Nikita Khrushchev's proposal to give parents of non-Russian children the choice of whether to send their children to a school with education in their own tongue, or to a Russian school, was first advanced at the end of 1958. It immediately provoked a furious response from leaders of the non-Russian republics of the multi-national Soviet Union, and was an issue contributing to political purges in Azerbaijan and Latvia in 1959. In this article, Jeremy Smith uses documents from archives in four Soviet republics to analyze the responses from the republics. Smith shows that republic leaders were mostly agreed on an alternative solution to the question of language of instruction, and pursued different strategies both to oppose the introduction of the reform and to obstruct its implementation once it was passed. The episode also underlines the uncertainty involved in center-periphery relations in the USSR.
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