1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Governance (2000 - 2009)

Ethnic Structure, Inequality and Governance of the Public Sector in Latvia (Draft)



This report discusses the issue of ethnic equality and governance in respect to socio-political stability in Latvia from a historical perspective. Latvia, like the overwhelming majority of modern states is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country, squeezed on the shores of the Baltic between larger powers.

Numerous academics and politicians argue that country has taken on a bipolar ethnic structure. There were suggestions to institutionalize bipolarity as has been done in the case of Belgium. Most of these suggestions were made in response to the fears of ethnic violence between Latvians and ethnic Slavs with the latter's refusal to accept any decrease in the concessions given to their language and power during the Soviet era.

However, during the last decade Latvia has been developing its institutions and society in the direction of a multicultural as well as unipolar state while simultaneously avoiding the violent scenarios which took place in similar multiethnic and post Soviet environments like Moldova or former Yugoslavia.

In fact it might be argued that promotion of ethnic unipolarity along with generally unquestioned support to democratic market reforms domestically and orientation towards Latvian integration in European and trans-Atlantic organisations internationally helped to avoid and overcome threats of ethnic tension.

Moreover, from today’s perspective it is possible to argue that another approach, namely institutionalization of bipolarity would increase ethnic tension. Moreover, it would never allow Latvia to reach its goal of EU and NATO membership which by itself is an important guarantee of political stability, democracy and human rights in Latvia. Accepting bipolarity in the Latvian post-Soviet circumstances would ensure the authomatic inclusion of Soviet era immigrants in the Latvian body politic. Their relative size and political orientation would keep de jure the Russian language as an official tongue of the country as well as create a strong Russian oriented power elite. This elite would be able to depend on Russia’s international support and interest in retaining its influence in its former Baltic territories. This scenario would further radicalise large segments of ethnic Latvian population who would not find their rights and political ideals reflected in the re-established country.

It is the main argument of this research that in the long term, the institutionalization and promotion of unipolarity within the framework of liberal democracatic principles and international minority rights will facilitate the decrease of ethnic tension.

This research consists of three major parts in order to bolster the main argument. The first part deals with ethnic structures and governance in the first republic (1918-1940). The second chapter deals with Latvia under the Soviet rule. The third chapter will discuss the current state of affairs in Latvia regarding ethnic equality and governance. The report will conclude with an analysis of bipolar versus unipolar policies as a reflection of the curent state of affairs or construction tools with an ultimate goal to ease the ethnic tension and bolster social cohesion.

Please click an option on the right for to read the full Latvian report.