Tag Archives: Non-citizens

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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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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“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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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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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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Latvia, a country of contrast

Drawing and Sketching artists in Rīga

After tonnes of emails and thousand calls, the time has finally come. My first interview – with a guided tour around downtown Rīga and its main historical buildings and areas – will be tomorrow afternoon.

Up to this very moment, I have been soaking up the Latvian culture and atmosphere. During my first five days in the country I have been trying to improve my Latvian – I am actually really proud of it, since it is getting better every day – and above all to understand a country that differs massively from the one I grew up in.

By that I mean keep myself updated with the latest newsy events, learn more about the palpable Soviet heritage that is easily noticeable in Latvija, especially in a great number of its buildings – the mixture of neglected areas and the old colourness Soviet buildings – and the stratification of Latvija’s society, the huge gap between rich and poor people.

I mixed myself among natives as much as I could, getting on rural buses that took me around the countryside in southern Latvija and getting lost in popular markets. Once someone told me that the best way to see a new country through the natives’ perspective is by visiting its daily markets and buy at least something in any of the stalls in them.

There are loads of individuals living just above the poverty line in Latvija. These people are the ones who were and are worst affected by the economic crunch that hit the country some three years ago. They mainly live in rural areas, but their presence in Rīga is easy to notice. However, this is something I will be talking about in future posts.

Let’s go back to the interview. The name of my interviewee is a big one among the non-citizens or aliens – without playing down other non-citizens importance.

I am not going to reveal it now, I would ask you instead to stay tuned for following posts. But I am telling you that he acquired citizenship by naturalisation and the Government of Latvija revoked it, for he took part in a series of education protests, something the authorities considered disloyal to Latvija.

More tomorrow…

PS One of the things that surprised me the most was the large number of drawing and sketching artists I have seen around Rīga city centre. They seek out inspiration on the capital’s Art Noveau for which it is widely known.

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