FCNM Advisory Committee 3rd opinion on Latvia (excerpts on culture), 2018

II. ARTICLE-BY-ARTICLE FINDINGS

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Article 5 of the Framework Convention

Support for the preservation and development of the culture and identity of persons belonging to national minorities

Recommendations from the two previous cycles of monitoring

60. The Advisory Committee called on the authorities to enhance their support for cultural activities and projects aimed at preserving specific national minority identities and cultures and to consult minority representatives more effectively with regard to cultural and integration policy questions to ensure that their views and concerns are adequately considered and effectively taken into account. It further called upon the authorities to ensure that national minority organisations are represented in supervisory bodies overseeing the allocation of support.

Present situation

61. The Advisory Committee notes that, since 2014, the Ministry of Culture has been distributing funding to projects on the promotion of civil society and support for national minority NGOs, with a separate targeted budget provided specifically for organisations of national minorities. The main mechanism used by the authorities is financial support to the umbrella organisation “Ita Kozakēviča Association of National Cultural Associations of Latvia” (ANCAL), which groups 26 cultural societies and associations of various ethnic groups residing in Latvia and which has been tasked to ensure maintenance and development of minority cultures and to facilitate cross-cultural dialogue, by implementing events of minority organisations (see Article 9). The ANCAL plays an important role within the Ministry of Culture Advisory Committee of National Minority Organisations’ Representatives. The Advisory Committee welcomes the information contained in the State report, that the ANCAL has been given a building in Riga to facilitate its activities.36

Footnote 36 See 3rd State report, p. 12.

62. Since 2012, the Latvian National Cultural Centre has developed a training programme called “Cultural ambassadors”, which aims to train Latvian cultural ambassadors on issues of cultural diversity, identity and societal cohesion. Since 2014, the centre has also organised “Minorities creative camps” for the leaders of national minorities to increase their organisational capacity and artistic performances in preparation for the Song and Dance Celebration. Since 2015, a programme focused on young people, entitled “Young ambassadors of culture” has been organised. Particular efforts are currently underway to prepare cultural events connected to the Latvian National Centenary in 2018.

63. Numerous national minority cultural centres, for example Belarusian, Polish and Ukrainian in Daugavpils, receive support from the Ministry of Culture and co-operate with the Latvian authorities and cultural institutions. Support is also provided to the Roma History and Art Museum and the “Roma Cultural Centre” association. The Advisory Committee regrets to note, however, that most of the projects tend to concentrate on traditional expressions of song, music, dance, handcraft and culinary exploits. These initiatives, although praiseworthy in themselves, risk presenting a solely folkloristic picture of national minorities. The Advisory Committee considers it important that support is extended, in addition to traditional cultural expressions, to also include contemporary displays of culture.

64. In Riga, the Mikhail Chekhov Russian Theatre, the oldest Russian theatre outside Russia (opened on 2 October 1883) continues to offer repertory in Russian. In addition, the Daugavpils Theatre and Puppet theatre and the New Riga Theatre include performances in Russian in their repertoire.37 Since 2011, the number of amateur theatre groups performing in Russian increased from seven (three in Riga, four in Latgale region) to nine (two in Riga, seven in the Latgale region). Most museums in Latvia have web pages available in Russian and offer guide services in Russian. The Latvian National Symphony Orchestra offers a concert programme in the Latvian and Russian languages.

Footnote 37 See State report, p. 13.

65. The Advisory Committee also notes other encouraging developments, such as support offered by the Ministry of Culture to persons wishing to preserve, learn and develop the Latgalian written language.

66. Public libraries continue to hold books and other publications in a number of languages of the national minorities of Latvia. Publications in the Russian language constitute around 40% of the total collection. At the National Library of Latvia, the Russian language collection constitutes around 33% of the holdings, with a further 2% in other minority languages.38 Public libraries working in municipalities bordering Lithuania, Estonia and Russia provide a broader offer of books in the languages of the respective neighbouring countries than elsewhere.

Footnote 38 See State report, p. 22.

67. The Advisory Committee notes that a House of NGOs was established in September 2013 in Riga by the Riga municipality. Since then more than 140 NGOs have organised over 2 920 events. Twelve national minority cultural NGOs carry out regular rehearsals, while 17 national minority cultural NGOs regularly hold temporary and permanent exhibitions there. The municipality finances these undertakings up to the sum of 7 000 EUR per event, with no more than 5% of input required from the NGO itself.

Recommendation

68. In addition to promoting projects aimed at presenting a traditional folkloristic image of national minorities, the authorities are asked to support projects of contemporary displays of culture. Support should be extended to initiatives that involve national minority youth and those addressing everyday needs of persons belonging to national minorities.

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III. CONCLUSIONS

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Positive developments following three cycles of monitoring

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191. Support is provided to numerous national minority cultural centres with the aim of maintaining and developing minority cultures and facilitating cross-cultural dialogue. Mikhail Chekhov Russian Theatre in Riga and other professional and amateur theatres continue to offer repertory in Russian. Most museums in Latvia have web pages available in the Russian language and offer guide services in Russian. The Latvian National Symphony Orchestra offers a concert programme in both the Latvian and Russian languages. Public libraries continue to hold significant collections in a number of languages of national minorities present in the country.

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Document data: ACFC/OP/III(2018)001; adopted 23.02.2018, published 15.10.2018 Link: https://rm.coe.int/revised-version-of-the-english-language-version-of-the-opinion/1680901e79 Also available in Latvian: https://rm.coe.int/3rd-op-latvia-latvian/16808d91ab

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