Latvia. “No” in the Russian language referendum.

20 Feb 2012

“On Saturday, citizens were called to vote in a referendum to decide whether Russian should be made the country’s second official language and be given equal status with Latvian. The result was clear: 78 percent voted against the proposal, 21 percent in favor. Some 69 percent of the 1.5 million eligible to vote cast their ballot.
The referendum was launched by the initiative Mother Tongue of the Russian minority in the country and intended to change five clauses in the country’s constitution.
“The Russian people of Latvia have to show to the rest of the world that they will never accept their status of being outcasts in their own home country,” the website of Mother Tongue urged its supporters ahead of the poll.
The government, however, had called on people to vote against the proposal, arguing that the Latvian language was at the heart of the constitution and that the proposal had to be defended…
The referendum marked the escalation of tensions that had been simmering for decades. Under Soviet rule, hundreds of thousands from across the Soviet Union where moved to Latvia to work there. Moscow’s policy eventually led to over 40 percent of Latvia’s population officially speaking Russian as their first language. Many Latvians saw Russian as a threat to their own language and were concerned at the prospect of becoming a minority in their own country…
Citizenship also depends on knowing Latvian. As a consequence, some 300,000 people living in the country are stateless. They do not hold Latvian citizenship and only have their old Soviet Union documents and passports. Amongst other disadvantages, those 300,000 don’t have the right to vote…
The main problem is not the language, but rather the general view that Latvians have on the Russians. Many Russians are discriminated against because of their ethnicity and are treated like second-class citizens, she said, adding that she herself is not too optimistic that this will change anytime soon… ”

 Full Article Deutsche Welle

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