Restricting Russians: language and immigration laws in Soviet Latvia, 1956-1959

Loader, M. (2017) Restricting Russians: language and immigration laws in Soviet Latvia, 1956-1959. Nationalities Papers, 45(6), pp. 1082-1099. (doi: 10.1080/00905992.2017.1335298)

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In 1956, a prominent faction within the leadership of Soviet Latvia, the Latvian national communists, launched two ambitious initiatives designed to redress perceived Stalinist Russification polices – a language law and residency restrictions. This article examines and evaluates these two policies and asks if they were part of a “Latvianization” program that deliberately targeted Russians for denial of residency permits and required Russians to gain Latvian-language competency within a two-year timeframe or face the threat of dismissal. In an effort to restore the primacy of the Latvian language, the national communists created a law enforcing knowledge of Latvian and Russian for Communist Party and government functionaries and service sector personnel. Using the Soviet legal system, the national communists also attempted to halt the influx of predominantly Slavic immigration to the Latvian capital, Riga. By instituting passport restrictions on settling in the city, the national communists sought to limit Slavic migration in order to maintain Riga's Latvian character and reduce pressure on the city's housing supply and municipal services. Existing studies deem passport restrictions in other Soviet cities a failure. The author argues, however, that the national communists’ scheme was generally successful, dramatically curbing migration to Riga during its operation.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Loader, Dr Michael
Authors: Loader, M.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Central and East European Studies
Journal Name:Nationalities Papers
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN (Online):1465-3923

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