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Belarusian public intends to oppose “silent discrimination” of Russian-speaking majority

Belarusian public workers intend to demand the government to observe the constitutional principle of equality of the Russian and Belarusian languages, Jean Chubukov, a Belarusian political analyst, told EADaily on September 12. Chubukov decided to initiate a collective appeal for an opportunity for the Russian-speaking children to receive education in Russian.

Chubukov made a point of the fact that the overwhelming majority of the population in Belarus choose Russian-language schools and kindergartens for their children. However, even there, the Russian-speaking children are taught many subjects not related to the Belarusian language in Belarusian (the Belarusian language and Russian language are taught at all schools irrespective of the teaching language). At schools where the teaching language is Belarusian, all the subjects are taught on the Belarusian only.

“Our initiative looks to provide an opportunity to the Russian speakers to receive education in the Russian language by 100%. At present, the Belarusian children can receive education either in Belarusian only or in the Russian and Belarusian at once. Even at kindergartens and schools with the Russian language teaching, children are forced to learn the Belarusian language not only the lessons on it. I think the absence of a teaching program totally on the Russian language except the subject ‘Belarusian language’ is violation of Article 17 of the Constitution (saying that there are two state languages in Belarus – Russian and Belarusian - EADaily) and discrimination of the Russian speaking majority of the Belarusian citizens. It is logical: if there is education totally on the Belarusian language, the people must have an opportunity to receive education totally on the Russian language too,” Chubukov said.

The expert said most of the population in Belarus prefer the Russian language education. “Every year, the Education Ministry website publishes statistics of the education languages. The share of the Belarusian schools, courses and groups is at the level of statistical error. In fact, education at the pre-school establishments and schools is in Belarusian even when it comes to the subjects bearing no relation to the ‘Belarusian language’,” he said.

For instance, Chubukov said, in the “Russian language” education program, the folk literature, the literature of the Belarusian writers and the history of Belarus are taught exclusively in Belarusian. However, there are many Belarusian writers that wrote in Russian, he said. In his words, even sports are taught in Belarusian at schools and kindergartens.

“At the same time, the ‘culture of speech’ that should have formed the knowledge and skills of the native language at the Russian language schools is focused on the Belarusian language. Besides, the Russian language is not presented as native one anywhere. From time to time the president and other officials remind this in their speeches when regular gas or milk ‘war’ breaks out,” the public worker said.

Jean Chubukov seeks to gather a group of like minders and address parliamentarians over the issue. In his words, at Russian language schools, there are cases when 2-3 pupils studying in the Belarusian language only are provided with special teachers and classrooms. Meantime, for some unknown reasons, there are no schools or even groups taught in the Russian language only, he said.

The political analyst said he does not urge against the existing system, but he wants that the Russian speakers have the same rights and opportunities as the Belarusian speakers do. “The people must have an opportunity to decide whether to teach their children in Russian, Belarusian or in both the languages,” Chubukov said.

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