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30 April 2010

EUDO Citizenship Observatory Country Report: Latvia

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Citizenship attribution is a sensitive issue in Latvia, which—after the period of Soviet occupation beginning in 1940—restored its independence and citizenship legislation in 1991. During the Soviet occupation, a large group of immigrants from former Soviet republics arrived in Latvia.

Upon restoration of independence, Latvia claimed that Soviet occupation was illegal and that Latvia had never been part of the USSR de jure. This claim was based on the principle of state continuity. The principle of state continuity has also been reflected in citizenship policies. According to this approach, only those who were Latvian citizens before occupation could restore their citizenship de facto. Soviet era immigrants were not entitled to Latvian citizenship and were subject to strict naturalisation requirements.

Over the years Latvia has liberalised its citizenship policies. In order to secure the rights of Soviet-era settlers, which extend beyond the requirements of international human rights treaties, Latvia created a specific category of persons in international law, namely so-called ‘non-citizens’. Although this status was intended as temporary until non-citizens could naturalise, today there is still a considerable number of non-citizens who are unwilling to naturalise due to a variety of internal and external factors.

Recent debates concern, on the one hand, the need to liberalise policies of dual citizenship. The debate started after the realisation that many Latvian citizens were leaving to work in other EU Member States. On the other hand, a second debate concerns the need to facilitate naturalisation. In this context, the activities of Russia towards its compatriots have been provocative.

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Kruma, Kristine / EUDO Citizenship
Geographic area
Contributor type
Academics and experts
Original source
Posted by
Katy Kefferputz

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