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20.12.2010   'The Latvian Candidate': a book by Italian journalist

MEP Tatjana Zdanoka hosted the launch of a book entitled 'The Latvian Candidate: Strange Adventures of an alien in Europe' at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The book tells the story of Giulietto Chiesa, a Russian-speaking former Italian left-wing MEP and one-time Moscow correspondent of La Stampa who stood as a candidate for the 2009 European Parliament elections in Latvia.

His tale brings the reader’s attention on the elephant in the Latvian room: a massive Russian-speaking minority, partly the legacy of half a century of Soviet rule, today a discriminated population whose civil rights are severely curtailed. Not all Russian-speakers in Latvia are ethnic Russians, there are Ukrainians, Byelorussians and others, but some 40 % of them share the status of “alien” in the passport issued them by the new, supposedly free republic. They cannot vote in elections, nor in local ones, nor in European ones. They constitute a true scandal in a European Union that claims to be founded on human rights.

But there is more in the book than political denunciation. It is also a moving tapestry of personal stories: people born in Latvia who are denied citizenship because they are the children of Russian military; Latvian pensioners who fought with the Soviets against the Nazis and have no right to a pension while survivors of the Latvian SS are honoured and kept; others who have lived and paid taxes in Latvia all their life but refuse to become Latvian citizens because their mother country would humiliate their mother tongue.

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