Krievi – the Latvian name for Russians – is a documentary project about the Russian community of Latvia.
Historically, Latvia has always had strong bonds with the Russian Federation. Modest in size, the country has been largely dependent on its big neighbour, which has defined Latvia’s political climate and economic development.
In the 20th century, the period of independence was glorious but brief. Having gained autonomy in 1918, Latvia was compelled to join the Soviet Union at the outbreak of World War II and for the sequent half of a century, the Latvian SSR was one of the 15 Soviet Republics forming the USSR.
during the Soviet era, the number of Russians permanently living in Latvia had increased nearly five fold, making it the largest ethnic minority in the country.
Nominally a union, the USSR was highly centralised and effectively functioned as a single country with open borders and a shared economy under the rule of the Communist Party. This state of affairs contributed to the high level of internal migration; during the Soviet era, the number of Russians permanently living in Latvia had increased nearly five fold, making it the largest ethnic minority in the country. Russians currently form approximately one third of the Latvian population.
Born in Riga in 1988 to Russian parents, I have vague recollections of the Soviet era, nonetheless, I had been living in the shadow of the past for my entire life in Latvia. Not having been to Russia until my early teens and legally obliged to apply for visa in order to enter the country, I never felt strong connections with my ethnical motherland. However, I would equally hesitate to describe my cultural identity based on the place of my origins. Through my life in Latvia I have often been reminded – subtly but pointedly - of my status as a guest that has been accepted to stay, as long as he or she causes no trouble, shows no sign of displeasure and does not insist on equal rights in the household.
Through adolescence, I was trying in vain to find a simple definition of my cultural identity, striving to understand my origins and craving to belong and be a part of the community. As the time passed, I learned to accept the complexity of the answer, although I still hesitate for a moment every time I fill in ‘NATIONALITY’ column in a survey.
Closely connected to the subject of my work, I avoid definite conclusions, instead allowing others to speak about their experience of the issue. I do not believe that there is an absolute answer to any of the questions raised and do not aim to find the right and the wrong; instead, I hope to create an objective and inclusive picture and open the dialogue.Different generations, unique destinies, diverse experiences and contrasting opinions brought together in this body of work draw a complex image of the lives of Russians in contemporary Latvia.