On March 3, 1991, a majority of the population of Latvia, which consisted of nearly equal parts of ethnic Latvians and non-ethnic Latvians, voted for independence from the Soviet Union. Many of the political leaders at that time reached out to all residents--both Latvian and non-Latvian alike--in order to achieve this majority. While all were given equal status for the first free election, this would soon end. Rather than grant citizenship to everyone residing within the borders of Latvia at the time of independence, Latvian nationalists took revenge for 51 years of Soviet domination by disenfranchising the large non-Latvian ethnic groups. The nationalists accomplished this through a law passed by the new parliament that separated the Latvian population into three categories: 1) citizens, 2) enemies, and 3) aliens. This first group consisted, for the most part, of ethnic Latvians (whether in-country or in exile) and the few non-ethnic Latvians who could prove that their ancestors were Latvian citizens before 1940. The second group consisted of people who were directly affiliated with the Soviet political institutions or military forces. The third group consisted of the remaining non-ethnic Latvian groups, who were given a choice: leave, stay as non-citizens, or go through a complicated and Latvian-biased naturalization process--which many felt was both dehumanizing and humiliating. Sixteen years later, more than twenty percent of Latvia's populace remains in this limbo of non-citizen status, and this research explores why such a large non-citizenry still persists.
|Keywords:||Latvia, Naturalization, Non-Citizens, Former Soviet Republic|
Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, Valley City State University, Valley City, North Dakota, USA
Valley City State University, Valley City, North Dakota, USA
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