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Baltic Russians call for equality

  • 2007-08-30
  • From wire reports

RUSSIAN RIGHTS: Entitlement to eduction in Russian remains a contentious issue across the Baltics

TALLINN - Ethnic Russian inhabitants of all three Baltic states have formulated a resolution calling for an end to  discrimination and opportunities to integrate more easily.

The resolution emerged from a regional conference held in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, Aug. 29 and says that equal treatment of the 2 million Russians living across the Baltic states is the only way that relations with Russia will improve.

"The solution of real integration problems and putting a stop to discrimination against our compatriots is the basis for the normalization of international relations with Russia," the resolution states.

Delegates also asked the Russian government and businesses to take the attitude of the Baltic states toward Russians into account when considering trade deals.

Participants at the conference stressed the need to retain education in the Russian language and to popularise Russian language, literature and art. New rules are due to come into effect establishing Estonian as the olnly official language for instruction in elementary schools.

They also called for a speedy resolution to ongoing disputes concerning the Russian Orthodox Church's land rights in the Baltic states

The conference elected Andrei Zarenko as the representative of the Baltic states at the World Coordination Council of Russian compatriots.

A senior official of the Russian Foreign Ministry praised the conference's objectives. Alexander Chapurin, director of the department of Russian compatriots abroad, said Russia supported integration but was against assimilation. "The Russian-speakers of the Baltic countries must be entitled to use their native language," he added.

Chapurin said that there was some interest in the resettlement program offered to Baltic Russians wishing to move to Russia, but said that interest in the scheme was much smaller than it is in central Asia. "Time will tell how it turns out," he said.

The conference also made an appeal to European institutions to defend the rights of Russians living within EU borders. "Disregard of these liberties and rights will bring local crises of civic society such as the April events in Estonia," the appeal threatened. It also asked EU institutions to monitor what it believes to be the spread of neo-Nazi sympathies throughout the Baltic states.

The next conference of Russian compatriots residing in the Baltic countries will take place in Riga next year.