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Kazan School Director Faces Suspension For Refusal To Abolish Mandatory Tatar Classes

Pavel Shmakov has vowed not to drop mandatory Tatar classes in his school.

KAZAN, Russia -- The director of a private school in Russia's Tatarstan region faces suspension or a heavy fine for refusing to drop mandatory Tatar-language classes.

In a December 7 ruling, a court in the regional capital, Kazan, rejected Pavel Shmakov's complaint against local prosecutors whom he accused of ordering his school to abandon mandatory Tatar classes without first inspecting its curriculum.

At a hearing the previous day, a judge announced that Shmakov was charged with refusing to follow prosecutors' orders. If found guilty, his school could be shut for 90 days and he could be fined or suspended from his profession for six months.

Shmakov has been fighting for months against efforts by the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office to check whether children across Tatarstan are being forced to learn the Tatar language.

The court cases come amid tension over language classes in Russia's so-called "ethnic" regions, where indigenous, non-Russian ethnic groups are well represented.

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.

The court began hearing Shmakov's case against local prosecutors on November 29, the day that Tatarstan Prosecutor-General Ildus Nafikov announced that Tatar language classes are no longer mandatory in the region.

Shmakov has vowed not to drop mandatory Tatar classes in his school.