Briefs

Latvia - 8-14 February 2016

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  • Monitoringa ziņojums (8.–14. februāris)  Šis raksts ir pieejams latviešu valodā
The False Fact or Narrative

During the past week the question of a language of instruction in ethnic minority schools was actively discussed in the Latvian Russophone public sphere. The discussion was evoked by “National Alliance”, one of the ruling parties which required to eliminate a bilingual education system, when the declaration of the new cabinet of ministers was negotiated. 

On February 4, the Ambassador of Russian Federation in Latvia Alexander Veshnakov during his meeting with compatriot organizations in Riga encouraged everyone to fight for the Russian language.  The largest internet sites of Latvian Russian speakers published Veshnakov’s announcement. During the past week, in turn, one could observe attempts to exacerbate the Russian-speakers’ disappointment as regards the determination of the new Latvian government to move toward the Latvian language as the only language of instruction in public schools.  The media in Russia also reported on ‘Latvian nationalists’ who want to curb Russian language in schools. For instance, „Rossiskaya gazeta” interpreted the commitment of the cabinet’s declaration with respect to the language of instruction as further steps toward the elimination of the Russian language. It was argued that Latvian nationalists have not kept their promise which was allegedly given in 2004, when the reform established that 60 per cents of subjects should be taught in Latvian in minority schools.  Likewise, it was claimed that Latvia has created apartheid regarding Russian speakers. 

The Truth

The declaration of the new Latvian government which was appointed on February 11 states that “one should work out and implement a plan of “a unified standard for education in the state language in schools which are financed by the state and municipality.” The declaration, however, does not set any particular deadlines or implementation mechanisms for removing Russian as the language of instruction. At the same time, there is not a single binding political or legal document which commits legislative or executive institutions to abstain from considering changes in the proportion of the language of instruction in minority schools. The authors of these messages also completely ignore research which has revealed the positive results of the 2004 reform as well as overlooks the fact the reform has not made the learning process more difficult in minority schools.

Technique

Disinformation on threats to the Russian language in terms of Latvia’s education system steams from an assimilation frame. That is, the purpose of any attempts to reduce the proportion of Russian as the language of instruction in Latvia is seen as the assimilation of Russians speakers. This disinformation is also based on false analogies drawing parallels with other countries, in order to emphasize only the positive consequences of bilingualism or to highlight the current illegality of Latvia’s linguistic policy.

Target group/audience

The main audience of this disinformation is Latvian Russian speakers who are made to believe that the new government is bad from the very beginning, as it considers to reduce the role of Russian language in schools. The Latvian decision-makers may also be deemed to be the implied audience of this disinformation, particularly the ruling parties which were involved in forming the new government and considered the changes with respect to the Russian language of instruction. 

Analysis

The above-mentioned pieces of disinformation on the Russian language of instruction in Latvia are derived from a persistent opinion and clichés which have been cultivated in Latvia’s Russophone informative environment over the last 15 years. One could argue that the narrative of the violation of the Russian-speakers’ rights was less salient a month ago in the Latvian public sphere. The re-appearance of this issue on the Russian-speakers’ public agenda most likely should be seen as part and parcel of Russia’s deterrence strategy before the appointment of the new government. The Russian language and taking care of compatriots form the core of the Russian public diplomacy in Latvia, therefore discussion on Russian language that was evoked by the ruling Latvian parties during the previous week provided a noticeable background for the narrative of nationalists and neo-Nazis who operate in the Latvian government.