Anti-Russian language law comes into effect in Latvia

Anti-Russian language law comes into effect in Latvia

Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis has promulgated the bill that would ban use of Russian as the language of instruction also at private universities in Latvia, according to the announcement published in the official newspaper Latvijas Vestnesis.

The opposition Harmony party and the heads of several universities and NGOs previously asked Vejonis not to promulgate the amendments to the Law on Higher Education Establishments, the Baltic Course reported.

The Latvian Education and Science Ministry proposed applying to private universities and colleges the same restrictions that apply to public higher education institutions, where students have to be taught in Latvian or any of the official languages of the European Union, which means that private colleges and universities will have to discontinue teaching their students in Russian.

The ministry said the changes were needed also in relation to the legislative amendments about the switch to Latvian-only secondary education at schools.

The parliament adopted the amendments to the Higher Education Institutions Law on June 21. The amendments will take effect on January 1, 2019, and after that the education establishments will not be allowed to enroll students in new Russian-language study programs.

Approximately one-third of students at private universities and colleges studied in Russian last year. The only official language in Latvia is Latvian. Russian language is native language to 40% of Latvian population, but it is considered foreign.

Study programs of the state-founded higher education institutions in Latvia are implemented in the state language, and the use of foreign languages is possible only in exceptional cases such as studies of foreign languages. Use of other official EU languages in studies is allowed for foreign students in Latvia and the study programs implemented under the EU programs or international cooperation agreements.

First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs, a representative of the legislative body of the Jewish Autonomous Region, Vladimir Dzhabarov, speaking with Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that almost all young people left Latvia, only old people and children living on money sent to them by young people working in Northern Europe, mainly in the UK, remained in the country. "As for the ban, it shows that the policy of the Latvian authorities is aimed at squeezing out the Russian language. They do not understand that they will not be able to force native speakers not to think in Russian. I believe that Russian-speaking citizens will defend their rights," the expert said.

He expressed hope that anti-Russian people in Latvia will sooner or later see the truth, because they behave as if Russia remain isolated forever. "They are deeply mistaken, we know that Russia is in demand on international venues. On the contrary, everyone is trying to restore relations with Moscow. And Riga may be late for improving relations with Russia," Vladimir Jabbarov warned.

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