The leader of Russia's northern Republic of Komi has suspended a decision by the regional branch of the Education Ministry to cancel mandatory Komi-language classes at schools.
In a statement on his official website on November 15, Sergei Gaplikov said that the ministry's ruling must be reconsidered and that the opinion of the regional prosecutor's office, linguists, teachers, public organizations and federal education and science officials must be taken into account.
"Issues related to learning native and state languages must be approached wisely and in a balanced way," Gaplikov said in a statement. "We have received a number of proposals; time and society's feedback are needed to assess them."
Controversy over mandatory classes in the languages of indigenous ethnic groups in several Russian regions flared after 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.
His remarks were followed by complaints from some ethnic Russians who say their children should not be forced to learn other languages.
The Uralic Komi tongue has state-language status along with Russian in the Republic of Komi, a vast region that spans the Arctic circle and includes the frigid former Soviet prison-camp city of Vorkuta.
Gaplikov's move came a day after dozens of activists conducted individual protests across the Bashkortostan region, demanding that mandatory Bashkir language classes be continued in schools.