Polls Open In Historic Latvian Language Referendum

Published February 18, 2012 5:54AM (EST)

RIGA, Latvia (AP) — Voting stations in Latvia have opened in a historic referendum on whether to make Russian the nation's second national language.

Latvia's minority Russians, who make up approximately one-third of the Baltic country's 2.1 million people, believe that according official status to the Russian language will reverse what they claim has been 20 years of discrimination.

For ethnic Latvians, the Saturday referendum is a brazen attempt to encroach on Latvia's independence, which was restored two decades ago after the country split from the Soviet Union.

The vote is expected to fail but widen the rift in Latvian society.

By Salon Staff

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