Latvian schools to stop teaching Russian as a second language

Latvian children will no longer study Russian as a second language in schools from 2026 following amendments introduced by the Latvian government on Tuesday.

The changes mean students entering the 5th grade in September 2026 must study an official language of the European Union, the European Economic Area, or a foreign language approved by intergovernmental agreements with other states, as their second foreign language.

According to these rules, students will only be able to study Russian if they have begun their studies before September 2025.

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, parents have requested for schools to abandon teaching Russian, which is the most popular second language studied in Latvian schools, the Latvian government noted.

“The opportunity to study an official language of the European Union in Latvian schools confirms our belonging to the European cultural space and the values of the democratic world,” the minister of education and science Anda Čakša said. 

“After the bloodiest war unleashed by Russia this century and genocide of Ukrainian people, the mandatory study of Russian as a second language is unacceptable for a significant part of Latvian society,” she continued.

Russian is the second most popular language in Latvia, with 37.7% of the population reporting it to be their mother tongue in a survey conducted in 2023. The language ban is one of a series of measures that aim to de-russify Latvia in response to the war in Ukraine, including an amendment passed by the country’s parliament in 2022 denying permanent residence to Russians unable to speak basic-level Latvian.

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