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Latvia’s human rights activists prepare for referendum on Russian issue

February 17, 2014, 16:49 UTC+3 RIGA
Over two million people live in Latvia, and the Russian-speaking population makes about 40%
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© AP Photo/Roman Koksarov

RIGA, February 17. /ITAR-TASS/. The Russkaya Zarya (Russian Dawn) human rights movement has announced on Monday it begins preparations for Latvia’s national referendum, which to a big extent is expected to settle the sensitive Russian issue in the country.

“It is only evident, that the Republic of Latvia’s state authorities have been following finally the route of full ignoring of interests and views of the country’s Russian community. This is seen clearly from the recent government’s decisions: to have all secondary schools teach only in Latvian language from 2018 and the decision of the Supreme Court, which bans obtaining of citizenship by default,” the organization says.


Bill put up for voting

A bill, which will be presented for the national voting, will unite most corrections aimed to improve the legal positions of Russian people in Latvia. The suggested corrections include restoration of the state educational system in the Russian language and recognition of Orthodox holidays as public holidays/days off along with their Catholic analogues. Besides, languages of street signs and other information plates in regions where national minorities live should be chosen as demanded there.

The human rights movement plans to draft the bill within a month. The referendum on Russian language “will favor respective changes by fixing legally the practical guarantee for respect towards the Latvian society’s two-community character, where the Latvians will remain Latvians, and Russians will remain Russians,” the human rights activists said.


How many Russians live in Latvia

Over two million people live in Latvia, and the Russian-speaking population makes about 40%. In the country’s capital city, Riga, the share of Russian-speaking residents is about 45%, in the country’s biggest eastern cities Daugavpils — over 80% and in Rezekne — over 50%.

In February 2013, human rights activists made an attempt to use a national referendum to grand to the Russian language status of the second state language, but the country’s majority did not support the initiative.

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