Estonian Education Minister Jevgeni Ossinovski sent a letter to the director of the Language Inspectorate in which he enquiried about the board's policies in regards to bilingual street signs in Narva-Jõesuu, newspapers reported.
The Language Inspectorate demanded from the local authorities in September that bilingual street signs, written both in Estonian and Russian, need to be replaced by Estonian ones only, according to a report in Postimees (Eesti Päevaleht also devoted an editorial to it, saying he may have been currying favor with local voters).
Ossinovski then wrote to Ilmar Tomusk, the director of the board, in which he suggested that decision to use bilingual signs should be up to private homeowners and not an issue on the state level.
Ossinovski felt that if bilingual signs enable Estonian Russian-speakers to understand them better, it wouldn't violate the Estonian language laws, provided that the name is displayed larger in Estonian than Russian. "According to the language law, it is permitted to add Russian or English name to Estonian signs, provided that the Estonian name is on top and is not less visible,“ Ossinovski said.
But Tomusk insisted that the Language Inspectorate acted according to the current Local Names Act, dating back to 2004, not the general Language Act that regulates how advertising signs should be written, for example.
Ossinovski conceded today that he misunderstood the way these two different laws are applied. "The director of the Language Inspectorate explained that according to the Local Names Act, the street names can only be displayed exactly the same way the streets have been registered in the local names register,“ the minister said.