It sounds nearly impossible: More than 200.000 people in Latvia are so-called „non-citizens“. They are not allowed to vote although many of them were born in the country. A problem we like to take a closer look.

Day 5 - 1.12.2014 - 20:11 - Discrimination -

Choices of voices in Latvia: What is better/worse in your country than in Europe?

Day 4 - 30.11.2014 - 18:53 - Discrimination -

GenSep Report: “Non-Citizens” in Latvia


Sooner or later the problem of “non-citizens” will solve itself. Until then, it seems, the EU stands back.

In the beginning of this year there were still 253.640 non-citizens in Latvia. From originally 700.000. They live in Latvia but don’t have a Latvian or any other citizenship. In the past 23 years, the number has decreased greatly. But it is not primarily because of the naturalization test that stateless people are allowed to take in order to get the citizenship. Instead, most of them have died in the past years.

Many people in Riga believe that the government is just waiting for the problem to disappear However, politicians underline that they want to complete this process as quickly as possible. “We cannot force the non-citizens to apply for the test and get a Latvian citizenship,” says Rihards Kols (29) of the co-ruling right-wing party “National Alliance”. He ruled out that the test will get “simplified” or that citizenships would be “given away like candy”.

Official sample of a Latvian “Aliens Identity Card”

During the accession negotiations with the EU, the non-citizens-issue was a big topic. In 2004, the EU contributed money for language and history courses. It worked out great – the naturalization-rate of the Russian minority increased significantly from 2004 to 2006. After that, the EU-Commission backed down. From now on it is an internal Latvian-problem, they say. As a result, since 2008, there were only a few thousand people per year who passed the naturalization-test – last year only around 1500.

But at least something got better: since this year non-citizens may register their children as Latvian citizens. As long as they are younger than 14 years old. They have just to fill in a form. If the situation continues like this, in a few decades it is pretty likely that there will be no more non-citizens. Nonetheless, it is far more than a bizarre game of patience.

Day 3 - 29.11.2014 - 20:10 - Latvia -

RT @berlindkr: We arrived in #Warsaw and are now cutting our GenZapp Show! Looking forward – but not for sleep #gensep #latvia via

Day 3 - 29.11.2014 - 19:47 - Latvia -

RT @berlindkr: We arrived in #Warsaw and are now cutting our GenZapp Show! Looking forward – but not for sleep #gensep #latvia

Day 3 - 29.11.2014 - 17:00 - Discrimination -

GenSep Report: “I am not a guest, I am a citizen of this country”


The family of Margarita Dragile lives in Latvia for more than 100 years. From an ethnic point of view she comes from Russia – just like one quarter of the Latvian population. A parallel society?

Margarita Dragile strikes up the conversation quite extraordinary. Before answering the first question she says: „I want to clarify that I am not a guest in this country. I am a citizen of this country. All my ancestors were born here.“ In contrast to the 250 000 non-citizens, Margarita is agitating for, she is not a non-citizen. She has got a Latvian passport and for this reason she has got the same rights just like every other Latvian citizen. However she appeals as if she’s feeling as a foreigner.



Margaritas Grand-Grand-Dad (r.) 1930 in Riga. Photo: private


Latvia has got the largest population of Russian speaking inhabitants in the world. 26 percent of the Latvians are Russians. During the occupation of the soviet union Latvia experienced a Russification. Nowadays Riga, Latvias capital, speaks half Latvian, half Russian, even though the Russian language had been refused becoming the second official language. Although this problem doesn’t affect Riga as much as other regions in Latvia, integration however has not been completely successfull, says Margarita. She gets involved with the Russian speaking youth organizing social projects.



Irrespective of the non-citizen issue, it seems that the ethnic barriers are still not blurred. In some situations the population lives in parallel instead of in common. The children often go to different schools, watch different TV broadcasts. And even in politics it seems that it’s not about national, social democratic or liberal attitudes but only about: Latvian or Russian.

The current governement wants to beware the latvian tradition and culture. Margarita Dragile holds the view that this circumstance will divide the society even more: ‘Since I am allowed to vote, the situation has become worse and worse. If non-citizens would have the right to vote, this coalition probably wouldn’t exist.’

Day 3 - 29.11.2014 - 16:34 - Latvia -

RT @broemse: monkeys? No! @berlindkr & @ChristophWgnr working on @gensep2014 in our hostel. At 6 we fly to Warsaw #gensep #latvia via

Day 3 - 29.11.2014 - 15:14 - Discrimination -

In Conflict! „Non-Citizens“ in Latvia

In Latvia 13 % of the population are so called non-citizens. Most of them are ethnic russians. These people aren’t citizens of Latvia or any other country. They are stateless and have no right to vote or to work in multiple jobs like in the police or as a lawyer. In our category “In Conflict” Elizabete Krivcova, the chairwoman of the “Non-Citizen-Congress” and Rihards Kols, member of the National Alliance Party, share their thoughts regarding this topic.


Elizabete Krivcova (36) (Chairwoman of the „Non-Citizen-Congress“) about the Citizen-Exam and working with the government

“Non-citizens don’t feel guilty of the former politic of Josef Stalin and The Sowjet Union. And why should they? Most of the non-citizins or their ancestors came to Latvia for work, not to fulfill political plans. But that’s what the law tells them.

The ongoing process of integration, the naturalization, works way to slow. The integration-exam is to hard for many elderly people. Younger non-citizens refuse the exam because they feel offended by it. After all they were born on Latvia.

There was an initiative for a referundum about the citizenship-question. But the Central Election Comission of Latvia forbid the referendum. Unfortunatly the court confirmed this decision. The government does not want to solve the non-citizen-problem. They try to keep the topic down and to forget about it.

Our organisation tries to find new ways to discuss the intends of the non-citizens. But even if we contact the government with letters written in Latvian, they only answer us: Go, learn the Latvian language first.”

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Rihards Kols (29) (National Alliance Party) about integration and the Non-Citizen-Congress

“We can’t force the Non-Citizens to go to the naturalization and to integrate. But we have set everything for them to become a Latvian citizen, to share our values and traditions. Within a month you can get a citizenship. I can’t imagine why they won’t do it.

I Think the „Non-Citizen-Congress“ are not even an official organisation. Why don’t they register as a NGO? Where do they get their money from? Maybe they use private bank-accounts to get money from Kremlin. A lot of people among the non-citizens live in a very different interpretation of history. Many of the monority-right-fighters never aknowledged or approved that Latvia was occupied by Russia for decades. Also they publicly discuss Latgale (Region in East Latvia) becoming independent. This is a security issue. Those kind of activists are dividing the society. They make like 2 or 3 percent of the Non-Citizens, but they think that the mojority of the minority thinks like they do.”

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Day 2 - 28.11.2014 - 12:09 - Latvia -

RT @broemse: Margarita: “I don’t want to be a state employer in #Latvia because I don’t feel that it is a good place for the russian minority.” #gensep

Day 2 - 28.11.2014 - 11:47 - Latvia -

Margarita: “I don’t want to be a state employer in #Latvia because I don’t feel that it is a good place for the russian minority.” #gensep via