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    WILL RUSSIAN LANGUGE SCHOOLS REMAIN IN LATVIA?

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    MOSCOW, February 4, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - The State Duma has called upon the Saeima (Latvian parliament) not to ruin the system of secondary education in the Russian language in the country.

    On Wednesday, at its plenary session, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament adopted an address to the Latvian Saeima in connection with the consideration by the Latvian lawmakers of the Law on Education which limits the teaching in the Russian language at the schools in the republic.

    The address was adopted by 347 votes, 11 deputies were against it and two abstained.

    Chairman of the committee for international affairs Konstantin Kosachev told the session that on February 5 the Latvian Saeima would consider the Law on Education in the third, final, reading. Under this law, beginning with September 1, 2004, teaching in the state and municipal educational establishments will be conducted in the official language, excluding the subjects connected with "national identity and culture of ethnic minorities"/the Russian language and literature, for example/.

    Kosachev pointed out that such a decision may become one more step in the policy of toughening the legislation in the Latvian Republic in the sphere of education with regard to 40 percent of, or 116,000, the pupils, who regard the Russian language as their mother tongue.

    The chairman of the international committee reminded the parliamentarians that this policy causes protests on the part of the Russian-speaking population in Latvia and contradicts the recommendations of the international organisations, in particular the OSCE, in which Latvia is a member.

    The address to the Latvian Saeima says that the State Duma deputies are convinced that the ruining of the system of secondary education in the Russian language will not only deteriorate the language inequality in the republic but will also lead to a sharp worsening of the quality of the education of the Russian-speaking graduates of the Latvian schools, will cause a new social stratification.

    The Russian lawmakers believe that the adoption of this document can deepen the gap between the Latvian and the Russian-speaking communities in the republic and create an atmosphere of social tension.

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