Russia threatens sanctions over Latvian school language reform

Russia threatened sanctions against Latvia over language reform laws signed by Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis, calling for schools to phase in full Latvian-language instruction for 10th- through 12th-year students by the year 2021. File Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI

April 3 (UPI) — Russian members of Parliament on Tuesday threatened possible sanctions against Latvia for a decision to teach older students in only the Latvian language, not Russian.

Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis signed laws Monday calling for schools to phase in full Latvian-language instruction for 10th- through 12th-year students by the year 2021, with the exception of some Russian language and literature courses.

Half of Latvia’s early education courses will remain in Russian along with 20 percent of classes for seventh- through ninth-year students.

Vejonis said the change will “form a more cohesive society and a stronger state.”

While Latvian is the country’s official language, a quarter of its population are ethnic Russians and nearly 100 state-funded schools offer Russian or bilingual teaching.

The Russian parliament’s lower house, the state Duma, condemned the language reform as “forced assimilation” and Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin called on Russia to take a “more active position” on Latvia’s supposed rights violation.

“The state Duma notes that the actions of the Latvian authorities violating the rights and freedoms of our compatriots in Latvia should be followed by the adoption of special economic measures,” the Duma said.


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