MOSCOW, February 6. /ITAR-TASS/. Moscow hopes that Latvia's plans to switch all state-financed Russian-speaking schools to instruction in the Latvian language by 2018 will receive an appropriate response from international structures and human rights organizations, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Thursday.
“We were seriously worried when we learned from the Latvian officials that all state-financed Russian-speaking schools will be switched to the Latvian language from September 2018,” he said.
“The Latvian authorities continue in fact to phase out teaching in Russian from the country’s state schools,” Lukashevich said. “Besides, they continue to ignore the recommendations of some relevant international organizations. These are both the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, as well as the decision of the Council of Europe and recommendations of the Venice Commission.”
“We hope that these plans, which are actually aimed at compulsory assimilation of the Russian-speaking minorities living in Latvia, will receive an appropriate response in international structures, including the European Union and human rights organizations,” Lukashevich added.
Meanwhile, Russian speakers account for about 40% of Latvia’s two-million-population, yet Latvian is the republic’s sole national language and is considered the only language for communication with local authorities. The Saeima - Latvia's parliament - has repeatedly rejected any attempts by the Russian speakers' movement to change the situation and make Russian the country's second official language.
Earlier, on September 1, 2004 Latvia enacted an education reform that caused uproar, as it introduced a bilingual system in ethnic minorities’ schools - only 40% of the disciplines were allowed to be taught in Russian in high school.
In a previous attempt at language change, the National Alliance “All For Latvia!” and “For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK”, part of the governing center-right coalition, had also proposed that Latvian be used in publicly financed minority schools and kindergartens, but the initiative gained no support at that time.
Protesting against the move, human rights activists announced the idea of making Russian an official language alongside Latvian and forced a referendum in February 2012. Officials said that with more than 90% of votes counted, 75% were against the proposal.