There are 47 groups of indigenous peoples in Russia. Many languages of indigenous peoples are at the edge of extinction. From 1995 to 2010 the proportion of indigenous pupils among all indigenous peoples learning their mother tongue decreased by almost half. This article examines the legal regulation of the Russian system of school education and defines what place indigenous languages have in this system. The author comes to the conclusion that realising the right of indigenous children to learn their mother tongue in Russia is complicated by many factors of both legal and non-legal character.