Foreign Ministry: Russia demonizing Latvia over education reform

With mistaken and tendentious interpretations of Latvia's education reform, Russia is once again demonizing Latvia, said Latvia's Foreign Ministry in a rare statement attempting to refute biased information spread by the Kremlin.

"Once again, we are facing attempts to defame and slander Latvia," the ministry said.

"The Russian officials who express their views on amendments to Latvian laws seem not to be familiar with the substance of the reform at all," the ministry said.

"The aim of the reform is to ensure equal opportunities for all school leavers in the labour market and in further education, including in vocational and higher education institutions, where education is implemented in the official language," the statement said. 

As reported, the Russian State Duma on April 3 published a statement in which it voiced strong objections to new legislation in Latvia that will make Latvian the language of instruction in all state schools other than kindergartens, and called for economic sanctions as a result.

The single state language in Latvia is Latvian. 

According to article 68[1] of the Constitution of 1993, the single state language across the whole of the Russian Federation is Russian. Other languages can have official status in various republics of the Federation but the language of instruction in Russian state schools - other than kindergartens - is Russian, just as the language of instruction in Latvian state schools - other than kindergartens - will be Latvian.

According to this academic paper on the subject, in 2012 the Duma approved the law “On education in the Russian Federation.” Article 14 stipulates that education is guaranteed in the state language of the Federation, Russian, while the right to choose the language of instruction in ethnic republics "can be introduced" provided it is “within the opportunities offered by the education system” and “should not be to the detriment of the teaching and learning of the state language of the Russian Federation.”

In 2015 Russian President Vladimir Putin held forth on the subject, declaring: "We have to understand that our informational, cultural and state unity, the unity of the Russian people directly depends on how well our young people master the Russian language, on its status and spread.

"The ability to freely and properly use the Russian language opened up greater opportunities for representatives of any nationality in terms of using their potential, getting an education and achieving professional success," Putin said - words not dissimilar to those of Latvia's President Raimonds Vējonis in promulgating the new law.

(The story was updated April 12, replacing the quotes pulled from the ministry announcement in Latvian with the official translation.)

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