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Friday 24.11.2017 | Name days: Velta, Velda

Defenders of Russian schools are united by more than just public activities

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUActivists who wish to secure higher importance and range of application of Russian language in Latvia have been coming out to the streets more frequently lately. Behind numerous public events there is a well-structured network of non-governmental organizations, and at least some part of them have been receiving support, including financial, from foundations created by the Russian government.

De facto programme of LTV reports that many of the notable activists in Latvia are united not just by the cause they share. Organizers of events have been trained by one teacher. They remain in contact with him still. This person is Bronislav Zelcerman. He confirms that he was one of the key figures in the most recent Russian language referendum in Latvia.

Two weeks ago, this week and next week – public events in support for Russian schools are starting to pick a certain rhythm. They are becoming louder and more intense. Participants of these events also make references to recent events in Ukraine.

‘Adamantly – it is best to be educated in native tongue, think in native tongue and act,’ – said Bronislav Zelcerman in his interview to radio Baltkom. He and his colleague Aleksandr Gaponenko were previously noted as the organizers of the language referendum in Latvia. Gaponenko is also a known radical element, who had previously demanded Latgale to be made an autonomous territory.

In the same interview, Zelcerman drew attention to the backstage of the language referendum: ‘I was not alone in this. I had a team. I can say exactly how many people organized it – 47 aside from Linderman. All of them were present at all preparation stages. 47 people per such a country. We did what set out to do.’

Recent events lead to believe that a second coming is due for public protests. Now the target has been moved to schools of national minorities. It is not hard for Linderman to gather a team. He has been in charge of the Eksperiments teaching centre for innovative teaching approach. This centre has been releasing young leaders.

‘In my opinion, leaders are people who are prepared to give their lives for their ideas,’ – as Zelcerman described his opinion in his interview.

Zelcerman’s trained leaders can now be seen in movements that frequently actualize and carry to the streets matters regarding Russian schools and non-citizens. The role of this teacher in the education of the next generation was previously noticed by Latvia’s Security Police as well. Even now this institution keeps a close eye on the young activists. What is notable about them is that they often use arguments that harmonize with Russia and its geopolitical interests.

Chief of Security Police Janis Reikins says this: ‘This kind of education is not focused on increasing national identity and consolidation of Latvia’s society. This kind of education only contributes to the popularization of Russia’s interests and its possible ties with Latvia’s development and the country’s course of foreign and domestic policy.’

One of the most notable students of Zelcerman is now the member of Harmony Centre, MPE candidate, and leader of the Non-citizens Congress Elizabete Krivcova.

When asked about the possible cooperation of multiple NGOs with institutions associated with Russian government, Krivcova says: ‘Our goal is to form cooperation with Russian institutions on the basis of representation. Not in the current way or form. Instead, we want cooperation to be on equal terms, as though between equal partners. […] We have known common interests with Russia – it wants, and this wish is often well-founded, to criticize Latvia. We, on the other hand, want to distribute this information.’

Krivcova’s activities allow her to be regarded as the head of the process, as she works in politics. She meets with ministers, but she is not seen participating in public protest acts. Another of Zelcerman’s students can be found there – Illarion Girs.

Krivcova works with hand-in-hand with other students of Zelcerman’s – Margarita Dragile, Olga Gogina and Yelena Bacinska.

A carefully crafted system is behind public protest acts. Each person involved plays his own role – Russian school defence headquarters participates in street protests, Non-citizens Congress – tries to defend interests of Russian speakers on a political level. Other organizations try to recruit parents and young people.

Zelcerman’s students and he personally organized this week’s national minorities’ parents forum, which was organized in order to expand the audience of Russian language defence. These activists also work closely with each other in Perom movement. Its leader, Dragile, mentioned in some interview the organizing of summer camps for young people with a special emphasis on defence of language and rights. Young people are a valuable resource for Russia’s interests.

Executive Director of the Eastern European Policy Research Centre Andis Kudrs says: ‘This is the future. If the previous generation still lives in Soviet nostalgia and partially in the information space, the new generation should be fought over. Russian-speaking young people here in Latvia are more European than those who are busy creating the Eurasian Union.’

Annual accounts of the movement show that many of them have been closely working with foundations created by Russian authorities and have been receiving financial aid from Russia.

Several years ago, Zelcerman’s led pedagogy centre Eksperiment had formed a private school – Innova. Based on Russian education methodology, this private school now teaches 80 children all the way from first to twelfth grade.


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