Soviet Legacy

Non-citizen passport

So here it comes, this is the final TV documentary I have been working on during the last couple of months. As I promised, I uploaded it on Vimeo (it is divided in two parts) so you can watch it any time you want.

However, I have protected it by password. So if you want to check it out, just post your email address in the comments and I will be sending the password to your inbox as soon as I can.

As a sort of intro for newcomers to the blog – and pitch as well – the text below;

Soviet Legacy

Latvia regained its independence in August 1991 and the new elected government updated the country’s citizenship law one month later, creating a new status for the former USSR citizens.
Twenty years later, the country still has 325,000 inhabitants who hold an alien passport, what limits their democratic and social rights.

Non-citizens have been offered the possibility to acquire Latvian citizenship, but most of them just refuse it for different reasons.

Who is to blame for having such a special situation within a EU state member? Is it democratically fair for a state member to have such a large community of people whose rights are limited? Why do not non-citizens apply for the Latvian passport?

I analyze the whole situation in this documentary. Check it out!

Soviet legacy (Part One)

Soviet legacy (Part Two)



Filed under Citizenship, Education, Ethnicity, History, Human side, Language, Project, Social Integration, Videos

19 responses to “Soviet Legacy

  1. Whoa! Looks like the wait is over 🙂
    Holla back: lexxus[at]

  2. send me the password!!!!! can’t wait! x

  3. I look forward to watch it ASAP!


  4. Sarmite

    I would also like to read it 🙂

  5. I cannot wait to watch the documentary! Congrats Ruben for your work! I am sure it will become very successful!

  6. Great work, man! It was interesting to watch, especially because it was my country you were talking about! Well done!
    Greetings from Colombia!

  7. Anne Gonschorek

    Well done, Ruben! It really comes across how many different issues revolve around this topic and I think you managed to portrait different perspectives! Can’t wait to read more from the Baltics! xx

  8. Albert Lopez

    Very interesting video!! very well done!! good research and explanation of the information!! looking forward to see more of your videos. best regards!!

  9. Pingback: Soviet Legacy (unrestricted) | Social Integration in Latvia

  10. Sarmite

    Ruben, finally watched your video. I think it’s really good and it shows different perspectives (which is what I was expecting here). What I like is that this video again shows the consequences of the decisions that our government makes (which was also a case of 1991). I am not on any side here, also think that the doors for non-citizens are open, it’s not that they are forbidden to become citizens, still, as the guy at the end said: love the country is something different than to be its citizen. It would be interesting to see similar video of Lithuania and Estonia. As far as I know, in Lithuania in 1991 their political decisions where more clear and strict- “you can have the citizenship but you have to know Lithuanian as well, if you do not want to learn Lithunian, go to Russia”.
    Anyway, thank you, it was interesting to watch it! 🙂

  11. gold88

    Your documentary is one sided and lays only on Russian point of view. Those non-citizens have full right to get the citizenship by passing the test on state language and history. If they have problem to do this its their own problem. Knowing the state language is an obligation, that many people in Latvia seem to ignore. So if they resist to pay obligation to the country and decorate their cars with flag of Russia they do not deserve the passport.

    Before World war II there were only 10% of Russians, the most part came here illegally in the times of occupation. Illegally because most world countries including Spain did recognized the occupation and annexation of Latvia. So these people were colonists, that after the regaining of independence either had to leave or became part of Latvia by doing it themselves. If a person does not want to be integrated he will not be integrated. Its a matter of personal choice.

    The politician Roberts Zīle is right that this issue is stirred up by Russia. Latvian Russians are blinded by one sided information coming from Moscow. Compare Latvian and local Russian newspapers. Do you think that one part of Russians of Latvia is satisfied with existence of Latvia as whole? The reason why so many Russians are unsatisfied with the present situation in Latvia is simply its not USSR or Russia no more.

    Before the war there was a sizable German minority in Latvia, An ex main political elite before gaining independence that also was so dissatisfied with Latvia that at the end most of them supported Nazi Germany. And in those times they all had citizenship. Now there is analogy with Russians – the soviet time elite nation. And again Russian flags in 9. May and in their cars. And many of these people are citizens that still hates this country despite they got a right passport. The issue is more than not giving the passport. Russians are chauvinist nation and those who will come to vote for Russian language will vote against the Latvian state as whole. And I believe a large numbers would “yes” even if they all had a same passport.

    • Hey gold88, first of all, many thanks for reading the blog and watching the documentary (if so). Even though I respect, and even understand, your comment “it’s one sided”, I would like to disagree with you. Have you seen Russian reports on the subject? What do they show? Non-citizens and that’s about it. They don’t analyze the whole issue and situation, which hasn’t been properly addressed by Latvian authorities over the last 20 years. Forget about whether they are Russian or not, because at the end of the day we are talking about integration of a community of human beings. Once said that, I gotta say that my aim with the documentary was to analyze the situation from a social, economic and cultural point of view. That’s why I interviewed experts on the issue, people who are highly recognized in Latvia and also internationally. It seems to me that in Latvia, people usually bring the conversation to the same topic; they don’t speak Latvian. It’s fair, some of these people don’t even speak a word of Latvian and they have no intention to cooperate in the process of integration. But have you ever thought that this could’ve been a consequence of the lack of opportunities and social policies to address the situation? Latvia has achieved a lot over the last 20 years, and don’t get me wrong, I love Latvia and I think they are doing great in preserving its culture, language and heritage. I have relatives to be in there and I am gonna get married to a lovely Latvian woman. However, treating this community as any other foreign community in terms of integration and naturalization (because they have to follow the same process as any other foreign citizen who wants to acquire the Latvian citizenship) has been an important mistake from the authorities. I think the naturalization process is fair, and whoever wants to become a Latvian citizen has to follow the path, but you have to bear in mind the circumstances. I do get the historic facts of considering the Soviet occupation as illegal, but there’s been a lack of integration policies. Otherwise, how can you explain that after 20 years, there’s still 15% of the whole population of Latvia holding a non-citizen passport? Latvia has failed to attract this community and now, with the massive issue of the diaspora and a new wave of migrants coming into the country, Latvia faces tough challenges ahead.

      • gold88

        I appreciate your concerns on this issue. I already stated in above comment that Russian population is hard to be integrated because of their political stance that is more towards to Russia than to Latvia and the West. In their minds they would feel better if Latvia would be still in Russia. I know because I have a non-citizen relative who opposed the independence and refuse to speak Latvian because its embarrassing for her. So I know the inside life of these people. I respect her as a relative but I think she is just too stubborn to naturalize.

        The integration policy has failed, its the fault of Latvian experts and politicians, the Russia foreign policy and non-citizens themselves. But, do not believe that the Western integration model that people such as Nils Muižnieks proposes would even work in Latvia. In fact I do not think the way of integrating immigrant minorities in Europe even in US is working.
        For the Muslim communities in Europe and Mexicans in US also have the problem integrating in their countries society. We need more conservative approach on this matter. The Latvian politicians and people have been caught up between the liberal approach coming from Europe and conservative calls in homeland. So this double thinking is what has brought us this referendum situation. In Russia the approach on integration is more rougher (see the latest Putin speech on this matter), but they ask to be more liberal in Latvia. So Latvians should really decide in what to follow either (in my view) failed western way or the conservative way.

        To get better understand in your study you should analyze the Estonian approach. We know what happened in Tallinn when the Bronze soldier was removed but there haven’t been visible difficulties ever since (except the shooting in the Defense ministry 2011). It may be because of their straightforward, consequent stance. The lack on consequent policy in Latvia is the reason for integration failure. And its not just politicians its the whole Latvian nation who never showed enough courage against other nations. In Estonia majority of Estonians even in shops never will speak in other language than Estonian I know this myself. And Estonia is not a nationalist country. In Latvia where is two Russians speaking to each other in Latvian, a Latvian joins in speaks to them in Russian.This is why the pleas and complaints by the minorities in Latvia is irrelevant because there is no real discrimination in Latvia at least in official level. Non-citizens can pretty much the live the same lives without knowing Latvian. And if we will have immigrants from the Middle East or China I doubt they will be discriminated in fact they may have better chance to learn Latvian and integrate than Russian speakers. For instance the Russian speaker who just arrived from Ukraine or Belarus knows Latvian more better than one who is born here.

        I wanted to add a Latvian conservative point of view in this blog. I appreciate that you respect and discus such views.

  12. Many thanks for your comment gold88. It seems to me that we draw the same conclusions after all. You recognized that integration policies have failed, something I said in my comment and the documentary, and also that some of these non-citizens refuse to learn the language, something on the other hand that I state in the documentary, saying that not only the Latvian authorities are to blame, because many non-citizens have no intention whatsoever to be integrated. Therefore, same conclusions after all! 🙂 Again, many thanks for taking time to read through and watch the documentary, I really appreciate it!

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