Saturday marks five years since the historic referendum in Latvia on the recognition of Russian as the second state language. Then the Russians lost, because he was doomed to defeat. But in the end, the referendum changed the life of the Russian community – Russian ceased to demand “to be Latvians”. But demanded the other.
Five years is enough time to sum up: what should be kept “Russian plebiscite” in public and political life of Latvia?
“Thank you, mother”
“You, Sasha, do not give up, I’m in mother you good. We have money for important the case was collected. You are well to do. Your mom of money to Russian language would give from their pensions”
The referendum in 2012 was a significant event. He did not leave indifferent almost anyone in the country, has caused significant repercussions in neighbouring countries, and ultimately had direct consequences for all Russian-speaking inhabitants of the country. Preparations for the plebiscite was in 2011, when citizens of Latvia in two stages 183 collected thousands of signatures in support of its holding is required under the law 153 thousand.
“With a team of friends on the eve of the referendum, we worked on social networking, preparing and distributing leaflets, filming videos, conducting symbolic actions, – told the newspaper LOOK activist Alexander Gaponenko, taking in the epic active participation. – Call only the ones who “lit up” publicly, and to whom their memories will not cause damage. Is Bronislav Zeltserman, Margaret Dragileva, Elena bachinskaya and Elizabeth Krivtsov. There were several dozen volunteers, but they let it remain a mystery. In General, a year and a half of joint work of our team in the preparation and conduct of the referendum was the best period in my public life. All our propaganda work was based on volunteers. Remember, a week before d-day we printed a large circulation of leaflets calling to come out to the polls to vote – but to give them have not had time. Then in the “Facebook” I wrote the call to assist in the distribution of leaflets and published a number of our on-call phone. People began to call, to come to our makeshift headquarters to pick up flyers and post them at entrances, to distribute at work, on the street”.
Gaponenko spoke about how he was gathering money to pay the notaries who checked the signature at the initial stage of preparation for the plebiscite. The then Latvian legislation for the organization of the popular vote proponents first had to collect 10 thousand “signings” at their own expense, and only after that the funding was included by the state.
“The first time I received money in one of the meetings of the “Council of public organizations” in Riga “House of Moscow”. At this meeting I was approached by the head of the Leningrad blockade and held out a plastic bag, brim full of small bills and coins. It says we are in a society raised money for a referendum for Russian language. I started to make excuses, realizing that the blockade people are not rich and collecting donations for them is cumbersome. And the head of the society and tells me so confidently: “You, Sasha, do not give up, I’m in mother you good. We have money for important the case was collected. You are well to do. Your mom of money to Russian language would give of his pension”. From this treatment I have a lump to the throat rushed and treacherous tears in his eyes welled up. I’m the plastic bag with the collected blokadniki took the money to his chest and pressed. I was only able to utter two words: “Thank you, mother.” I have a very mother was believe and when someone asked me to do, Sasha called. Money on the referendum, it sure would give from their small pensions and the failure to take them would not accept”.
According to Gaponenko, Russian-speaking Latvians actively donated to a referendum. And then the security Police were asking questions about where his money comes from, initiating an administrative case on tax evasion, the consideration of which lasts for five years.
Their memories were shared by the Deputy of the city Duma of Daugavpils Yuri Zaitsev, who in 2011 was the coordinator of the collection of signatures in this town (in the end, Daugavpils gave a significant number of votes in the General “piggy Bank”, since Russians constitute more than half of its population): “work actively involved the youth. I can not mention his assistants Kohl Kharlamov, Osencova Valera and Dima Kalinin, unfortunately, is recently deceased. And a dozen girls, who helped us to minus twenty on the eve of a vote in February to distribute leaflets on the city. And all night long!”
In parallel, there were rumours that anyone who comes to sign for Russian language, “photograph”, “will make secret lists of unreliable”, “fired”, but in the end no reprisals were not – the information war without casualties.
“The result of the referendum was overwhelming”
A referendum on the status of the Russian language extensively became the most visited event of this kind in present-day Latvia – the site came 70,73% of voters 1 098 593 people. Latvians, too, showed increased activity, the benefit was electrified politicians and public figures, calls to “save the native language, as the only thing left in the title of the people of Latvia”. The main initiator of the referendum, Vladimir Linderman and his volunteers, United in the organization “Native language”, strongly demonized, presenting the enemies of the Latvian people. On the eve of voting in the state media even called to speak to the guests from Russia – Valeria Novodvorskaya and Konstantin Borovoy, who denounced the organizers as “agents of Moscow”.
In turn, the Russians tried to “protect themselves from the continuing policy of assimilation and the language of terror” and actively voted not only in Latvia, but also outside it – numerous “labour immigrants” came to the embassies and consulates. “I and his young son stand in line for two hours. Very cold. What was going on there! Pregnant, disabled, and children, all shivering – but how many people! The vote was in the basement of the Embassy, there were only two booths, three aunt recorded the passport data. And there could be ten people. The others were freezing outside. Most in the queue were talking in Russian, and I’m sure they have come to vote “for”, – shared his impressions with the newspaper VIEW, the citizen of Latvia, now living in Ireland.
But the final results no surprises almost everyone voted for their native language, just in the case of Latvians it was the voice as the only official language, and in the case of Russian the second state. As admitted the newspaper VIEW well-known journalist of Russian community of Latvia Yuri Alexeyev, the organizers and volunteers of the referendum in advance knew that to win it is impossible: “Just because Latvians in Latvia is two times more than non-Latvians. Besides, almost half of Russian denied the right to vote in 1991. Actually, it turned out: three quarters of participants in the referendum voted against the Russian language, one-quarter of it. That is, all Latvians were against it, all the speakers entitled to vote.
“And what, then, was arranged this action, if we all understood?” – wondered Alexeyev. And he answers: “And one purpose only: update on “first-second”. The first is the one who does not support a policy of assimilation who want to preserve their language, history and culture. The second – the one who Russian language is not important, do not need someone who feels comfortable in the current conditions. The result of the referendum was overwhelming even for the organizers. For Russian as the second official language voted 273 thousand. It’s almost all national minorities of Latvia having the right to vote – Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Jews, poles, Lithuanians, Estonians, Tatars… will Notice that the Russian citizens of Latvia only 160 thousand.”
Thus, the result of the vote has consolidated the existing status quo. Then began to take measures to insure against events like the referendum in the future. The country was much more stringent rules for the conduct of plebiscites, and is a direct result of the events of 18 February 2012.
“The last five years of the Russian Latvians are not already doing. Schools that five years ago, the hot heads propose to close live”
It is necessary to state: the prerequisites of a referendum five years ago not just memorable – they are relevant to this day. A significant part of the population of Latvia is Russian-speaking from birth and using the Russian language as an everyday, forced to live with the amendment that their language is a foreign one. But has anything changed? Yes.
“De-Russification continues – in relation to Russian schools, the media and the Russian public organizations. But a few changed “the direction of the main blow”. Less now click on language, more on “loyalty”. Here, perhaps, played the role of recommendations of Americans. The same John McCain, when I was recently in Riga, said something like this: let the Russians speak Russian, but make sure that they do not look in the direction of Moscow. And all the recent laws directed at it. For Russian teachers, journalists and social activists bump now less likely because of the language, often accused of disloyalty,” – said the newspaper VIEW Vladimir Linderman.
Yuri Alexeev believes that progress is more significant, while the – positive: “the rhetoric of the ruling nationalists have disappeared, the idea of “assimilation”, which was formulated by President Vaira Vike-Freiberga: “Latvia should live only Latvians. May they be Russian, Ukrainian, of any origin, but Latvians.” In short, the past five years, the Russian Latvians are not already doing. The Russian school, which five years ago, the hot heads propose to close, live. Them almost from behind. The ruling nationalists realized that if they touched them – will be a blast. Russians in Latvia have themselves felt its power. The referendum showed that we are many and we are one.”
A slightly different view is held and Yuri Zaitsev:
“If you look from a legal point of view, I can say for sure – after the referendum has occurred a tightening of the language legislation. And, above all, the tightening is aimed at limiting the access of Russian political and economic elite of the country. In other words, to restrict access to where the Russian can potentially influence events in the country. For example, in 2015 raised the criteria for receiving the third highest category of the Latvian language, which you want to work in administrative and managerial positions in state institutions and in order to be the leader of the company. Also tightened the “Law on status of Deputy of the government” to the extent that obligated municipalities to pay for Latvian language courses after checking the people’s choice with the Inspectorate. In 2015 the same year the law was changed and now members will have to pay for their better knowledge of the language, otherwise in six months – the court and the cancellation of the mandate. As for the ordinary Russian, it is, on the contrary, began to pay attention. Russian residents now create more comfortable conditions on state television. Of course, in order to in their native language to instill in them the criteria of “loyalty”. For example, among Latvian elites began a discussion about the state of Russian-language TV channel, gently flirting with the Russian audience to the fundamental for the Russian people issues.”
But the view of the famous Riga historian and publicist Alexander Ravina: “Personally, I have no changes over the past five years felt. The issue of education to me already and not yet actual. Print media have not read all that I need is on the Internet, and there is a Russian segment of the huge and diverse. In everyday life the amount of use of the Russian language in Latvia I have not decreased and not increased. On the contrary, went even recently, passed the Latvian on the category purely for myself – that is to say, to maintain the tone so that the level does not drop. After all, the last time it did in school a long time ago – those “aplietsiby” (identity), are no longer in Vogue, and in those areas of private business, where I work, the “crust” is useless. No, not shrinking, and my circle of friends among Latvians, and simply increasing the circle of communication in Russian and English. World though large, but the Internet makes it small, the far corners available.”
To date, problems of language have moved in the mass consciousness by the wayside. Hundreds of thousands of former Latvians now settled around the world, are a clear proof that Latvia light a wedge has not converged. All five years of the date of the referendum was, and continues now the departure of the inhabitants of the country to other regions – Ireland, UK, Germany, Scandinavia, Russia. And it is noteworthy that in percentage terms the number of people leaving the Russian-speaking much higher than the number emigrating Latvians that is not without joy indicate the most outspoken politicians-nationalists. Of course, the Exodus began long before the referendum, and people are leaving, primarily for economic reasons. But for many, the sense of inequality becomes a decisive argument in favor of emigration, even if you display the brackets are low by the standards of the EU standard of living, the shortage of high-paying jobs and increasing taxes.