• 2009-03-05
I am undemocratic.

On Feb. 16 on the TV program "Viss notiek" (Everything goes on) there was an interview with Tatjana Zhdanok, who is a Member of European Parliament from the Political Union For Human Rights in United Latvia. The lady is a prominent politician in Latvia. But the story is not about Zhdanok, who for quite a prolonged time was barred from running in elections due to the fact she was in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union after Jan. 13, 1991…

My point is the following: Zhdanok has always been a staunch advocate of granting citizenship to all the residents living in Latvia at the time point when Latvia regained its independence. Political Union FHR UL stands for voting rights in municipal elections for non citizens or aliens. This issue comes up from time to time and is a beloved topic for Russian speaking media. Zhdanok is right, today every citizen of EU who comes to Latvia has municipal voting rights regardless of the time spent here, but her mother living here for more than 30 or so years does not. She is right, it's really illogical and undemocratic.

But anyway I support the way the matters are. Sooner or later it will happen that all non-citizens will get citizenship and therewith full voting rights. It's not normal that now there are about 350,000 non-citizens in Latvia but the number of naturalized is 130,000. Until mid 1990s I was for the "zero solution," like happened in Lithuania when citizenship was granted to all the residents. But the situation in Latvia was and remains ethnically more complex. In 1991 there was officially around 52 percent Latvians of the total population. Today the portion stands at 58 percent.

Secondly, the claims that the citizenship law of independent Latvia was discriminating against Russian speakers are not correct because the Latvian Republic is the continuation of the prewar one, i.e. the citizenship was inherited from ancestors who were citizens of first republic…
Thirdly, the main criterion in acquiring citizenship is knowledge of Latvian as the state language. Herein lies the real stumbling block and runs divisive line between non citizens and Latvians. What hampered the mom of Zhdanok to pass the language test?...

Fourthly, one state language is a uniting factor; it helps the integration of different societal parts into one whole entity. The respective language is the main tool in formation of united nationhood regardless of persons' native tongue. If there is no knowledge of state language, there is no integration. As I often say, a big number of people who speak just Russian mentally do not live here but in Russia…

Quinto, the Socialist Party very often speaks of danger of Latvian assimilation of minorities and eventual loss of Russian language. It's simply impossible. Just have a look at newspaper stands, switch on local TV or turn on radio. Perhaps I have to remind that in 1991 in all the 9 biggest Latvian cities the majority were not Latvians. Even today Russian language is "lingua franca" as was appropriately noted in TBT last autumn… Sexto, the system of values. I am certain that I would have more in common with almost any citizen of EU than with most Latvian non-citizens. As TBT reported some 4 years ago, 24 percent of Latvian residents say there was no Soviet occupation in 1940. A couple of months ago there was a nationwide opinion poll in Russia about the person most symbolizing Russian state and nation. If there were not some reminder by famed film director, very possibly Stalin would have come out the first but eventually he took just the 3rd place.

I am sorry but on this point, i.e. municipal voting rights for non citizens, I am undemocratic. I am afraid but I can not find almost any common view with Zhdanok. She says that the Soviet Union and EU are alike. Maybe I am wrong regarding Zhdanok, but nevertheless I think that lack of elementary love for humans is the source of ideas about general happiness of humanity. If in January and August 1991 the political ideas and activities of Zhdanok were fruitful we would have seen seas of blood.

Gundars Sondors
Jelgava, Latvia


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