Rejection of the Russian language

LATVIA – BUSINESS

More than 30 years after Latvia regained its independence Russian still has an important place in the service sector. This practice has persisted in medical institutions as well as in catering and other places of service.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there have been increasing public calls for the use of the state language, abandoning parallel communication in Russian. This language is mostly found on various websites, including on home pages of shops and other places.

Rejection of the Russian language
Photo by Cheshire_sea / Pond5

It is important to point out that there are virtually no state programmes for learning the state language for those who are required to obtain a certificate of proficiency, as in other European states such as Germany, France or Norway. In fact, learning the state language has fallen on the shoulders of the residents. A one-month course of Latvian language costs from 360 euros, and the minimum wage in Latvia is 500 euros.

According to «Baltijas Balss», «Latvijas Avīze» has ascertained that several state institutions and service providers have recently abandoned the use of Russian in communicating with customers. For example, until recently Lidosta Riga required some employees to know Russian in order to serve local people, but recently this requirement has been abolished. The courier service DPD has also removed Russian from its electronic service. Omniva has also dropped its Russian language service.

Jānis Anjans, head of communications and sustainability at the company, explains that this decision was made for several reasons: based on a number of practical considerations as well as the company’s core values.

«Firstly, maintaining all the company’s information systems and the call centre in three languages requires much more resources. Therefore, switching to one language is likely to even improve the quality of services, especially customer service. Secondly, in our view, it is a matter of attitude towards the national language, and in the current difficult times any gesture, even a symbolic one, is important to strengthen social cohesion. State institutions and Omniva’s colleagues in Lithuania have done the same thing before, and it has not caused much resonance or public resistance», J. Anjans told «Latvijas Avīze».

What is the overall situation? The State Language Centre (SLC) reports that the number of fines imposed for information provision violations has increased significantly in the last year. Between 2015 and 2020, an average of around 20 fines per year were applied, but last year the number exceeded 150.

Aira Semjonova, head of the Language Control Department of the Riga Region of the CTL, believes that the increase can be explained by inspections at online sales outlets or websites. A. Semjonova also adds that in 2022 the number of complaints about information in job advertisements only in foreign language, business messages and advertisements sent by e-mail and phone in the form of SMS has increased.

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