Latvian Schools Drop Russian as Second Language

Written by Camilla Jessen

Apr.24 - 2024 3:01 PM CET

World
Photo: Jayakri / Shutterstock.com
Photo: Jayakri / Shutterstock.com
Starting in September 2026, Latvian schools will no longer offer Russian as a second language.

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Starting in September 2026, Latvian schools will no longer offer Russian as a second language for students entering the 5th grade, following recent amendments introduced by the Latvian government.

The new rules require that students study an official language of the European Union, the European Economic Area, or a foreign language approved by intergovernmental agreements as their second foreign language.

A Shift Away from the Russian Language

Russian has been the most popular second language in Latvian schools, but the government's decision reflects a broader movement to reduce Russian influence in the country. The change aligns with requests from parents who have urged schools to discontinue teaching Russian, especially after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Latvia's Minister of Education and Science, Anda Čakša, commented on the shift, saying, "The opportunity to study an official language of the European Union in Latvian schools confirms our belonging to the European cultural space and the values of the democratic world."

Čakša added that, given the war in Ukraine and the ongoing genocide against the Ukrainian people, the mandatory study of Russian as a second language is unacceptable for a significant portion of Latvian society.

Language and Cultural Identity

Russian is the second most spoken language in Latvia, with 37.7% of the population reporting it as their mother tongue in a 2023 survey. The language's prevalence has raised concerns about its impact on Latvia's national identity, especially in light of Russia's aggressive actions in Ukraine.

This move to phase out Russian is part of a broader effort to "de-Russify" Latvia, fostering a stronger European identity and distancing the country from Russian cultural influence.

In 2022, Latvia's parliament passed an amendment denying permanent residence to Russians who could not speak basic-level Latvian.

Implementation of the New Rules

Students who start their studies before September 2025 will be allowed to continue learning Russian as a second language. However, those entering 5th grade from September 2026 must choose a different second language, focusing on those officially recognized by the European Union or other intergovernmental agreements.

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