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Tatarstan Schools Say Education Ministry Downgrades Tatar Language

KAZAN, Tatarstan -- Some schools in Tatarstan are claiming that the Russian republic's Education Ministry is trying to downgrade the role of the Tatar language, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

In a letter sent to RFE/RL, five secondary schools in Tatarstan said that no Tatar-language websites were selected in an annual contest held by the Education Ministry to select the best school website.

Bulat Shakirov, a student at a school competing in the contest, told RFE/RL that his school's website does not have any Russian on it and therefore did not have a chance to win.

Officials from the Tatar Education Ministry refused to comment on the charges. They said all the requirements for entering the contest are listed on the ministry's official website.

In December, activists from the Azatliq Youth Union organized a March of Grief in Kazan to draw attention to the low status of the Tatar language in Tatarstan.

According to a law introduced by the Russian government earlier this year, the "national component" -- which refers to the native language and culture of non-Russians -- was removed from the country's education standard.

The law went into effect on September 1 and means that the various non-Russian ethnic groups can no longer decide whether their language, history, and culture will be taught at public schools.