Re: Russian-language education extended in Estonia

From: MINELRES moderator <>
Message-Id: <>
Date: Wed, 01 Oct 1997 09:59:06 -0700
Subject: Re: Russian-language education extended in Estonia

From: MINELRES moderator <>

Original sender: Aleksei Semjonov /Internet: (

Subject:Russian-language education in Estonia


The Estonian Parliament appointed a new deadline for imposing
Estonian-language teaching in Russian-language secondary schools to the
year 2007. (See Vello Pettai s Russian-language education extended
in Estonia , MINELRES 17 September 1997). In his communication the
author described the situation correctly indeed, but some important
circumstances were nevertheless missed. Let me clarify the arguments of
Russian deputies in the light of current international approach to the
minorities' educational rights.
Generally, the international legal mechanisms declare the right of
minorities to maintain their collective identity through the medium of
their tongue. It is stressed that such a right is exercised through
the process of education. One can refer to the following articles:
      Art. 5 of the UNESCO Convention Against Discrimination in
      Paragraph 34 of the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the
      Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE;
      Art. 4 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging
      to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities;
      Art. 14 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of
      National Minorities.

As it was mentioned in The Hague Recommendations on minorities
educational rights, these documents remain general and somewhat vague.
They do not stipulate which levels of education should be made
available for minorities and by what means. States should only promote
or create adequate opportunities for that. But by no means these
provisions are simply good intentions and states may easily evade
the obligations. Quite the contrary, they have to create the
opportunities taking into considerations all available elements and
Explanatory Note to The Hague Recommendations express: Irrespective of
the level of access which may be afforded by states, it should not be
established in an arbitrary fashion. States are required to give due
consideration to the needs of national minorities as these are
consistently expressed and demonstrated by the communities in question.

There are all elements and conditions for the state to promote all
levels of Russian-language education in Estonia - even if such a
system would not exist before. These elements include the size of
population, educational infrastructure, traditions, personnel
(teachers), and so on. Finally, there are need and will of Russian
minority clearly expressed by their deputies in the Parliament.
Moreover, there was a campaign of protest letters from different Russian
organisations and unions, as well as from private persons. Lennart Meri,
President of Estonia, in his meeting with the representatives of Russian
community actually recognised that the law is poor and unrealistic.

Therefore, the plan to impose Estonian-language teaching in secondary
schools represent an obvious deviation from the spirit and letter of
international instruments mentioned above. First of all, because this
decision does not create adequate opportunities but abolish them. It
by no means promotes but prevents the exercise of minorities'
rights. And the extension of deadline up to the year 2007 changes
nothing in the essence of the law.

The Legal Information Centre for Human Rights in Estonia
Sole str. 61 A, Tallinn, Estonia
Tel (+372 2) 49 66 49
Fax(+372) 6 55 26 47