LSM.lv reports that a group of high-school students from the Latgale towns of Daugavpils and Kraslava in Eastern Latvia, visited the Latvian President’s Chancellery at Riga’s spectacular Blackheads’ House to take part in a meeting of the Minorities’ Consultative Council meeting.
The teachers and their pupils talked with President Andris Bērziņš about their feeling of solidarity within Latvian society, from the perspective of Latgale. The youth representatives insist against the stereotypes of people from Latgale caring less about the Latvian state, government, nation and society and hold themselves up as testimony to the contrary.
The region has a large population of ethnic Russians, especially in Daugavpils, the largest city in the region. Many of the Russians who lived in Latgale before the Soviet occupation are Old Believers. Rēzekne, often called the heart of Latgola, Krāslava, and Ludza are other large towns in the region, which also has a Belarusian minority. There is also a significant Polish minority.
Regarding regional social solidarity, the teens pointed out that Latgale is perhaps Latvia’s most tolerant region of all. Even the atmosphere in Daugavpils, reputedly so Russian-language influenced, is gradually turning more Latvian, they said.
“We’re fluent in Latvian, maybe our accent and dialect is different, but we belong to Latvia, I know so many people personally who just adore their homeland, they are Latvian patriots,” said eleventh-grader Anita Dortiņa from Daugavpils High School #3.
The youngsters think it’s foolish for society to assume people in Daugavpils might be thinking of seceding from Latvia. These are the thoughts of those inciting hate, eleventh-grader Raivis Valters from Daugavpils State High School.
“That’s ridiculous – Latvia’s Russian-speakers truly feel like Latvian patriots, they don’t want Russia. What is Russia by itself? A total mess! Here we have a tiny, well-ordered nation, whereas in Russia the unspeakable can just happen, so I really doubt any of us wants to experience what’s going on beyond the border,” he said.
Twelfth-grader Anete Gorska said that some older generation members are still nostalgic for the old Soviet days, but herself rhetorically asks and responds: “What would happen to us as a part of Russia? We’d be nothing, then we’d really turn into a simple backwater, a mere gubernia. We’d be nothing!”
On her part, Natālija Petrova, deputy director of the Daugavpils High School #3 said that much activity was being dedicated to integration efforts of all kinds.
“Our Latvian culture center is constantly busier than elsewhere, we want to show people we’re just like they are – we love our homeland and want to live better and more beautifully, just like anyone.
All of the students urged their Latvian compatriots to come visit Daugavpils and see for themselves.
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