In a 13 September speech concerning, inter alia, schools in Latvia, published on a Russian government website, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Special Representative for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, Konstantin Dolgov, has once again shown, that he is out of touch with current realities, trends, policies, and legislation in the Republic of Latvia.
Mr. Dolgov suggests that Russian language and culture in Latvia is under threat, and that Russian schools are to be liquidated. Comments far from the truth but even baseless official statements may demand an official response.
The Latvian Constitution and laws guarantee and protect the rights of persons belonging to national minorities. Latvia not only protects but also widely supports national minority languages, education and culture and there are no plans to change this policy. Moreover, Latvia continues to develop and finance its liberal education model providing state-funded education in 7 minority languages. To discontinue the bilingual education in Latvia is not on the agenda of the government. In fact, the goal which the Government of Latvia has agreed and set for itself is to improve the content and quality of the education offered to students in Latvia.
It should also be pointed out that Mr. Dolgov is fond of quoting representatives of international organisations out of the context in which their original remarks were made.
For example, in his speech delivered on 13 September, Mr. Dolgov cites the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Nils Muižnieks last May: “Europe must combat racist extremism and uphold human rights”. In his comments at the time, Mr Muižnieks was talking about expressions of radical nationalism aimed at the Roma and at muslims, in Sweden, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Serbia, and Italy; at the time, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights did not even mention Latvia or the Baltic States.
The 13 September speech by Mr. Dolgov also provided disinformation concerning Latvia’s ratification of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. When ratifying the Convention on 26 May 2005, Latvia exercised its right to provide a definition of “national minority” and the scope of application of the Framework Convention, which is much broader than that of many other Member States of the Framework Convention, and encompasses those persons with the status of “non-citizens”, contrary to Mr. Dolgov’s erroneous assertions.
Furthermore, the Latvian Foreign Ministry would like to draw attention to the main principles of The Bolzano/Bozen Recommendations on National Minorities in Inter-State Relations: while a State might have an interest in supporting persons belonging to national minorities in other States, “no State may exercise jurisdiction over the population or part of the population of another State within the territory of that State without its consent” as Astrid Thors, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, quite rightly said after her visit to Ukraine in April 2014. The principles of the Bolzano/Bozen recommendations are of utmost importance in relation to Russia’s policy vis-a-vis Ukraine, and other neighbouring states as well
At a time when the international community is greatly concerned about how the Russian Federation is violating the human rights of Tatars and Ukrainians in illegally occupied Crimea, Mr. Dolgov’s words are way off the mark. This is a time for Russia to look at itself in the mirror, and to look for genuine ways of supporting its diaspora. The Russian diaspora deserves the truth, and certainly not false information designed to hurt their developing relations with members of the societies in countries to which they have migrated, and in which they are becoming integrated, as valuable members of the society as a whole.
Mr. Dolgov suggests that the whole segments of the so-called “Russian World” are facing difficulties in protecting their rights and “rightful” interests, so Russia must act accordingly. Should we remind Mr. Dolgov that the Nuremburg Tribunal pointed out that exactly the same line of argumentation was used by Nazi Germany? Moreover, the International Community is already outraged by the practical implementation of the concept of a so-called “Russian World” in Ukraine, where military aggression by the Russian Federation brought death to thousands and misery and devastation to hundreds of thousands of those whom it claims to protect. The policy of the “Russian World” has already resulted in a high cost to the families of so many of Russian servicemen killed on Ukrainian soil in an undeclared war. Few are surprised to see amongst the willing implementers of the “Russian World” policy in Ukraine those neo-Nazis and xenophobes that annually march on the streets of Russia’s largest cities on 4 November and those who chase and kill immigrants and African students in Russia.
Mr. Dolgov, like other Russian officials, would like to divert attention from the sad situation with regard to human rights in Russia itself, and to use all means to distract attention and suppress criticism from the International Community with regard to Russia’s flagrant aggression in Ukraine, and, at the same time, to delay and hinder societal integration processes in Latvia.
It’s a pity that Mr. Dolgov overlooked the opportunity on 13 September to request meetings with Latvian officials that could have helped him better understand the conditions in Latvia.
In this context, Mr. Dolgov’s speech shall be regarded as yet another element of a propaganda war being unleashed against Latvia and the Baltic States as a part of a wider European and Euro-Atlantic community of values.
Latvia is part of the free, democratic world and is proud that its residents, all of its residents, just as in all the other European Union states, are ensured all fundamental rights and freedoms. And the people of Latvia certainly look forward to the day when the residents of Russia will also enjoy these same European rights.