The Baltic Region

2020 Vol. 12 №2

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The ethnopolitical movement as a vehicle for nationalism institutionalisation in modern Latvia



This article investigates the Popular Front of Latvia, a public ethnopolitical movement that substantially contributed to the independence of the modern Republic of Latvia. The study aims to identify how much the movement influenced the development of ethnic nationalism, which has become essential to statehood and the identification of politics. It continues to reinforce group inequality in this multiethnic country. The article describes the background and main landmarks of the movement. Content analysis of manifestos has been carried out to trace changes in the Popular Front’s ideological vision. It is shown that the shift in priorities that took place during the 1988—1991 struggle for Latvia’s political and economic independence led to a non-democratic political regime. Particular attention is paid to the movement’s proposals concerning the principles of statehood restoration and citizenship acquisition as well as to approaches to solving ethnic problems. The focus is on why and under what circumstances the Popular Front dissolved itself and the supra-ethnic opposition, its main rivals, left the political scene. It is argued that the Popular Front of Latvia created conditions both for the titular nation taking precedence over other ethnic groups and for the exclusion of one-third of the country’s resident population from political life. It is concluded that, as the movement transformed and gradually abandoned its democratic principles, it became the main vehicle for the institutionalisation of ethnic nationalism in Latvia.