History of Russians in Latvia

History of Russians in Latvia

Russians have been the largest ethnic minority in Latvia for many centuries.

Ancient Latvia

Early East Slavic, or "proto-Russian", settlements were present in what is now Latvia from the early Middle Ages. As early as the 6th century AD, an East Slavic tribe, the Krivichs, had settled in what is now eastern Latvia. The Latvian word "Krievija" for "Russia" is thought to have originated in these times. During the 10th–12th centuries two Russian principalities — of Jersika and Atzele existed on the territory of nowadays Latgale.Fact|date=October 2007 Kukenois (Koknese) in modern Aizkraukle County was part of Principality of Polatsk as a tributary sub-principality. In 1209 Kukenois was taken by Teutonic Knights, also in the second decade of 13th century principality of Jersika became a part of Lithuania, but in 1270s it was conquered by the German crusaders of the Livonian Order and incorporated into Livonia.

Influence of early Russian trade

East Slavic presence remained, primarily as merchants in cities; trading ties to Muscovy and other parts of what is now Russia were preserved as well. The Polotsk principality and the merchants of Novgorod Republic established trade relations with the Hanseatic League, of which Riga was a member, and merchants through the Riga Merchant Guild. Nevertheless, Russian prospects for profit remained limited in the German-dominated trade league, including economic blockades preventing Novgorod from trading with Livonia. Circumstances changed in 1392, when under the "Niburg agreement", it was agreed that German and Russian merchants would enjoy freedom of movement. Russian trade contributed significantly to the development of Livonia over the following century.

In 1481, Ivan III of Russia briefly captured Daugavpils and several other towns in eastern Livonia in response to a Livonian attack on north-west Russia. During the Livonian War most of Livonia was overrun by the Russians under Ivan the Terrible for 24 years between 1558 and 1582. Although the Russians were eventually driven out by the Swedes and the Poles this point in time marked the increased Russian peasants migration into Latvia in the second half of the 16th century—these were mainly peasants looking to improve their conditions under serfdom in Russia, and from the second half of the seventeenth century religiously repressed Old Believers. Russian presence also grew during Livonia's incorporation in the Swedish Empire. In the 17th century during Russo–Swedish War initiated by Alexis I of Russia the Russians seized much of eastern Latvia, re-named Daugavpils into Borisoglebsk and controlled the region for 11 years between 1656 and 1667. Russia had to yield the area to Poland following the Treaty of Andrusovo.

Russian Empire

Early control by the Russian Empire

Count Sheremetev's capture of Riga in the Great Northern War in 1710 completed Peter I's conquest of Livonia. Russian trade through Latvia began to flourish and an active Russian merchant class began to settle in Latvia. The first Russian school in Riga was founded in 1789 [ [http://www.dialogi.lv/article.php?id=218&t=0&rub=3&la=1 "Фейгмане Т. Д." Русская школа в Латвии: два века истории] ] . Still, the total Russian population in Latvia remained fairly small until the rest of Latvia was incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1795.

Russian capital was invested in trade through the Baltic countries, including Latvia. Some of those profits went toward establishing Russian-owned industry. By the middle of the 19th century, developing industry began to attract Russian workers. The influx of Russian peasantry had also continued, seeking less socially and religiously oppressive conditions within the empire. (The Baltics had a certain degree of autonomy and were not subject to all the same rules as the rest of the Russian Empire.) Russian nobility also established a presence, though administrative control essentially remained in the hands of the Baltic Germans.

While the Russian community in Latvia was largely an extension of Russia's ethnic Russians, it nevertheless also began to develop a sense of community separate from Russia, beginning to consider itself one of the nationalities of Latvia. [ [http://www.li.lv/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=101&Itemid=470 "Russians in Latvia"] at the Latvian Institute, by Vladislav Volkov, retrieved December 23, 2007] Russian social organizations began to spring up in the 1860s, around the same time as that of the Latvian National Awakening. The reforms of Alexander II, including the abolishment of serfdom in 1861 throughout the rest of the empire further stimulated the rise of a national consciousness.

Latvia had, in fact, taken a lead in this regard, as serfdom had already been abolished in 1819 except for Latgale, which had been incorporated into the Vitebsk Guberniya in 1802. The first Russian newspaper in Riga — "Rossiyskoe ezhenedelnoe izdanie v Rige" (Российское еженедельное издание в Риге, Russian Weekly in Riga) — was founded in 1816 ["Пухляк О. Н., Борисов Д. А." Русские в Латвии со средневековья до конца XIX века. — Рига: SI, 2005. — стр. 187 ISBN 9984-630-01-3] . The Russian daily newspaper "Rizhskij Vestnik" (Рижский Вестник, "Riga Herald"), founded in 1869 by Evgraf Vasilyevich Cheshikhin (Евграф Васильевич Чешихин) and published until his death in 1888, established the notion of "the needs and wants of the local Russian population". Cheshikhin also formed the Russian literary circle (Русский литературный кружок) in Riga in 1876. Local Russians participated in elections to town councils and later to the State Duma.

Alexander III's Russification policy, implemented upon his ascension to the throne in 1881, was aimed primarily at dislodging Baltic German hegemony—uniting Tsarist Russian, Latvian Russian minority, and ethnic Latvian nationalist interests in this single regard. Rather than consolidating Russian control, however, in defining and targeting a common adversary (which was the dominant social class) this policy also reinforced both majority and minority self-awareness.

Decline and end of empire

At the dawn of the 20th century, Latvian Russians and Latvians were united in a lower class status, whether in rural agriculture or urban manufacturing, sharing a common interest with the Latvian nationalists to bring down the dominance of the Baltic Germans. The policy of Russificiation remained in place upon the ascension of tsar Nicholas II. It is important to note that through Russification, the tsar had turned on the Baltic German elite that had so loyally served the empire in exchange for its continued privileged status. In sharing this agenda, tsarist Russia and the Latvian Russians played an important supporting role in the development of Latvian nationalism.

In Latvia, as in the rest of the empire, the situation of factory workers was grim. They worked an average of 11 hours a day, 10 on Saturday, under harsh and unsafe conditions. Social agitation built over the course of several years; when workers protested at the Winter Palace, police and Cossacks attacked the procession, killing or wounding hundreds. This event marked the start of the Revolution of 1905.

When the revolution spread to Latvia, it can be argued that Latvia was far more "prepared" for it than Russia proper--rather than an undirected expression of frustration or ambiguous "class struggle," the adversary in Latvia, the Baltic German elite, were a clear and unambiguous target: a separate social class of a separate ethnicity speaking a separate language. Thus the 1905 revolution in Latvia was fundamentally different from that in the rest of Russia. Peasants of both Russian and Latvian ethnicity captured small towns and burned dozens of manors. The revolution in Latvia, however, did not agitate to separate from Russia, as nationalists continued to believe they needed the might of tsarist Russia to counter Baltic German dominance.

The revolution did not succeed as such. Nicholas II, through various concessions, including the establishment of the representative Duma, retained power. Although Russification as a policy was not withdrawn, the Baltic German elite once again found themselves in the tsar's favor as his agent to maintain control. The Germans, assisted by Russian army regiments, targeted Latvians in an attempt to counter nationalism. The Russian government, in re-allying itself with the ruling elite, sought to cement that relationship by encouraging Russian political leaders to ally themselves with the Germans against the Latvians. The sentiment of the Latvian Russian community, however, remained ambiguous. The majority were descended from Old Believers who had fled to the Baltics to escape religious persecution--and still regarded the tsar with suspicion, if not as an outright evil. They now tended to remain neutral in the confrontation between the Baltic Germans and nationalist Latvians; but in doing so the active commonality of purpose between Latvian Russians, Latvians, and Latvian nationalists prior to the 1905 Revolution was dissolved. Latvian nationalism continued to be focused against the Baltic Germans, a position unchanged until the Revolution of 1917.

In 1917, as in 1905, it can again be argued that Latvia was particularly well prepared for revolution. Class-consciousness had continued to develop and was particularly strong in heavily industrialized Riga, the second-largest port in Russia. The Latvian Riflemen were particularly active and instrumental, assisting in organizing urban workers and rural peasants, in confiscating estates, and in setting up soviets in place of former local councils. This, however, presented a new issue for the Latvian nationalists. Based on the historical special status the Baltics had enjoyed since Peter I, they had hoped for more autonomy, yet not breaking from Russia. Bolshevism now threatened to swallow up nationalism and thus became the new enemy. A new, more ethnic, nationalistic stridency, defined as throwing off both German and Russian influences, accompanied the turn against Bolshevism. It did not, however, target the Latvian Russian population, nor did it target the influx of Russians who fled to Latvia after 1917 to escape the Soviet Russia.


By the end of the 19th century, there was a considerably large Latvian Russian population. According to the first All-Russia Census of 1897, it totaled 171,000, distributed as follows: 77,000 Latgale, 68,000 Vidzeme, and 26,000 in Kurzeme and Zemgale. The urban population was roughly twice that of the rural, with the exception of Latgale, where those proportions were reversed.

Half of the Russian population of Vidzeme, Kurzeme and Zemgale came from the nearby provinces of Russia. In the Rēzekne district of Latgale, for example, 10% of Russians had come from other provinces. The largest number of newcomers came from the neighbouring provinces of the Empire - those of Kaunas, Vitebsk and Vilnius.

In their social structure Russians differed from most of the nationalities of Latvia. The largest social group among them were peasants (54%), and they made up the majority of Russians in Latgale. Middle classes made up 35% and hereditary and personal noblemen made up 8%. As far as their group characteristics are concerned, Russians were much like the Latvian Poles but differed from the Latvians who were mainly peasants and from the Germans who belonged mainly to the middle class.

Independent Latvia

On November 18, 1918, the Republic of Latvia was proclaimed as an independent democratic state. All the nationalities who lived in the territory of Latvia in the period of foreign rule, got the opportunity to develop as national minorities of the country. All Russians lost the status of their ethnic belonging to the Empire, but in Latvia they were given all the rights normally secured by democratic states.

The years of independent Latvia were favourable to the growth of the Russian national group. Not only in the whole of Latvia but in all the historical regions of the country the number of this national minority grew constantly.

According to the first statistical data of 1920 the number of the Russian population at that time was 91,000. In 1935 the number of the Russian minority had increased up to 206,000. During the whole period of independence, Russians remained the biggest national minority of the country. In 1935, the part of Russians in the whole structure of the population of Latvia made up 10.5% (in 1920 - 7.8%).

The growth of the Russian population was due to several factors. The Civil war and the establishment of Soviet power in Russia caused a flow of refugees and emigrants to many countries, Latvia included. According to the Peace Treaty between the Latvian Republic and Soviet Russia, some lands of the Pskov province with a large number of Russians passed on to Latvia. But the main cause of the Russian population growth was their high natural birth rate. For example, in 1929 the natural increment of Russians was 2,800, while the natural increment of Latvians, whose total number in that same year was nine times as big as that of Russians, made up only 3,700.

Russians used to have the biggest number of large families in comparison with other national groups of Latvia. As in the tsarist times, Russians still remained one of the "youngest" ethnic groups of Latvia. The Russian children aged under fourteen made up 14% of the total number of the children of Latvia of the same age. Russian families during the period of independence were characterised by a very high stability. The average number of divorces of Russian families was half that of Latvian families and one fifth that of German families.

Big changes took place in the structure of the territorial settlement of Russians in Latvia. Three quarters of the Russian population lived in Latgale, 14% in Riga.

In comparison with the tsarist period of the history of Latvia, Russians acquired more "country and agricultural" features and lost those of "town and industry". The overwhelming majority of Russians were engaged in agriculture (80%). 7% were engaged in industry, 4.9% - in trade. The fact that Russian inhabitants of the country had their farms mainly in Latgale, the least economically developed part of the country, did not stimulate them to social movement towards prestigious kinds of labour and agriculture. In the towns of Vidzeme, Kurzeme, and Zemgale the social picture of Russians approached the all-Latvian one. But even there, Russians did not belong to economically and socially advanced national groups. Russians differed from Latvians, Germans and Jews by a smaller part of property owners and a widespread use of child labour.

The total level of literacy of the Russian population at the very beginning of the history of the Latvian Republic was lower than at the time of the Empire. Only 42% of Russian men and 28% of Russian women of Latvia could read and write in 1920. During the years of independence the number of Russian pupils at schools increased greatly (1.5 times - the highest rate in the period of 1925-1935). As a result, the difference between the number of Latvian and Russian students aged 6-20 was reduced considerably (54% and 47% correspondingly).

Russians were underrepresented in institutions of higher education. In 1920 there were only 65 Russian students at the University of Latvia, in 1939 - 220 students.

For a long time the Latvian Republic tried to integrate the Russian minority on the basis of a large national-cultural autonomy. National schools of Latvia widely used their right to teach children in their mother tongue. Russian schools were not an exception. The Russian language played a particularly important role at the stage of primary education. By the end of the 1920s, 92% of Russian children were being educated at Russian primary schools. The development of the network of secondary schools also took into account the demands of national minorities to receive education in their own language. At the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s there was an increasing tendency by parents from minority groups to send their children to Latvian language schools. In 1935 60% of Russian children were educated in their mother tongue.

The popularity of the Russian language in Latvia resulted from the fact that Russians did not seek to learn the Latvian language and other minority languages properly.

The Latvian language was not attractive to the Russian population of Latvia. In 1920-1930 only a little more than 15% of Russians could speak and write Latvian. The Latvian milieu of many towns was a good incentive for Russians to learn the Latvian language. 70% of Russian residents of Jelgava and more than 80% of those of Bauska, Valmiera and Kuldīga spoke Latvian.

Political life and consciousness of the Russians of the Republic of Latvia

The establishment of the Latvian State, in November 18, 1918, made local Russians work out new principles of their relations with the government. Under the new conditions, the Russians of Latvia became a national minority whose special cultural interests were regulated by the Law on the Cultural-National Autonomy of Minorities, adopted by the People's Council.

Russians of Latvia enjoyed full rights as its citizens and therefore, took part in the political life of the country. Russians, as a national minority, participated in the elections to the Constituent Assembly of Latvia and to all the four Saeimas.

From two to six per cent of all Latvian electors voted for Russian parties. In the areas highly populated by Russians - Riga and Latgale - more and more Russian electors voted for Russian parties during the whole period of the parliamentary state.

Special historical conditions determined a specific attitude of Russians towards the idea of national-cultural autonomy. They accepted the autonomous character of Russian culture in respect to Latvian culture. But they believed that there was no local autonomy in respect to Russian culture and Russian people in general. Local Russian society did not identify any special features characteristic of local Russians which would differentiate them from the Russians of Russia.

During the period of the Latvian Republic, the local Russian inhabitants tried to work out their own principles of social consciousness. A characteristic feature of the Russian social consciousness was a continuous controversy between adherents of different ideas.

At the beginning of the Republic, 1918-1919, the orthodox wing of the National Democratic League (N.Bordonos) - the first Russian national union of Riga and, then, of the whole of Latvia - spoke in favour of ethnic purity of Russian social organisations. The liberal wing of the NDL and, later, the Russian Society of Latvia (N.Berejanski, S.Mansyrev) called for a close co-operation by the Russian minority with the whole Latvian society.

From the liberal consciousness of the NDL there emerged some elements of a specific ideology among a part of the Russian population of Latvia – "democratic nationalism". Its mouthpiece was the publicist Berejanski. He thought that the fate of the Russians of Latvia was not easy. Their historical motherland was in the hands of "Bolshevik internationalism", the enemy of Russian national culture and ethics. Russians were grateful to democratic Latvia for granting the opportunity to develop their culture. But Russians themselves, N.Berejanski thought, had to strengthen to the utmost, within their consciousness, the notion of national values. The followers of this idea worked on the Russian newspaper "Slovo" ("Word"). At the same time the most famous Russian newspaper "Segodnia" did not pretend to propagate Russian national ideas, but advocated the ideas of defence of the cultural-national autonomy of all minorities.

A flamboyant exponent of Russian national principles was N.Belotsvelov who considered that the conversion of Russians to nationalism was a natural result of the fate of emigrants fearing for the future of their culture.

The ideas of "democratic nationalism" were supported by the leaders of the Russian Peasants Union which had a right-wing orientation. The RPU became the basis of the Russian Peasant fraction of three deputies in the Fourth Saeima.

A part of Russians belonged to the ultra-left of the political spectrum. (In the Fourth Saeima, one Russian represented the social democrats and one Russian was a communist representative). But the left-wing parties of Russians did not achieve any big success though they had a certain influence among sections of the workers of Riga.

Russians in Soviet Latvia 1940-1990

1940 - 1941

In summer of 1940 Latvia lost its independence and was occupied by the USSR.

The attitude of the Russian milieu towards these events varied. Three kinds of positions can be discerned, in regard to the political changes:

#A complete disagreement with the Bolshevik regime was characteristic of the Russian inelligentsia and priests.
#A part of the Russian public of Latvia were under an illusion regarding Stalin's dictatorship, hoping that it would turn into a political system similar to that of the Russian monarchy.
#A full support for the Bolshevik regime in Latvia. During one year of Soviet power, Russians here were deprived of all their national periodicals, many of the prominent Russian public figures were subjected to repression or killed.

But the new regime also found supporters among local Russians. Russian collective farms emerged in Latvia and there were a large number of Russians in the security services and units of the workers' guard. The communist nomenclature was being rapidly developed, with local Russians taking an active part in it.

1941 - 1944

Latvia entered into the Second World War as a occupied part of the USSR.

A part of the local Russian population took part in hostilities against fascism in the Red Army ranks and in the partisan movement, supporting the Communist party.

But, at the same time, there were quite a number of Russians collaborating with the Nazi authorities. They worked on the newspapers propagandising the myth of "a national Russia" free of Bolsheviks and Jews, and "the liberating mission" of the Wehrmacht. Russians were won over to militarised units. The Nazis made advances to those of the Russian population who had suffered from the Bolsheviks. The newspapers of that time were full of information about Russian National culture. In Daugavpils there was opened a Russian theatre, in the Rēzekne Teachers Institute - a Russian language class for teachers of Russian was set up.

An institution was created for representing the interests of the Russian population of the Generalgebiet of Latvia as well as the Russian Committee for the Affairs of the Russian population of Latvia. These were designed to help Russians with some of their economic, cultural and legal needs.

Peculiarities of post-war migration

After Latvians, the Russians are the largest ethnic group in today's Latvia. In 1989 this national group made up 34.0% of the whole population of Latvia and its total number was 905,500 [http://web30.deac.lv/print.php?id=3648#nacabs] . In comparison with the demographic situation of the pre-war period, the number of Russians had increased 4.5 times. Their share in the national structure of the population of Latvia had increased 3.5 times.

Such a big growth of the Russian population could not be explained solely by natural increase. The majority of the Russian national group in Latvia today are a result of a big migration movement, mainly from Slav republics of the USSR, first of all, from the Russian Federation.

Russians preferred to settle in towns rather than in the country. They tended to choose such big cities as Riga and the like. Russians differed from Latvians in their social and professional characteristics. Over one third of the Russian population were engaged in industry (one quarter of Latvians), 7% of Russians (22% of Latvians) were engaged in agriculture, 1% of Russians (2.5% of Latvians) - in the sphere of culture and art. In other social activities Russian differences were negligible.

Russians were the biggest ethnic group in the USSR both in number and in political influence. Under the conditions of Soviet Latvia, Russians dominated the whole non-Latvian population of the Republic. Latvia was the place where consolidation of Russian-speakers on the basis of their mother tongue was successfully put into effect. The Russian language also formed a new group of Russian speaking Belarusians, Ukrainians, Poles, Jews and Germans of Latvia. And though in the period of 1959-1979 the number of Russians in Latvia increased by 47%, the number of the non-Russian population considering Russian their mother tongue increased by 78%. A highly developed infrastructure was developed in Latvia on the basis of the Russian language (a broader system of secondary and higher education, science, mass media).

National consciousness

During the whole Soviet period, the Russian (as also Latvian) mass media of Latvia played the part of active bearers of the communist ideology, influencing the consciousness of the Russians of Latvia.

For the whole Soviet period there was no suitable formula at the official level to express national-cultural features of this large group of Latvian residents. The ideology of the Communist party rejected the tradition of the Latvian Republic which identified the Russians of Latvia as one of its national minorities. In the USSR there existed a form of national-territorial autonomy of nations, but not for all nations, which made their social representation in the state bodies unequal and, as a result, their influence on social minds was unequal as well. A nation could be considered "fully-fledged" only if it possessed a state system in the form of a union republic. Therefore, there was only one recognized nation in Latvia — Latvians. The Russians of Latvia, both those who had deep historical roots there, and those who chose it as a place of permanent residence after World War II, having no territorial autonomy, were not considered as an individual cultural and national community in the Republic.

During the almost forty years of the history of the Russian communist consciousness of Latvia there were no new ideas. Such ideas came only with the first marked democratic changes in the USSR at the end of the 1980s.

The start of democratic processes brought about national awakening of peoples. New democratic tendencies gave equal chances to the national revival of both Latvians and Russians. Some part of Russians actively supported the Latvian awakening. Both individual representatives of the Russian public and some groups of Russians believed that "Atmoda" (Awakenining) should be irreversible. Thus, in July 1988, A.Maltsev was one of the 17 prominent figures of Latvian culture who signed an open letter to the Broadened Assembly of the Latvian Writers League with the initiative of establishing a democratic People's Front.

The idea of establishing the Popular Front of Latvia was supported by the Russian writers of the Republic — L.Azarova, R.Dobrovenski, V.Dozortsev and M.Kostenetskaia, the journalists A.Grigorjev, A.Kazakov, the translator and bibliographer J.Abyzov, and many others. In 1989 L.Gladkov, V.Dozortsev, V.Zhdanov, V.Kononov and M.Kostenetska were elected to the Council of the Popular Front of Latvia. V.Dozortsev became a member of the Board of the Council of the Popular Front of Latvia. A.Grigorjev was one of the editors of "Atmoda" (Awakening) — the newspaper of the PFL. The circulation of the Russian edition of "Atmoda" was quite large (15—100 thousand). It was popular not only with the Russian residents of Latvia but with the westernist public of Russia as well.

The PFL became the basis of consolidation of the Russian Culture Society of Latvia (RCSL). The Constituent Assembly of the RCSL was held on March 4, 1989. The aim of the Society was "to develop to the utmost the Russian national culture, to intensify traditional Russian—Latvian relations, cooperate with the representatives of all nationalities of the Republic".

But at the same time quite a number of the Russians of Latvia viewed the revival of the Latvian state system with mistrust. This is shown by the results of a public opinion poll in 1989. Only 49% of the non-Latvian population supported the idea of the independence of Latvia (the number of Latvians supporting the idea made up 93%).

International Front of the Working People of Latvia or Interfront, established in 1989, came out openly for remaining in the Soviet Union and socialist economy.

Interfront aimed to win the sympathies of those Russians who were opposed to the idea of Latvia as a national state.

Current situation

Russians in Latvia live mainly in urban areas. Russians made up 42.3% of the population in the capital Riga and 53,5% in the second largest city, Daugavpils, in 2006 (much more are people with Russian as mother tongue). Under the Soviets, arriving Russians had been settled primarily in industrial centers to staff factory jobs while rural areas remained populated almost entirely by ethnic Latvians, except for some small areas in eastern Latvia with a longer history of Russian-Latvian mixed villages. In 2006-2007, ethnic Russians made up 29% of the population. [ [http://isc.bc.edu/PDF/P06Encyclopedia.pdf PIRLS 2006 Encyclopedia] , retrieved December 21, 2007] .

After reestablishing independence in 1991, Latvia did not automatically grant citizenship to anyone whose forebears arrived after June, 1940, a policy that mainly affected ethnic Russians. Knowledge of Latvian language and history was set as a condition for obtaining citizenship. These initial conditions have been since relaxed, and Latvia currently has one of the most liberal Citizenship Laws in Europe [http://dns1.triwdata.ch/public/thschmidte.html] . However, many Russians in Latvia still have alien status. As of January 2007, the majority of Latvia's ethnic Russians, 56.5% or 363,988 persons, had citizenship. [ [http://www.mfa.gov.lv/lv/latvia/integracija/pilsoniba/ Citizenship in Latvia] , Latvian Foreign Ministry site, retrieved December 21, 2007] While the issue of citizenship for ethnic Russians has been an issue of contention and criticism by Russia, Russia's official policies do not necessarily promote seeking citizenship. For example, citizens of Latvia are charged more than five times the fee for a Russian single-entry visa as non-citizens, [ [http://www.latvia.mid.ru/visainfo.html Visa regime, Russian Foreign Ministry in Latvia, retrieved December 23, 2007] ] thus rewarding if not encouraging statelessness. [ [http://www2.foi.se/rapp/foir1975.pdf The Russian Population in Latvia-Puppets of Moscow?] , Tomas Malmlof, retrieved December 23, 2007]

Another issue of contention is the status of the Russian language. Russian today is defined to be a foreign language by the Law on State Language. Ethnic Russians have protested against plans to require 60% of the of secondary school subjects to be taught in the Latvian language. Some representatives of the ethnic Russian community in Latvia claim discrimination by the country's authorities with these calls frequently supported by Russia. On the other hand, the Latvian government denies discrimination charges and often blames Russia for using the language issue for political purposes.

In this regard, it is noteworthy to point to the worldwide convention of Russian journalists held in Latvia (Jūrmala) in the summer of 2000. Duma representatives attending the convention observed that they did not find the widespread oppression of Russians that they had come expecting to spotlight.Fact|date=February 2007 Nor is repatriation a viable option to Latvia's ethnic Russians—most knowing Latvia as their only home and not considered "true Russians." A documentary aired on Western televisionFact|date=February 2007 at about the same time of Russian troop repatriation (1994) showed ethnic Russians who had repatriated to Russia. They had set up home in an abandoned kolkhoz dairy hoping to ride out the winter. Rather than welcomed and supported, they were ignored by the Russian government and derided as "Latvians" by the local Russians.

To the credit of the Latvian government, anyone who legally gained a residence (having it in summer 1992) according to Soviet law was able to claim that residence upon Latvian independence (even if that "legal" basis was Soviet confiscation of property). Returning property owners seeking to reclaim their property were compensated with equal land elsewhere (no recourse to reclaim the building itself) or with certificates which could essentially be used as discount coupons in acquiring shares in privatized undertakings. The Latvian government also pays pensions to all resident retirees regardless of ethnicity or citizenship.

There are several politicians and political parties in Latvia who claim to represent Russian-speaking minority. These include the For Human Rights in United Latvia which has one seat in the European parliament held by Tatjana Ždanoka, as well as the more moderate Harmony Centre. These political parties support Russian language rights, granting automatic citizenship to all residents of Latvia and tend to be left-wing on other issues.

Russian remigration

The formation of the Latvian national state was accompanied by a number of political measures which were strategically aimed at the increase of the proportion of Latvians in Latvian society. Evidently, it could not be achieved without stimulating a big number of non-Latvians to leave the country. No less important incentive for remigration of Russians, as well as Ukrainians and Belarusians, was the foundation of the independent states of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine in 1991 which could provide for a better development of the national identity of these peoples. But, of course, it can't be stated that remigration of Russians was characteristic only of the period of the restored independent Latvia.

In 1991-1992 there was a big leap in the migratory outflow from Latvia. In 1991 the number of people who left the country exceeded by 11,200 the number of arrivals, in 1992 the figure had increased to 47,200.

Russian remigration from independent Latvia shows that it has resulted in the ageing of the Latvian society and the loss of people of working age. While the number of immigrants aged 30-44 and under 18 made up 32% of the total number of immigrants, the same groups made up 61% of the remigrants in 1993.

This broad Russian emigration from Latvia aggravated the problem of their own national identity. There appeared two tendencies in the Russian consciousness. One tendency is stimulating the ethnic consolidation of Russians. The other one, on the contrary, is reducing the intra-ethnic dependence. The second tendency becomes most apparent when a nation does not see any favourable prospects of its development within some national structure, when people consider their ethnicity as an obstacle to achieving social comfort. In this case, many people would prefer to assimilate in the milieu of the socially prestigious and dominating nation. If it is not so easy for themselves, at least, their children might have a chance to do so.

Notable Russians from Latvia

Noteworthy Russians from Latvia include:

*Mikhail Baryshnikov, famous Russian-American dancer and actor, born in Riga.
*Ludmilla Chiriaeff, ballet dancer, choreographer, and director, born in Riga.
*Mikhail Eisenstein, architect, 1867-1921, designed a number of buildings on Alberta Street in Riga, father of Sergei Eisenstein
*Sergei Eisenstein, screenwriter and director, born 1898 in Riga
*Alexandr Kaleri, Russian cosmonaut, born in Jūrmala.

*Veniamin Kaverin, writer, grew up Rēzekne.
*Alexander Kovalevsky, embryologist born near Daugavpils.

*Marie N (Marija Naumova), winner of the 2002 Eurovision Song Contest for Latvia.
*Vladimirs Petrovs (Vladimir Petrov), chess player, born in Riga.
*Aleksandrs Petukhovs (Aleksandr Petushkov) movie writer and director, born in Riga.
*Uljana Semjonova, basketball player from Daugavpils.
*Alexei Shirov, chess grandmaster, born in Riga.

*Konstantin Sokolsky, singer from Riga.
*Anatoly Solovyev, pilot and cosmonaut, born in Riga.
*Aleksandrs Starkovs (Aleksandr Starkov), Latvia national football team coach of 2001-2004, 2007 until now.
*Yury Tynyanov, writer, literary critic, translator, scholar and scriptwriter, born in Rēzekne.
*Mikhail Zadornov, satirist, born in Riga.
*Sergei Zholtok, professional ice hockey player from Riga.


*This article incorporates information from the The Latvian Institute [http://www.li.lv/en/?id=23 fact sheet about Russians in Latvia] , with permission
* The Latvian Legation, Facts about Latvia, 1944
* [http://latvians.com/en/Reading/AttitudesNationalities/envelope-LATV.php?./LATV-04-A-04-General-Information_Demography.ssi "Project: Attitudes of the Major Soviet Nationalites," Latvia, Demography] —Center for International Studies at M.I.T., 1973
* Sovetskaya Latviya, June 23, 1971
* I. Chernyak, "Troop withdrawal from the Baltic area: Generals—to the Black Sea, Officers—to a clear field?", Komsomolskaya Pravda, 6 February 1993. ru icon (The Russian title is a pun: Black Sea is a famous place of resorts and governmental "dachas", and the "clear field" ("chisto pole") is a traditional epic cliché for vast, empty Russian steppes)
* Data from the [http://www.csb.lv/ Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia]
* The New York Times, April 7, 1995; Foreign Desk article (Russian troops in Latvia 7 months after Russian withdrawal)
* [http://www.apenrade.dk/m99_russiansinbaltics.html Russians in the Baltics: Full-right members of society or not?]
* [http://www.mosnews.com/news/2005/05/27/latviaminority.shtml Russian FM Lashes out at Latvia Over “Profanation” of Russian Minority Rights] , Moscow News, May 27, 2005
* [http://mirimen.com/co_beo/CHeshixin-Evgraf-Vasil-evich-37D0.html Biography of Cheshikhin Evgraf Vasilyevich (in Russian)]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4380437.stm Latvian lessons irk Russians] at BBC News
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4371345.stm Citizenship row divides Latvia] at BBC News
* [http://www.apollo.lv/portal/news/73/articles/45092 BBC Journalist Perpetuates Lies About Latvia] -- Latvian news article responding to above two BBC News stories, translation on page
* [http://www.jamestown.org/publications_details.php?volume_id=401&issue_id=2962&article_id=236751 Zhdanoka Candidacy Polarizes Latvian Election] at Jamestown Foundation
* [http://www.sens-public.org/article.php3?id_article=90 Russia and nation-state building in Latvia]

ee also

*Baltic Russians

External links

* [http://www.chas-daily.com Час (Chas)] , literally "An Hour", a leading Russian language Daily in Latvia.
* [http://www.li.lv/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=101&Itemid=470 "Russians in Latvia"] at the Latvian Institute, by Vladislavs Volkovs.
* [http://www.mfa.gov.lv/se/stockholm/nyheter/pressmeddelanden/2004/september/desegregating/ "Desegregating the Latvian School System Ends a Divisive Soviet Legacy,"] by Ojārs Kalniņš.
* [http://www.mfa.gov.lv/en/policy/4641/4642/4643/ "Minority Education in Latvia"] at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia site.
* [http://www.izm.gov.lv/frontpage.aspx?lang=5 The Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Latvia]
* [http://www.lashor.lv/eng/onas.php The Association for the Support of Schools with the Russian Language of Instruction in Latvia (LAShOR)]
* [http://www.shtab.lv Russian Schools Defense Staff]
* [http://www.pctvl.lv/?lang=en&mode=party&submode=background ForHRUL data on minority issues in Latvia] , in English
* [http://www.np.gov.lv/index.php?en= The Naturalization Board of the Republic of Latvia]
* [http://www.politika.lv/index.php?f=1069 Latvian-Russian relations: Domestic and International Dimensions] , University of Latvia, 2006
* G. Frunda [http://assembly.coe.int/Main.asp?link=/Documents/WorkingDocs/Doc06/EDOC10940.htm Memorandum on Post-monitoring dialogue with Latvia] , 2005 (CEPA)

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