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Latvia: Soviet legacies

Recerca | 26/03/2008

The case of Latvia

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Since independence, immigration has been scarce. The main issue is integration of Soviet-era settlers from Slavic countries. Modest dimensions and renewed prosperity have eased the task, although old animosities and a ripe underground economy pose serious challenges


Foreign citizens in Latvia amount just to 1’6% of the population. Considering a slight demographic loss, due to emigration to other UE destinations, and low birth rates, it can be said that inflow of labour into the country is rather welcome and poses no major problems.

The outstanding fact, however, is that a great portion of inhabitants are of Slavic origin (basically Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian). These communities attained close to half the population in Soviet years. After independence, some returned to their native land, many adopted Latvian nationality and still many passed into the intermediate category of non-citizens, accounting nowadays for 17% of inhabitants. Most controversies are centred on the latter group; degree of integration, legal rights and obligations, etc.

The politics of Latvia reflect this reality, with parties and public opinion taking sides in the debate. Marked economic recovery, however, has softened potential confrontation. Future prospects might be further darkened by an increase in underground and black market practices.

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