The road to independence was less smooth in Latvia than in the other two Baltic States because about one third of the population are ethnic Russians. Thus, political conflicts between pro- and anti-Soviet Union positions were foremost in the public debate in the first years after independence.
Organised Latvian opposition against the Soviet Union began in the mid-1980s. One of the strongest opposition movements was a group of anti-Soviet intellectuals known as the Latvian Writers' Union. It was established in 1987 and put forward a resolution proposing that Latvia became an internationally recognised sovereign state. Moreover, the movement demanded complete autonomy in financial matters and in education, and an end to censorship and human rights violations in Latvia. In October 1988, the group formed the Popular Front of Latvia (PFL).
The founding congress of the PFL adopted a charter advocating greater economic and political autonomy for the republic: an immigration policy that would keep non-Latvians from entering the country; free democratic elections; an independent constitutional court; territorial armed forces; separate diplomatic representation abroad; and religious instruction in schools. By the end of 1988 the PFL had become the largest and most influential political force in Latvia. In March 1989 candidates supported by the PFL won 26 of the 34 contested Latvian seats in the USSR's Congress of People's Deputies.
Under these new political circumstances the governing Latvian Communist Party (CP) changed its position. The majority of CP members in the Latvian Supreme Soviet decided to abolish the clause in Article 6 of the Latvian Constitution guaranteeing the ‘leading role’ of the Communist Party. In addition, the Latvian Supreme Soviet passed a law restoring the official use of the original flag, state emblems and national anthem of independent Latvia in place of those used by Soviet Latvia.