We were away from Latvia this weekend but we were very much aware of the language referendum taking place across Latvia – The aim to make Russian a 2nd Official language.
We met up with a Latvian who was living abroad this weekend and she was eager to get to the Latvian Embassy to make her vote. It seems that across all of the worlds Latvian Embassies were full with voters, with over 70% of the Latvian population going to the polls, much higher than during elections.
As with all issues involving state language, you are unlikely to find many European Countries where such tensions are exposed and clear as in Latvia. Around a third of Latvian citizens from 2.1 million are Russian speaking and a certain section of the minority still do not have Latvian citizenship. A pro Russian language group ‘Mother Tongue’ collected enough signatures to force the Latvian Parliament into making a referendum.
Now the issues here are not simply about allowing people to legally conduct all aspect of life in their native tongue but it has also been seen as a direct attempt to divide Latvian society. This has in some degrees worked well with plenty of discussions and debates popping up across the web.
The result was predictable with a vote of over 75% against the change. Lets see where this all goes. It has already cost the state a small fortune to put up the referendum!
This particular referendum shows us that there are underlying cracks in the ethnic tensions within Latvia. Some suggest that these may be used in order for Russia to have more control over Latvia, others who suggest the time has come to issue the 300,000 residents of Latvia who are non citizens with official Latvian passports, let us just see where it goes.