The Centre for the National Language has fined the Mayor of Riga, Nils Ushakov, for the use of the Russian language on his social media. The mayor made this public knowledge on his Facebook page, on 27 July.
He noted that he will be disputing the fine, and that the administration will continue utilizing three languages: Latvian, Russian and English. “I’d like to ask the Centre for the National Language to do what they’re actually good at, such as make up Latvian names for Pokemon.”
In February, Ushakov made a statement that the City Council will continue to provide information via its social media in both Latvian and Russian. Earlier the same month, one of the managers of the Centre of the National Language had accused the City Council of “legalizing the use of two national languages.” In his view, state departments may only utilize languages outside of Latvian in extreme circumstances.
Latvia is home to a few hundred thousand native Russian speakers. In 2012, a referendum took place to make Russian the official second language of Latvia [which it is by default], however it failed to gain sufficient votes.
IS: Around 350,000 native Russian speakers are considered “non-citizens” in the Baltics. This is a legally separate definition from “stateless”, as these people were born in their country of residence, and probably lived there for generations. With the fall of the USSR, Baltics states such as Latvia introduced new citizenship regulations in order to retain one’s Latvian citizenship. This included tests of the Latvian language, “Latvianisation” of names and surnames, as well as other measures.
Either by choice or by circumstance, many citizens of the former USSR have not naturalized into their new identities. They remain fully tax-paying residents but they cannot vote, nor do they have equal access to government services and other civil liberties.
The EU did not see this as an infringement on democratic freedoms, when absorbing the Baltics into the EU.