Medinsky Calls for Sacrificing Non-Russian And Foreign Language Instruction To Boost Training In Russian – OpEd


Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky has called on Vladimir Putin to order the education ministry to cut the number of hours in schools devoted to instruction in both domestic non-Russian and foreign languages in order that there will be more time for pupils throughout the country to learn Russian well.

Medinsky told the Presidential Council on Interethnic Relations this week that “we have quite seriously increased the regional component both in language and in history. We are devoting more attention now to foreign languages, and this also of course is correct, but it must not harm the study of Russian” (

Pupils naturally benefit from knowing what he called “regional languages.” That is “a bonus, but it makes sense only as an addition to a deep knowledge of our common language,” Russian. Consequently, it makes sense to rebalance the number of hours spent in the study of non-Russian languages to the benefit of Russian.

Putin, who was present when Medinsky made this argument, seems inclined to agree. He said that test results in the area of Russian language knowledge this year were anything but encouraging. That is a matter of concern and should be the focus of expanded attention by the government.

The test results really were less than Moscow hoped for, especially since the educational authorities cut the passing grade by two points in order to ensure that most pupils passed. Moreover, Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets openly acknowledged that the tests showed “a reduction in the level of mastery of Russian.”

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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