Ethnic Russians in Baltic countries ‘love Russia but don’t consider it their home’




Article by: Paul Goble

Staunton, December 24 – Ethnic Russians living in Latvia and Lithuania “view themselves as a community and respect Russian culture but consider their native home to be the countries where they live rather than Russia,” and this is true even of those born in Russia or who are not citizens of their countries of residence, according to a new study.

The study, entitled “The Identity of the Russian Ethnic Group and Its Expression in Lithuania and Latvia,” was prepared by Arvidas Matiulionis of the Institute of Sociology of Lithuania and Monika Frejute-Rakauskiene of Ethnic Research of Lithuania, has been published in “Mir Rossii: Sotsiologiya, Etnologiya” of the Moscow Higher School of Economics.

The two scholars compared the ethnic self-definitions and identities of the Russian ethnic group in Lithuania and Latvia. They defined ethnicity as “a community or identity based on common origin and a feeling of solidarity,” as opposed to a people which they argue is “to a greater extent connected with language, cultural and ideological” considerations.

They conducted deep interviews with ethnic Russians of various generations and waves in both countries and supplemented that with polling data gathered by ENRI-VIS.

Ethnic Russians living in Latvia and Lithuania, they point out, are “immigrants of various historical periods,” ranging from those who fled religious persecution before 1917 to those who were transferred there during the Soviet occupation.  According to the 1989 census, there were 906,600 Russians in Latvia (34 percent of the population) and 345,400 Russians in Lithuania (9.4 percent).

After the recovery of independence in 1991, Russians in Lithuania could gain Lithuanian citizenship if they sought it and had worked and lived there for two years before applying. According to the 2011 census, 99.3 percent of the residents of the country have Lithuanian citizenship, including the overwhelming majority of ethnic Russians.

The situation in Latvia was more complicated because Riga insisted on its rights to deny citizenship to anyone moved in by the occupation authorities. But over time and under pressure from the EU, it has modified that stance and now has created several paths by which the overwhelming majority of ethnic Russians there can achieve Latvian citizenship.

According to the 2011 census, the two scholars report, 83.5 percent of the residents of Latvia are Latvian citizens. That means that 14.2 percent are still non-citizens, the vast majority of whom are ethnic Russians.

Polls show, Matiulionis and Frejute-Rakauskiene say, that “the younger and middle generation of Russians born in Lithuania identify themselves more with Lithuania than with Russia. And even those Russian-speaking residents of Lithuania who were born on another territory all the same consider Lithuania their native home.”

In Latvia, they report, the differences between citizens and non-citizens is “more marked.” But at the same time, “even those non-citizens who were born in Latvia identify with it and not with Russia and especially with the place in which they live.” Few in either country say they would leave even if guaranteed economic security.

Equally interesting, the scholars found that while some ethnic Russians reported ethnic tensions based on language or culture in each country, none of them said that they had been subject to discrimination because of their language or ethnicity.

And while polls showed that ethnic Russians living in Lithuania “identify themselves with Russia as their historical Motherland,” representatives of the younger generation do so “not so much with the country as with Russian culture.” Ethnic Russians born in Latvia “consider Latvia their motherland, although they consider themselves Russians by ethnic origin.”

“Frequently,” the two researchers say, “those respondents born in Latvia in general do not feel ties with Russia and do not have friends or relatives there.”  Moreover, members of the younger generation, even those who identify as Russians, make a clear distinction “between Russians living in Russia and Russians in Latvia and feel themselves linked not to Russian Russians but to the community of Russians of Latvia.”

“Ethnic identity is important for all generations of Russians in Lithuania and Latvia,” they conclude, but that must be evaluated in terms of the fact that “in all generations of Russians questioned in Latvia, local identity predominates: the informants connect themselves with the street on which they live and with the city as well.”

“Even non-citizens, born in Latvia have [this] local identity,” they say.  And thus while some may feel an attachment to Russia on a cultural level, they consider Latvia – and also Lithuania – as their motherland, even if they continue to “think in Russian” while speaking the national languages well.


Image: RFE/RL

Source: Window on Eurasia

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  • Michel Cloarec

    One example of a non latvia citizen !
    One family in Riga : Man from Poland, woman from Belarus, both moved by sovjet to work in latvia (so called russification) 2 daughters born in Latvia . 1991 sovjet collapses.
    4 persons without citizenship ! Daughters granted permit to reside in Sweden, because they had no citizenship ! Do you think that this man and woman love russia ?
    Are they ethnic russians ? are they latvians ? are they going to be terrorists ? must they speak latvian ?
    So EUROPE is their only chances to be citizen somewhere !
    The children of these 2 daughters, take trips to Latvia to meet grandparents. Do you think they love Russia ? They speak russian, but hate what sovjet and today´s russia can do with their lives and split of family ! The old lady cries when ethnic latvian tell her to speak latvian in shops and so on !

  • Muslim Brother

    A sister I met on my travels told me she is born in Latvia but is completely Russian. She said she never wants to be and hates Latvians. She also told me that 75% of Riga is populated by Russians whilst most Latvians live in the villages and work in the farms….

    • Michel Cloarec

      You are a bag full of lies and shit !
      Take care not to eat ham next time you eat camel kebab or merguez !
      You belong to a pigsty (if you know what that is !)
      Are you using toa paper when you go to toalet ? or must you have water ?
      If no water use the right hand to eat your couscous ! Dont forget your rug and take care when you go down to pray, maybe there is a drunken LPR or DPR militant starving for love ! I heard that lately Israel has developed a missile with special electronic to sight on minarets and mosquées. It works well from what I see on news at Muslim 24/7 channel !

      • Michel Cloarec

        And I forgot to say ! Take care because I know where your systers are living ! That would please LPR and DPR militants, they are in army camps, isolated from everything, far away from their wifes ! So they are hungry for nice small sweet muslim systers !

        • Muslim Brother

          Do you also work for Charlie Hebdo……?

  • Brent

    Smart move by Latvia and Lithuania to get this issue clarified now instead of waiting for Putin to claim he needs to come rescue any “Russian speakers” or ethnic Russians from wrath and fury of those allegedly vulgar, horrible, mean spirited war mongering Baltic neighbors which we all live in fear of their wrath and fur…maybe one day “Volya will release Eston Kohver in time for him to spend Christmas with his family….

    I would suggest a copy of this study be sent to Obama now so he can be prepared to deliver us another rousing speech about respecting the rights and freedoms and territorial sovereignty of Russia’s neighors on his next tour of Europe…

  • Harry Hayes

    Swiss RadioTelevision (RTSR) reports that Russia is paying $12 a day to people to write articles that denigerate Ukraine in favor of Russia. NIce people aren’t they? ….

    • Brent

      Curious if $12 is now the equivalent of what they get in ‘rubbles’? If so, then a short month or two they were getting $20 per month. That should hit home with the ‘troll army’.

      • Michel Cloarec

        Now from 29 december it is yens and rubbles, in russia

        Dollars only to save the banks !

        From Novorossia today site .

        The world will be changed on Monday, 29th December 2014

        on: December 29, 2014

        China and Russia will deliver one more fatal blow on Monday, 29th December 2014; it is said in the article of the edition Zero Hedge. China starts trade yuan-ruble on Monday.
        The world is not hurrying to admit new reality, in which Chine has been today sole master of IMF de-facto, it was the description of the situation by the edition Zero Hedge two weeks ago, and they wrote that China would help to Russia.
        We pointed out that People’s Bank of China offered to use swap-currency, which had to decrease the role of dollar of the USA. In case if China and Russia will need mutual aid to overcome crisis of liquidity.
        (The agreement foresees the swap in CNY150 billion in local currencies. Everything has happened in fact this week. Bloomberg reported that ‘China offers to Russia in terms of currency swap’.
        To secure Russia from turning off from SWIFT-world entirely, in which dollar rules was urgent one additional step.
        And this stem was made; it was the start of direct trade FX with participation of Russian and Chinese currencies.
        It is not surprisingly that exactly what was necessary was made; the start of the trade is on Monday, 29th December 2014 year.
        BEAUTIFUL !

  • Harry Hayes
  • Harry Hayes

    Brent, The Moscow Times reported that a medical doctor’s monthly salary in $700.– a month and I know a lady with a good job for a foreign complany in Moscow for $700. so I suppose that Trolls, especially those who engage the whole family, could help round out the end of the month. When I posted this information to Swiss or French look-a-like trolls there is SILENCE.