One thing of interest to me on the 58 districts project is the ethnic breakdown of each district. It helps to determine many things. Do I ask for pivo or alus in the bars? Should I wear my Vladimir Putin or Kārlis Ulmanis sweater on my day out? Despite being the Latvian capital, Latvians make up a bit less than 45% of the population, though the figure is rising. Latvians only overtook Russians as the largest ethnic group in 2006 and still, when Belarusians and Ukrainians are added to the mix, the proportion of people speaking Russian as a first language probably slightly outnumbers those speaking Latvian.
Getting anything other than vague anecdotal “lots of Russians live in that place” evidence has been very hard. The 58 districts seem to be quite new and the central stats agency hasn’t collected data on them yet. After thinking about this, I came up with another way of getting rough info: election results. Being an obsessive psephologist , I hunted around for electoral data for Riga city and happily it exists, broken down by polling station, though these don’t correspond to the 58 districts.
The basic idea is, the more votes for Saskaņas_centrs, the party favoured by ethnic Russians, the higher the number of Russians in the district. The lower their vote, the more Latvians live there.
Of course this methodology has problems, just to name some:
1) This is not Northern Ireland, not everyone votes along ethnic lines. Many Russians vote for other parties.
2) 22% of the population of Riga has non-citizen status and therefore has no right to vote. These are almost all Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians. This isn’t reflected in the voting figures.
3) Saskanas centrs have had the mayoralty of Riga since 2009. People have been broadly happy with Nil Ushakov as Mayor and SC won an absolute majority of seats in Riga earlier this year with 58% of the vote. Obviously a significant minority of Latvians vote for SC, at least in Riga.
4) Saskanas centrs have a broadly left wing platform, which makes them less attractive to people in more upmarket areas, regardless of nationality.
All that said I crunched the numbers from the elections site and the results do tie in with what people say. The 10 polling districts where SC did best were in Bolderaja and Daugavgrivas (over 80% of the vote) with 76-79% in Zolitude, Kengarags, Plavnieki and the Darzciems/Plavnieki border. Those are definitely districts which people usually highlight as being “Russian.”
Conversely, the 10 polling districts where SC did worst threw up a few surprises for me. Bierini’s two boxes made it, by my score “the most Latvian” district with under 25% support for SC. The other 8, with less than 33% SC support were in Kipsala, Vecaki, Bergi, Centrs (3) and Teika (2) respectively.
At least this gives me a rough idea of whether to cheer on Russia or Latvia in the ice hockey in whichever bar I happen to visit.