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Kremlin Hopeful Sobchak Decries 'Cavalier Assault' On Tatar Language

Russian presidential hopeful Ksenia Sobchak (file photo)
Russian presidential hopeful Ksenia Sobchak (file photo)

Presidential hopeful Ksenia Sobchak has criticized Russian authorities over what she called a "cavalier assault" on the Tatar language in Tatarstan, voicing support for local languages spoken in so-called "ethnic regions" of the country.

In an e-mail exchange with RFE/RL on December 11, Sobchak wrote that prosecutors must not interfere in education policy or determine what subjects should be taught at schools.

Tension over language classes in regions where indigenous, non-Russian ethnic groups are well represented increased after President Vladimir Putin said in July 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.

The move caused an outcry in Tatarstan and other regions where local languages have official status alongside Russian.

In the e-mail exchange, Sobchak wrote that the federal prosecutor-general's office and the agency monitoring educational institutions, Rosobrnadzor, should stop what she called "a cavalier assault on the Tatar language in Tatarstan's schools."

"Instead of securing implementation of the law, you -- out of nowhere -- create a conflict and social tension," Sobchak wrote, addressing the prosecutor-general and Rosobrnadzor. "You destroy the stable work of the schools in Tatarstan, forcing them to change their school curricula...and fire teachers in the middle of the academic year."

She added that federal authorities should take into account the unique characteristics of Russia's regions instead of trying to apply a "one-size-fits-all pattern."

Tatarstan Prosecutor-General Ildus Nafikov announced on November 29 that Tatar language classes were no longer mandatory in the region's schools, saying that pupils will study Tatar for two hours a week on an optional basis and with written parental consent.

Sobchak -- a journalist and TV personality whose father, the late former St. Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak, was President Vladimir Putin's boss for a time -- announced in October that she plans to run for president in Russia's March 18 election.