Latvia: Russian speakers protest against closure of Russian schools

A mass protest action took place in Riga Thursday against the Latvian government's policy to close Russian schools. The protesters' slogan was "For free choice of language for education." Several thousand students of Riga's Russian schools gathered outside the Seim (parliament) building in the morning; the Seim was planning to discuss the government-approved amendment to the education law.

According to that amendment, starting from September 2004, all ethnic minorities' high schools, Russian included, will have to teach only in the official language - that is, Latvian. The only exception will be the students' native language, and "other subjects related to their ethnic identity and culture," as the bill reads. In fact it means that 90 percent of the curriculum in Russian schools will be taught in Latvian.

According to observers, today's protest testifies to the growth of the movement for Russian schools and against the government and Seim's policy affecting ethnic minorities' education.

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