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26 may

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Linguistic discrimination of the Russian-speaking population in Europe

Member of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation Svetlana Kuznetsova delivered a report at the OSCE meeting online

Linguistic discrimination of the Russian-speaking population in Europe

Member of the Civic Chamber Commission on Harmonization of Interethnic and Interreligious Relations Svetlana Kuznetsova spoke about the problems of discrimination of the Russian-speaking population in certain EU states during her speech at the review meeting of representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the human dimension “Combating all forms of intolerance and discrimination,” held on May 25–26 online.

During the session “From Early Warning to Early Action: Preventing Discrimination in the Context of Escalating Tension or Conflict,” Svetlana Kuznetsova recalled her previous speech at the OSCE annual meeting two years ago, on September 11, 2018, where she had already raised issues of discrimination against the Russian-speaking population regarding the right to study in their native language in Europe.

Let me remind you that following the results of my speech, all the countries mentioned, namely, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Ukraine, were quick to assure that there was no reason for concern. They claimed that no one was oppressing anyone. They called the problem far-fetched and claimed that the Russian-speaking population allegedly misinterpreted the laws adopted in these countries.

Furthermore, the social activist noted that today, despite the self-isolation regime owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the authorities of several countries were implementing a policy of discrimination against the Russian-speaking population. For instance, in mid-May Latvia’s parliament approved a bill instructing every municipal kindergarten from September 1, 2020 to implement each educational programme exclusively in the state language.

“They went ahead even though numerous national parental meetings and mass protest rallies swept the country earlier this year organized by the defenders of Russian schools as a form of resistance to the forced assimilation of schoolchildren who, in essence, were deprived of the right to receive education in their native language,” said Svetlana Kuznetsova.

In her opinion, Riga had once again proved that the official authorities treat the Russian-speaking residents of the country as “second-class” citizens whose interests are not taken into account.

“We can expect a similar situation in Lithuania, however, there is only one difference — 60% of the educational process is planned to be transferred into the state language in schools of national minorities (I repeat: national minorities) starting from 2023. It is precisely for this reason that today we cannot see mass protest rallies defending Russian-language schools,” said Svetlana Kuznetsova.

She also drew attention to the law ‘On ensuring the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the state language’ adopted by Verkhovna Rada last year following the victory of Vladimir Zelensky in Ukraine’s presidential election.

“We are no longer talking about the revision of the law ‘On ensuring the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the state language’, which was promised by Zelensky, under pressure from the Ukrainian opposition and Russian politicians. During that time, over a year ago, apparently for political gain, Vladimir Zelensky openly admitted that this law had been adopted ‘without preliminary discussions with the public.’ The OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities Lamberto Zannier also agreed that this law was discriminatory and needed to be reviewed,” said Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Furthermore, she asserted that the Russian Permanent Representative to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich had announced that Ukrainians were de facto divided into Ukrainian-speaking and “rogue- speaking” citizens whose opportunities to study, receive medical treatment, and use other social services would be significantly limited.

“We can observe a form of discrimination and the division of citizens into friends and foes on the basis of language proficiency. In the age of information technology, all documents can be checked and confirmed. All that is needed is access to websites in Russian or Ukrainian in order to read the quotes from the President of Ukraine so as to understand the attitude towards national minorities in the country,” emphasized Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Svetlana Kuznetsova believes that the linguistic restrictions in education, restrictions in the right to receive information in one’s native language, the frequent instances of removing and desecrating monuments to Russian soldiers, as well as attempts to rewrite history are phenomena of the same nature. “They cannot but cause concern, as they ultimately lead to the escalation of conflicts on a national basis,” she concluded.

Tags: Svetlana Kuznetsova

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