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Protesters In Kazan Demand Schools Teach Tatar Language

Tatar activists gather to mark the 25th anniversary of the Constitution of the Republic of Tatarstan in Kazan on November 6.

KAZAN, Russia -- Protesters have rallied in the capital of Russia's Republic of Tatarstan, Kazan, demanding that Tatar-language classes be mandatory at schools in the region.

Prominent Tatar intellectuals were among some 150 people at the gathering in downtown Kazan on November 6, which was devoted to the 25th anniversary of the region's constitution and organized by the Tatar Public Center NGO.

They called on the national government in Moscow and the regional government in Kazan to respect the Constitution of Tatarstan, according to which Tatar -- along with Russian -- is a state language and must be taught in all schools across Tatarstan.

The demonstrators also demanded the renewal of a pact between Kazan and Moscow on power sharing.

Demonstrators held signs with slogans such as "All officials in Tatarstan must be fluent in Tatar" and "The Republic of Tatarstan and the Russian Federation are equal partners, according to the Tatar and Russian constitutions."

Police detained one activist, Airat Shakirov, at the rally.

The power-sharing treaty between Moscow and Kazan that was signed in 2007 expired in August, and Moscow has been hesitating to prolong it despite Tatar lawmakers' calls for it to do so.

In July, President Vladimir Putin said while visiting Russia's Republic of Mari El that it was "impermissible to force someone to learn a language that is not [his or her] mother tongue, as well as to cut the hours of Russian-language [classes at schools] in Russia's ethnic republics."

Putin's statement and the order given to the Prosecutor-General's Office was followed by calls from Russian-speaking parents to abandon mandatory studies of languages other than Russian in so-called "ethnic" regions of Russia.

Also on November 6, the Tatar Youth Forum NGO organized an open-air concert in Kazan devoted to the 25th anniversary of the Tatar Constitution at which, along with performances by entertainers, moderators sought to explain the regional constitution’s passages about sovereignty and state languages to hundreds of attendees.