Russian Duma OKs 'Native Languages' Bill In First Reading

The lower house of Russia’s parliament has approved in its first reading a controversial bill on the teaching of native languages in schools.

In the draft law approved by the State Duma late on June 19, the lawmakers included the Russian language in the list of native languages that the pupils can learn at schools across the country.

Over the past year, the issue of native languages at schools has been a subject of controversy in Russia's “ethnic” regions, where indigenous, non-Russian ethnic groups are well-represented.

President Vladimir Putin said in July last year that children in these regions must not be forced to learn languages that are not their mother tongues, and ordered prosecutors to determine whether that was taking place.

That led to abolishing mandatory indigenous language classes in the regions, which caused protests in the so-called ethnic republics and regions in Russia's North Caucasus, Volga region, Siberia, and Far East, where local languages have official status alongside Russian.

Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax