In Any Multinational State the language and content of elementary and secondary education are liable to become controversial political issues. The dedicated nationalist will be concerned about safeguarding the purity of his people's heritage. On the other hand, many parents want their children to achieve responsible positions that call for higher education. Equal access to universities and technical institutes by students of all nationalities then becomes the touchstone of equitable educational policy. This essay seeks to evaluate briefly Soviet educational policy toward the non-Russian peoples that together make up nearly one half of the total population of the USSR (454 percent in 1959).
The problem of educating constituent peoples and ethnic, cultural, or racial minorities equitably is, of course, not limited to the Soviet Union. The classic example of a genuinely multilingual state, with four official languages, is Switzerland. But even in that country, higher education is available only in French and German. Nonetheless, despite their linguistic differences the Swiss remain exceptionally attached to their little country, which was founded in 1291. Not so united is Belgium, a creation of the nineteenth century. In February 1968, for the first time in that country's history, the long-smoldering language dispute brought down a government: the division of the country into Wallonia and Flanders, with a theoretically bilingual Brussels enclave, has not worked out smoothly, nor has the division of Louvain University into French- and Dutch-speaking sections.