Russian to become second official language of Latvia?

Latvia is set to hold a referendum on February 19th, to decide whether Russian should officially be the country’s second national language. Currently, 44% of the population are Russian speakers, however, 16% of the population are ethnic Russians, who do not hold Latvian citizenship thus are not eligible to vote.* According to Latvian law, more than half of Latvian voters must vote in favour for the proposition to pass.

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The proposal does not have the backing of President Andris Berzins. “Granting the Russian language the status of the second state language is the denial of Latvia as a national state and it contradicts the basics of the Satversmes (Constitution),” he said. Parliament rejected the bill in December, after a petition signed by 187,000 citizens was forwarded to the Government by the Dzimtā valoda (Mother Tongue) organisation.

Latvia most recently regained independence from Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 2004, Government reforms introduced restrictions on the use of the Russian language in schools.

*Figures sourced from New Europe Online

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