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Baltics

Language Issue In Russia’s Near Abroad Continues To Simmer

Image by Vardion

As seen recently in Ukraine, Latvia has passed a law that all schools must use Latvian instead of other minority languages, such as Russian. Thousands of Russian speakers rallied in the Latvian capital of Riga recently to protest the move.

During the Soviet Union, Moscow forced many of its ethnic territories to learn and speak Russian instead of their native tongue. Now the issue is being weaponized as a way for Moscow to ‘retain’ certain regions of its near abroad. Former Soviet regions are pushing back by passing this type of legislation.

A massive demonstration in protest against switching education at schools for national minorities to the Latvian language kicked off in Riga on Wednesday, reported Russian state news agency TASS.

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.

“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.”

“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,” declared a local Russian-speaking politician.

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3 comments

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Vincent May 3, 2019 at 8:20 am

Looking into my crystal ball, I see Russian troops invading Latvia.

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Jacon June 17, 2019 at 4:35 pm

This has nothing to do with “weaponisation” of the Russian language by Moscow. A quarter of Latvian population are ethnic Russians, Belarus, and other Russian speakers who want their children to have access to education in Russia. At the stake here is the basic rights of minorities. Latvia is not a mono-cultural or mono-ethnic country, and it has never been such. Which this territory was captured by the Russian empire from the Swedes in the early 18th century, the cities were largely Swedish and German speaking. Russian was in everyday after the 18th century. Ultra-nationalist Latvian government is trying to create a reality that has never existed on their territory in the past.

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Jacob June 17, 2019 at 4:37 pm

Sorry, meant access to education in Russian language.

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