Latvia culture minister – May 9 celebration splits Latvia society

RIGA, August 10 (Itar-Tass) —— The celebration of VE Day on May 9 splits Latvian society, Sarmite Elerte, Latvia’ s culture minister, said in an interview with the LNT local TV channel on Wednesday, August 10.

“The functions of November 18 [Latvia’s Independence Day] consolidate society, particularly young people. But there are dates that disunite people, for instance, May 9, when the split of society is deliberately manifested,” she said.

Regarding Russian-speaking non-citizens residing in Latvia, the minister said that every one of them has an opportunity for naturalisation. They must pass an examination for the knowledge of Latvian, the official language, and of the republic’s history and become citizens.

She said over 50,000 “new immigrants” now reside in Latvia. They came to Latvia from post-Soviet countries and have the residence permit.

Elerte believes they pose a serious threat of the formation of two communities in the country.

Latvia has a population of 2.3 million, including 345,000 ethnic Russians having no Latvian citizenship. From the time Latvia seceded from the USSR in 1991, they were stripped of most political rights, including the right to vote at the municipal and parliamentary elections and elections to the European Parliament.

Latvia’s Saeima rejected more then once any attempts of the Russian-speaking opposition to change this state of things.

May 9 is not an official holiday in Latvia, but a large part of the population, above all the Russian-speaking residents, celebrate VE Day.

Tens of thousands of people gather in Riga on that day at the monument to the Soviet Liberator Soldiers to lay flowers at the monument and to congratulate war veterans.

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