The Minister of Education Hazwane Wazz stated that by the next year all preparations for teaching Russian in schools will be completed. The announcement underlines the strengthening relations between Russia and Syria. Previously, French was the second foreign language after English taught in Syrian schools. Syria is a former French colony and French is widely spoken in Syrian academia. Now, the students will have a choice of French and Russian.
Moscow, unlike Paris, has proven to be Damascus’s staunch ally in the past 3 years. Where Paris condemned the actions of Asad government, Moscow has protected its ally against international coalition at UN Security Council and prevented the West from an outright military intervention in Syria.
There are around five thousand French speakers in Syria, most of whom are students. There are also 30 thousand people with Russian citizenship in the country, most being females who had married Syrian men. After the start of the civil war in Syria, non-citizens in these couples have filed for Russian citizenship. Russia denied citizenship to Syrians because they did not speak the language.
Russia also maintains a military base in the port of Tartu – the only one held by Moscow in the Mediterranean – which was the backbone of Russia’s foreign policy vis-a-vis Syria.
The war between government forces and insurgents in Syria started in the spring of 2011. Since then, nearly 120 thousand people have died with more than 2 million people being displaced. Approximately 900 Russian citizens previously residing in Syria returned to Russia in 2013.