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Siberia Activists Urge Government To Keep Mandatory Yakut Lessons


The rally was held in a suburban area of Yakutsk after permission was denied to hold it in the city center.

YAKUTSK, Russia -- Dozens of activists protested in the Siberian city of Yakutsk against a plan by Russian federal authorities to abolish mandatory Yakut language lessons at schools.

The two-hour rally of some 150 people on June 7 took place in a suburban area of Yakutsk after authorities did not give permission for it to be held in the city center of the capital of Russia's Sakha region.

Demonstrators charged that the Education Ministry’s plan to make voluntary the study of the indigenous languages in ethnic regions and republics would create chaos in the education system.

A resolution signed by activists claimed that the move violates the constitutional rights of ethnic republics to use their state languages.

Feliks Antonov, the organizer of the rally, told RFE/RL that the event was planned for the day before the State Assembly was expected to discuss amendments to the federal law on education.

The Turkic-speaking Yakuts make up about half of the 1 million residents of Sakha, Russia's largest region by territory, which is also known as Yakutia.

In recent months, the language issue has been a subject of controversy in Russia's so-called "ethnic" regions, where indigenous, non-Russian ethnic groups are well-represented.

President Vladimir Putin said in July 2017 that children in ethnic regions must not be forced to learn languages that are not their mother tongues and ordered prosecutors to determine whether that was taking place.

That led to abolishing mandatory indigenous language classes in the regions.

In April, a group of parents in Tatarstan urged the government of the Russian region to return mandatory Tatar-language classes to schools across the republic.

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