Latvia grants citizenship to Baryshnikov

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Latvia grants citizenship to Baryshnikov

TALLINN, Estonia - Latvia on Thursday paid tribute to Mikhail Baryshnikov by granting citizenship to the ballet dancer, choreographer and actor who was born in the Baltic nation when it was part of the Soviet Union and later became a U.S. citizen.

The unanimous decision by lawmakers was made in recognition of Baryshnikov’s civic involvement and his “voicing of political beliefs in support of democratic values and human rights.”

Baryshnikov was born in Riga in 1948 to ethnic Russian parents four years after Moscow reoccupied the small nation. He spent his first 16 years in Latvia, starting ballet lessons at the age of 11.

In a citizenship motivation letter obtained by The Associated Press, Baryshnikov said that “my childhood in Riga was not necessarily easy, as the son of the Russian parents.”

“My father, in fact, was stationed in Latvia to occupy the nation,’’ Baryshnikov said of his father’s background as a Soviet army officer, and he referred to tense relations between ethnic Latvians and Russians in the country. In spite of “this fraught circumstance,” the dancer said he developed a strong bond with the Latvian people over the years.

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