Category Archives: Language

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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Non-citizenship; a personal battle

Non-citizens and their rights has been one of Tatjana Ždanoka‘s longstanding fights at the international arena.

Non-citizens were included in the Schengen Treaty in 2007 thanks in part to her work. That meant the end of visa applications in order to travel freely throughout Europe. A year later, the same conditions were granted by Russia.

In this short clip, she talks about international assistance and EU/Russia‘s role on the subject of non-citizenship. She points out the lack of commitment from the latter to help out those who have been trying to keep Russian language and culture alive in the Baltic country.

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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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Language, a sensitive issue

Svetlana Djačkova, researcher at the Latvian Centre for Human Rights, on language and integration in the Baltic Country and Latvian language proficiency.

To watch more bits of this interview, stay tuned for the final documentary!

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Non-citizens label

Nowadays there are some 325,000 people who hold a non-citizen / alien passport in Latvija. There used to be between 700 and 800 thousand when the USSR collapsed.

When talking about the subject, we tend to generalise and put all them under the same umbrella, but after 20 years they have become a very heterogeneous group, according to professor and labour market researcher Mihails Hazans – I could say a lot about him, but I’d rather let you have a look at the link.

Naturalisation, migration movements,… I am not going to upload much videos until the whole piece is done, but I had such an interesting and profitable chat with him that I wanted to share the joy with you all.

Stay tuned to find out more about this interview!

PS. The interview was recorded in an area called Pumpuri, which belongs to the city of Jūrmala. I would strongly recommend to spend some time there to anyone who seeks quiet spaces and open spaces where to go for long walks.

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The Last Prisoners of the Cold War

When working on a story, we journalist try always to bring them to life by showing their human side. That means that whatever the issue is, there is always someone affected by that, so we tend to use it to make our output more attractive and appealing to the audience.

That is something every wannabe journo learns from an early stage. Hence we should never forget about that in our journey.

Behind all the legal and historical words that we have been writing about up to this moment, there are lots of stories of human beings affected by all that.

A good compilation of experiences, memories and statement is ‘The Last Prisoners of the Cold War‘.

Miroslavs MitrofanovsAleksandrs GamaļejevsViktors JolkinsVladimirs BuzajevsAleksejs Dimitrovs and Tatjana Ždanoka (you will read more about her in following posts) have contributed to this moving publication.

I could keep writing about the book, but I would rather recommend you to spend some of your spare time reading it.

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The importance of impartiality and accuracy

The Internet offers a vast number of resources available to help you to know more about the situation of non-citizens in Latvia (and also the Baltic countries). For instance, the below video is a good example.

Russia Today , an English TV network operating from Russia, reported on the situation of non-citizens back in 2008.

It is a good piece with plenty of interviewees and a lot of colour, but lacks of impartiality and accuracy. We are only seeing one side of the debate / controversy, for all the interviews are people involved in promoting their rights.

Plus the piece gives limited background to understand the issue.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not taking sides, as you could have seen if you have been following this blog. I am trying to analyse and understand the problem deeply, so I can offer a the best output possible with my final piece.

We have to bear in mind important issues that the reporter in the above video, I assume, forgot to tell her audience… History, politics, language and economics play important roles and should help us to understand the problem a lot better.

Impartiality and/or accuracy are vital for journalists, especially when we deal with topics like this, which affect many citizens in Latvia. Hence my aim is to tell you all about non-citizens’ life, people who have naturalised over the last years and of course try to understand why after 20 years since Latvia regained its independence there are more than 326,000 people holding an alien passport in the Baltic country.

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