Mikhail Baryshnikov, renowned ballet dancer and choreographer, was granted citizenship by Latvia on Thursday. Baryshnikov was born in the Baltic nation when it was part of the Soviet Union, and later became a U.S. citizen.

Mikhail Baryshnikov Granted Latvian Citizenship

The lawmakers’ decision was unanimous, and was done in recognition of Baryshnikov’s civic involvement and “voicing of political beliefs in support of democratic values and human rights.”

The dancer, now 69, was born in the capital of Latvia, Riga, and started ballet lessons at age 11. He resided in Latvia for 16 years with his Russian parents. In 1964, he joined the Krov Ballet in Leningrad, and has been heralded by the Latvian Parliament Saeima as “one of the most iconic ballet dancers of our time.”

“My childhood in Riga was not necessarily easy, as the son of Russian parents,” Baryshnikov had said in a citizenship motivation letter.

“My father, in fact, was stationed in Latvia to occupy the nation,” the dancer said in reference to his father’s background as a Soviet army officer. In spite of the “fraught circumstance,” the dancer said he developed a strong bond with the Latvian people over the years.

Baryshnikov defected to Canada in 1974 while on tour with the Soviet state ballet, and moved to the U.S. a year later.

Seven years after Lativa became an independent nation in 1998, Baryshnikov returned to visit. He was there again on Thursday to attend the citizenship ceremonies.

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