The most controversial issue affecting bilateral relations between Russia and Latvia since the early 1990s has been Latvia’s policies towards its Russian-speaking minorities. Even though Russian elites as a rule are critical of Latvian ethnopolitics, they hold different views as to what the consequences should be for their policies towards Latvia. We have identified three prominent Russian approaches: protest, geopolitical pragmatism and historical revanchism. While pragmatism has dominated in the economic sphere, a mix of protest and pragmatism has prevailed in politics. Similar tension between pragmatism and intransigence is found in Latvia’s policies towards Russia. Different historical orientations and views on the situation of Russian-speakers in Latvia make it very likely that tensions will continue to disturb relations between the two states.
Since the mid-2000s, concerns about family have become instrumental in a general ideological shift toward conservative values and patriotism. Symptomatic of this development has been the so-called Parents’ Movement – growing grassroots mobilization ostensibly defending traditional Russian family values against Western moral “pollutants”. The catalyst and primary target of the Movement is an ongoing adaptation of the state system of child protection towards the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC). Orthodox ultranationalist initiators of the protests portray the Convention as a conspiratorial Western strategy to eliminate Russian »tradition» by targeting its presumed core, the family. However, the popular appeal of the campaign also rests in widespread distrust in the Russian state administration, which is assumed to misuse the CRC to aggravate corruption and authority abuse. These different locations of responsibility – “our” bureaucrats versus “their” hostile imperialism – are merged into (mis)representations of Western (in particular Scandinavian) systems of child protection representing a dystopian Russian future. The article discusses the implications of this merging for the public impact of the movement.
While reindeer herding is an important way of life of the indigenous people in Nenets Autonomous Okrug, there are significant oil deposits in the area, and those involved in traditional activities are competing with oil companies for use of the land. While oil extraction is a main source of income for the Russian state, preserving the traditional way of life of its indigenous people is an explicit goal of the Russian authorities. The aim of this article is to examine the complex situation among the oil companies, Nenets people and local authorities. As this article shows, dialogue and, to some extent, cooperation have already been established in this area due to the many common interests of the stakeholders. Most interviewees painted a fairly positive picture of the coexistence, but there can be no doubt that the stakeholders have different interests, and hence not all problems are readily resolved. Many of the laws and projects aimed at supporting the indigenous way of life have been poorly implemented. Moreover, negotiations between reindeer herders and oil companies are characterized by uneven stakeholder power.