UPDATED: Baryshnikov becomes a Latvian citizen

World-famous dancer and actor Mikhail Baryshnikov will become a Latvian citizen after the Saeima voted to grant him a passport April 27.

Speaking in the debate about granting citizenship, Ilmars Latkovskis of the National Alliance, who heads the Saeima's commission dealing with citizenship issues, said that the commission "saw no reason to prevent the award of citizenship" and that Baryshnikov's fame would help spread the name of Latvia in the world.

But the central question according to Latkovskis was whether Baryshnikov was "one of us" - a question to which he repeatedly answered "Yes" in urging deputies to vote for the award of citizenship.

They duly did so by 84 votes to zero, then broke into a round of applause.

Baryshnikov was present to watch the vote. Sporting a Latvian flag in his lapel, he was presented with flowers at the conclusion of the vote.

Baryshnikov also holds US citizenship, but dual citizenship is now permissible with NATO member countries. Though a naturalization process is usually required to acquire citizenship, Saeima can grant citizenship in cases of "special merit" for people judged to have acted for the good of Latvia.

As previously reported by LSM, Baryshnikov was born in Riga and wrote a very classy letter expressing his warm feelings towards Latvia and the seriousness with which he would treat citizenship if it was offered.

He has also expressed his desire to get more involved in the land of his birth by helping to develop grassroots arts projects.

Baryshnikov was handed his passport during a special ceremony in the afternoon at which he recounted his memories of growing up in Latvia and feeling "the sand of Jurmala and the cobblestones of Riga beneath my feet."

"When the invitation arrived from the Latvian government to take honorary citizenship, I thought what an experience it would be to return to my childhood, no longer as an outsider, but as someone who belonged - to visit my mother's grave and honour those I loved," Baryshnokov told his audience of politicians from all parties and reporters.

"I have never forgotten anything," he said before reading a poem by Russian poet Joseph Brodsky, the subject of one of his recent stage shows, in Russian.

With his new passport tucked into the breast pocket of his smart grey suit, he was then surrounded by politicians from all political parties, eager to have their photographs taken with the country's newest and possibly best-known citizen. 
 

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