rozenvalds, juris

Inter-Ethnic Relations and Political Competition in post-Soviet Development of Estonia and Latvia

Free competition of political forces is regarded as one of the cornestones of the Western understanding of democracy. The fulfillment of this major principle becomes more complicated in ethnically heterogeneous societies, where ethnic cleavages may result in formation of  ethnic-based political forces. Their relations may be burdened by traumatic historical experience of previous domination of one ethnic group over another. This may have substantial impact on political culture and cause attempts to exclude one or another political force from political competition.

The aim of the paper is to analyse development of renewed statehood of Latvia and Estonia from the point of view of integration of society and political  participation of Russian-speaking part of society. Estonia and Latvia are rather similar with respect to ethnic composition of society, main lines of history and restorational approach to the state-building after renewal of independence. It will be pointed out that initial conditions for integration of Russian-speakers  in Latvia were more favourable due to composition of Russian-speaking community, patterns of settlement and marriage as well as degree of social and economic diferences between communities. Nevertheless Estonia was more successful than Latvia in political integration of non-titulars, promotion of self-identification of Russian-speakers along trans-national and civic lines as well as formation of party system based mainly on social-economic divisions. Conclusion will be made that consolidation of political forces in Latvia along ethnic lines, inability and unwillingness of Latvian-speaking  political establishment to include political representatives of  Russian-speaking community in decision-making process, caused shortages with respect to political competition and became one of the main preconditions for gradual lagging of Latvia from socio-economic development of its northern neighbour.

Thursday 25 October 10:15-12:15 Panels IV, Panel 11 Inter-Ethnicity and Citizenship (Hall 8)