AGSM expresses concern over the situation with Russian schools and kindergartens in Estonia

"FUEN’s Working Group of Slavic Minorities (AGSM) expresses concern over the situation with Russian schools and kindergartens in Estonia. We consider it unacceptable when, contrary to the interests of the Russian national minority, a policy of estonization and closure of Russian schools and kindergartens is pursued. Such policy of assimilation of Russian children cannot be justified. This policy also contradicts the international conventions (e.g. the “Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities” of the Council of Europe), the recommendations of the OSCE, CoE and UN, as well as the good practice of the European Union countries regarding national minorities. In particular, we want to draw attention to the case of a Russian elementary school in the city of Keila, where local authorities planned to close the school against the wishes of the parents and the school’s board of trustees. This is an extreme case of ignoring the interests of the national minority, the interests of children and their parents who want to preserve their right to education in their mother tongue. Such unilateral decisions undermine basic European values ​​based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law with respect of national minorities." 

Statement was adopted by the members of AGSM on their regular working meeting in Bleiburg / Pliberk on 16th November 2019. 

More information about the case, provided by FUEN Member organisation "Russian School of Estonia":

Critical situation with Russian national minority schools in Estonia

Along with many other problems that are as relevant as a year ago, the NGO “Russian School of Estonia” would like to draw attention to the critical situation that has developed with Russian schools and kindergartens in Estonia. At the last FUEN congress in Bratislava we already paid attention to the process of forced estonization and the closure of Russian schools in Estonia. Only in September of this year a law initiative was discussed in the Estonian parliament, which provided for the complete estonization and closure of Russian schools starting in the fall of next year. This initiative failed only because the ruling coalition itself was frightened by the adventurism and unpreparedness of this plan. Moreover, all parties in parliament support the process of transition of all Russian schools into the Estonian language of instruction and the destruction of education in Russian in the near future. A “program for the protection of the Estonian language” was developed which provides for the planned destruction of Russian schools by 2035.

Such a plan, in fact, is a project of forcible assimilation of Russian children over the coming years. Moreover, the desire of the most Russian-speaking linguistic minority (which is about 30% of the population) to save Russian schools is completely ignored. International conventions prohibiting forced assimilation (the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and other conventions, recommendations of the OSCE, EC and UN) in this issue are not taken into account. What legislative extremism can lead to in this matter can be seen in the example of neighbouring Latvia, where the country has chosen the forcible assimilation of Russian children by completely translating Russian schools into Latvian language from the next school year. Mass protests are taking place in Latvia and the situation created by the authorities is simply explosive.

Recent events in Estonia are also causing concern. The NGO „Russian School of Estonia“ has already informed FUEN and FUEN‘s Working Group of Slavic Minorities (AGSM) about the situation with the elementary school in Keila, where local authorities decided to close the school against the wishes of the parents and the board of trustees of the school. The idea is the same as a year and a half ago, when local authorities tried to close the Russian basic school in the city of Keila and forcibly transfer all Russian children to an Estonian school. Admission to the first grade of the Russian school is prohibited now. The future of Russian classes in Estonian school is unclear (all previous cases in Estonia ended mainly with a complete refusal to study in Russian). As the mayor of Keila said: “There should be no two (Estonian and Russian) communities in the city“. In his opinion, only the Estonian-speaking community should remain.

Parents of Russian children studying in Keila Russian basic school are categorically against the planned decision of the city council. There is still a fairly significant need on the part of Russian residents from neighbouring municipal districts to send their children to a Russian basic school in Keila, but Keila authorities refuse to accept these statements (as they plan to liquidate the school). It is important to note that the Russian basic school in Keila is the only Russian school remaining in the region. All other Russian schools are forcibly closed or far away. In this situation, the parents of Russian children (who want to receive an education for their children in the Russian language) are left without any adequate alternative. We would like to draw your attention to this problem, since it is a disaster for the Russian national minority in the whole region of Estonia. Unfortunately, it has become common practice for local and state authorities in Estonia to ignore the interests of the Russian minority in the country.