In an answer to an editorial in the newspaper Iltalehti, which supports changing the law on language so that children in Eastern Finland would learn Russian instead of Swedish at school, Lipponen says that “Eastern Finland is not to be made into a language ghetto that shuts people in because they do not know Swedish”.
According to Lipponen, the Finnish law on language exists to give everybody the same opportunities on the labor market both within Finland and in the other Nordic countries. He underlines that it should be easier to study Russian and other languages, but that it should not be on the expense of Swedish. “Bilingualism is a part of Finnish cultural heritage that even Finnish-speaking people should defend”, he says according to YLE.
Finland has two official languages – Finnish and Swedish – and all children have to go through study programs in both subjects. However, while a significant part of the population in the western part of the country uses Swedish as their first language, the language is in little use in the country’s east. There, along the border to Russia, studies in Russian now appear far more attractive to youngsters.
According to the editorial in Iltalehti, a recent poll shows that 90 percent supports lessons in Russian as an alternative to Swedish.
The Finnish Ministry of Education in February 2011 turned down applications from municipalities in Eastern Finland on the replacing the compulsory Swedish language with Russian. The municipalities of Lappeenranta, Imatra, Mikkeli, Savonlinna, Pieksämäki and Tohmajärvi had applied for permission to be excused from teaching Swedish.
Iltalehti (literally “Evening newspaper”) is a daily tabloid newspaper and the third largest newspaper in Finland.