Latvia May Restrict Russian

Latvia, a former member of the Soviet Union that shares a border with Russia, could move to restrict the Russian language in workplaces, according to the country’s deputy prime minister.

Jānis Bordāns, who also serves as Latvia’s justice minister, told the Delfi news service that the Ministry of Justice was working on a “bilingualism restriction law,” which would reduce the presence of Russian in Latvia’s public sphere. He argued that “society needs to know that the Latvian language should be used for business relations, as well as for communication in the workplace.”

The legislation indicates that Latvia may be distancing itself from Russia and its past as part of the USSR, the fall of which left more than 25 million ethnic Russians living outside of their home country.

“It is necessary to establish a ban on the use of a language that is not a language of the European Union, in addition to the state language, when selling goods or providing services. It is possible that Russian will also be excluded from telephone and banking messages,” Bordāns said.

He added that “the long-term consequences of Russification are such that the practice of simultaneous use of Latvian and Russian in everyday communication, places of service, and workplaces has become entrenched.”

This is not the first time Latvia has confronted the standing of Russian in its society. In February 2012, a nationwide referendum saw 75% of Latvians vote against making Russian a second official language.