The Latvian security service call them a fifth column. Vladimir Putin uses them for propaganda. They consider themselves a repressed minority, who fight for their rights. Vladimir Borisovich Shilin, 77, is one of the 300,000 Russian speaking stateless people in Latvia.

Shilin was born in Russia but has lived in Latvia since 1949. During the Soviet regime he worked at a university but he lost his job and high wageafter the Latvian independence in 1991 because he only speaks Russian. He owns a large country house but it was burned down in 1988 by what he claims was Latvian nationalists. He cannot afford to rebuild it. Now he lives with his wife, who works 24-hour shifts at a parking lot, in a small apartment on the outskirts of Riga.


Shilin still attends ceremonies that celebrate the Soviet "liberation" of Latvia from the Nazis and visits his nationalist Latvian friend, who basically believe Shilin does not belong in Latvia, because he can not speak Latvian.


“My life would have been a fairytale, if the ending had not been so sad,” says Shilin. He misses the times under Soviet rule.

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