The emigrant communities of Latvia : national identity, transnational belonging, and diaspora politics
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This volume contributes to research on migration from Latvia, a country in Central Eastern Europe (CEE), following the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1991. The experi- ence of independent Latvia with borders opening up to the world and more specifi- cally to the West has turned out to be both a rewarding and wounding experience for communities in the country. On the rewarding side, individuals have gained lib- erty – an ability to travel the world freely, to see and live in the countries which were beyond the closed doors of the Soviet Union just some decades ago. This freedom, however, has also brought the sense of cost to the society – people are going abroad as if dissolving into other worlds, away from their small homeland. The context of decreasing birth rates and ageing in the country seems to amplify a feeling of loss which is supported by hard evidence. Research shows a worrying 17% decline in Latvia’s population between 2000 and 2013. One third of this is due to declining birth rates and two-thirds is caused by emigration (Hazans 2016). This situation has turned out to be hurtful experience for communities in Latvia causing a heightened sense of grief especially during the Great Recession which shook the country at the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century. By 2013 the feeling of crises even larger than the economic downturn came to a head in Latvian society, pushing the government for the first time in the history of independent Latvia to recognise the migration of the country’s nationals and to acknowledge diaspora politics as an important item on the national policy agenda.
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