The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement calling the Estonian government's decision last week not to grant four Tallinn secondary schools the right to continue teaching predominantly in Russian "unconstitutional."
“The decision of the Estonian powers is especially cynical, as it is not only against Estonian international commitments to guarantee the human rights of minorities, but also goes against the Estonian constitution,” the statement, which was available only in Russian, said.
Article 37 of the Estonian Constitution states that "the language of instruction shall be selected by the national minority school." But there is no precedent for considering a publicly funded school in Tallinn - no matter what the native language of most of its students - a "national minority school." The term is not defined but has been considered In Estonian jurisprudence to mean a private school founded by a minority with cultural autonomy.
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Cabinet decision to deny the public schools is one of many aimed at "assimilating" local Russians to form a mono-ethnic society.
"It is worrisome that the Estonian authorities have involved the National Security Agency in effecting the discontinuation of Russian-language education, as staff of the agency actively engaged in 'preventive conversations' with directors of Russian-language upper secondary schools," the statement read.
Last Thursday Estonia's Cabinet decided not to give an exemption to four schools from a law which states that taxpayer funded upper secondary schools must teach at least 60 percent of subjects in Estonian.
Tallinn City Council had petitioned the government to allow a city center gymnasium, the Russian Lyceum, the Tõnismäe Science School and Haabersti Russian Upper Secondary School to continue to use Russian as the language of instruction.
Three of the four schools have received close to 100,000 in special funding to help them make the transition to the language requirements, out of a total of 371,014 euros allocated by the Education Ministry to the Tallinn Education Department.