In an apparent concession to a resurgence of national feeling in the Soviet Baltic countries, the Latvian and Lithuanian parliaments have voted to give their republics' languages official status.
And, for the first time since the republics were absorbed with neighboring Estonia into the Soviet Union in 1940, their parliaments have also formally reinstated their flags, Lithuanian and Latvian journalists said on Friday.The moves came just before a mass rally due later on Friday in the Latvian capital, Riga, ahead of this weekend's founding congress of a new mass movement called the Latvian Popular Front.
The official Soviet news agency Tass, in a brief report from Riga, confirmed Latvian had been adopted as the official language by the republic's parliament on Thursday. But it did not mention the approval of the republic's white and red striped flag.
A Lithuanian journalist told Reuters by telephone from the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, that the parliament there also passed resolutions on Thursday approving the language and official use of its flag.
The yellow, green and red Lithuanian flag was then hoisted in front of a 100,000-strong cheering crowd in central Vilnius on Friday morning, he said.
Language and national flag are potent symbols in the Baltic republics where a new openness prompted by Kremlin "glasnost" has allowed increasing public demands for democracy and expression of national feelings against "Russification."
The ethnic people of the three Soviet Baltic republics, who now only just form a majority in Latvia and Estonia, complain their language and culture have been threatened by mass immigration from Russia and other parts of the Soviet Union.
In Estonia, where the ruling Communist Party appears to have taken Kremlin calls for "democratization" further and more literally than elsewhere, the flag was given national status in June.
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