Around 13,000 Russian citizens in Latvia face language exam pressure

Riga skyline.
Riga skyline. Source: Rainhard Wiesinger / Pixabay

It is likely that, despite possible concessions, many Russian citizens will still be deprived of their Latvian residence permit.

Many Russian citizens ordinarily resident in Latvia may lose that privilege, if they decline to take a Latvian language exam. The total number affected is in the range of 13,000.

ERR's Latvia correspondent Ragnar Kond reported Tuesday that the deadline for passing the language exam is fast approaching, given that from September 1, long-term residence permits Latvia has issued to Russian citizens in the past will expire; passing the exam is one of the pre-conditions to renewing these.

Latvian Minister of Interior Maris Kucinskis said: "This just refers to the A2 level, that is what is being asked," referring to the Common European Framework of language levels A1-C2, where A2 is the second-lowest (of six).

"These are the simplest language requirements. They are not comparable with the language skills that are needed in the workplace. These involve elementary everyday expressions, so that you can say what your name is, who you are and where you live etc." Kucinskis went on.

Additionally, this low linguistic bar is waived in the case of senior citizens, likely to make up a large component of the demographic in focus.

"For those aged 75 and over, the law does not provide for any language requirement, but at the same time we have to assess compliance against at least 34 criteria," Kucinskis went on.

Minors under the age of 15 are also exempt from the rule.

Around 25,000 people in Latvia have Russian citizens, some of whom who had Latvian citizenship at one point, others who had always been Russian citizens, since the breakup of the Soviet Union at least.

Reasons for retaining a foreign citizenship in Latvia include pensions due, ERR reported.

Nationialist deputies in the Saeima, the Latvian parliament, and in the coalition government, say that those who do not comply with the requirement will have to leave Latvia.

Minister Kucinskis says he is trying to balance the rule of law with an avoidance of disruption and uncertainty; the Saeimas found, in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, that the Latvian state has the right to ascertain how loyal to Latvia Russian citizens living there are, and why they actually require a residence permit.

The language proficiency requirement will apply to 15-75-year-olds.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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