Soviet Ballet Defector Baryshnikov Granted Latvian Citizenship

Latvian lawmakers Thursday voted to grant citizenship to renowned ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov, who defected to the United States while the Baltic state was occupied by the Soviet Union.

Lawmakers voted 84 to zero in favour of handing the 69-year-old ballet legend a passport, which he will receive at a ceremony later in the day in the capital Riga.

Born in Riga, Baryshnikov defected to the United States in 1974 and took American citizenship after rising to become one of the most famous ballet dancers in the world.

The former star of Russia’s Kirov Ballet and later American Ballet Theatre has also acted, appearing on the hit TV show “Sex and the City”.

In recent years he has renewed ties with his homeland, premiering shows he devised with Latvian theatre director Alvis Hermanis before taking them to Broadway.

After a Latvian politician approached him about the possibility of citizenship, Baryshnikov wrote an application letter saying: “Riga still serves as a place where I find artistic inspiration.”

“If accepted as a citizen I will uphold that honour with conscientiousness and pride,” he added.

Under normal rules, Baryshnikov would have had to undergo a naturalisation process but the parliament has power to grant citizenship in cases of special merit.

As Latvia and the US are both NATO member states, dual citizenship is allowed under Latvian law.

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