Narva council chair: Deputies speak Russian 'for political reasons'

Vladimir Žavoronkov.
Vladimir Žavoronkov. Source: Aleksandr Krasnoumov/ERR

Some councilors in the border town of Narva intentionally present their views at council sessions in the Russian language, despite the law requiring that they do so in Estonian, city council chair Vladimir Žavoronkov says, adding that this was 'purely for political purposes'.

Žavoronkov added that he is currently battling to ensure that the council sessions be held in Estonian, in the wake of last week's removal of a World War Two-era Russian tank, which served as a monument to the fallen, and added that many of those insisting on using Russian during the course of council sessions are in fact familiar with the Estonian language.

Žavoronkov said that deputies have also been approached and asked to present their views in Estonian, adding that: "I see using an interpreter at council sessions as one possible solution, since all deputies have the right to speak; I cannot deny them this."

The next council sitting is on Thursday.

Žavoronkov said he had tried to discuss the issue with Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise, but said the latter was unable to find the time at that point.

Director General of the Estonian Language Inspectorate (Keeleinspektsioon) Ilmar Tomusk last week said that there are contradictions in legislation which need clarifying, but the law requires local politicians to speak Estonian, in the line of work duties.

The justice chancellor said, also last week, that pursuant to the Constitution, the administration of both state and local government in its entirety should in general be conducted in the Estonian language, and while §11 of the Language Act gave scope for the use of Russian alongside Estonian, if a special request were made and satisfied by the state government, no such request has been forthcoming from Narva's municipality.

The city's mayor, Katri Raik, is a native Estonian speaker.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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