France, which defends "Armenian rights", stifles Corsicans without recognising their right to their mother tongue

14.03.23 12:00

The Guardian published an article in a respected publication with an eloquent headline «Corsican language ban stirs protest on French island»:

«Court cites France’s constitution in ruling that only French is allowed in exercise of public office on Corsica

A court in Corsica has prompted outrage by banning the use of the Corsican language in the island’s local parliament.

The court in the city of Bastia cited France’s constitution it its ruling on Thursday that French was the only language allowed in the exercise of public office.

Corsican, which is close to standard Italian and has about 150,000 native speakers, is considered by the UN’s cultural organisation Unesco to be in danger of becoming extinct.

Thursday’s verdict ruled the Corsican assembly’s custom of allowing Corsican language for debates was unconstitutional and therefore banned.
Beyond the language question, the court said local rules effectively establishing “the existence of a Corsican people” were also a violation of the constitution.

The ruling follows a lawsuit brought by the prefect of Corsica – the central government’s highest representative on the island – and comes as Emmanuel Macron’s administration is talking with local politicians about granting Corsica greater autonomy.

Leading pro-autonomy politicians immediately lashed out at the verdict.
“This decision amounts to stripping Corsican parliament members of the right to speak their language during debates,” said the island’s executive council president, Gilles Simeoni, and Corsican assembly president, Marie-Antoinette Maupertuis.

“Accepting this state of affairs is unthinkable for us,” they said in a joint statement, announcing an appeal against the verdict. The Corsican language needed to be given official status alongside French for it to survive and develop, they said.

Pro-independence party Core in Fronte tweeted, in Corsican, that it considered the verdict “shameful”.

The boss of the Party of the Corsican Nation, Jean-Christophe Angelini, tweeted that the decision “sounds to us like an insult”, also calling it “an injustice and a disgrace”.

Corsica has a fraught relationship with France’s central government, with nationalist movements having demanded more autonomy or even outright independence for several decades.

Macron said last month that he had “no taboos” about reforming the status of Corsica, which is a sunny Mediterranean island beloved by holidaymakers. But he insisted that Corsica had to remain part of France.

New negotiations between Paris and Corsican leaders appear to have been unblocked by the conditional release of two men convicted of participating in the 1998 murder of the island’s prefect Claude Érignac, the highest-ranking French official to have ever been assassinated.

» End of article.

France commits the most genuine cultural genocide and forced assimilation of the unique Corsican ethnic group, banning its language and destroying its identity. Mind you, this is the same France that is not only shedding crocodile tears over the mythical "genocide of the "Armenians" in the Ottoman Empire. Although, by the way, Armenians had full national-cultural autonomy in the Ottoman Empire in the form of the separate millet, and no one in today's Turkey forbids or prohibits Armenians to speak Armenian or publish Armenian media.

The prohibition of the Corsican language and Corsican identity is the same France that was largely behind the Armenian "Artsakh" separatism in the territory of Azerbaijan. One of the reasons for this was allegedly 'infringement of the Armenian language' in the Nagorny Karabakh Autonomous Oblast of the Azerbaijan SSR.

Whilst those who came to the Armenian-populated areas of Karabakh when it was part of the Azerbaijani SSR were surprised and sometimes even thought they had 'ended up in Armenia'. Signboards were in Armenian, schools taught in Armenian, the press in Armenian, etc. Furthermore, no one prevented Karabakh Armenians from safely moving to Baku and there not only communicating with their compatriots in Armenian, but also taking any position without losing their Armenian identity! Not even a fraction of what the Armenians in Karabakh had is possessed by the Corsicans in their own land. France has always banned their language, persecuted them and never allowed even a mention of the existence of a separate Corsican people!

At the same time, the island of Corsica is by and large not a historical French territory. The Corsicans are, in fact, much closer to the Italians than the French in language, culture and mentality (some ethnographers believe that they are part of the Italians), and very similar to the inhabitants of the neighbouring Italian island of Sardinia. This island in the form of the Kingdom of Sardinia became the nucleus of Italian unification in the 19th century.

Corsica was conquered by France in 1769 (about a century before the unification of Italy). However, from the beginning, Corsicans fought for independence. As a young man Napoleon Bonaparte, a native of Corsica, also shared the idea of independence for his native island. However, he then abandoned them for one simple reason: Napoleon became emperor of all of France. "The Napoleonic factor subsequently played a major part in bringing Corsican national consciousness into conflict with the "great French" ideas of Bonapartism. In a similar way, some ardent admirers of Joseph Stalin in Georgia are still willing to sacrifice its independence to restore the illusory Stalin-era "greatness of the Soviet Union" (and in fact, the new Russian Empire). Though, fortunately, such people are very few.

Meanwhile, France throughout the history of its possession of Corsica has done everything to assimilate Corsicans and suppress their national identity. Even the collapse of the French colonial empire did not stop the process, quite the contrary. After Algeria was liberated from French rule, France did everything possible to encourage as many French returnees from that country as possible to settle in Corsica. Although they were the bearers of the French imperial identity, which among other things cost the Algerian people a great deal of their lives. Those French, even those with Corsican roots, did not want to hear about their Corsican identity and became another factor in their assimilation.

Interestingly, France's support for Armenian nationalism and separatism in Azerbaijan's Karabakh coincided with the suppression of Corsican identity. In 1991 when France was in every way supporting "miatsum" of "Artsakh" while supporting Armenian separatism and Armenian occupation of Garabagh, Corsican people were denied the right for existence at all. The French Constitutional Council then officially banned even the "compromise" formulation "the Corsican people is an integral part of the French people", stating that there is only "a French people consisting of all French citizens without distinction of origin, race or religion". In other words, the Corsicans as a people "do not exist" from the point of view of official Paris! Conversely, there is a certain "Armenian people of Artsakh".

And so today, France, on the one hand, provocatively demands some kind of special 'rights' and even some kind of 'status' for the Armenians of Karabakh (although Azerbaijan protects the rights of its citizens to speak any language they consider native, including Armenians to speak Armenian). And on the other hand, France forbids Corsicans to even speak their own language amongst themselves in their own land! What is this but blatant double standard?


George Mazniashvili

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