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Mandatory Tatar-Language Classes Scaled Back In Russia's Tatarstan

According to a new education plan, students in Tatarstan will have the option of dropping Tatar classes in the final two years of secondary school. (file photo)

KAZAN, Russia -- The president of Tatarstan says that Tatar-language classes will remain mandatory at schools in the region but will be scaled back.

Rustam Minnikhanov said on November 8 that instead of six hours per week, the Tatar language would be taught for two hours a week at schools in the region in central Russia

Minnikhanov added that the classes would be mandatory from Grade 1 to Grade 9. During the last two years of secondary school, students will be given an option to continue studying Tatar or drop it.

According to Minnikhanov, the federal authorities in Moscow have agreed with the plan.

Controversy over mandatory Tatar 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.

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 Tatarstan and in neighboring Bashkortostan and Chuvashia, where local languages are officially state languages along with Russian.