Sunday, August 24, 2014

Latvia’s Tensions With Russians at Home Persist in Shadow of Ukraine Conflict

AUG. 23, 2014

RIGA, Latvia — History has bequeathed this Baltic port capital much beauty, captured in elegant Art Nouveau buildings or the Gothic church steeples that stud the windswept skyline. But it has also left a nasty ethnic rift that has persisted despite Latvia’s absorption into NATO, the European Union and the euro currency, and which has now deepened with the crisis in Ukraine.

In this nation of two million, about one-third of the residents speak only or primarily Russian. Many — but not all — are people whose families arrived during the decades of Soviet rule here. Ever since Latvia declared independence in 1991, many of these Russian speakers have been in limbo, as noncitizens squeezed out of political life, largely unable to vote, hold office or even serve in the fire brigade.

Those who refuse to acquire proficient skill speaking Latvian do not get citizenship. In the coming October elections, unless the government decides to issue special voting cards, about 283,000 will, once again, not cast ballots.

(More here.)


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