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RIGA, November 24 (Itar-Tass) —— The call to recognize the Russian language as the second official language in Latvia, to resume Russian language studies in Latvian schools, to abolish the institution of “non-citizenship” in Latvia and to compensate “non-citizens” for years of humiliation came on Thursday from the human rights movement Latvia Without Nazism.
“This is the only way to regain confidence of 40 percent of Latvia’s population, the only way to create the Latvian political nation and guarantee society against an inevitable social upheaval,” says the address to the country’s authorities the local media published on Thursday. The address will also be forwarded to the human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe, to related committees and commissions of the Council of Europe and to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
“We respect Latvian culture, historic tradition and mentality of Latvians. We wish that Latvian culture should be the basis of Latvia’s multiethnic culture, but we are against the Latvian language and Latvian culture artificially, through certain legislative restrictions, supplanting other languages in everyday and public life. This refers, above all, to the Russian language which is spoken by the overwhelming majority of Latvians,” Iosif Koren, the chairman of the movement, told Itar-Tass on Thursday.
The human rights supporters demand that Latvia’s culture and the Latvian language should not be used as a punitive instrument for humiliation of national dignity of half the country’s population. Everything must be done in a contemporary multiethnic state to support the culture of national minorities and their right to speak the mother tongue and study in the native language, to make their life in that state comfortable and ensure friendship and cooperation of people of various cultures, human rights supporters declare.
The action For the Native Language, to grant the status of the second official language to the Russian language, began in Latvia on March 7. The collection of notarized signatures was started for the purpose. The Native Language public organization initiated the action.
According to Latvian legislation the Central Electoral Commission checked the signatures collected for authenticity and absence of errors and announced the official collection of signatures of one-tenth of Latvian voters (154,379 people) from November 1 to 30 in order to refer amendments to the country’s Constitution to the Saeima (parliament). Adult Latvian citizens can give their signatures. If the Saeima rejects the bill on the matter a nationwide referendum must be held.
The signatures of some 770,000 citizens are needed to make the Russian language the second official language in Latvia. Altogether 612 posts for signatures’ collection are opened on the Latvian territory and another 39 abroad. They are open four hours a day.
This action was launched in counteraction to the collection of notarized signatures by the nationalist association “All for Latvia - Fatherland and Freedom / Movement for National Independence of Latvia” that called for switching all state-financed Russian schools in Latvia to tuition in the Latvian language. That action flopped.