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Protesters In Russia's Bashkortostan Voice Support For Bashkir Language In Schools

UFA, Russia -- Dozens of activists across Russia's region of Bashkortostan picketed various sites in the region's capital on November 14, demanding that mandatory Bashkir language classes be continued in schools.

Twenty activists individually picketed the locations in the region's capital, Ufa, holding posters reading, "Do Not Violate Bashkortostan’s Constitution," "Hands Off The Bashkir State Language," and "No Language Means No Nation."

The protest was held on the day when a federal commission was expected to arrive from Moscow to establish whether any schools in Bashkortostan forced children to study in the Bashkir language.

Controversy over mandatory Bashkir language classes flared after Russian President Vladimir Putin said in July that people must not be forced to learn a language "that is not their mother tongue" and ordered prosecutors to determine whether that was happening in Russia.

Putin's statement and order were followed by calls from Russian-speaking parents for schools in so-called "ethnic" regions -- where indigenous, non-Russian ethnic groups are well represented -- to abandon mandatory studies of languages other than Russian.

That sparked protests in Bashkortostan and neighboring Tatarstan and Chuvashia, where local languages are official languages along with Russian.

Tatarstan announced on November 8 that Tatar language classes will remain mandatory at schools in the region but will be scaled back from eight hours per week to two hours.