Born in 1956 in Daugavpils. Parents Leonid Cilevics and Lija Levitan, professors of the Russian philology at the University of Daugavpils. In 1973 graduated from Daugavpils Secondary School No 3 with honours and entered the University of Latvia, faculty of physics.
In 1978 graduated from the university and in 1981 successfully completed the post-graduate course in Theoretical and Mathematical Physics. Specialised in application of mathematical simulation methods in different areas, including high-speed transport on the magnetic suspension.
From 1982 to 1988 worked in the Micro Equipment Research Institute as senior engineer, dealt with mathematical simulation of active components of integral electronics.
From 1988 to 1991 was a research associate in the Laboratory for Computer-Aided Learning at the Institute of Mathematics and Informatics, University of Latvia.
During professional career published over 30 articles on different areas of application of mathematical simulation, including education.
In late 80s was an active member of the Latvian People’s Front, a broad movement for democracy and independence of Latvia. Took part in establishment of the first human rights groups in Latvia. Obtained vocational education in the field of human rights and ethnic conflict management, including full course of the Summer School of the Canadian Human Rights Foundation (Montreal, 1994). In 1991-1995 worked with human rights NGOs.
Along with work in NGOs, was a columnist of the main Russian-language daily in Latvia “СМ-Сегодня”, as well as a commentator with some private TV-channels. Since 1992 member of the Latvian Journalists Union.
Since 1995 was a director of non-profit Centre for Educational and Social Research “Baltic Insight”. Participated in a number of international projects, was a guest scholar in Carleton U (Canada, 1995) and Peace Research Institute Kiel (Germany, 1997). Fields of professional interest: minority rights, democracy in multi-ethnic societies, ethnic conflicts, rights of refugees and migrants. Published some 40 papers on these issues in Latvia, USA, Russia, Germany, Denmark, Norway etc. Member of the President of Latvia Consultative Council on Minority Issues (1996-1998).
In 1994 was one of the founders of the Concord Party. In 1997 elected, on the party list, Riga City councillor. In 1998 elected member of Saeima (National Parliament), re-elected in 2002, 2006, 2010, 2011 (extraordinary elections), 2014 and 2018. Member of the Standing Committee on Human Rights and Public Affairs (since 2010 vice-Chair) and the European Affairs Committee.
Since 1999 member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Prepared more than 30 reports which became a basis for the PACE resolutions and recommendations. In 2005-2007 chaired the newly established Sub-Committee on the Rights of Minorities, also chaired the Committee on the Election of Judges of the European Court of Human Rights. In 2003-2004 was a Latvian observer in the European Parliament.
Along with the parliamentary work, I stay involved with civil society and keep participating in some international NGO projects.
I fluently speak Russian, Latvian and English, study French.