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With financial support from the Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme of the European Union

Fondi Otto per Mille della Chiesa Evangelica Valdese

With financial support by Society Integration Foundation (SIF)


“Russians as Latvia’s Largest Ethnic Minority”, Sabine Moore

Picture 1 of 6


In this 6-page comic, I introduce myself and talk about my personal experience, being born in Latvia, growing up abroad, and coming to Latvia again for my studies. This is my cultural background. The focus of this story is the cultural and linguistic barrier between native latvians and russian-born latvians. Briefly, I discuss the complicated history of Latvia, and come to the no less complex present. I talk about Latvia’s russian immigrants based on my experience living in Latvia today. The situation is one that can be difficult to discuss in public; it is opinionated, and people take sides. At the end of this comic, I conclude that any possible change would take time, but it has started.


I am currently studying visual communication at Latvian Academy of Arts and I have finished Janis Rozenthal Riga Art high school.

Plate 1

1. Hello, my name is Sabine. I spent my childhood in Britain. I am of Latvian origin. My mother’s second husband is Australian.

2. Currently I am living in Latvia. I am fluent in English and I know what it’s like to be different.

3. I have positive expectations of everyone, no matter what their nationality. I have lived, studied, worked with many different people from different countries.

4. I am fluent in Latvian and know a little Russian.

5. However, there are Russian-Latvians I feel intimidated by.

6. The negative attitude towards each other originates from differing interpretations of history and from lack of communication.

7. My Latvian grandparents had a particular view of Russians..


Plate 2

8. In Latvia, people over age 60 may think that Russians are ‘bad’ people, and very nationalistic. It is viewed that before WWII Latvia was a free, abundant country with a flourishing economy and national identity.

9. After WWII, the USSR claimed Latvia as part of its union. Things changed. People were deported. The USSR supported Russian language to be used in its territory. Large numbers of Russian speaking people settled in Latvia. To make more space for the incoming population. Existing Latvian homes were compromised to fit more people. There was general fear.

10. But actually there were some Russians in Latvia before then. The first flow came in the 18th century, when Russia’s czar recognised Latvia’s territory as useful access to trade routes.

11. But not before then. They were invaders. Unlike some Russians like to say.

12.That’s about history. My parents did not have any particular view of Russians.

13. They had to learn the language at school, and are still fluent in both Russian and Latvian. Many of my current friends are half Russian, or have grown up in Russian families.

14. By Statistics 40% of Riga, the capital city of Latvia, is of Russian ethnicity.

15. On the streets of Riga… People often approach me to ask directions of similar help. If I do not answer in complete Russian, they may ‘proudly’ turn away…


Plate 3

16. Coming from a different background, the Russians go to Russian schools, listen to Russian music, watch Russian tv, study Russia’s history.

17. One of the biggest problems is that these people blank out Latvians like this. I find those situations frustrating. I could have helped.

18. It’s like they are disconnected to us.

19. They use so much energy to conserve who they are, who their grandfathers were, that energy to step forward is scarce. Of course Latvia’s Russians speak their language with a different accent than Russia’s.

20. Because I grew up as ‘half foreigner’ needing extra practice to speak Latvian with no accent, I could relate to some Russians.

21.Yet, in common social situations, most Russians I do not know personally, mentally block me as ‘Latvian’ (Invisible border).


Plate 4

22. But they generally keep a distance from European history & culture, expect when travelling.

23. They are very lively, open tourists when on holiday. But inside Latvia they keep themselves.

24. Not all Russians have dark hair, just as not all Latvians are blond. Well all my Latvian ancestors were blonde, which is why it is so easy for me to dye my hair blue.

25. Ha.

26. Back home there is so much racism.

27. I really think all we need is time.


Plate 5

28. The situation is slowly starting to change…

29. As a result of school reforms. 60% of material must be taught in Latvian. The youth are bilingual.

30. Latvian born or Russian, it is easier to get a job if you know both languages.

31. Like… It took me longer to learn Latvian, but my Russian is not good enough to work in a cafè.

32. It does not matter if I know perfect English!

33. There is a linguistic and cultural barrier between Latvians and Russian-born Latvians that holds back communication and builds negative stereotypes.

34. We will overcome our history.


Plate 6

35. We are creating new history now.

36. More and more in this world, I find that the ‘dark periods’… The dark periods are a thing of the past.

37. We can learn to stop judging each other accordingly to our nationality.. but to see each other’s personal character, like everyone elsewhere does.

38. We have the same passport, the same flag.. the same nature!

39. I believe our relationship will surely improve.

40. But it will take some time.