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Latvia pushes to phase out Russian language from schools

September 20, 2013, 14:14 UTC+3
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RIGA, September 19 (Itar-Tass) - Latvian political party Unity, headed by Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, have announced plans for a working group aiming to promote the Latvian language in all publicly financed Russian schools - a second attempt to enforce change.

The group of professional teachers, financiers and psychologists is chaired by Karlis Shadurskis, a member of the European Parliament and former Minister of Education and Science in Latvia. His 2004 Minority Education Reform, which provoked a storm of protest, already changed the language of instruction in schools for minority groups from the group's own language to a composite of 60 percent Latvian and 40 percent minority. Shadurskis now wants all publicly financed Russian schools to use Latvian exclusively.

“We should assess why our previous initiatives to promote Latvian failed. We need to learn a lesson and avoid such mistakes in future,” the politician said.

Though Russian is the native language for more than a quarter of Latvia’s two million people, Latvian is the only state language and is considered the only language for communication with local authorities. The Saeima - Latvia's parliament - has repeatedly rejected any attempts by a Russian speakers' movement to change the situation and make Russian the country's second official language.

In a previous attempt at language change,The National Alliance "All For Latvia!" and "For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK", part of the governing centre-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 percent of votes counted, 75 percent were against the proposal.

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