1.2. Latvia – a European Nation State At the beginning of the 20th century, Latvians, using the people’s freedom of self-determination, created their own State to secure the Latvian nation’s existence and lasting, democratic self-determination.
In Latvia, just as in other European States, there are a constituent nation determining the national and cultural-historical identity of the State, as well as national minorities and immigrants. The national and cultural-historical identity of a constituent nation determines the national and cultural-historical identity of the State, and is based on a common language, culture and social memory.
The Latvian constituent nation and national minorities form the Latvian people. Latvian identity – the Latvian language, culture and social memory – unifies the Latvian people. It is the common foundation connecting all the people of Latvia, making it a democratic participatory community. Therefore, it is in the interests of the State of Latvia and its people not only to strengthen Latvian identity, which consolidates the community, making it stronger in the current circumstances of globalization, but also to broaden it so that national minorities and immigrants can also be embraced within it.
At the same time it is in Latvia’s interests to maintain the uniqueness of national minorities, thus preserving the cultural diversity of the Latvian people. The Latvian cultural space has been open and it has been enriched by the influence of other cultures over the centuries. However, only a connection with Latvian culture determines Latvia’s uniqueness, making it different from any other place in the world.
In Latvia, just as in other European countries, there are immigrants, whose inclusion into society is a national responsibility. If, up till now, it was assumed that the maintenance of immigrant identity was a short-term phenomenon, then more and more European countries have to recognize that segregated groups are able to live in their “parallel worlds” for many generations. Latvia is not unique in this sense, although the historical and political circumstances were different – the State of Latvia was occupied and it was not possible to restrict immigration in any way. As in other European countries, the majority of immigrants arrived here from 1950’s to 1980’s. A large proportion of them has successfully integrated themselves in the society and has gained Latvian citizenship, however a significant proportion of immigrants continues to isolate themselves from this process. It negatively influences the functioning of democracy, creates tension in the society and the risks of radicalism. The State has to reduce this isolation by offering opportunities and skills to join in the democratic community of the Nation State. It has to be a long-term task of the integration policy. The success or failure of this policy will influence the quality of democracy in the State of Latvia in the most direct way.
In Latvia democracy can function well only when all the population of Latvia takes responsibility for their country and participate in the rational solution of social problems through democratic institutions. It is important that the skills of mutual collaboration and participation are gained both - through the formal education process and through participation in the activities of the civil society and by organizing them. Such activities should be promoted by national policy in the interests of the society as a whole. An active and participative society strengthens the cohesion of the society and a feeling of belonging to the democratic State of Latvia. Integration policy has to encourage people’s collaboration on the basis of general civil values fixed in the Constitution. These civil values are an integral part of Latvia’s national identity.
Latvia is in the community of the European States. Its present and future are closely connected with the European traditions, values and principles. Every European State has its own national identity, and its maintenance is the task of every European State.
Current globalization processes create new, unparalleled opportunities. They provide dialogue among different cultures, social mobility and economic opportunities. At the same time globalization carries within it threats of standardization and levels out differences between various countries. Therefore, the cultivation of local and national uniqueness requires more active national policy which is necessary to create a sustainable and conscious feeling of belonging. A State creates the framework in which democracy can operate, and democracy cannot function without people who feel they belong to the particular country and who feel responsibility for it.
Therefore, a feeling of belonging to Latvia and responsibility for it are a precondition for the sustainability of the democratic State of Latvia, the Latvian nation and the Latvian people. Latvia is the only place in the world where the Latvian language and culture can fully develop. The Latvian language and culture are values in themselves and simultaneously a resource to attract people to Latvia, and the cornerstone of the State of Latvia, as well. The responsibility and duty of the Latvian society and the State of Latvia are to preserve, strengthen and develop it both for future generations and in order to make the contribution to the world’s diversity. Countries maintaining and developing their national and cultural-historical identity gain significant comparable advantages in the global world.