If a country were to be annexed by another (for example, Latvia by Russia), what happens to the citizenship of Latvians abroad?

For example, do they keep their EU freedom of movement rights?

  • 1
    The EU didn't yet exist when Lativa was annexed by USSR. Or did you mean, if part of the country was invaded again now ?
    – Bregalad
    Jan 8, 2018 at 14:10
  • 7
    I'm not sure this is really answerable. It enters into territory that historically has gone any number of ways, and boiled down to whatever the realpolitik of the moment was. I think the best example of this, is Poland during and after WW2. The allies recognized the government in exile throughout the war, indeed the casus belli was to protect Poland from an aggressor. At the close of the war, the allies abandoned Poland to it's second aggressor (the soviet union). In some instances, they even 'repatriated' soviet citizens against their will (The Cossacks), to be murdered. Jan 8, 2018 at 20:47

2 Answers 2


The citizenship of the Latvians living abroad would be the same as Latvians at home. Their Latvian citizenship would continue to be recognised by EU, NATO and allied countries, but not by Russia and her allies.

An annexation would not be recognised by members of the EU. Latvia is a member of NATO and if it were invaded by Russia, it could call upon its NATO allies under the Section 5 responsibilities to defend its borders. Western countries would not recognise a de facto Russian occupation and treat the Latvian government in exile as the legitimate government, and so recognise the right of Latvian embassies to issue travel documents and so forth. It would be likely that Latvians could claim asylum if it would be dangerous to return. Of course, Latvians living in Russia, or Russia's allies would find their position more difficult.

An invasion of Latvia could lead ultimately to a full war between NATO and Russia. The citzenship of Latvians would then ultimately be decided by the result of that war.

To look to historical analogies: In 1975, Indonesia invaded and occupied East Timor. Citizens of East Timor living in Australia continued to have their citizenship recognized as Timorese, and many chose to claim asylum in Australia.

In the case of voluntary annexation (such as the ascension of Texas to the USA, or the union of Scotland and England), the process could be much more orderly. Here a generally recognised and legitimate government, following a constitutional procedures, asks a foreign government to take over. The two governments could arrange matters of citizenship, generally one would assume that any expats would have their citizenship updated to that of the incoming government.

  • The second paragraph seems to contradict the last one
    – user4012
    Jan 7, 2018 at 21:30
  • Is that better?
    – James K
    Jan 7, 2018 at 22:56
  • 1
    A somewhat relevant example with respect to the current EU might be Northern Cyprus, although in this case the annexation/occupation/secession only encompasses part of the EU state.
    – origimbo
    Jan 8, 2018 at 18:36
  • What about Crimea? Do people have Russian or Ukrainian citizenship? Jan 10, 2018 at 11:10
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    @Sean if it's a voluntary total annexation there's usually an agreement specifying what happens with regard to citizenship, and usually everyone with the citizenship that's disappearing gets to be a citizen of the annexing state, without regard to their physical location.
    – phoog
    Nov 3, 2019 at 0:14

To expand on the answer by James K, the recognition of other states is mostly a bilateral issue between states, and governed as much by realpolitik as by principle. There may be a point where the non-recognition of realities becomes pointless, but states can still try.

Recognition of citizenship follows the recognition of states.

  • When Germany invaded Poland in World War II, a government in exile was established. During the war, the Allies cooperated with this government; some more, some less.
  • After the war, the government continued to exist, but it was no longer significant. Even nations which disliked the Communist government in Warsaw accepted that it was the government.
  • By contrast, West Germany never officially accepted the division of Germany and during the early years it pushed back against any nation that recognized the GDR. While it accepted the realities later on, it never formally recognized the GDR as another state.
  • This became relevant when the Communist regime in Berlin ended and GDR citizens could "reclaim" their FRG passports.

So the questions would be if there is a government in exile which is accepted by the host government and which can credibly claim to represent the occupied population. Credibility is in the eye of the beholder.

  • I think the main question remains unanswered. Taking Poland and the UK as examples, what happened to Polish expats staying in the UK, when the UK switched recognition from the Second Polish Republic to the Soviet-controlled Polish People's Republic? Did the UK treat them as citizens of the Polish People's Republic, even though they only had passports of the Second Polish Republic, a country that ceased to exist? Or did they become stateless?
    – michau
    Nov 3, 2019 at 23:14

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