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24.02.2006   Danger: violence towards minorities in Latvia

February 5th, 2004 the Latvian parliament guided by xenophobic ambitions passed a new law limiting school education in Russian language to a maximum of 40% of the total class volume. Starting from 2007, all exams are to be passed exclusively in Latvian. In practice this means a ban on Russian language in Latvian schools in the nearest future.

Why do we say "xenophobia"? Most of the countries around the globe provide education in their national languages only. Russophones in Latvia amount to over 40% of the population. They are no guests in Latvia but have been living there for ages, long before the Latvian independence. Yet, Russian language has no official status in Latvia.

Education in Russian has existed in Latvia has a long and flourishing history. The latest vote of the Parliament was not aimed at saving taxpayers' money, not at creating a better school system. Parliamentarians voted to spend the money on destruction of what has been working well for ages. They call it “education reform".

Latvian authorities claim to know better what the Russophones need; they know it better than the Russophones themselves. Latvian authorities claim that they strive to improve knowledge of Latvian on behalf of the Russophone children in order to raise their competitiveness. Had they really set this objective, they would have invested in better teaching of Latvian language, not into the destruction of teaching in Russian. One of the most well known deputies has said once: "We don't want you to know Latvian; we want you to know your place". This is called xenophobia.

They say that most of the Russophones accept the “reform” and only a few fanatics are against it. This is not true.

The day that the law was accepted, 15 to 20 thousand Russophone students came to the Parliament Hall to express their will. Children shouted “No reforms!” and “Hands off our schools!” for 3 hours non-stop, but nobody seemed to notice. Just in a few hours later the meeting was finished, the law was accepted.

A few days later an even greater manifestation flooded the streets of Riga. Children came to the President’s Castle asking to reject the law. Everything was ready that winter day to make a square in front of President’s Castle a field of flowers, had the President listened to the people. We took care that she knew our intentions; we gave her a great chance to unite the society, but she decided to miss it… The law had been signed and came into force.

Afterwards the protests continued non-stop; manifestations of thousands of people, 2-day precautionary school strike, a mass gathering on May 1st of 65,000 people, five days round the clock picket next to the Ministers’ Cabinet Hall, 21-day hunger strike, another huge meeting on September 1st and 12-day round the clock picket, chaining to the doors of the Ministers’ Cabinet Hall and many more… One should be mad or shameless to say that those people accept the “reform”.

So now, did we resign? No! If the government prefers to ignore us, we will persist in our fight until the “reform” is cancelled. We, the Staff of Russophone School Defenders, a union of pupils, parents and few democratically thinking politicians, call all the goodwill people in the world to support us. We do not want to give up good education. We will never accept violence. Whoever you are, be with us; we are going to put an end to this terror.

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