72 new Latvians join the two million

Proof that integration of people from other backgrounds into Latvian society is possible came Tuesday with news that 72 people have been granted Latvian citizenship, the LETA newswire reported

Tuesday's cabinet meeting approved the granting of full Latvian citizenship to the 72, more than half of whom have ethnic Russian backgrounds. 

The number also included people of Ukrainian, Belarusian, Lithuanian, Polish and other backgrounds.  

Around a third of the successful applicants had graduated from a higher education establlishment. 

Since the introduction of naturalization processes in the wake of Latvia's regained independence in 1991, more than 143,000 people have successfully won citizenship, according to Interior Ministry data.

This year alone, 504 people have gained the right to call themselves full Latvian citizens, a process that in most cases requires basic language proficiency for those not the direct descendants of existing Latvian citizens, plus some knowledge of the history of the country.

Nevertheless a large number of so-called 'non-citizens', estimated at around 270,000 remains in the country, mainly descendants of Soviet-era immigrants and their descendants who were not granted automatic citizenship when Latvia was reborn.

Citizenship remains open to non-citizens but many find themselves unable or unwilling to subject themselves to the naturalization process.

However, there have also been notable examples of non-citizens completing the naturalization process, the most famous being Riga mayor Nils Usakovs.

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