The singularity of Latvia’s case

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel was the first to speak out about the failure of multiculturalism. British PM David Cameron followed. Now even French Premier Nicolas Sarkozy has joined them. They have put the subject back on the global agenda.

Multiculturalism and social integration were one of the flags of Western countries in the latter decades of the 20th century. However, what everyone called a brilliant achievement may have turned into a grim reality for these countries.

On the one hand, Latvia is facing the same problem as other countries do; social integration in a multicultural society. But on the other hand, we have to bear in mind that Latvia’s situation differs from that in other European countries. Latvia has a large minority group which is not a national minority. Immigrant groups tend to be proportionally smaller in comparison to the overall population:

Residents of Latvia by ethnicity
Latvians 59.45%
Russians 27.47%
Belarusians 3.54%
Ukrainians 2.45%
Poles 2.31%
Lithuanians 1.14%
Others 3.64%

 

Because of this particular situation and the relationship between the two main groups – Latvians and Russians – the country is today struggling to integrate its society. One of the main consequences is its bipolarisation. It is said that media shape society and for instance Latvia has three important daily newspapers in Latvian – Diena, Neatkariga Rita Avize and Latvijas Vestnesis – and three in Russian – Telegraf, Vesti Segodnya and Chas. It happens exactly the same with online media and television. That only proves what we said above.

Nevertheless, over the last two decades the country has tried to tackle the problem with new social policies. Their succeed is something that needs to be analyse and this is what I will try to do over the next months. Besides of course the tv documentary I am working on.

The EU, Human Rights campaigners and even Russia have tried to influence some of the processes over this time. But it has to be said that only Latvia, its politicians and its people can decide on how to shape relationships between the majority and the minorities in Latvia.

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Filed under Ethnicity, Social Integration

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