Russia is fishing for Latvian Russians under the guise of education
This is the highlighted message on the Russian Consulate General's website. It is the first one that appears when you open the social network. ВНИМАНИЮ ЖЕЛАЮЩИХ ПОЛУЧИТЬ БЕСПЛАТНОЕ ОБРАЗОВАНИЕ В РОССИИ! Attention those who want to get free education in Russia. Russian media previously reported that the selection process would run until November 1, but it has now been extended to mid-December. Registering for the competition means you can apply to study in secondary, higher or vocational education programs in the 2022/2023 academic year paid for by the Russian federal budget within the quota set by the government. More than 500 education institutions are on offer.
Filter - Rossotrudnichestvo
The competition is held in two stages. In the first stage, applicants are interviewed by a commission of the Russian Embassy. The second stage involves the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation, commonly known as Rossotrudnichestvo. This office is an instrument of the Russian soft power, which disseminates Russian ideology to the world through culture, science and education and recruits Kremlin supporters abroad. In the US, there was even an investigation several years ago into the recruitment of American youths for espionage under the cover of cultural contacts. They were careless in their cover-up.
But what happens next after the Latvian Russian youth are filtered through? After the most potentially useful, capable, talented and also loyal to Russia young people have been selected, their documents go to the Russian Ministry of Education, from there to specific universities, and a decision is taken on the admission of the Latvian youths in question.
One hundred per year
Around 100 Latvian youths travel to Russia for this every year. At least, according to a propaganda article in the Kremlin propaganda publication Sputnik. And, of course, the fishing for Russian youths is most active where the potential catches are more prolific and Russia is seen as a wonderful country in the local community. Daugavpils, Rēzekne, but not only. Recently, this problem was highlighted by the state media in the Latvian Radio story "Distanced in Russia". The pandemic trend in education is distance learning abroad. For Russian parents, distance education in Russia seems to be more attractive and of higher quality. Many primary and secondary school pupils have therefore remotely moved there, with the added stimulus of the pandemic. So the Russian Federation is trying to lure talented Russian youths from Latvia, in all age groups and at all levels of education. What will ultimately happen to a young person who has spent several years in the Russian education system, whether remotely or in person? Most likely, he will be loyal to the Russian Federation, like his parents, and not to the Latvian state.
For students to stay in Latvia
Neatkarīgā sent Minister of Education Anita Muižniece the link to the Russian Consulate General's publication on free education in Russia for Latvian youth. And here is how the Minister commented on the question of whether this is not basically a disguised theft of Latvian citizens:
"The Latvian legal framework allows for education in another country at different levels, but it is important to be aware that at primary or secondary school level this can create additional challenges when it comes to returning to the Latvian education system. It is important to take this into account when choosing where to study. For example, if you have studied for two years in another country's system and want to continue your studies in primary or secondary school in Latvia, you will need to go through a recognition procedure. As education systems and programs differ, the fact that a child has completed primary school in another country does not guarantee that they will be able to enter a Latvian secondary school straight away. Those who have graduated from a secondary school abroad should also bear in mind that, when entering university, they will need to have both the academic recognition in Latvia and the authentication (legalization) of the authenticity of the secondary education document issued abroad.
These are just some of the reasons why we want our students to study in Latvia!
Every child, every current or future pupil is very important. Although the pandemic has created challenges, the whole education sector is working hard and will continue to work hard to ensure that our students have the opportunity to receive a quality education."
So, the Ministry of Education and Science hopes to surpass the Russian program to lure away young people from Latvia with a high-quality and competitive education offered in Latvia.