Seimas strongly condemns the closure of Lithuanian schools in Pelesa and Rimdžiūnai by the Belarusian authorities
Press release, 27 September 2022
Having regard to the fact that the Belarusian authorities suspended the activities of the Lithuanian school in Pelesa, Belarus, on 11 August 2022, the Seimas has strongly condemned such actions of the Belarusian authorities. The Seimas has voted unanimously by 100 votes in favour of the respective Seimas Resolution.
In the Resolution, the Seimas regrets that, under the amendments to the Belarusian Education Code which entered into force on 1 September 2022, all schools operating in the country may conduct education only in Belarusian or Russian. The Seimas also regrets that Belarus unilaterally terminated the bilateral agreement on cooperation in the field of education with Lithuania on 15 September 2022.
‘The Lithuanian language spoken in Lithuanian ethnic lands, which are currently located on the territory of Belarus, is at risk,’ the Seimas Resolution notes. ‘We strongly condemn the Belarusian regime for having closed the Lithuanian schools in Pelesa and Rimdžiūnai. The Belarusian authorities pursue policy which discriminates the national communities in Belarus. By doing so, the Belarusian authorities prove, once again, that they do not care about their international obligations and the rights of national communities residing in the country,’ said Laima Liucija Andrikienė, Chair of the Seimas Committee on Foreign Affairs and one of the initiators of the draft resolution.
Emanuelis Zingeris, initiator of the Resolution, reminded the audience that Lithuanian schools operating in Belarus to date had provided an opportunity for Lithuanians living in Belarus to learn their mother tongue and preserve their national identity. ‘Not only Lithuanian, but also Polish schools are being closed under Lukashenko’s dictatorship. Basically, this functions as a replacement of the remains of European education by Soviet-style education which reflects the Russian world ideology. Lithuanians, who have lived in these lands for centuries since the times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, do not deserve such horrible treatment,’ Mr Zingeris said.
The Resolution invites the United Nations Human Rights Council, the institutions of the European Union, the Council of Europe, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe to take, within their respective remit, all necessary measures to immediately halt the discriminatory education policy of ethnic communities by the Belarusian authorities. At the same time, the Seimas invites all the competent institutions of the Republic of Lithuania to raise this issue on a regular basis in bilateral meetings and international organisations.
Pelesa secondary school, operating in Belarus since 1992, was built and fully funded by the State of Lithuania. Vilnius Pranciškaus Skorinos Gymnasium, offering education in Belarusian as a language of instruction, operates in Lithuania since 1994.
On 12 August 2022, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania sent an official diplomatic note to the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus in Lithuania in protest against the actions of the Belarusian authorities aimed at closing the Lithuanian secondary school in Pelesa funded by the State of Lithuania.
Rimas Rudaitis, Adviser, Press Office, Information and Communication Department, tel. +370 5 239 6132, e-mail: [email protected]