Some 250,000 Latvians fled Soviet occupation during World War II, and others were sent to Soviet labor camps. After the war many Russians moved to Latvia.
With independence in 1991, citizenship issues surrounding the large non-Latvian ethnic population became a problem. Only 55% were ethnic Latvians; 32% were Russians; 3.9% Belarussians; and 9.1% other. Immigration from other former Soviet republics came to 4,590 in 1992. A breakthrough came in 1998 when the Citizenship Law was changed, abolishing the annual quota of naturalizations and entitling children born after independence to automatically acquire Latvian citizenship upon request from their parents. A total of 51,778 persons emigrated when Latvia gained independence in 1991, 48,058 to other former Soviet republics. Almost all of them went to Russia, Ukraine, or Belarus.
In 2000 there were 613,000 migrants living in Lativa. This amounts to about 25% of the total population. The government views the immigration level as too high, but the emigration level as satisfactory. In 2000, the net migration rate was -2.0 migrants per 1,000 population, down from -8.8 per 1,000 in 1990.