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Russian Minority in Latvia. UW-Eau Claire Geography 308 Prof. Zoltan Grossman. Wesley A. Sherry Spring 2005 C.E. Locale. Latitude: 57°00’ N Longitude: 25°00’ E . Irbe Strait. Gulf of Riga. Baltic Sea. Statistical Information. Population: 2,306,306 Total Area: 64,589 sq km

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russian minority in latvia

Russian Minority in Latvia

UW-Eau Claire

Geography 308

Prof. Zoltan Grossman

Wesley A. Sherry

Spring 2005 C.E.


Latitude:57°00’ N Longitude:25°00’ E


Irbe Strait

Gulf of Riga

Baltic Sea

statistical information
Statistical Information

Population: 2,306,306

Total Area: 64,589 sq km

Religions: Lutheran

Roman Catholic

Russian Orthodox


Latvian Official Language

Russian Spoken by Many

Government: Parliamentary Democracy

historic foreign occupations
Historic Foreign Occupations
  • FeudalGermans c. 1200 CE

- Dominated by traders and Teutonic Knight landlords.

- Founded the city of Riga.

- Introduced Christianity.

- Exploited Latvia’s land, labor, and resources.

  • Poland and Sweden c. 1560 CE

- Both powers battle each other over the Baltics.

  • ImperialRussia 1710 CE

- Latvia falls under the control of the Czar.

  • 1920, Latvia wins its independence after the Russian Revolution.
  • The fledgling government leans more towards the west when looking for a model to follow.
  • Though short lived, the young republic prospers as a major exporter of agricultural goods.
re annexation
  • 1939, the Soviet Union, through a treaty with Nazi Germany, occupied Latvia along with the other Baltic states and half of Poland.
  • 1940 and 1944, Latvia is annexed by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
  • The Soviet Union industrializes the mostly agrarian society of Latvia.

Latvian S.S.R.

independence redux
Independence Redux
  • August 21, 1991, Latvia is recognized as an independent state following the break-up of the Soviet Union.
eu nato
  • Latvia joins NATO March 29, 2004.
  • Latvia joins the EU May 1, 2004.
russian minority
Russian Minority
  • Latvia contains a large Russian minority.
    • 33.8% Nationwide
    • 51% in Riga, the capital
  • Latvians fear their big next-door neighbor and the possibility of irredentism.

- These fears are not totally unjustified when Russia’s history of aggression is considered.

  • Latvians suppress most of the Russian minority by labeling them as non-citizens.
russian non citizens
Russian “Non-Citizens”
  • During the Soviet era, the Latvian S.S.R. had a higher standard of living than the rest of the union many Russians, including retired military officers migrated to there. However, some Russians settled there before annexation.
  • All ethnic Russians that moved to Latvia during Soviet occupation, or were born of them, have been considered non-citizens.
  • Many have not had the right to vote or hold political office.
  • Their status can be similarly compared to those of undocumented immigrants in America.
what s the problem
What’s the Problem?

Employment of non-Latvians in Latvian SSR in 1987

PRESTIGIOUS OCCUPATIONS:Secretaries of Communist Party of Latvia 20%

Ministers and chairmen of state committees 17%

Personnel of city and district Party committee 34.8%

Personnel of the Council of Ministers 35%

Heads of local authorities 23%

Cultural sphere and arts 26.4%

Education 46.6%

NON-PRESTIGIOUS OCCUPATIONS:Industry and construction 61.9%

Transport 66.2%

Communal and public services 54.7%

  • The Latvian government has severely disadvantaged this section of its populace.
  • Russians, like the Latvians, were just trying to make the best of the Soviet era.
  • Therefore, anger towards Russians as an ethnic group is mostly unjustified.
  • So why not just become a full citizen of Latvia through naturalization?

Table Interpretation

The table shows that Latvians held the majority of the prestigious professions, while the non-Latvians, mostly Russians, worked more of the “blue collar” jobs. This means that Latvians have less ground to stand on to argue that Russians came in and subjugated them.

naturalization process
Naturalization Process
  • Requirements to become a naturalized citizen of Latvia:

- Five years residency in country as of May 4, 1990

- Legal source of income

- Command of the Latvian language

- Recitation of the national anthem

- Rudimentary knowledge of Latvian history

* Recognition that Latvia was occupied, not liberated, by the Soviet Union is mandatory

  • These tests prove to be difficult for those, especially of the older population, who can’t or won’t conform to the demands of the government, or learn a new language.
language barriers
Language Barriers
  • The Latvian Parliament passed into law that 60% of all subjects must be taught in Latvian.

- This creates a good deal of strain upon Russian students that know little or no Latvian.

  • By law, anyone running for any political position must be near perfectly fluent in Latvian to be eligible for a spot on the ballot.

- As expected, this angers those that are ineligible since Latvia is a democracy.





  • Congressmen Kucinich and Shimkus called for a Russian apology for the illegal occupation of the Baltic states.

- If Russia apologizes, it may alleviate some of the grievances that Latvia has against its Russian minorties.

  • As the EU consolidates its power and finds a firmer base to stand on, it will hopefully aid in resolving these issues.
  • As in most cases, the best way to resolve the situation would be to just bury the hatchet.
  • The Sunday Herald Online


  • Google Image Search

  • CIA: World Factbook

  • Human Rights Watch

  • Minelres