The International Observatory on Statelessness


Some 340,000 Russian non-citizens, along with over 100,000 Belarussians and Ukrainians, cannot vote in elections, become civil servants, lawyers, army officers, or hold a Latvian passport. In addition, although all children born in Latvia after 1991, upon a declaration from their parents, are automatically entitled to citizenship according to the 1998 amendment of the Citizenship Law, a large number of children are still without Latvian nationality.

The January 2004 Law on Stateless Persons provides that “a person may be recognized as a stateless person in the Republic of Latvia if some other state has not recognized the person as a citizen thereof in accordance with the laws of such state. A person who has lost the status of a non-citizen of Latvia shall be recognized as a stateless person if s/he does not have citizenship of any other state.”

In 2004, 28.8 percent of Latvia’s population was ethnically Russian, of which 50 percent had become Latvian citizens, 47 percent were stateless, and 3 percent had foreign citizenship. Every year more of the large population of permanent residents rendered stateless by the collapse of the Soviet Union apply for naturalization and gain citizenship.