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Thousands attend rally against abolishing Russian schools in Riga

The demonstrators gathered near the city’s Dailes Theater

RIGA, May 1. /TASS/. A massive demonstration in protest against switching education at schools for national minorities to the Latvian language kicked off in Riga on Wednesday, a TASS correspondent reported.

The demonstrators gathered near the city’s Dailes Theater. The co-chairman of the Latvian Russian Union, and a member of the European Parliament Miroslav Mitrofanov told TASS that some 5,000 people were taking part in the rally.

The activists chanted: "The reform is nonsense! No to reform." They were holding posters reading "Russian schools - our choice," "No to assimilation," "Slaves are mute! We are not slaves!," "Russian is the language of victory." The demonstrators marched across Riga’s center to a city park.

Mitrofanov thanked all participants of the rally, calling on them not to give up. "While we are alive and while we speak Russian today, while we can organize this march in downtown Riga, we are not defeated and we won’t be defeated."

He earlier said last week’s decision of Latvia’s Constitutional Court against Russian schools was not surprising, and national minorities in the country needed to continue defending their right to education in their native language. The lawmaker promised that more demonstrations would be held in the coming years.

"This will be a long path, but it will be certainly victorious. We will defend our right to educate our children in their native Russian language," the politician stressed.

The reform was earlier drafted by Latvia’s education ministry, approved by the government, passed by the parliament and signed into law by the President. The reform stipulates that the national minorities’ schools will switch to Latvian when teaching most subjects. Russian is proposed to be taught solely for a limited number of subjects (Russian language and literature), as well as for the "subjects related to culture and history". The reform is to be implemented gradually, starting from the beginning of the next academic year and ending by September 1, 2021.

The initiative sparked discontent among the Russian-speaking Latvians that constitute about 40% of the population. The Russian School Defense Staff activists have already staged a lot of protests and demonstrations against the reform. The Harmony social-democratic party that represents the interests of the Russian-speaking Latvians earlier appealed the reform in the national Constitutional Court, as it believes that the amendments passed by the Latvian authorities violate a number of Constitution articles and international obligations assumed by Latvia.

Last week, the Latvian Constitutional Court ruled that the reform to introduce Latvian as the language of instruction in the national minority schools complies with the Constitution.