The decision to switch educational instruction in Latvia’s schools for national minorities to the Latvian language is a violation of the European Union’s legal framework and resembles linguistic genocide, member of Russia’s State Duma (lower house) International Affairs Committee, Sergey Zheleznyak, told reporters on Monday.
Earlier in the day, Latvian Minister of Education and Science Karlis Sadurskis said the aforementioned move is necessary for forming a unified political nation.
“The reform proposed by Latvia’s Ministry of Education, which envisages full transition of national minorities’ schools to educational instruction in Latvian is a flagrant violation of the rights of the country’s Russian-speaking population and a violation of the EU’s legal framework,” the lawmaker said. He stressed that Russia is indignant at the infringement of the rights of its fellow countrymen living in other countries. “We support the legitimate demand to protect the interests of Russian-speaking residents in Latvia who, according to official data, make up over 40% of the population.”
According to Zheleznyak, Riga’s actions “look like the linguistic genocide, which could provoke a further rift in Latvian society.” “The Latvian authorities were earlier able to see that their senior partners in the EU condemned a similar Ukrainian law on education, which introduced a ban on the educational instruction in the languages of national minorities,” he noted.
“[Ukrainian President Pyotr] Poroshenko frightened by European legislators’ indignation was quick to declare his willingness to make an exception for instruction in European languages,” Zheleznyak noted. By doing so, Kiev demonstrated “the genuine anti-Russian objectives of this law and its Russophobic essence,” he added.
The lawmaker noted that now is the time “to ask (our) counterparts in the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe why they said nothing about Riga’s legislative restrictions that are openly chauvinistic, despite all their rhetoric about democratic rights and freedoms.”
The Latvian ruling coalition earlier backed the education reform proposed by Sadurskis, according to which national minorities’ schools will have to switch to teaching nearly all subjects in the official language within the next three years. Students will only be able to learn in Russian their mother tongue, literature and subjects related to culture and history.
Latvian is the only official language in the country, while Russian is considered to be foreign. In September 2004, Latvia embarked on the education reform in national minorities’ schools. However, following mass protests, the country introduced a bilingual education system. Only 40% of subjects can be taught in Russian in Russian-language high schools. Local nationalists have repeatedly sought a full transition of educational instruction in all public and municipal schools for national minorities to Latvian.