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Russians take language test to avoid expulsion from Latvia

Participants, most of whom were female, went through their notes in order to make last-minute changes. They were afraid of being expelled from the program if they did not succeed.

The war in Ukraine changed the situation. Last year’s election campaign was dominated by questions of national identity and security concerns.

Dimitrijs Trofimovs, the State Secretary of the Interior Ministry is a Russian national. He stated that the government now demands a language test from the 20,000 Russians who hold passports in the country. Most of them are elderly women. It was concerning that Russian citizens were not loyal to Russia.

After her last Latvian class at a private Riga school, Valentina, 70, an English teacher and Riga guide who has lived in Riga for more than 40 years, said, “I’d be deported, since I’ve been here so long.” She is now prepared for her Latvian exam.


“I took out my Russian passport to visit my sick parents in Belarus.” They’re no longer there.”

Sevastjanova studied the crash course with 11 women between the ages of 62 and 72 for three months. Each woman applied for a Russian passport after 1991 when independent Latvia was declared.

After 55 years of service, they became eligible for a Russian pension, visa-free travel to Russia and Belarus, and retirement.


After Russia invaded Ukraine last February, Latvia shut down Russian TV and destroyed a monument commemorating the Second World War. It is now working to eliminate education using Russian.

Many Latvians of ethnic Russian descent, who make up about a quarter of the population (1.9 million), feel they are loosing their place in society where speaking only Russian used to be acceptable for decades.

Trofimovs said that Russian citizens failing the test by the end of the year would have time to leave. If they do not leave, they could be “forced to” leave.

He stated that the people “voluntarily decided” not to take Latvian citizenship, but instead another country’s. He said the test was needed because the Russian authorities justified their invasion of Ukraine by claiming that they had to protect Russians abroad.

Sevastjanova : “I think that this pressure is wrong.

They only speak Russian. They only speak Russian. Why? There’s a large diaspora. There are offices that speak Russian. There is Russian TV, radio and newspapers. “You can easily converse with Russian in shops and markets.”

To pass the test, students must be able speak and understand basic Latvian sentences. Liene Voronenko, of the Latvian National Centre of Education, explained that she prefers fish over meat when it comes to dinner.

“I am a language lover and I expected to study French after retirement. Now I am learning Latvian. “Oh well, why not?” Sevastjanova said.

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