Integration minister floats plan to aid diaspora

A draft five-year program to help preserve Latvian diaspora communities and to foster repatriation to Latvia has been released for public comment by the Minister for Special Assignments for Social Integration Affairs in Rīga. The plan foresees spending more than LVL 300,000 annually (about USD 560,000) on a variety of efforts at cultural maintenance.

“Considering that Latvians living abroad are an integral part of the Latvian nation, the diaspora nowadays has an important role of promoting Latvian culture and traditions on a world scale,” states the plan, which is titled the Latvian Diaspora Support Programme. “It has great potential in creating a positive image of Latvia abroad.”

A variety of activities, from funding the work of Latvian teachers, to supporting mass media in the diaspora, to providing communities with folk costumes, would be supported under the program.

The program has been in the works since December, led by a committee that includes representatives from the World Federation of Free Latvians (known in Latvian by the abbreviation PBLA), an official from the Latvian embassy in Moscow, as well as several ministry and other Latvian government officials.

Latvian organizations in the diaspora have been strong supporters of various activities in Latvia, but it has only been in the past several years that the Latvian government has begun to back cultural maintenance work abroad. A number of ministries have funded activities in the West, while the Minister for Special Assignments for Social Integration Affairs has aided Latvian communities in Siberia.

The diaspora support program would be overseen by a coordinating council that would be advised by the PBLA and that would report to the Cabinet of Ministers at least once a year.

Although relations between Latvians in Latvia and those in the diaspora have in the past been strained, the time for the support program may be ripe, Andrejs Berdnikovs, an official with Social Integration Affairs, told Latvians Online.

“In Latvia currently there is a fairly favorable climate for advancing this program,” Berdnikovs said. “It is favorable both among the political elite and the public.”

The draft program outlines five areas that need attention:

  • Activities aimed at “preserving and developing ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious identity.” These would include such activities as support for teachers in and clergy visits to Siberia, as well as increased funding for summer schools and camps such as 3×3.
  • Developing and serving the information needs of the diaspora. For example, the program calls for aiding mass media in the Latvian diaspora, as well as creation of a unified database of Latvian organizations.
  • Fostering links between diaspora communities and the homeland through publication of booklets about the diaspora and convening of a conference on issues facing Latvian society and the diaspora.
  • Promoting Latvia’s image abroad by supporting Latvian culture, traditions and art. Activities would include organizing “Latvia Days” in the largest diaspora communities, as well as providing communities with folk costumes.
  • Facilitating cooperation between the diaspora and local governments and institutions in Latvia.

Latvian communities abroad have until July 26 to comment on the draft plan. Comments then will be reviewed and a final plan submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers by Aug. 1, according to a press release from the Minister for Special Assignments for Social Integration Affairs. Government ministries and civic organizations then will have another two weeks to make official comment on the program, after which it is expected the plan will be approved.

Comments may be directed by postal mail to the Secretariat for the Minister for Social Integration Affairs, Elizabetes Str. 20, 2d floor, Rīga LV–1050, Latvia; by e-mail to, or by fax to +371 7365335.

Berdnikovs conceded that the time for comment may not be sufficient, but said that delaying approval of the program may not be practical.

“Some representatives from the Latvian diaspora admit that it must be accepted as soon as possible,” he said, “because many Latvians abroad are very disappointed in their fatherland, and thus the situation has to be improved soon.” —Andris Straumanis

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

7 thoughts on “Integration minister floats plan to aid diaspora

  1. I fully agree that the time is now to take the positive attitude to portray the Latvian image, culture to all abroad and home

  2. I support the concept and implementation of this effort. I also would challenge the representatives of the Latvian diaspora movement to utilize the professional expertise of both, the Latvians in Latvia and those abroad ,to assist in this movement.

  3. I, who was born in Latvia, think it is a good idea to promote Latvian imagine to the world, but also to teach the third generation (already in my family) the Latvian heritage and history. Some communities here in USA have no Latvian center or such as it is on the east coast of USA and the old original ones who fled the Soviet Army in 1944 are gone and their children are also getting very old. The first generation of Latvian Americans know some of the past, but the second generation is already so Americanized that maybe a little help to them would see some results in knowing their roots. I thank you for reading this humuble letter. Janis

  4. We of the 1st generation have not sufficiently integrated the 2nd and 3rd generation of Latvians living in the US into the history and culture of Latvia.There must be established a nexus between the children and their historical homeland.A favorable relationship would result in joint business ventures and increase in tourism .However,a mutual trust between the Latvian Government and the Latvian Americans must be established to promote the necessary relationship and demonstrate to the populace that the prevelant view of us as money grubbing and coarse does not reflect reality.The support program may be a start in the right direction.

    Ivars Kalnins

  5. Frankly, I think the ” diaspora” Latvians ( I really dislike that term, it sounds so…..politically correct) are quite capable, financially, of maintaining their cultural roots much as they have the last 60 yrs, without help from the ” mother ship”. Of course, some of the vigor with which these cultural/lingual roots are nurtured/fostered will change focus as suceeding generations take over leadership . Other ethnic communities have experianced similar evolution. Its never perfect and the passion fades with time. This is not all bad. I believe that the Latvian govt needs to spend its money on more urgent matters than PR among its own people.Preaching to the choir. The Latvian govt can give us moral support but I don’t think we should become govt operatives ( overstatement !)

  6. Many oversaes Latvians shut themselves off from what is going on in Latvia. “Laiks” elderly readers complain there is too much news about Latvia. And I always here about corruption in Latvia etc.

    Overseas Latvian organzitions have served their original purpose and need to refocus. We still have a Soviet era named organzition called the World Free Latvian Organziation. Then if they are free, are the Latvians in Latvia still imprisoned?

    The corruption charge really irks me. Recently in the US a US Air Force procuremnt officer was given jail time for steering over a billion dollars of work to Boeing. This one of mnay recent financial scandals including Enron, Worldcom, Adelphia etc. The US can’t hold the moral ground.

    The future engine for cultural growth and identity rests in Latvia and we can help when asked but can’t preach we we seem to do too many times.

  7. I posted two jobs for foreigners to work in Latvia on Latvians Online for 6 months. I did not receive one reply. So I wonder about all these people of Latvian decent and why they are so selfish to not want to return to Latvia to assist this country???!!!

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