RIGA, July 4 (RIA Novosti, Yuri Guralnik) - The leadership of Latvia's largest left-wing party, PCTVL annouced at a press conference Thursday that they intend to lobby to make Russian an official language in Latvia.
PCTVL, which means "for human rights in united Latvia", organized large demonstrations and hunger strikes in its battle for the status of the Russian language.
"The Russian community in Latvia already proved its strength when 40,000 people gathered for a demonstration in 2004. We achieved our goal: reforms of Russian schools in Latvia are now only being carried out on paper. In reality, things have remained as they were. Thanks to our battle, we have forced our leaders to make a compromise, so in continuing our battle we will be able to achieve more," said party leader Vladimir Buyayev.
"In Latvia there are six large towns where the overwhelming majority speak Russian - all of these towns are in Latgale [the eastern part of Latvia]. According to the language law introduced in 2002, residents of Latvia are officially banned from using any language other than Latvian in political institutions. But how can this work when everyone in these towns - officials and residents - are Russian speakers? Why this hypocrisy? We have already prepared a draft bill and will present it to parliament in the fall.
"While the bill is being considered, we will hold large gatherings and protests...We now have a new generation of Latvian Russians. These young people are far more energetic than me and are able to stand up for their rights. These people will bring back Russian's status as an official language."
There are currently 800,000 native Russian speakers living in Latvia, which has a total population of 2.2 million.
According to Latvian law, Russian is a foreign language, and cannot be used in any official capacity.