News / Europe

Latvians Vote to Make Russian an Official Language

A Latvian woman casts her ballot paper at a polling station during a language referendum in Riga, Latvia, February 18, 2012.
A Latvian woman casts her ballot paper at a polling station during a language referendum in Riga, Latvia, February 18, 2012.

Citizens in the European nation of Latvia are voting in a referendum Saturday to decide whether to make Russian the country’s official second language.

Although the second-language referendum is seen as having little chance of passing, the question has triggered a heated debate between the country's large ethnic Russian and Latvian populations.

When the former Soviet Union broke apart in 1991 and Latvia regained independence, most of its Russian-speaking citizens chose to remain in the country.

And even though the government in Riga offered them citizenship, some Russian speakers, such as swimming instructor Viktor Saltikov, say their voices are not being heard.  

Saltikov says Russians would feel better if their language was made official.  He says Russians are not going to vanish from Latvia, no matter how much some people would like them to.

But ethnic Latvians say that the Moscow-backed attempt to integrate the Russian language into the government is an attempt to weaken Latvia’s sovereignty and drag the former Soviet republic back into Russia’s sphere of influence.  Andrejs Salaks, an accountant, says it is a question of civic duty.

Salaks says if there are still people in Latvia who do not know the official language, it means they have not tried to learn it.  Even the prospect of obtaining citizenship has not urged them, he says, and this means they are not loyal to the country they live in.  If the second state language is introduced, they would be left without any reason or motivation to learn Latvian.

Latvia is one of three small Baltic states that was part of the former Soviet Union for most of the 20th century. Many Russians moved into Latvia during that time, and about one-third of Latvia's people now speak Russian.  The Russian and Latvian languages will be equally acceptable in matters of government if half of all eligible voters, more than 771,000 people, vote "yes" on the constitutional referendum.

Final results are expected in a couple of days.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid