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TWO STORIES IN THE KEY OF: LANGUAGES AND NATIONS

TWO STORIES IN THE KEY OF: LANGUAGES AND NATIONS

Around the world, national governments in countries that are home to large diasporas or immigrant populations face the challenge of expanding people’s inclusion (by conducting official business in many languages) without encouraging the fragmentation that can result when people don’t need to learn the primary official language. Here are two stories in that key:


Putting Arabic in French Schools…

In a controversial bid to blunt the appeal of Islamic extremism in his country, French President Emmanuel Macron’s administration is pushing a proposal to teach Arabic in public elementary schools. At the moment, French citizens of Arab origin who want their kids to learn the language have few options beyond local mosques, which teach it in a religious context. Amid concerns that mosques in poorly-integrated neighborhoods have become fertile recruitment grounds for radicals (ISIS has drawn more recruits from France than from any other Western country), Macron wants to provide an alternative, government-sponsored option. But critics of the idea say that allowing kids to study Arabic in French schools will just make it harder for them to integrate in a society where French is the official language. And lack of integration among minority groups in France is seen as a contributor to radicalization in the first place.

...while taking Russian out of Latvian ones.

The tiny Baltic nation of Latvia has courted controversy by banning the teaching of Russian in elementary schools. The government sees the move as a necessary step to reinforce a sense of unity and nationhood in a country where only 60 percent of citizens are ethnic Latvians. By way of background, Latvia – whose own language has nothing to do with Russian – was forced into the Soviet Union during World War Two, and for decades thereafter the population and school system were Russianized under Soviet control.

After the USSR fell apart in 1991, many Russians (and other ethnicities who never learned Latvian) stayed in the newly independent country rather than “return” to Russia. They are understandably upset about the new law, as is Moscow, which has blasted the “odious” measure.  The role of Russian in Latvian public life has long been a contentious issue – a 2012 referendum shot down a proposal to make it the country’s second official tongue. And the plight of Ukraine now looms large over the entire debate – in 2014, after the pro-Russian government in Kyiv was overthrown, the new authorities immediately passed a bill limiting the use of Russian. That was one of the main pretexts for the Kremlin’s decision to annex Crimea and back rebels in the East. Russia, President Putin said, reserved the right to defend “Russian-speakers” everywhere.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

Over the weekend, some 40,000 Russians braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take (part 1):

Ian Bremmer here, happy Monday. And have your Quick Take to start off the week.

Maybe start off with Biden because now President Biden has had a week, almost a week, right? How was it? How's he doing? Well, for the first week, I would say pretty good. Not exceptional, but not bad, not bad. Normal. I know everyone's excited that there's normalcy. We will not be excited there's normalcy when crises start hitting and when life gets harder and we are still in the middle of a horrible pandemic and he has to respond to it. But for the first week, it was okay.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Russian opposition leader Navalny in jail. Hundreds of thousands demonstrating across the country in Russia over well over 100 cities, well over 3000 arrested. And Putin responding by saying that this video that was put out that showed what Navalny said was Putin's palace that costs well over a billion dollars to create and Putin, I got to say, usually he doesn't respond to this stuff very quickly. Looked a little defensive, said didn't really watch it, saw some of it, but it definitely wasn't owned by him or owned by his relatives.

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Even as vaccines roll out around the world, COVID-19 is continuing to spread like wildfire in many places, dashing hopes of a return to normal life any time soon. Some countries, like Israel and the UK for instance, have been praised for their inoculation drives, while still recording a high number of new cases. It's clear that while inoculations are cause for hope, the pace of rollouts cannot keep up with the fast-moving virus. Here's a look at the countries that have vaccinated the largest percentages of their populations so far – and a snapshot of their daily COVID caseloads (7-day rolling average) in recent weeks.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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