A group of parents in Tatarstan has urged the government of the Russian region to return mandatory Tatar-language classes to schools across the republic.
In its open letter on the social network VKontakte on April 6, the group of Tatar parents -- which has more than 11,000 members -- implored the government to reverse the Tatarstan parliament's November decision to cancel mandatory Tatar classes.
"We -- parents, teachers, and public figures of Tatarstan, people who care about the destiny of our native language -- are expressing our concern about the future of Tatar education," the letter says, adding that they will "never accept or agree with the parliament's decision to replace mandatory Tatar classes at schools with optional ones."
The letter put forward six major demands: to set up Tatar schools in each district of Tatarstan; to return mandatory Tatar classes to schools and kindergartens; to establish a National University in Tatarstan; to negotiate with federal authorities about possibilities for Tatar children to have national graduation tests in the Tatar language; to work on improving Tatar-language teaching; and to start regular production of movies, cartoons, computer games, and other forms of entertainment in the Tatar language.
The letter notes that according to the regional constitution, both Tatar and Russian are state languages in Tatarstan.
In recent months, the language issue has been a subject of controversy in Russia's so-called "ethnic" regions, where indigenous, non-Russian ethnic groups are well represented.
President Vladimir Putin said in July last year that children in these regions must not be forced to learn languages that are not their mother tongues, and ordered prosecutors to determine whether that was taking place.
That led to abolishing mandatory indigenous-language classes in the regions.
The move caused an outcry in Tatarstan and other regions where local languages have official status alongside Russian.