language) were not established without "mediatory" role of Russian.

Vocabulary seemed the most sensitive element in the condition of bilingualism. Therefore, it became the object of a special lingual planning. Moscow systematically asked reports about ongoing changes of national vocabularies, for example: in 1950 the Armenian medical terminology consisted of 18000 Russian-based elements, while the number of legal and other special terms reached 13 000. In the Latvian language the number of such terms was 40 000 in 1947-1949 [Glyn, 1972].     

Translations did not practice censorship in the system of the Main Management of Governing the Literature and Publishing Houses (the editorial office and publishing house were responsible for it)[6].      

Text-books of the history of party, theories of economy, philosophy and sociology had to be translated from the books approved by the Ministry of All-union Education of Moscow. The text-books were "decorated" with an inscription: approved by All-union... Ministry. Only the supplementary literature was locally printed. The same can be said about the text-books of the Georgian language, the Georgian literature and the history of Georgia. Hence, the question of this material was discussed in Moscow. In certain cases, Georgians were rebuked for the "predominant" historical information (when Georgia's past described from the earliest times was grandly presented). For example, Konstantine Gamsakhurdia was reprimanded for glamorizing Georgia's past and writing a lot about it. Political Bureau solved the question of the prohibition of a book - people's enemy. Hence, it was registered by the Main Management of Governing the Literature and Publishing Houses, which presented this or that reason (often not real). Newspapers (even regional) were not published without the consent of the All-union Central Committee.  

The censorship supervised the appearance of ideas directed to the national self-determination and annihilated their embryo. For example, when "the Committee Defending the Purity of the National Language" was created in Georgia, it was criticized by "Izvestie" [Известия, 1963]. Great attention was paid to the sentences showing the dissatisfaction with the regime.

There was a list of prohibited writers, for example, Grigol Robakidze, Viktor Nozadze ... It was forbidden to mention their names in publications. Moreover, when writers' "unreliability" was determined, their language was criticized: K. Gamsakhurdia was rebuked for being fascinated with the Old Georgian, M. Javakhishvili was criticized for using the vocabulary of negative connotation during the process of describing a "new person"... Even Vazha-Pshavela, who was tolerantly treated for his "rustic origin", did not avoid "Soviet criticism".

The question of the newspaper of Tbilisi University was discussed at the meeting of Party Bureau of Orjonikidze district (in April of 1978) during the excitement connected with the changes in constitution (in the article about the state language). The first page of the newspaper presented the text of constitution, while Tariel Khorkhelauri's sad and patriotic poems were printed on the last one. Givi Shekiladze - an editor of the newspaper - was accused in arousing Anti-Soviet feeling in the youth. He was made redundant. The censorship limited the propaganda of the Georgian language.

In 1986 Rezo Tvaradze's letter was published. It aimed at propagating the Georgian language and therefore, became the object of discussion.

The work of censorship considered the lingual side:

In one of the newspaper texts Stalingrad was printed as "Stalingad". Therefore, the chief of the newspaper was rebuked, while the worker was made redundant.

In 1937-38 Gentor Rukhadze - the head of censorship - was shot.

Besides prohibiting undesirable material, the censorship demanded the usage of ideologically appropriate words and phrases. Therefore, the emergence of Soviet clichés was facilitated, for instance: "Soviet people", "Grand Russian people", "Soviet writer", "Soviet woman", "Soviet family"... "Socialistic realism", "Socialistic way", "Socialistic education"... "Brotherly Soviet family", "Eldest brother" (Russia)... "Party word", "Party building"... "the city of the young communist league", "the pass of the young communist league", "the building of the young communist league"... "another native country", "another native tongue" and others (for example, "taking the course towards the most advanced Russian literature - it was and it will be a tradition of the Georgian Soviet literature") ["For... 1947][7].

Only the term language was used with numerous epithets: for example, Georgian was simply a language. It was not "a grand Georgian language", while Russian was "grand" and "great": "...the language of October, Lenin's language, the great Russian language, the language of people's brotherhood and friendship, which is called the second language by all of us with the great love" [Communist, 1979][8].  

The censorship worked in every sphere: paining, sculpture, architecture, music, theatre and cinema[9].  

The censorship fought with all expressions of traditionalism, even with the text-books, which were "checked in time". In 1923 the Public Commissariat of Education of Georgia rejected Iakob Gogebashvili's alphabetical book. The collection "New school", which was published in the same year, informed: "It's impossible to regard alphabetical book as a previously determined and specifically collected material. Despite a good composition of the alphabet, despite its satisfactory arrangement and methodology, it's dry, unnatural and distant from life... Moreover, the rejection of the text-book was argued by the fact, that "the environment is different in various parts of Soviet Georgia, which is characterized with a variety of life and nature. Therefore, the existence of a text-book, which will be useful in all regions, is impossible" [Taktakishvili, 2001]. The Public Commissariat of Education changed the title of Iakob Gogebashvili's "deda ena" (mother tongue) with "The Georgian Alphabet". The initials of the author's name and surname "I.G" were also hidden [Taktakishvili, 2001].

Therefore, the abolishment of censorship is one of the achievements of the crash of the USSR and the development of democratic processes. Hence, the remained ideological limitations appear as separate relapses of social thinking.

[1] During his studentship, the author of the given paper witnessed the following fact: the all-union program „Вести" prepared a reportage (subject) for the jubilee of a composer G. Tsabadze. The interview was taken from students. The representatives of the central television forbad the students to use the phrases "the Georgian composer" and "the Georgian listener".  

[2] It's obvious, that the library of the polyglot king contained a lot of foreign philosophical, theological, political and military works. The knowledge acquired on the basis of these books was realized in Georgian and became the stimulus of the translation and creation of many Georgian books.  

[3] The letter is not signed. Perhaps, it belongs to Ilia [Gugushvili, 1939].

[4] A censor performs this function after the publication. Therefore, this is a supervision of what has already been printed and won't be forbidden any more. Substantiation of this service is given in article 33 of the law (about protection of the state secrecy).  

[5] For example, it still exists in Russia. Its interference is not paraded (for example, in journalists' activities), but mass media is controlled. In 1998 the author of the given paper was told in the service of the defense of state secrecy, that a chief of Azerbaijan's censorship had visited them 3-4 years earlier to study the situation. Afterwards, Azerbaijanians created the committee "of the defense of state secrecy". Beforehand, they had had an old system. Obviously, their journalists had been less pretentious. Other variants of post-censorship ideological control are presented in Belarus, the Ukraine and other countries. 

[6] The workers of today's censorship services avoid the naming of reasons of severe control of the translated material:  the translation of literature (especially, belletristic literature) from the Russian language reinforces the process of interference of Georgian and Russian and facilitates lingual assimilation.

[7] Today's reader has to know, that on the language of polemics of those times  "a writer without party means a real writer...the third decisive year of the first  Five-Year Plan (this is a language of the Communist Party)..."[Bakradze, 1990, 43].

[8] The citation is taken from A. Bakradze's  "The taming of writing".

[9] R. Sturua staged Shatrov's play "Blue horses on the red grass" in Rustaveli theatre. It was taken from repertoire after the first staging during Moscow tour. In the Ministry of Culture of the USSR, the play was "sentenced to the domestic imprisonment". Its staging was allowed only in Georgia.

   The Georgian composer Andria Balanchivadze (the only composer, whose symphonies (created in the 40s-50s) did not finish with standard festive endings) tried to avoid the demands of censorship. Hence, in 1948 a "scolded composer" wrote the opera "Mzia" from the socialistic reality.

    The main supports of the official cultural policy were genres connected with a word - a song, a cantata oratorio, an opera, because the concretization of musical content with a word simplified its supervision. Therefore, the situation similar to choral music was created in the genre of singing.

    The material kept in the historical archive of Georgia reveals, that the choir carried out an official repertory policy, while presenting in the program: D. Arakishvili's "Puffs a furnace", Sh. Azmaiparashvili's "Collectivization", G. Kiladze's "The march of the members of the young communist league", Sh. Mshvelidze's "Together, brothers..."

    Sh. Mshvildadze had to make "slight" corrections in the folk text of choral "Pshauri". Therefore, a "cross" became an "army", while a cult-ritual semantics, which was acceptable to the censorship... was changed with a marching song. As a rule, cantata oratorios were created according to the scheme oriented on the Soviet literature.

Unfortunately, current lingual situation lacks the only useful activity of the censorship - unquotable words and phrases have appeared in mess media.   


Bakradze Ak.
The taming of writing, “Sarangi”, Tbilisi (in Georgian).
“Iveria” in the cycle of censorship (1877-1937). Ilia Chavchavadze, Jubilee collection. Tbilisi (in Georgian).
Taktakishvili L.
In 1926-37 “deda ena” (mother tongue) was not published. “Kartuli Tsigni”, №9, September. Tbilisi (in Georgian).
Kakabadze S.
The history of the Georgian people, 1783-1921.Tbilisi (in Georgian).
Kikvidze A.
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Kldiashvili D.
On the way of my life. The Georgian prose. Book XVI. Tbilisi (in Georgian).
January 16
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The life ...
The life of Kartli. Volume I. Tbilisi (in Georgian).
For ...
For the advance of the Georgian Soviet literature. Literature and art. February 19. (in Georgian).
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Catholicos-Patriarch Kalistrate. From my memory. Theological collection. №3. Tbilisi (in Georgian).
Tsurtsumia R.
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Khurtsilava S.
The Georgian public opinion and king’s censorship. Tbilisi (in Georgian).
Japaridze A.
Archbishop Anania. Introduction for the book: Kalistrate Tsintsadze. From my memories. Tbilisi (in Georgian).
Glyn Lewis
Multilingualism in the soviet Union, Aspects of language policy and its Implementation. by E.Glyn Lewis, 1972, mouton – the Gague-Paris.
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Насырова О.
Языковая ситуация в республике Каракалпакстан. Москва.
Tabidze M.
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