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Media: Latvia to end courses of Russian as 2nd foreign language in schools

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk April 22, 2024 9:20 AM 2 min read
People protest against Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine in Riga, Latvia, on May 20, 2022. (Gints Ivuskans/AFP via Getty Images)
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Latvia's Education Ministry will decide to gradually phase out Russian as a second foreign language in the country's schools, the media outlet Delfi reported on April 21.

Some 23.7% of Latvia's population of 1.8 million are ethnic Russians, according to the Latvian government's data from 2023. A survey conducted in 2023 found that 37.7% of Latvia's population said that Russian was their mother tongue.

English serves as the first foreign language Latvian schoolchildren learn, and in theory, a number of other languages are offered as the second.

According to the Education Ministry, Russian continues to be taught as the second foreign language in more than half of Latvian schools, in large part due to the lack of teachers.

The plan proposes to introduce more options for other second foreign languages to be taught in Latvian schools starting in 2026, particularly focusing on those from other EU countries.

The move is the latest in a series of measures by Latvia to de-Russify its public sphere.

The Latvian parliament passed an amendment in 2022 tightening residency rules for Russian citizens in the country in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Russians living in Latvia are now required to apply for permanent residence and pass a basic-level Latvian language test.

Russia has labeled such policies in Latvia and other Baltic countries as "Russophobia."

In turn, Latvian authorities have defended the language policy, saying that it simply asks residents to achieve a low level of knowledge of the national language and that there was ample time offered for residents to learn it.

Latvia has been one of Ukraine's staunchest supporters since the outbreak of the full-scale war. The country's prime minister, Evika Silina, recently said that Riga's military aid for Kyiv amounted to 392 million euros (around $425 million), including an upcoming defense aid package in April.

Estonia to stop funding Russian-language education
The Estonian government intends to switch to a “unified Estonian-language education” system, meaning it will no longer dedicate funds toward supporting Russian-language schools.
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