Tag Archives: Russia

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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“There is no political interest to sort the situation”

In August Latvia will celebrate the 20th anniversary since it regained its independence. In October, it will be twenty years since the citizenship law was updated  by the newly elected government.

Back then, more than 700,000 people acquired a new status; non-citizens of Latvia. Nowadays, 14.6% of the Baltic country’s population (325,000) still holds a non-citizen passport.

Nils Muiznieks, director of the Advanced Social and Political Research Institute of the University of Latvia and
former Minister for Social Integration, does not hesitate to say that the current situation is “a contradictory picture.

“In the early 90s when the international community got involved here, Bosnia was the reference. Everyone was afraid of violence and mass expulsions. It did not happen and that was a success.

“But the law on citizenship was a controversial issue that almost prevented Latvia joining the Council for Europe, was monitored by international bodies and was highly contested by Russia.”

Due to the international pressure, the Latvian government acted. Lots have been done ever since and some important steps were taken in the previous years to join the EU.

Some 133,000 people have naturalised during this time, but a large number of non-citizens have not “overcome this psychological barrier” and seemed to have got accustomed to their status.

Nils added; “I think non-citizenship in Latvia is still an issue and it will be soon prove by some political parties. However, once we joined the clubs – EU and NATO – international pressure to sort the problem disappeared and therefore there is no political interest within the country.”

More about Nils Muižnieks and the interview in the final documentary!! Don’t miss it out!

Current Law on Citizenship

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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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Demographics of Latvia

Children in Latvia's national costume (Latvia Institute)

Latvia is a multicultural country. The statistics released by the Government at the beginning of 2011 prove it.

Below you can find the largest groups of citizens living in the Baltic country by January 1 2011.

 

Latvia: 1,854,684

Non-citizens: 326,735

Russia: 36,638

Lithuania: 3,754

Ukraine: 3,198

Belarus: 2,035

Germany: 1,174

Estonia: 948

Bulgaria: 591

US: 533

Poland: 509

 

Latvijas iedzīvotāju sadalījums pēc valstiskās piederības (full description of the division of Latvia’s society)

 

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Russia’s interference on non-citizens


A session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva

It has been twenty years since the USSR collapsed and its former citizens in the Baltic countries were given the status of n0n-citizens. To many, they are stateless, but by definition in Latvian law they are not. However, their rights and situation have been subject of controversy between Russia and Latvia, especially since the Baltic country joined the EU in 2004.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who addressed  to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva recently, has claimed that non-citizens’ situation in Latvia and Estonia is “shameful”.

Mr. Lavrov said:

The task of ensuring the human rights of national minorities demands greater attention, especially in the context of such shameful phenomenon as the chronic problem of statelessness in Latvia and Estonia. It is necessary to achieve full implementation of the relevant recommendations of the Council of Europe, OSCE and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

 

In Latvia some 350,000 people (about 15% of its population) are non-citizens and hold an “alien passport”. The vast majority of these are ethnic Russians (therefore Russian speakers). In Estonia the situation is different, for only 100,000 (10%) are non-citizens.

Both Latvian and Estonian Foreign Ministers have responded to Lavrov’s criticism. They stressed the importance of their programs and reminded him of the “domestic” character of the matter.

Latvian Foreign Minister Girts Kristovskis said:

Latvian legislation and the existing regulation on the matters of national minorities fully comply with the standards of the Council of Europe, the OSCE and UN, and is a subject that belongs to Latvia’s domestic affairs. Every non-citizen in Latvia is offered an opportunity to naturalise. However, to do that or not is a choice left up to each individual

Latvia and Estonia used to have close ties with Russia since they broke free in 1991. Ever since, Moscow has spotlighted the minority issue frequently. Both Baltic countries have encouraged their respective non-citizens to naturalise through different tests such as language and history.

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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:

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