Category Archives: Human side

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)

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All things come in their due seasons

Alex was born in Latvia within a family of people later on became non-citizens. Therefore he is a non-citizen himself.

He is cheerful and optimistic. He is one of the scarce number of people here in Latvia that give you a smile as soon as you see him – at least people I have met and come across so far.

He is about to apply for citizenship because he says: “I do not have to do the military service and I have established myself in the private business.

Now I feel it is the right time to do so, since I can devote some time into naturalising and I have worked on my future too. I did not feel the need to become a citizen before.”

Although his infectious character and positive attitude towards life, Alex does not take for granted the current situation of non-citizens in Latvia.

 

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The Naturalisation procedure

Nadzezhda and her husband, a non-citizen of Latvia.

Non-citizens are able to apply for Latvian citizenship provided that they have been permanent residents of the country for, at least, five years. They have also to demonstrate Latvian language proficiency, pass both Latvia’s history and constitution tests and know the Latvian national anthem. One more thing

As I previously wrote, some 135,000 people have naturalised since 1995. The naturalisation rates reached its height over two periods; 1999 – 2001 and 2003 – 2005. However, the rates have fallen off substantially during the last few years.

Nadzezhda holds a Latvian passport, though she was born in the Ukrainian city of Lviv. She arrived in Latvia for the first time in 1985. Her desire to “feel more integrated in the country” and be able to vote and travel freely, led her to apply for citizenship and naturalise.

“I failed the writing exam the first time I apply for citizenship. I found it quite difficult to be honest,” said Nadzezhda.

She then attended to a language course to improve her Latvian and with the help of her daughter, who was at primary school, manage to pass the exam and naturalise.

She added; “I wanted to be a full right citizen of the country where I live and feel more integrated in its society. Besides, I wanted my daughter to have a Latvian passport, so she could feel at the same level like full right citizens.

“I did not have many problems when I was a non-citizen. As long as you know the language, things are fine. However, after acquiring Latvian citizenship I felt more confident in myself; I can take part in anything I want to as a full right citizen.

“I think the naturalisation procedure should be easier. There are hundreds of people who, like me, have been living in the country for many many years, paying the same taxes and contributing to the country’s development and the Government should ease the procedure for them.”

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“Naturalisation is a cynical procedure”

Interview with Aleksandrs Filejs

Aleksandrs Filejs is the youngest non-citizen of Latvija I have met so far. He was born in 1988 and is currently studying a master’s degree in Russian philology.

He told me about his story while sitting on a terrace in Old Riga – Vecrīga – enjoying a midday coffee. It was raining heavily.

“Naturalisation is a cynical procedure introduced at the very beginning of the 1990s. I particularly was born in Rīga, so why should pass an exam to acquire the citizenship of my country? I believe it should be given automatically to me,” said Aleksandrs.

Also, he mentioned ” a moral discomfort” when talking about the right to vote in any Latvian elections. Besides, he said; “I want my country to be developed, but nowadays Latvia is highly separated from inside.”

He is currently employed as a tourist guide, for he takes advantage of the several languages he speaks; Latvian, Russian, French and Spanish.

Aleksandrs is convinced that the problem of non-citizenship in Latvia can be solved, but how?

If you want to find out more about him and his answer to the above question stay tuned!

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“I feel cheated by politicians who do not represent us”

Interview with Alex Krasnitsky

Alex Krasnitsky is the former editor of the Russian-language daily Telegraf. He was born in Riga and assures me he has Latvian roots in both his father and his mother’s family, something he has proved with documentation.

However, his grandparents lived a “Romeo and Juliet story” and left Latvija because “their respective families opposed the marriage.”

They ended up 28 kilometers far from the Latvian border. However, it was Russia.

He does not want to hear about naturalisation, although he says he has thought about it several times. He still feels cheated, for he says all citizens were promised full right citizenship during the ‘awakening period’ in the late 80s early 90s. He loves Latvija, but after twenty years holding a non-citizen passport he has learnt to enjoy life as it comes.

“At a social level there is no such problem, but I think we have been used politically most of the times. Personally, I do not feel represented by the so called pro-russian parties, which are considered leftish parties,” says Alex.

“I love my country and sometimes I have felt alone and isolated from a political point of view. I do think we have been kind of forgotten over the years. However, I have learnt to look into the future and enjoy my life as any other Latvian citizen.

“It has to be said that the issue is not as hot as it used to be, but the Government of Latvija faces important social challenges regarding non-citizens and social integration.”

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First stories; Yuri Petropavlovsky

My first interviewee was Yuri Petropavlovsky, and ethnic Russian and one of the most politically active non-citizen of Latvija, especially since the education reform’s protests in the country in 2004.

Yuri Petropavlovsky

Yuri was born in Riga (3 March 1955) and went for naturalisation (a process that coincided with the education reform), but his political life, we can say, cost him the Latvian passport.

He has been involved in politics for quite a long time now; he is member of ‘For Human Rights in United Latvia‘ party and he even tried to run for Riga’s mayor few years ago. However, he could not take part in the city’s elections, for the Government of Latvija revoked his citizenship after he says he was considered “disloyal” to the country.

He brought his case before both national and international courts.

In Latvija I have been told that the actions of the Government are outside the jurisdictions of the court, so I decided to take my case to the International Court for Human Rights in 2006. Europe should pronounce about my case as early as next year,” says Yuri.

“But to be honest, I appealed for my case and now what? Europe does not care about non-citizens in Latvija.”

Yuri studied Art and Design in Riga and spent some years of his professional life working for a range of private businesses. At the moment however, he is currently working as an analyst and writing for different Russian media outlets, as well as hosting a radio programme every week in a Russian radio station in Riga.

He did not take part in the referendum for Latvija’s independence in the early 1990s, something a lot of non-citizens did do, and while he waits for the resolution of his case, he assures me that current naturalisation rates, which are at one of its lowest points ever, show that something has changed among non-citizens in Latvija…. What is it?

Stay tuned for the final output to find out more!

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