Today (the 21st of February) is recognized as the the international mother language day by the UN. I have been quite absent minded about anything else but my native language, Latvian, in the last couple of weeks, because of the referendum on adding the Russian language as the second state language in Latvia that took place over the weekend. Because of historic and practical reasons, all involving Russia, which is a huge neighboring country with no danger to its native language, as opposed to the barely 2 million Latvians who speak it word-wide, this idea, though not so problematic in theory, would not be beneficial for the state of Latvia and it was deemed so also by the electorate, of which only 18 % supported the notion (even though there are many more Russian speakers in Latvia than that).
I was surprised and quite unsettled though by the ferocious manner of the nationalist campaigns on both sides. The images of the burned down houses from my time working for the OSCE in Kosovo and Croatia kept coming to mind. In the end, there was no violence and over 82 % of the voters did not support the notion, but it has left my country divided along ethnic lines. Was it the intention of the initiators of the referendum who are rumored to have been supported by Moscow? In any case, I am happy there are so many languages in the world, Russian being one of them and my favorite of all – Latvian. i am grateful that I can give this gift to my children, along with other lessons from my culture – such as observing the natural rhythm of life or singing Latvian folk songs. So – happy Mother language day, everyone!