Juris Rozenvalds (University of Latvia)
One of the striking features in the political development of Latvia during the twenty years of its renewed independence (1991-2011) is the special importance of relations between the two main social groups – Latvians and Russian-speakers – in shaping the political agenda. The debates around the February 2011 referendum on Russian as the second state language in Latvia is a good example. The aim of the paper is to examine the political culture of the Russian-speaking inhabitants of Latvia as a presupposition and consequence of these relations as well as the general social and political climate of society. Special emphasis will be placed on the attitudes relevant to the democratic development of society (i.e. a sense of belonging, interpersonal trust, subjective well-being, value of democracy, support for strong leader and trust in institutions). The aforementioned questions will be examined from three different angles. First, an analysis of the temporal changes in political attitudes of Latvian Russian-speakers from the 90s to the present. Second, a consideration of the similarities and diferences in political attitudes between Latvians and Russian-speakers. Finally, the political attitudes of Latvians and Estonian Russian-speakers will be compared. The conclusion will state that we cannot speak about Baltic Russians as a homogeneous mass with respect to their political attitudes. We have to take in account different historical traditions, a degree of self-confidence and self-organization, as well as differences in the social and political climate of Estonian and Latvian societies.