RIGA, March 10. /TASS/. Several thousand people came to France’s embassy in Latvia’s capital to participate in a rally against reform of Russian-language schools. The protesters passed by Germany’s embassy towards the European Commission’s representation, a TASS correspondent reported from the site.
"Our estimation is the rally features more than 3,000 participants. Our slogans are "This is our spring!" "This is our rally!"," the European Parliament’s Deputy Miroslav Mitrofanov, representing the republic, and co-chair of the Latvian Russian Union, told TASS. "We have drums, as we want to be heard."
The protesters carry posters, which read "This is not reform, this is repressions," "Sovereign power belongs to people. We are people. We are deciding," "Ukraine. Brexit. Catalonia. Europe, do you want another problem?" "For Native Language. For Russian schools. For our children," "No to assimilation," "Stop Ethnic Discrimination."
"We want to present to authorities of the EU biggest countries - Germany and France - the simple idea: Russians in Latvia, this country’s national minority is determined to protect education in the native language," the rally’s organizers said. "Russian schools to be!"
"Europeans do not know much about what is happening in the small countries like Latvia," Mitrofanov said. "Brussels discusses Brexit, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, all those inner relations, but they know little about our problems."
"This is why we hope very much a picture of our rally will get to the European media thus preparing information ground so that we could tell Europe about our intention to defend our right for education in the native language," he added.
The Latvian ruling coalition earlier backed the education reform proposed by the Ministry of Education and Science, according to which ethnic minorities’ schools will have to switch to teaching nearly all subjects in the official language within the next few years. Students will only be able to learn in their mother tongue - Russian - literature and subjects related to culture and history. The gradual implementation of this reform is set begin as early as September 1, 2019. For the reform to come into force, it has to be approved by the country’s parliament after consideration in the profile committee. Then the bill will be submitted to the President for signing.
These plans have sparked a wave of indignation among the Russian-speaking residents of Latvia who make up about 40% of the country’s population. Opponents of this reform have already held a few rallies against this initiative. Various websites of public initiatives launched a signature campaign against these plans.
Latvian is the only official language in the country, while Russian is considered to be foreign. In September 2004, Latvia embarked on a reform campaign 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.