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Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 16:35 GMT
Forced Russian lessons spark Moldova protest
Demonstration in Kishinev
Protesters say Moldova is becoming Russia's province
Around 3,000 people have marched through the capital of Moldova, Kishinev, protesting against the introduction of the Russian language as a compulsory subject in schools.


Let us into continental Europe - don't shove Russian down our throats

Protesters

The demonstrators said the government's decision was pushing Moldova closer to Russia and away from Europe.

"Down with Russification, down with communism," shouted the protesters, many of whom were draped in the flags of the European Union and Moldova.

"Let us into continental Europe. Don't shove Russian down our throats."

The participants also called on teachers and schoolchildren to boycott Russian language lessons.

The demonstration was organised by the opposition Christian Democratic Popular Party, which advocates unification of Moldova and Romania.

Russian orbit

The government introduced Russian as a compulsory language from the second grade earlier this month.

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin
Communists are pressing for closer ties with Russia

It was one of the pre-election promises of the Communist Party, which was swept to power last year amid mass disillusionment in one of Europe's poorest countries.

Moldovan Communist President Vladimir Voronin is a strong advocate of the country joining the political union of Russia and Belarus.

Last month the government ratified a friendship treaty with Russia, defining it as Moldova's strategic partner.

Although around 75% of Moldovans are of Romanian descent, the country has a large Russian-speaking minority, and Russian is widely spoken in the cities.

See also:

26 Feb 01 | Europe
Communists win in Moldova
25 Feb 01 | Europe
Leaving Moldova for a better life
30 Jan 01 | Europe
Moldova's electricity war
27 Aug 00 | Media reports
Two Moldovas celebrate independence
04 Jan 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Moldova
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