Friday, 14 September 2007

Latvia: An uneasy democracy

Another matter arising out of the Latvia trip was a prevailing discontent among the supporters about the confrontational and corrupt policing they faced.

Undoubtedly this was justified to an extent, bribes were extracted and some people had very unpleasant experiences. The Latvian police could teach some people here a thing or two about what the word “heavy handed” really means. When you’re told to keep off the grass in Latvia, a baton around the head and being bundled into an unmarked van can be the sanction applied if you choose to persist.

Admittedly as well, there is an increasing element of uncouth louts following the Northern Ireland team abroad. They pay no attention to local custom, show no basic social manners, have no interest in the culture or history of where they visit and flaunt their comparative wealth in the faces of those who host them. When they aren’t welcomed with open arms or find themselves laid open to exploitation, they whine about it or act aggressively. To them I would suggest – stick to Santa Ponsa.

No-one expects football supporters to be abstentionist, opera watching angels – but an open mind and a little consideration for locals sensibilities means standing a much greater chance of having a successful and enjoyable trip (the result not withstanding).

I detected that perhaps the aggressive policing in Latvia was a symptom of a state not yet at ease with itself. Certainly the traditional GAWA parade passed a demonstration of ethnic Russians which was particularly heavily policed. Despite the fact that Riga is a predominately Russian city the symbols of Latvian statehood were asserted with a great deal of aggression and the national story is told with unrepentantly partial spin.

The Museum of Occupation provides an interesting insight into the Latvian psyche. Understandably the Latvians are aggrieved at German and Russian oppressions suffered and the exhibition is interesting in outlining the extent of these. The presence of Russian speakers in Latvian society though is presented as an affront to Latvian statehood with no allowance made for these people as individuals. There was no sense that I could discern that Latvia had any plans to tolerate or accommodate the Russian minority.

Wailing police sirens, a substantial minority who are being made to feel unwelcome, the subjugation of the individual to the ideal of an ethnically pure nation, a failure to acknowledge anything but the most partial reading of their own history. All of these traits are redolent of a country where nationalistic values prevail and whose civic society is as yet immature. Given a turbulent and war torn history this is more than understandable, but becoming reconciled to accommodating and including the large minority within her borders should be the first stage toward Latvia addressing this immaturity. Perhaps a realistic assessment of some Latvians culpability in supporting and participating in the Nazi regime might be a second.

40 comments:

Dinamo said...

Perhaps Latvia is trying too hard to disavow itself of the benefits of USSR membership and rushes onwards to a life of claiming fishing and oil rights and a per capita GDP at the north (!) end of the EU average.
NI world champs if FIFA ranking divided by total population!Cretinous behavior of a boorish nature must not be accepted. I went to Zurich and noted that there was a handful of backwoodsmen. Less than 1% of GAWA I would say.

Dinamo said...

Maybe those of us who have been fortunate enough to enjoy the liberal freedoms of post war UK are unable to empathise with post 'revolutionary' insecurities such as latvia. De Valera managed to retard the ROI for 70 years - 30 after his death until the mid-90s and the navel gazing gaa flourishes. But not for ever - even the dimmest will see beyond the nearest hedge.

Pēteris Cedriņš said...

In your previous post, you suggested that you would "put a lid on the pro-Russian, anti Baltic-nationalism sentiment" -- you don't seem to have done that, and the picture you present of our country is stunningly skewed.

The heavily policed "demonstration of ethnic Russians" you mention, for example, was actually a small gathering of extremists led by Yevgeny Osipov. You can see the gentleman here, at left, gleefully demonstrating the Nazi salute in a public park (accompanied by a Latvian far-rightist). Entitled "the Russian March," similar gatherings are banned even in Russia. The police presence was necessary because Osipov threatened to march despite a ban by the security forces here. Formerly a member of the rabidly anti-Semitic Russian group Pamyat, Osipov became the leader of Latvia's Barkashovists.

"There was no sense that I could discern that Latvia had any plans to tolerate or accommodate the Russian minority." Just how would you discern that in a couple of days at a football match, especially bearing in mind the bias you obviously brought with you? Ludmila Azarova, a prominent Russian intellectual in Rīga, has called Latvians "pathologically tolerant." Unlike Northern Ireland, Latvia has seen no violence despite the stresses of recovering from totalitarian occupation. Nine of the ten richest persons in Latvia are ethnic Russians. There are Russian schools (attended by about half of Rīga's schoolchildren) and a thriving Russian-language press. There is indeed an integration programme in place -- one that was endorsed by every major political party. Latvia's policies have been gone through with a fine-toothed comb by the EU, the OSCE, and the CoE.

Your post reads like a typical Kremlin propaganda piece, especially with your closing sentence about needing "a realistic assessment of some Latvians [sic] culpability in supporting and participating in the Nazi regime" -- realistic assessments abound, provided by serious historians like Andrew Ezergailis. I cordially invite you to peruse my blog, which contains many a link to many a study pertinent to the issues you raise. Latvia was occupied in 1940, long before the Nazis got here, by Hitler's friend Stalin.

Dinamo writes that perhaps "Latvia is trying too hard to disavow itself of the benefits of USSR membership" -- hmm, which benefits ought we to value the most? The mass deportations or coercive Russification?

We're doubtless an "uneasy democracy," and I don't deny that there are deep divisions in our society. Extremism, however, is exceedingly marginal. As to the immaturity of civil society -- the OSCE announced already in 2001 that "it had completed its tasks in Latvia, giving the country a clean bill of health on its language and citizenship policies."

There's certainly much more work to be done, but shallow views like yours fail to take into account the major causes and factors involved, such as Russian imperialism. You use the term "Baltic nationalism" the way many Russian chauvinists and homines sovietici use the word "Fascist." As a wag recently suggested at a humor site, Latvia is lovely because it's the only place in the world where saying "I love my country" can get you called a Nazi. You write that "the symbols of Latvian statehood were asserted with a great deal of aggression" -- what exactly does that mean? We shouldn't fly the flag? We should dismantle the Freedom Monument, or avoid fining the English football fans who urinate upon it?

I wouldn't presume to understand the situation in Ulster after a brief visit to Belfast. With regard to aggressive symbols -- when you passed the Russian extremists, you passed a statue of Barclay de Tolly, recently restored by a businessman. He was a hero of the Russian Empire, not Latvia. Next to him is the Russian Orthodox Cathedral -- the project to restore it transcends ethnic divisions. A new monument to the Latvians who saved Jews from the Holocaust was unveiled in July. You might consider, too, that ethnic Russians aren't the only minority in Latvia -- Polish schools that were shuttered during the occupation have been reopened and new ones are being built, for example. The Gypsies in Courland (who owe their existence to the mayor of Sabile, who rescued them during the Holocaust) receive state-supported education in Romani. As it happens, every minority except the imperial one happens to be happy. More and more young ethnic Russians are integrating, and the percentage of those with Latvian skills among non-Latvians has risen from ca. 15% at the end of the occupation to more than 50% now. As to an "ideal of an ethnically pure nation" -- huh? Such an ideal is no doubt held by some on the margins of society (on both sides -- Osipov's group has been resolutely racist), but Latvia had some of the highest rates of inter-ethnic marriage in the USSR, rates that remain very high. In 2003, for example, 45% of ethnically Russian women in Latvia and 39,9% of ethnically Russian men married outside their ethnic group. Do these figures support your thesis?

Ethnicity as such isn't much of a problem here -- language, culture, and politics can indeed be problematic. Understanding those problems requires deeper insights than attendance at a football match might provide.

Londonlat said...

Peteris had a good go at countering some of the rubbish in this posting but there was plenty more unsubstantiated drivel by somebody obviously sore at NI losing the match. All I know about NI is that they make vicious attacks on East/Central European guest workers on a regular basis. I was attacked viciously buy one of their drunken number whilst working in Guernsey a few years back too.

massive attack said...

I was on this trip with owen whilst not sharing his pro russian beliefs,i was disappointed with there behaviour.Whilst not expecting them to embrace us i expected them to show some common decency,yet all we got was unpleasant chippiness and over the top gounging.I will not be rushing back to Latvia

O'Neill said...

My own specific interest is slightly more westerly than the Baltics (Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Poland and the Czech Republic) but it's obvious that this phrase "uneasy democracy" is one which can be applied across all of the previous "Soviet Empire".

I do feel slightly inhibited sometimes about giving an opinion on countries other than my own, but it doesn't seem to stop the "Irish" Americans so here goes....

In most of eastern Europe there is a collective amnesia regarding most of the 20th century. Small but important example; the Jews and Roma of rural Romania and Hungary were not rounded up and sent to the death camps by and large by the "Germans", but by their neighbours, each country’s own homegrown fascists. You’ll struggle to find this in any of the history books presently being used in the schools- in Hungary it would appear that all of the members of the Arrow Cross scum suddenly appeared and subsequently disappeared within the space of three years.

Move on a couple of years, different political idealogy, same amnesia. OK, the USSR was the ultimate power, but who exactly where the people on the ground helping to enforce the communist system? 300,000 out of a population of 10 million in Hungary were actively spying for the “government”. Every house, every family had at least one member who was touting. Again, when the system changed, this inconvenient fact was swept under the carpet….every year the number of “patriots” who fought the Russkies in 1956 increases, the whole country was fighting for freedom since 1946…..which leaves the question, why did it take so long to break away?

Gerry Adams and Co are now trying to rewrite history. Apart from their own apparachniks (sp?) nobody believes them, imagine though, if the whole country was buying into their collective amnesia, how dangerous would that be? That’s exactly what’s happening now over most of Eastern Europe and I guess the Baltics. Bearing in mind that most of these countries are now fully paid-up Eu-ers it’something that should be disturbing all of us in the "west"

Giustino said...

Bearing in mind that most of these countries are now fully paid-up Eu-ers it’something that should be disturbing all of us in the "west"

Most foundation myths are false, and most of these countries are relatively 'new'. The American foundation myth -- for example -- is skewed right down to Independence Day. the Declaration of Independence was first signed on July 2, not July 4. It's all downhill from there as far as the truth goes.

The reality is that the USSR was managed from Moscow, and Nazi Germany was managed from Berlin. These were two empires at war, and Hungarian locals or Lithuanian locals that acted on their behalf did so on the behalf of Berlin or Moscow.

What I don't understand is the holy mythology of World War II in which only one ethnic group -- the Jews of East Europe -- are set aside as the 'true' victims of the conflict while eastern Europeans --as you say -- are somehow 'more deserving' of the murderous Soviets because some of them allied with the Nazis.

Because one man's cousin does something, does that incriminate a whole nation? Even children?

Would it make a difference if we acknowledged that many of the officers in Stalin's NKVD, the predecessor to the KGB -- the ones who rounded up and deported tens of thousands to die in Siberia, were themselves Jewish?

It shouldn't. If we are to look at World War II and see only ethnic groups that are 'more worthy' of being remembered as victims and others that are 'more worthy' of punishment, then Hitler has truly won, hasn't he?

If we are a bit more grown up, and forget the post-war rubbish we learned in school, we see in reality a total failure of mankind resting upon a principle of greed and ideological fervor -- that Germany could be expanded to a great Aryan reich, or that communism could be exported violently, first eastern Europe, then the world.

These are the lessons that we should draw from this conflict. That human life is worth more than imperial or ideological ambition. It's not really about Jews or Russians or Germans or who killed who. It's about simple humanity.

That is why countries like Estonia demand that Russia acknowledge that it did not volunatrily join the USSR and that the deportations of 1941 and 1949, not to mention the murder of the entire intelligentsia, including all but one of the country's prewar heads of state, were wrong.

It's about simple humanity. It's not about 'fascism' or 'communism'. It's about saying, yes, loading children into cattle cars is wrong. Shooting men in courtyards like dogs because they are bankers or politicians and therefore pose a threat to the establishment of a communist social order is wrong.

It's just the simple, human thing to do. It has nothing to do with religion or ethnicity.

Pēteris Cedriņš said...

To O'Neill, I'd recommend "Neighbors Didn't Kill Jews" by Andrew Ezergails, the foremost authority on the Holocaust in Latvia.

Ezergailis' groundbreaking study, The Holocaust in Latvia, 1941-1944 : The Missing Center, was published by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and has been translated into Latvian.

O'Neill said...

giustino

The reality is that the USSR was managed from Moscow, and Nazi Germany was managed from Berlin. These were two empires at war, and Hungarian locals or Lithuanian locals that acted on their behalf did so on the behalf of Berlin or Moscow.

As I said, I have little knowledge of what went on in the Baltics. In both Hungary and Slovakia, particularly in the rural areas, too many locals needed very little encouragement to launch pogroms against their Jewish and Roma neighbours. During the communist regime, once again, too many people needed very little encouragement to spy on and report their neighbours to the authorities. But to believe the common “accepted” version of history now, the entire population fought against both the nazi and communist dictatorships.

What I don't understand is the holy mythology of World War II in which only one ethnic group -- the Jews of East Europe -- are set aside as the 'true' victims of the conflict while eastern Europeans --as you say -- are somehow 'more deserving' of the murderous Soviets because some of them allied with the Nazis.

I didn’t even imply that in my previous post. I also mentioned the Roma victims of the Holocaust which you have ignored here in your piece about the “holy mythology”. Nobody was more deserving of the Soviets or the Nazis….I was stating that there is a collective amnesia about the role played by the population during both dictatorships.

With regards the rest of your comment, there is nothing there I can disagree with.

peteris cedrins
The first link doesn't work for me. Thanks for the second one.

Giustino said...

As I said, I have little knowledge of what went on in the Baltics.

Even though I live in Estonia, I must admit I am ignorant of the others. I do know that Riga, Latvia, and Vilnius, Lithuania, were major centers of European Jews, particularly Vilnius.

In Lithuania Jews had been present in large numbers since the middle ages. In Estonia, Jews began moving in in the mid 19th century in large numbers. So, Estonia, where I live, had a maximum Jewish population prior to World War II of 4,300.

The Soviets deported approximately 10 percent of them to Siberia in 1941 before the Nazis arrived. The rest fled to the USSR that summer. The remaining 900-1,000 were rounded up during the first year of the Nazi occupation were killed.

Local police brigades did assist in this. But this bears quite a bit of resemblance to what happened in Norway, doesn't it?

During the Nazi rule under the Nazi occupation of Norway, nearly all Jews were either deported to death camps or fled to Sweden and beyond. The Jews fleeing to Sweden were most often given help by non-Jewish Norwegians, although a number of the border guides only agreed to assist after receiving large payments from the refugees.

One of the biggest stains on the Norwegian WW II history is that civilian Norwegian police in many cases helped the German occupiers in the apprehension of those Jews who failed to escape in time. Records show that during the Holocaust, 758 Norwegian Jews were murdered by the Nazis—mostly in Auschwitz. Many of the Jews who fled during the war did not return, and in 1946, there were only 559 Jews in Norway.


But to believe the common “accepted” version of history now, the entire population fought against both the nazi and communist dictatorships.

And if you read about the history of Norway it's all about resistance fighters on skis isn't it?

I am not defending this behavior, but it seems like countries like to whitewash their pasts (even Russia).

I didn’t even imply that in my previous post. I also mentioned the Roma victims of the Holocaust which you have ignored here in your piece about the “holy mythology”.

You are right. It was the last sentence of the author's post here that reminded me of so much Soviet/Russian Federation media about Latvia. That Latvia has a grudge, but let's not forget that some Latvians helped the Germans in World War II. As if all the sins of the USSR in Latvia are forgiven because of this fact. I apologize for making it appear that you said that.

Nobody was more deserving of the Soviets or the Nazis….I was stating that there is a collective amnesia about the role played by the population during both dictatorships.

That's true. In Estonia I know they rest easier knowing the Soviet puppet government was made up of pre-war poets and intellectuals -- ie, naive dopes that didn't know what they were getting themselves into. I however like reading about them, because it sheds extra lights on human nature. They may have been naive communists, but they abetted monsters. So can such actions ever really be excused?

Pēteris Cedriņš said...

Sorry! Here is a working link -- "Neighbors Didn’t Kill Jews."

Prof. Ezergailis' site appears to be down, but that's a cached html version at Google; if it don't work for you, search "Ezergailis Neighbors" and it will come up.

I'll also append the conclusion of Ezergailis' paper here --

For the following reasons the “neighbors” not only did not kill the Jews, they could not have done so,
even if they had wanted to.
1. Either the Germans had a plan to kill the Jews or they did not. While there are numerous documents that
testify to German intentions and plans to do so, there are none of East European origin.
2. The Germans were too scheming and clever to rely on the cruelty of “neighbors”.
3. The Latvian killing gangs and self-defense teams were organized (even conscripted) units in which more
often one joined by invitation than by voluntary choice. They were subordinated and served as
auxiliaries to the Germans.
4. Only German ordered organizations were allowed. As the word “voluntary” was a Nazi sham so were
all agencies prefixed by “self”—”self-defense”, “self-cleansing”, “self-administration”, and
“self-help”.
5. The population of Eastern Europe was too diverse to reach a consensus on the killing of the Jews.
Humanity does not think by boilerplate.
6. There is no reason to believe that Eastern Europeans were of more brutal disposition or were of a lower
cultural level than were the Germans. In fact there is evidence to the contrary.
7. All theoretical constructs can be trumped by empirical evidence. In the case of Latvia there exists a great
amount of detailed documentary evidence about the killing of the Jews and the skein of organization
that Germans imposed upon Latvia.for that purpose.
8. We have no reason to believe that Eastern Europeans thought or behaved like the Nazis or that they
understood what Nazism was. And even if they understood what Nazism was, there is no evidence
that they sympathized with it. Nazism was hostile to East-Europeans.
9. There is no reason to take Nazi prognostications about East Europeans as if they were the only true
things that the Nazis proclaimed.
10. Synagogues burned in Berlin before they burned in Eastern Europe. It is illusory to look for
indigenous causes for burning synagogues in Riga.
11. All “eyewitness” observations are always amendable by other observations.
12. Spontaneity is not a word that can be applied to a complicated event such as the Holocaust.
13. Eastern Europe, especially the Baltics, for historical reasons were Germanophobic, hence Nazification
could have occurred there, if at all, only after German occupation. As a colonized country could
never be an imperial country, a Nazi occupied country could not be a Nazi country. For one,
Germans would not have allowed it.

Aleks said...

What a heavy load of horse manure this original post really is. Some counter-arguments have already been mentioned in the comments, however, I can offer you an eye-witness account as someone who was watching the Russian uber-nationalists march on the spot and as someone who wandered along with the northern Irish fans to the stadium to watch the game.

First of all, the police were indeed more lenient toward the drunken Irish fans. It's illegal to drink an alcoholic beverage on the streets of Riga. But it didn't stop the fans from consuming any beverage of the kind on their way to the match. The police rarely stopped them. In fact, I don't remember them stopping anyone with a bottle of beer in their hands. If ethnic Russians or Latvians exhibited the same kind of behavior, they probably would have been fined.

As it was mentioned the heavy police presence prevented the ultra-nationalists -- supported by the pithy portion of the population -- from staging a march that was banned by the city council and the court's decision. In fact, even among the group gathered at the monument, there was no agreement. One ethnic Russian, for example, shouted "fascist" while the Great Leader of ethnic Russians, as it seems, portrayed by this post, was delivering his fiery speech. So don't be judging the Russian-speaking population by a small, shrinking group of pensioners and an opportunist Russian who dreams about getting into the realpolitik.

Chekist said...

It'll clearly take a while to respond to all this, but a number of points.

1) I am not condoning the Russian demonstration or attempting to say that I understood what it was for. But it's certainly the first time that I've encountered such a demonstration on my way to a football ground. The point was that the place felt very far from Western norms, and I certainly stick by that.

2) If Latvians or Estonians would have been more harshly treated by the police in a crowd situation that only goes further to prove my point. Perhaps some of the defenders of their bent cops should take themselves to the www.ourweecountry.co.uk forum and read about the people whose credit card details were taken and used for dubious transactions shortly afterwards, who were asked for fines varying from 20 to 60 Lats after being randomly picked up on the street (the "fines" disappearing unaccountably and without receipt into police pockets).


I will return to desecration of Russian monuments and discriminatory citizenship legislation when I get more time.

Aleks said...

Did you really expect the Western standards here after 17 years of independence?

No doubt, we're still dealing with the corruption among our police forces. That's a fact.

The demonstration of this kind of not chosen because of the football game... we've many demonstrations -- from the gay pride parade earlier this year, to Russians celebrating Victory Day on May 9 to some Latvians commemorating the volunteer Waffen SS divisions. With all this going on, our police could really export its expertise in maintaining order when two groups representing two opposing points of view are present. And in fact, I think we're doing that.

Chekist said...

No. But I would have demanded Western standards for entry to the EU. Particularly in the sphere of minority rights.

Chekist said...

“The heavily policed "demonstration of ethnic Russians" you mention, for example, was actually a small gathering of extremists led by Yevgeny Osipov”.
The laudability or lack of it of Osipov is not the issue. The point I made was regarding an uneasy society. Clearly where as large a minority feels aggrieved and where someone aligning themselves with Barkashov can gain support, there is a great deal of underlying discontentment.
“Nine of the ten richest persons in Latvia are ethnic Russians.”
Perhaps you’d like to provide figures for the lowest strata of Latvian society.
“There are Russian schools (attended by about half of Rīga's schoolchildren) and a thriving Russian-language press.”
60% of the curriculum must be taught in Latvian.
“ There is indeed an integration programme in place -- one that was endorsed by every major political party. Latvia's policies have been gone through with a fine-toothed comb by the EU, the OSCE, and the CoE”
Ethnic Russians having to pass a citizenship test containing language and history elements. Ethnic Russians must prove themselves sufficiently “Latvian” to actually gain citizenship of a country they may even have been born in. This also effectively disbars many ethnic Russians in Latvia from the benefits of EU citizenship.
I have read the summation of your historian’s thoughts on the Holocaust. It must be said it is hand-washing stuff. I certainly don’t expect Latvians to assume responsibility for the Holocaust, but simply to acknowledge the stains on their own history without excuses. That’s why I objected so strongly to the content of your museums. In common with most post-colonial analyses, the “oppressor” is blamed for its own sins and the sins of the nation it colonised, past, present and future.


“We're doubtless an "uneasy democracy," and I don't deny that there are deep divisions in our society. Extremism, however, is exceedingly marginal. As to the immaturity of civil society -- the OSCE announced already in 2001 that "it had completed its tasks in Latvia, giving the country a clean bill of health on its language and citizenship policies." “
There’s no doubt that wariness of Russia has caused the West to take a rose-tinted view of the Post Soviet states which have fallen under its own sphere of influence.

“There's certainly much more work to be done, but shallow views like yours fail to take into account the major causes and factors involved, such as Russian imperialism”
That’s indicative of nationalist evasion. All responsibility for ills in their own society is abdicated and blamed on the ex “occupier”. Reading between the lines your meaning is that ethnic Russians are in Latvia predominantly because of Soviet imperialism and you view them as a problem to be solved by “integration projects” rather than according them equal status.

. “You use the term "Baltic nationalism" the way many Russian chauvinists and homines sovietici use the word "Fascist." As a wag recently suggested at a humor site, Latvia is lovely because it's the only place in the world where saying "I love my country" can get you called a Nazi. You write that "the symbols of Latvian statehood were asserted with a great deal of aggression" -- what exactly does that mean? We shouldn't fly the flag? We should dismantle the Freedom Monument, or avoid fining the English football fans who urinate upon it?””
I certainly have distaste for ethnic nationalism of all hues. I’m not sure who urinated on Freedom Monument, but I’m not responsible for the behaviour of English football fans and I doubt even the worst element of the N Irish support would have.
“I wouldn't presume to understand the situation in Ulster after a brief visit to Belfast.”
I don’t presume to understand the situation in Latvia. I made some observations to the effect that I detected a latent disquiet in Riga and that civic norms of equality were some way behind the west. I also commented on the Latvian narrative of WW2 as I experienced it. Perhaps on the equality front you might like to explain why Amnesty and other groups are so excitable about sexual orientation discrimination in Latvia?
“ With regard to aggressive symbols -- when you passed the Russian extremists, you passed a statue of Barclay de Tolly, recently restored by a businessman. He was a hero of the Russian Empire, not Latvia. Next to him is the Russian Orthodox Cathedral -- the project to restore it transcends ethnic divisions.”
I saw both and the latter is a very beautiful building.
As to your latter points, I’m sure you understand that ethnicity is perceived through the prism of language and culture. Enforcing these in an aggressive fashion against substantial minorities is akin to ethnic nationalism.
In closing, just to clarify, I enjoyed my trip to Latvia (although many of our number did not) although I found it less friendly than Poland or Ukraine for example. Neither do I have an axe to grind with Latvian statehood; although I do find the way it has been asserted an interesting study in the way settled minorities perceived as the oppressor are treated in newly independent states.

Chekist said...

Peteris, I note your comments in your group regarding Riga being introduced to football hooliganism by Northern Ireland fans. I think you should substatiate those allegations. A handful of fans being arrested for standing on a patch of ill-kempt grass, or being charged for singing drunkenly does not constitute hooliganism. It constitutes bad policing.

Pēteris Cedriņš said...

Re the hooliganism -- I'm afraid that vandalizing cafés and throwing bricks at the police cars arriving to prevent that is not considered polite behaviour in Latvia. I wasn't there. My wife was, by sheer accident -- she returned aghast, saying she had never encountered people as ghastly as the Northern Ireland fans (and she's accompanied me through the underclass purlieus of Cairo, had bottles thrown at her in the banlieues of Paris, etc. -- she's not an innocent). I'll take her word for it over yours. I've not seen much ill-kempt grass in Latvia, but I have attended many a mass event -- at the last one I was at, no one smoked so as not to bother those beside them, throngs avoided walking on the grass, and there was never a push or shove.

Your previous post is too diffuse and baseless to respond to, sorry. Citizenship in Latvia has nothing to do with ethnicity, for example -- I live in Daugavpils, the second largest city, which is heavily Russophone; the vast majority of ethnic Russians in my town holds citizenship by descent. As to the idea that "civic norms of equality were some way behind the west" -- my first reaction is perhaps a rather unfair one, but I'll give it to you anyway: how would you know? Northern Ireland, which lacked a functioning Parliament until a few months ago and where thousands have died in intercommunal violence is an example of "civic norms of equality"?

"Reading between the lines your meaning is that ethnic Russians are in Latvia predominantly because of Soviet imperialism and you view them as a problem to be solved by 'integration projects' rather than according them equal status." Wrong on all counts, sorry. Firstly, many ethnic Russians trace their presence here to other waves -- the Old Believers, for example, arrived here in response to persecution in Russia. "Equal status"? All citizens of Latvia are equal before the law. Most ethnic Russians hold Latvian citizenship. Those persons who arrived during the occupation, and their descendants, whatever their ethnicity, can naturalize -- well over a hundred thousand of them have done so. It so happens that there are even some ethnic Latvians who don't hold citizenship -- ethnicity is immaterial.

You'd do well to bear in mind that a huge percentage of Russophones opposed the very existence of this Republic. People like Tatyana Zhdanok, for instance, the sole Russian in the European Parliament -- elected from this oppressive, awful place, as it happens. See the ECHR decision on her claims -- it makes it abundantly clear that a democracy has the right to rejuvenate itself after totalitarian rule.

"Clearly where as large a minority feels aggrieved and where someone aligning themselves with Barkashov can gain support, there is a great deal of underlying discontentment." Oh, geez. Do tell us about the desecration of Russian monuments and all that jazz. We must be non-Western -- after all, we don't throw rocks at Catholic schoolgirls as in Ulster, burn cars like they do in France, or run the Gypsies out of town like they do in Slovenia. Spare me, "chekist." I'll try to avoid aggressive national symbols in the future. What nick do you use when commenting upon Israel-- "Himmler"?

Chekist said...

“Re the hooliganism -- I'm afraid that vandalizing cafés and throwing bricks at the police cars arriving to prevent that is not considered polite behaviour in Latvia. I wasn't there. My wife was, by sheer accident -- she returned aghast, saying she had never encountered people as ghastly as the Northern Ireland fans (and she's accompanied me through the underclass purlieus of Cairo, had bottles thrown at her in the banlieues of Paris, etc. -- she's not an innocent). I'll take her word for it over yours.”

I’d very much doubt that she was present at all. There were two incidents in Riga that weekend of any note (and both were handbags at 10 paces). Firstly on Friday night the police decided to disperse a crowd of Northern Ireland fans for singing rather drunkenly (I did acknowledge our support has a yobbish element). Your law enforcement consists of body armour clad thugs and they proceeded in time-honoured fashion to beat people with batons, arrest them and then release them having received bribes – a pattern which was repeated throughout the period some 2000 Northern Ireland supporters spent in Latvia.


“Citizenship in Latvia has nothing to do with ethnicity,”

It has to do with conforming to the language and culture your nationalism has dictated.

“for example -- I live in Daugavpils, the second largest city, which is heavily Russophone; the vast majority of ethnic Russians in my town holds citizenship by descent.”

They must have been in the country before 1940 in that case, which isn’t typical.

“Northern Ireland, which lacked a functioning Parliament until a few months ago and where thousands have died in intercommunal violence is an example of "civic norms of equality"”

Northern Ireland has scrupulous equality legislation because of that very inter-communal violence. The parliament in Westminster (a democratic and multi-national model followed around the globe) was our functioning parliament between 1971 and 2007 (with short exceptions). Local particularism isn’t everyone’s ideal for government you know. This includes full employment rights for people of any sexuality.

“All citizens of Latvia are equal before the law. Most ethnic Russians hold Latvian citizenship. Those persons who arrived during the occupation, and their descendants, whatever their ethnicity, can naturalize -- well over a hundred thousand of them have done so. It so happens that there are even some ethnic Latvians who don't hold citizenship -- ethnicity is immaterial.”

A test in a language and culture which is not the language and culture of 30% of the population is the basis of citizenship. The norm in most parts of Europe, it should be noted, is language provision in local government when over 20 % speak a first language different from that of the titular nationality. Of the 656,000 Russians in Latvia – 288,207 are non-citizens and 21,000 are considered aliens (http://www.np.gov.lv/index.php?en=fakti_en&saite=residents.htm).


“You'd do well to bear in mind that a huge percentage of Russophones opposed the very existence of this Republic.”

As they had every right to do. Many were not opposed to the existence of the Republic but nevertheless were excluded from governance and participation because of their first language (not the situation in Lithuania).

“People like Tatyana Zhdanok, for instance, the sole Russian in the European Parliament -- elected from this oppressive, awful place, as it happens. See the ECHR decision on her claims -- it makes it abundantly clear that a democracy has the right to rejuvenate itself after totalitarian rule.”

Sinister language there I must say. I’ve already commented that the western response to ethnic democracies in the Baltic has been prevaricating and poor. Western interests in hastening accession and expanding the EU to Russia’s doorstep far outweighed any notion of minority protection. Rejuvenating a democracy equates to dictating the culture and language of its citizens and disenfranchising those who do not conform. After all there is 1 Euro per Russophone being lavished on helping them “integrate”, mainly provided by the EU.

Chekist said...

I neglected to describe the second incident of violenece during the weekend. A boisterous but peaceful crowd were congregated in a square drinking. A drunk on crutches made an idiot of himself and walked on the lush grass and neatly tended flower beds which mark the course of the River Riga (ho-hum).

He was beaten to the ground by three policemen with batons. Some supporters tried to drag him back, they were beaten and your fines forces of law decided to clear the area by rushing at an open air cafe (which I was sitting in). The most that came from the Northern Ireland side was panicked protestations and a few idiots throwing beer.

I sat where I was and left after it had all calmed down (bearing in mind that men, women and children trying to leave the cafe were now being battered to the ground). This took approximately 2 minutes.

Giustino said...

As they had every right to do. Many were not opposed to the existence of the Republic but nevertheless were excluded from governance and participation because of their first language (not the situation in Lithuania).

The Lithuanian citizenship laws were actually also driven by the ideal of creation an ethnic nation-state.

The pre-war Lithuania was far smaller in size and did not even include Vilnius. If Lithuania passed laws similar to Latvia, thousands of Lithuanians might have had to naturalize. And no self-respecting 'ethnocracy' would have wanted that.

Western interests in hastening accession and expanding the EU to Russia’s doorstep far outweighed any notion of minority protection.

I don't agree in favoring one minority over others. Russians are not the only minority in Latvia, nor in Estonia. Does size dictate rights? So Russians would have more rights than Ukrainians, who would have more rights than Poles? In Estonia, Russians would receive more protection that Swedes, even though Swedes and Finns are at greater risk of losing their language.

Is this an ideal situation? No. It's a retarded quota system meant to alleviate the reality that even if Estonia created another official language and gave the remaining 8 percent of the population that is stateless Estonian citizenship, they'd still have to learn Estonian to fully participate in politics, business, and other forms of public life.

That's how it is in Finland isn't it? I have met plenty of Finland-Swedes. They all speak Finnish. They are allegedly well-protected by law, and yet, they must function in the language of the majority to be successful in most cases. There is no need for them to complain of a lack of higher education -- most of them go to Uppsala University anyway.

This is the beloved Finnish model, and yet it produces the same result.

Call it the marketplace of languages. Most Russians in Estonia probably didn't learn Estonian anyway because the state said so. They learned it because most people in Estonia speak that language and they felt a need to communicate with 70 percent of the people around them.

martins said...

“Citizenship in Latvia has nothing to do with ethnicity,”

It has to do with conforming to the language and culture your nationalism has dictated.


* actually it does not have to do with conforming to the language and culture, if you'd paid attention to what peteris wrote.

the latvian citizenship law is based on descent, not on culture, ethnicity or language. Most of those people in daugavpils who received citizenship, did so by birth, many of which even today dont speak latvian, and are not culturally a part of the latvian world. Daugavpils is latvia's second biggest city.

your use of the nik chekist is too childish to deserve a proper response.

martins

O'Neill said...

Peteris Cedrins,

As I have said at the beginning, my knowledge of the Baltics is sketchy but as the source you quoted, Prof Ezergailis, appears content to mix and match “Eastern Europe” with the Baltics, here's my perspective on a few of his comments:

The population of Eastern Europe was too diverse to reach a consensus on the killing of the Jews.

Eastern Europe is of course a jigsaw of different ethnic and national entities, which still today exist in uneasy stalemate together in places like Erdely and the Felvidek. But one thing which has traditionally united them is a hatred of two specific groups, the Roma and the Jews.
The ethnic cleansing of both groups still occured in the last period of the war, in many cases when the nazis had long gone west in face of the Russian advance. It’s true to say that this cleansing was a bit more ad-hoc (drowning in the Danube, burning of houses thought to harbour Jews), but it occur independently of the nazis.

There is no reason to believe that Eastern Europeans were of more brutal disposition or were of a lower cultural level than were the Germans. In fact there is evidence to the contrary.

Your source seems content here to use “Germans” as catch-all term here rather than specifically the “nazis”, that being the case and presuming he hasn’t the objective evidence he to back it up, that’s a racist statement surely?

8. We have no reason to believe that Eastern Europeans thought or behaved like the Nazis or that they understood what Nazism was. And even if they understood what Nazism was, there is no evidence that they sympathized with it. Nazism was hostile to East-Europeans.

The first European anti-Jewish law, preventing the Jews from working in the professions was not passed in Germany, but in Hungary in 1935.

10. Synagogues burned in Berlin before they burned in Eastern Europe. It is illusory to look for indigenous causes for burning synagogues in Riga.

Synagogues have traditionally burned through out eastern Europe as a whole in times of economic or ethnic strife. E.g.Many of the original Jewish emigrants to the US and later Palestine were refugees from the Galician pogroms in the late 19th century.

All “eyewitness” observations are always amendable by other observations.

Well, yes, obviously. But what’s the point he’s trying to make here and with this:

Spontaneity is not a word that can be applied to a complicated event such as the Holocaust.?

Eastern Europe, especially the Baltics, for historical reasons were Germanophobic, hence Nazification could have occurred there, if at all, only after German occupation. As a colonized country could never be an imperial country, a Nazi occupied country could not be a Nazi country. For one,Germans would not have allowed it.

Large German minorities lived peacefully and prosperously in Czechoslovakia, Romania and Hungary for over 200 years. Although many Swabians and saxons were expelled post-war from their anchestral homes by such measures as the Benes Declaration post-war, this was more evidence of directives from Moscow than any “Germanophobia” Pre 1939, extreme nationalism (which incorporated anti-semitism of course). was in ascendency throughout the region. The nazis, therefore faced very little resistance (with the honourable exception of Poland) in this part of Europe.

Pēteris Cedriņš said...

O'Neill -- I think you're mixing and matching Eastern and Central Europe. Please follow the link to the full text. As to there being a jigsaw of national entities, indeed -- Estonia was the first country to grant full cultural autonomy to Jews, for example. Latvia had no numerus clausus, took in Jews fleeing Poland, etc. Frank Gordon, a Tel Aviv journalist, has a lengthy study of Latvian-Jewish relations here. The Nazis "faced very little resistance" in the Baltics because our countries had already been raped, and people being raped tend to look anywhere for rescue, even to another rapist. In other writings, Ezergailis points to the main song of the Legion -- "we'll beat the lice-ridden ones [the Russians] and then the gray-blue ones [the Germans]." It sounds more realistic if one remembers that Latvia had been born through the defeat of both only two decades before.

Chekist -- They must have been in the country before 1940 in that case, which isn’t typical. Before 1940 or descended from a citizen, mostly the latter. "Typical" means what? About 60% of the ethnic Russians in Daugavpils held Latvian citizenship already in 1993, long before naturalization got underway. Furthermore, even non-citizens' children get Latvian citizenship without passing any tests.

In Latvia as a whole, as of April this year, there were 652 204 ethnic Russians. 362 902 of them were Latvian citizens. Last time I checked, about 120 000 people had naturalized, not all of them ethnic Russians. Do the math yourself -- being Russian and holding citizenship by descent is hardly atypical; if you add those who have naturalized, most Russians hold Latvian citizenship.

You use the word "disenfranchised." Those without citizenship never held Latvian citizenship. You can say that people had every right to oppose this country's very existence, but I would remind you of the circumstances in which they did so -- that is, in a totalitarian system, in occupied territory, whilst OMON troops were terrorizing Rīga. Their rights are respected -- Zhdanok is an MEP.

By the way, your hypocrisy is hilarious. In another post, you write that "the [Irish] language has no practical role to play in areas of public life," opposing "Irish speaking provisions for government departments dealing with the public etc." as wasteful. As it happens, the state language in Latvia is Latvian (a language that's rather more viable, though I definitely support the efforts to resuscitate Irish). Russian plays an important role, but a majority of the population speaks Latvian and Russians should learn and are learning the national language (and nearly 9 out of 10 Russians agree that they ought to know Latvian). There was a prolonged and exceedingly unpleasant experience of asymmetrical bilingualism here, and even now it is often easier to be a Russophone than a Lettophone in urban areas. Québec, not even a sovereign country, also has stringent language laws -- though many aren't fond of Loi 101, not many would claim that Canada isn't a civil society.

Your repeated attempts to suggest that Latvia doesn't meet European standards for the protection of minorities doesn't wash -- Europe has rule of law, and those claiming to be discriminated against can take their case to the ECHR in Strasbourg, as many do. In Zhdanok's case, the court took into account what totalitarianism was.

When you write of "norms," you neglect to define what national minorities are -- Turks in Germany, Arabs in Belgium, etc., don't come under that heading in terms of the Framework Convention. Unlike the Soviet colonists, most of them entered their countries of residence by invitation. What's the official language in Antwerp?

As to the behavior of the fans here and alleged police brutality -- now, now, coming from the country that gave the world the RUC, you must be an expert on the latter! My wife was indeed in Rīga, and I don't appreciate being called a liar; our views defintely diverge, but I don't doubt your integrity. She found your post highly amusing. Look, you yourself admit to "an increasing element of uncouth louts following the Northern Ireland team abroad." Maybe she saw only them? We have no small number of our own uncouth louts here in Latvia, and I've not been to too many places that lack that element -- but we're really not accustomed to football orgies; the hockey championship, for example, was devoid of nastiness. As Aleks wrote about the fans in his post about the weekend, "they stood out from the calm, reserved Latvians." Call it culture clash.

Again, I certainly don't claim that Latvia, Latvian history, politics, policing, behavior, etc. are angelic, heavenly, or even hunky-dory. I even agreed that this is an uneasy democracy. I'd put the emphasis on the democracy, though. I think it's ridiculous to claim that because you haven't seen Russian extremists on your way to a football match before, there must be something wrong -- "where as large a minority feels aggrieved and where someone aligning themselves with Barkashov can gain support, there is a great deal of underlying discontentment" is one of the most ludicrous phrases I've read recently; can one then assume that everything in the UK is yet worse, since rather large numbers of people align themselves with the madder mullahs? Germany must be pretty uneasy, what with hordes of neo-Nazis and more arson attacks than Latvia has bonfires on solstice. In Spain, the Basques seem to be a bit aggrieved now and then. Madrid must be lagging behind European norms. Hey, how's Castilian-language education in Catalonia? And France -- it won't even sign the Framework Convention! It has no minorities -- those lovely scenes in the banlieues were just an illusion, and the Bretons are as French as Corsicans.

You write that "Northern Ireland has scrupulous equality legislation because of that very inter-communal violence" -- well, we don't have intercommunal violence! We believe in integration rather than in attempting balancing acts in a bicommunal nation-state; there are those who would like to see quotas, for example, or what you call "positive discrimination" (as in the police force that replaced the RUC) -- that's not the policy, though, and there is no one approach to divided societies, no panacea; "bilingual" Belgium, for example, is pretty much two countries, with the exception of Brussels (where Flemish is losing badly).

I had written that "shallow views like yours fail to take into account the major causes and factors involved, such as Russian imperialism" -- your response was that this is "indicative of nationalist evasion." You wrote: "All responsibility for ills in their own society is abdicated and blamed on the ex 'occupier'." You really don't read very closely -- nowhere do I blame all ills on anybody, and I try not to evade reasonable argument. Why do you put quotes around the "occupier"? As a chekist, you don't believe that the Baltic states were occupied?

My point is that the occupation was a major factor in the problems being discussed -- of course there are other factors, but the fact that Latvians nearly became a minority in Latvia, and did become a minority in most towns, most certainly is a major cause of the language problems, no? Invasions, deportations, colonization, and totalitarian rule have their effects. During the Khrushchev thaw, attempts were made to teach the colonists Latvian and gain a very limited autonomy -- the man behind them, Eduards Berklavs, was banished to Vladimir, and many "national communists" were purged; Berklavs became one of the founders of the right-wing LNNK in the 1980s.

Unlike you, I don't see a clear line between ethnic nationalism and civic nationalism. The Republic of Latvia was founded as a very liberal multinational democracy -- everyone who wanted citizenship got it, the 1919 law guaranteeing the right to education in minority languages was one of the first of its kind, Russian and German were spoken in the Parliament, broad cultural autonomy was granted to every minority, etc. This came to an end with Ulmanis' coup in 1934. In 1991, we restored the Republic -- though it's been amended, we use the 1920 Constitution.

"Neither do I have an axe to grind with Latvian statehood; although I do find the way it has been asserted an interesting study in the way settled minorities perceived as the oppressor are treated in newly independent states." What we asserted, in other words, was the restoration of the Republic proclaimed in 1918. The settled minorities received citizenship, even if they spoke no Latvian. How that came to be for so many goes back to occupation -- for example, there are nearly as many Poles in Daugavpils as there are Letts, but Stalin closed the Polish schools and therefore many were Russified.

Where we probably won't agree is on the definition of "settled." Those who arrived during the occupation need to naturalize, and knowing a couple of thousand words of the language and a bit of history is what we ask of them; someone who has really settled here ought to be able to do as much. Most don't think of individuals as oppressors, but I don't think that even you would argue that the Latvian culture and language were not oppressed by the Russian language and culture. My wife was beaten for speaking Latvian in the streetcar as a child.

Though there's certainly some resentment, and understandably so -- people get along quite well, as those marriage stats show (by contrast, inter-ethnic marriages declined precipitously when Yugoslavia fell apart... what are the rates between Catholics and Protestants in N.I., if I may ask?). Russian still retains such a status that not a few Russophones continue to live in their own world. I'm afraid that's not particularly healthy, o chekist. I have nothing against Russians or the Russian language, but I do think that I should be able to visit the pharmacy and use Latvian. To return to those factors -- yes, Russian imperialism is a major one; in case you haven't noticed, Russia is not especially democratic and is currently given to a type of nationalism at least as dangerous as any ethnic nationalism, namely a nostalgia for empire. Those Latvian Russians who live only in the Russian world also live in Russian media space -- it's full of lies like the one you told about the "desecration of Russian monuments." (I haven't noticed any monuments getting desecrated lately, and have some musings on the subject here... but I guess you call sacralizing a certain famous monument by moving it to a cemetery after ecumenical services a desecration?)

Well, I've run at the mouth. Suffice it to say that I agree with Aleks' assessment of your "horse manure." He's a Russophone, by the way. Speaking of civil societies, did you ever check the World Press Index from Reporters Without Borders? A few rankings --

1) Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands

6) Estonia

10) Hungary, Latvia, Portugal, Slovenia

Moving down the list...

27) Lithuania, United Kingdom

147) Russia

O'Neill said...

O'Neill -- I think you're mixing and matching Eastern and Central Europe. Please follow the link to the full text.

Ok I've read the full text of "Neighbors’ Didn’t Kill Jews".

His specific examples are indeed from Latvia, but he uses these to prove wider points re eastern europe reactions and opinions which I don't think are valid.

The 14 summary points also tend to refer to Eastern Europe as a whole and not specifically the baltics or Latvia.

I'll have aread of those other links thanks. Very interesting topic.

Chekist said...

“In Latvia as a whole, as of April this year, there were 652 204 ethnic Russians. 362 902 of them were Latvian citizens. Last time I checked, about 120 000 people had naturalized, not all of them ethnic Russians. Do the math yourself -- being Russian and holding citizenship by descent is hardly atypical; if you add those who have naturalized, most Russians hold Latvian citizenship.”

The maths seems fairly self-explanatory to me – 290,000 stateless people who have been long-term residents of the country.

“You use the word "disenfranchised." Those without citizenship never held Latvian citizenship.”

They were disenfranchised by the creation of the ethnic national Latvian state. How enfranchised they actually were in the latter days of the Soviet Union is a matter of debate, but they suffered no disparity with their ethnic Latvian neighbours.

“You can say that people had every right to oppose this country's very existence, but I would remind you of the circumstances in which they did so “

They still held those political views. To imply that they should be deprived of political freedom unless they accept your reading of history is rather prescriptive. You may sneer at Northern Ireland, but in this country not only do those that wish the destruction of the state have a political voice – they are also included in government.

“By the way, your hypocrisy is hilarious. In another post, you write that "the [Irish] language has no practical role to play in areas of public life," opposing "Irish speaking provisions for government departments dealing with the public etc." as wasteful. As it happens, the state language in Latvia is Latvian (a language that's rather more viable, though I definitely support the efforts to resuscitate Irish).”

No-one in Northern Ireland genuinely speaks Irish as a first language. No-one born here is discomfited by conducting their business in English. I fully support provision for those who have come here of recent years, in Mandarin / Polish etc, but the basis of language provision in public life should be utility.

“even now it is often easier to be a Russophone than a Lettophone in urban areas.”

Because there are more Russian speakers in urban areas.

“In Zhdanok's case, the court took into account what totalitarianism was.”

Which is indicative of the agenda of the European bodies. I ask you again to explain why so many human rights groups are concerned about the rights of sexual minorities in Latvia.

“Unlike the Soviet colonists, most of them entered their countries of residence by invitation.”

Populations are mobile for many reasons. I would imagine that most people from other parts of the Soviet Union came to Latvia for reasons of employment or economic betterment, not to subjugate the local population. You are conflating the culture and language of a minority group with the behaviour of a regime. Whatever the ills of the Soviet regime, these individuals deserve representation, participation and the right to maintain their culture, whether they embrace a Latvian identity or cleave to their own language and oppose Latvian statehood. That is the essence of a proper democracy.

“As to the behavior of the fans here and alleged police brutality -- now, now, coming from the country that gave the world the RUC, you must be an expert on the latter!”

The RUC were an exceptional professional force functioning under horrendous pressures and under constant threat of attack both on and off duty.

“My wife was indeed in Rīga, and I don't appreciate being called a liar; our views defintely diverge, but I don't doubt your integrity. She found your post highly amusing. Look, you yourself admit to "an increasing element of uncouth louts following the Northern Ireland team abroad." Maybe she saw only them?”

Ok, she was in Riga. And I have acknowledged that amongst our large crowd of supporters there were a few whose behaviour left something to be desired. There is a difference however, between rowdy yobbishness and deliberate destruction. Northern Ireland supporters certainly were not involved in the latter and if your wife thought as much she was clearly mistaken.

“but we're really not accustomed to football orgies”

I’m not accustomed to any type of orgies. It seems that your friend on the All About Latvia link objects to fun and colour.

“In a traditional Russian custom, the group gathered in spite of the ban by the Riga City Council and the denial of appeal by the Administrative Court”, that’s a rather sneering tone to adopt to an entire nationality. Is this an example of “pathological tolerance”?


“Again, I certainly don't claim that Latvia, Latvian history, politics, policing, behavior, etc. are angelic, heavenly, or even hunky-dory.”

Equally I didn’t suggest that everything in Latvia was rotten. On the contrary I admitted that I enjoyed my stay.

“I'd put the emphasis on the democracy, though.”

A democracy which excludes a substantial proportion of those who live within its boundaries.

“I think it's ridiculous to claim that because you haven't seen Russian extremists on your way to a football match before, there must be something wrong -- "where as large a minority feels aggrieved and where someone aligning themselves with Barkashov can gain support, there is a great deal of underlying discontentment" is one of the most ludicrous phrases I've read recently”

But you’ve admitted that there are flaws in Latvian society and you conceded that there is discontentment so whether the means by which I arrived by my conclusions are valid or not, the content certainly is.

“Hey, how's Castilian-language education in Catalonia?”

I don’t know and I don’t particularly care. Catalans can speak Spanish.

“And France -- it won't even sign the Framework Convention! It has no minorities -- those lovely scenes in the banlieues were just an illusion, and the Bretons are as French as Corsicans.”

Whether they are French or not isn’t an issue. I don’t accept nationality as the only means to order a state.

“We believe in integration rather than in attempting balancing acts in a bicommunal nation-state;”

Integration consists of excluding a large proportion of your population from the democratic process. That is coercion and enforcement rather than persuasion and inclusion.
.
“You really don't read very closely -- nowhere do I blame all ills on anybody”

I’m afraid you did. You explained the problems in present day Latvia simply by alluding to the Soviet occupation. It’s a stunning logical elision to claim that you aren’t therefore blaming the occupier.

“and I try not to evade reasonable argument. Why do you put quotes around the "occupier"?”

Because I was making a general comment about post-colonial narratives and the term “occupier” is contested in many places where these arguments are advanced.

“you don't believe that the Baltic states were occupied?”

I do.

“My point is that the occupation was a major factor in the problems being discussed-- of course there are other factors, but the fact that Latvians nearly became a minority in Latvia, and did become a minority in most towns, most certainly is a major cause of the language problems, no? Invasions, deportations, colonization, and totalitarian rule have their effects. During the Khrushchev thaw, attempts were made to teach the colonists Latvian and gain a very limited autonomy “

Having observed the attempts to destroy Latvian culture the response becomes an attempt to marginalise and destroy another culture within Latvia. The methods may not be the same, but the intent is.

“The Republic of Latvia was founded as a very liberal multinational democracy -- everyone who wanted citizenship got it,”

Everyone prepared to adhere to your prescriptive citizenship laws got it. That is not the same thing. That is the same as saying “my way or the highway”.

“The settled minorities received citizenship, even if they spoke no Latvian.”

Only if your definition of settled means prior to 1919.


“but I don't think that even you would argue that the Latvian culture and language were not oppressed by the Russian language and culture. My wife was beaten for speaking Latvian in the streetcar as a child.”

And now the boot is on the other foot. The lesson learnt from the oppression of one culture is that in order to rejuvenate it should oppress another. Demanding language skills for employment is a different thing to demanding them for citizenship and therefore linking political representation to those skills.

“( what are the rates between Catholics and Protestants in N.I., if I may ask?)”

In the region of 12%. But given that the statistic is influenced by religious belief as well as cross-community relations the comparison is disingenuous.

“I have nothing against Russians or the Russian language, but “

A rather instructive phrase on which to conclude I would venture.

Aleks said...

I find it mildly amusing how one can suggest that in he Soviet Union the mobility of the population was dictated by such goals as jobs and economic betterment as it does in the European Union. The core difference between the two entities is that one is based on democratic principles while another one was based on totalitarianism. I'll let you decide which is which.

In the late 1980s, the city fathers, communists and all, proposed we build the subway, or the Underground for those of you in Britain and Northern Ireland. The party chief here got a blessing of the Big Men in Moscow and received the money for the project.

The people were against it.

They weren't against constructing the underground transportation system for the betterment of the city. They were against the large influx of the population from other parts of the Soviet Union who would come and settle here only to make the Latvian-Russian situation even worse. That, in part, was the beginning of the country's independence.

People who came here were transfered here by the party bosses. They stayed here without knowing the language or even bothering to learn it. Pretty much like one would in Ireland, where now you have no need for the Irish language. People came here, not bothering to know the history, the culture and the language. Period.

They were considered immigrants once the Soviet Union fell apart. To become a citizen, they had to go through naturalization which requires the language test. Some of the people I know naturalized and they say the language test is at the fifth-grade level. And excuse me, if you consider Latvia your home, if you had grown up here, there shouldn't be any problems passing the language test at the naturalization.

As it's been mentioned the citizenship is not based on ethnicity. The Russian side of my family are all citizens by descent. We've lived in Eastern Latvia for centuries. Majority of ethnic Russians are now citizens. Those who are not can become citizens after going through naturalization process. Being born here or there has nothing to do with citizenship.

"I’m not accustomed to any type of orgies. It seems that your friend on the All About Latvia link objects to fun and colour."

Not at all. I merely observed what I saw. From a side, a loud group of drunken Irish fans moving along the city streets holding bottles of beer in their hands stood out from usually quiet reserved Latvians. It was obvious at the stadium during the game. The Irish side was loud, the Latvian side was quiet. Things have changed when the Northern Irish scored on themselves, but even then Latvians didn't beat Northern Irish in their loudness.

It was not an objection of any kind, but rather an observation. Were my observations wrong?

Aleks said...

"Having observed the attempts to destroy Latvian culture the response becomes an attempt to marginalise and destroy another culture within Latvia."

Can one destroy the culture of a country that takes 9 time zones? And also why is it that it is the Russians that complain about language laws, etc? What about the small Pole minority? Lithuanian? Roma? Why do those minorities manage to integrate into Latvian society without losing their own national identity, language and culture? But if local Russians were to do the same, somehow they'd lose their own national identity, culture and the very rich language....

martins said...

In the region of 12%. But given that the statistic is influenced by religious belief as well as cross-community relations the comparison is disingenuous.

-are you unaware that religious differences exist in latvia as well? in addition to Catholics and protestants we have russian orthodox.

-martins

Chekist said...

Of course I am aware of that. Religion is nevertheless not as pivotal an issue as in Ireland and religious participation is much lower (a rather beneficial aspect of Soviet rule).

martins said...

your answer is pretty weak, adding no facts on the latvian situation other than your opinion, invalidating your claim that such comparisons are disingenous.

-m

Chekist said...

My point is that religious belief is a strong disincentive for intermarriage in Northern Ireland. It is not so in Latvia.

7% of the Latvian population attend church services every week. 61% of women and 35% of men are regular churchgoers in Northern Ireland (sadly).

Pēteris Cedriņš said...

They were disenfranchised by the creation of the ethnic national Latvian state. How enfranchised they actually were in the latter days of the Soviet Union is a matter of debate, but they suffered no disparity with their ethnic Latvian neighbours.

It's not an "ethnic national state," and that has been proven to you numerous times in these comments. Furthermore, the state wasn't created -- it was restored. I took the time to provide some details to explain why that matters. The state was created in 1918, and the Constitution explicitly states that power is vested in the people of Latvia rather than the Latvian people -- that's not a semantic triviality (esp. in Latvian) but an intentional precision. The very first speech given by the PM at the proclamation of the Republic included a call to persons of every ethnicity to participate in building the Republic.

Latvia was brutally occupied in 1940, and those who arrived during the occupation are asked to naturalize.

I had written:

"The settled minorities received citizenship, even if they spoke no Latvian."

You responded:

"Only if your definition of settled means prior to 1919."

No, 1940. And some of those who arrived during the occupation are also settled, and they can confirm this by naturalizing. Over 120 000 persons have done so. The rest are permanent residents and enjoy a broad array of rights. They lack the right to vote. Most countries don't permit non-citizens to vote.

"And now the boot is on the other foot. The lesson learnt from the oppression of one culture is that in order to rejuvenate it should oppress another. Demanding language skills for employment is a different thing to demanding them for citizenship and therefore linking political representation to those skills."

This is a distortion. Many countries require knowledge of the national language for naturalization -- in fact, even Russia requires it. Citizenship doesn't require language skills here -- naturalization does. There's a big difference, as has already been explained to you. Most ethnic Russians in Daugavpils, for example, received citizenship without taking any tests.

I like the technique of lobbing off half a sentence and then calling others disingenuous and talking about logical elision. Sorry, but to say that the boot's on the other foot is disingenuous -- unlike the USSR, Latvia has rule of law, democratic institutions, and a civil society. We don't oppress people, and two "Russian" parties are represented in Parliament.

I know perfectly well that most Russophones came to occupied Latvia without bad intentions as individuals (as a matter of fact, it often wasn't their choice to come). The effect of mass migration is a different matter, however -- and please remember that many people went the other way, too, mostly by being herded into cattle cars. The result was a Sovietized and heavily Russified country. Just as property was restored to its owners, so the nation-state was restored to its citizens. This is not only a matter of what you refer to as historical interpretation -- it's a matter of law. The last Supreme Soviet was elected when even Russian soldiers and KGBeshniks could vote. It voted to restore the Republic. It passed the first language law. An attempt was made by some to extend the franchise to non-citizens. That attempt failed on the principle that only the Saeima, the restored Parliament, could enlarge the body politic. The question, in other words, was and is a question of enfranchisement, not disenfranchisement.

“even now it is often easier to be a Russophone than a Lettophone in urban areas.”

"Because there are more Russian speakers in urban areas."

Obviously -- but also because of asymmetrical bilingualism, linguistic imperialism, Russian chauvinism, education policies imposed during the occupation, etc.

“In Zhdanok's case, the court took into account what totalitarianism was.”

"Which is indicative of the agenda of the European bodies. I ask you again to explain why so many human rights groups are concerned about the rights of sexual minorities in Latvia."

You're saying that the judges in the Grand Chamber of the ECHR twist the law in order to advance some Russophobic agenda? Sorry, but I don't believe that -- the laws and the courts are a cornerstone of the Europe we are building, and the building seems pretty sound to me.

Many human rights bodies are concerned about LGBT rights in Latvia because Latvia, like much of Eastern Europe, is dangerously homophobic. I've written about aspects of this here and here. The law, however, works -- Latvia's Constitutional Court ruled in favor of the LGBT activists, for example, in a broad ruling regarding freedom of assembly, and the LGBT pride events took place this summer. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, the former President, refused to sign legislation that did not include protections for sexual minorities among those for other minorities.

This really is getting diffuse -- it's difficult to discuss "the Russian problem" if we also have to discuss the Nazi occupation and now gay rights. If you mean to expand this discussion to cover bigotry of all types, check the log in your own eye -- "Study Says Northern Ireland Most Bigoted Place in Western World."

“The Republic of Latvia was founded as a very liberal multinational democracy -- everyone who wanted citizenship got it,”

"Everyone prepared to adhere to your prescriptive citizenship laws got it. That is not the same thing. That is the same as saying 'my way or the highway'."

A stunning example of your sloppy reading skills, sorry -- I make it quite clear that I am referring to the founding of the Republic of Latvia in 1918, which was followed by the introduction of citizenship laws that basically gave citizenship to everyone and the first truly free elections in our history, to the Constituent Assembly in 1920. The Republic wasn't founded in 1991 -- it was restored, and the 1993 elections were to the Fifth Saeima, not the First.

Since you do agree that Latvia was occupied, you should be able to see the logic in the course we have pursued, even if you disagree with it. I have many friends who detest the language laws, the citizenship laws, etc. In my view, however, it was and is necessary to settle upon the rather broad way towards reconstructing a liberal democracy. This is not about putting the boot on the other foot -- it's about building a country we can all live in together. I think you're projecting your own politics onto a country you know little about. To write about Westminster when I obviously meant Stormont is indicative -- what would the comparison be, to Latvia? The suggestion that we had representation via Goldmanis and Zālītis, in the Duma in St. Petersburg in 1915, maybe!?

The decision re Zhdanok, which I would recommend reading, involved her continued membership in the Party after the OMON attacks began. Such people were and are barred from candidacy (though not for the EP, where she works hard against the country she theoretically represents). You can look upon this as undemocratic -- but I and the judges in Strasbourg do not. I see it as being as "undemocratic" as banning Nazis from candidacy in Germany after the War. That you include those who would destroy your country in the Government is the result of a very different history -- and a society far more bitterly divided than Latvia's is. As I said, we don't have intercommunal violence. We would like to avoid coming to that pass.

I live in the first house in Daugavpils to be returned to its rightful owner, a woman who did eight years of hard labor in Siberia and saw the inside of most every major Soviet prison. I do not consider drawing a line through the continuity of the Republic and starting from scratch as "a former Soviet republic" any fairer than saying well, life changed, stay in your khrushchovka and let the descendants of the KGB officer who deprived you of your home continue to enjoy it. Naturally, life did change -- there's no way to turn back the clock. But that does not mean that one has to divvy up Latvia between homines sovietici and those who want to see a truly independent European democracy. One needs to think about collective rights whilst protecting and enhancing individual rights.

I often quote Dominique Arel to stimulate discussion, from Gagnon and Tully's Multinational Democracies(Cambridge, 2001), on the idea that multinational states can be politically stable "but not because of the deceptively appealing concept of the civic state, which glosses over the important issues." States can be stable when they "reverse assimilatory trends," which "can be obtained through 'politically incorrect' means, such as closing all Castilian-language schools in Barcelona and eliminating freedom of choice in the language of instruction for immigrant parents in Montreal."

Your country (or the Fourth Green Field [grin]), born of a horrible imperialism and an inability to overcome its legacy, is not one I look to for an instructive stability -- we don't have to build high walls or fortify police stations. Indeed, religion doubtless makes comparison impossible -- but then we have the language factor, whilst (as you say) Irish is nearly dead. Who's to say what differences are more easily bridged -- a prospective spouse's mother tongue or religious denomination. Historically, there was considerable tension between Catholics and Protestants in Latvia, too -- this didn't prevent the mostly Catholic Latgallians from seeking a union with Latvia in 1917. My point is that we have managed to restore the Republic without violence.

I would look more closely at the idea that Russian is being marginalized. Latvian was increasingly marginalized during the occupation -- many of the political leaders of the "republic" could not or did not use it, for instance. I already mentioned what happened when some took advantage of Stalin's death to try to rectify that situation -- another aspect of that episode ties in with what Aleks is saying; an attempt was made to limit industrialization and its attendant Russification even then. These attempts were quashed. One of the first major events during the awakening, besides the opposition to the underground that Aleks mentions, was the successful protest against building a dam here in Daugavpils, for the same reasons -- environmental concerns and opposition to further immigration.

The reality was that Latvia had no control over its own territory, obviously. It's not a booted foot that asks the Russophones to learn the national language. Learning and using Latvian, the language of the majority, does indeed entail a marginalization of Russian -- we have only one state language, and this is the will of a significant majority. Again, that's because of bitter experience with asymmetrical bilingualism. The marginalization of Russian -- i.e., reversing the increasing domination of Russian at the expense of Latvian -- doesn't mean that Russians are being marginalized. As I suggested before, look to Québec; a strong majority in that province (within the most civil of societies) feels the need to protect the position of French, this despite the fact that the demographics and dynamics are far more favorable to French than they are to Latvian in Latvia, and that French is a major language.

There are no easy solutions to these problems. There's certainly no "one size fits all" solution. I doubt very much if Arabic will be granted official language status in a European country anytime soon, for instance -- ahistorical solutions aren't workable. The protection of minorities, realistically, requires integration -- the Baltic states in the 1920s tried a hyper-liberal approach to separate communities, treating them as units, and I will go out on a limb to question the successes, the failures, and indeed the very liberalism of that approach.

Opposition to the education reform in Latvia (which has pretty much melted away) is a case in point -- "Russian schools -- our Stalingrad!" Though the reform was rather botched and a lot of questions enter into this, the fact is that Shtab, with its love for military terminology, was much more concerned with ethnic/imperialistic politics than it was with education. Here and there, protesters carried Latvian flags with the Russian flag sewn in where the starry blue field is in Old Glory -- asked to explain, they said they wanted their corner of Latvia. Well and good, except that corners lead to ghettos and a ghetto mentality -- one that's pretty apparent in the Six Counties, eh?

I think Latvia's vision of integration is far more appropriate to our society, which ought to be a society and not in the plural -- a multicultural, multilingual, democratic society in which the state language is Latvian, people respect others' origins and tongues, and divides are less important than the common good. Though the policies in place have defects, I think the main thing is that they're working -- it's easier to be a happy Lettophone than it was 17 years ago, and the happy Russophone simply ignores the demonstration by addled Barkashovists; the younger generation of Russophones is increasingly bilingual (and trilingual), and "marginalization" mostly means the abandonment of a conquerors' mentality.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you have people interested in the destruction of your country in Government because you are forced to, in pretty much the same way Macedonia changed its tune after NATO flew in -- the Irish Nationalists compelled the British Government to negotiate with terrorists, and the international community, tired of a Lebanon in Europe's midst, made you create a fragile system that balances communities violently at odds with each other. I suspect that you even project "unionism" onto Soviet "unionists," as per some of what you write. One of the differences is that Britain is indeed a cradle of democracy -- the Russian Empire/USSR/RF was and is not, and to be blunt: I think I can say that Russians are better off in Latvia than they are in Russia, in very real ways.

Latvia is a nation-state, an EU Member State, and a troubled but essentially democratic country. It is not Belarus, which it quite possibly would have become had circumstances been shifted by a millimeter. Freedom was attained through the efforts of Latvians, and in this sense that includes many Russophones and many an ethnicity.

By the way, a simple question -- why do you use the name "chekist"?

Chekov said...

I”t's not an "ethnic national state," and that has been proven to you numerous times in these comments.”

It is an national ethnic state. It is based on an idea of nationality derived from the language and culture of one ethnic group and the supremacy of that language and culture is asserted in law.

“Furthermore, the state wasn't created -- it was restored. I took the time to provide some details to explain why that matters. The state was created in 1918, and the Constitution explicitly states that power is vested in the people of Latvia rather than the Latvian people -- that's not a semantic triviality (esp. in Latvian) but an intentional precision. The very first speech given by the PM at the proclamation of the Republic included a call to persons of every ethnicity to participate in building the Republic.”

The reality is that persons of every ethnicity are only welcome to participate in building the republic if they conform to the idea of Latvia conceived by ethnic nationalists.

“No, 1940. And some of those who arrived during the occupation are also settled, and they can confirm this by naturalizing. Over 120 000 persons have done so. The rest are permanent residents and enjoy a broad array of rights. They lack the right to vote. Most countries don't permit non-citizens to vote.”

Most countries don’t deny people who have been resident since 1940 citizenship. Once again we have you prescribing what defines “settled” with nationalist criteria of language and politics.

“This is a distortion. Many countries require knowledge of the national language for naturalization -- in fact, even Russia requires it. Citizenship doesn't require language skills here -- naturalization does. There's a big difference, as has already been explained to you. Most ethnic Russians in Daugavpils, for example, received citizenship without taking any tests.”

Most countries are dealing with recent immigrants who didn’t arrive at a time when the country they are living in was an integral part of their state.

“I like the technique of lobbing off half a sentence and then calling others disingenuous and talking about logical elision. Sorry, but to say that the boot's on the other foot is disingenuous -- unlike the USSR, Latvia has rule of law, democratic institutions, and a civil society. We don't oppress people, and two "Russian" parties are represented in Parliament. “

You deny long term residents political rights by prescriptively deeming their language and views unacceptable. You make the acceptance of certain nationalist tenets a pre-requisite to fully participate in Latvian society. You give representation to people whose families have been in the country for 70 years or who agree to fulfil your nationalist requirements. Latvia is a “managed democracy” in the most blatant sense.

“The effect of mass migration is a different matter, however -- and please remember that many people went the other way, too, mostly by being herded into cattle cars. The result was a Sovietized and heavily Russified country. Just as property was restored to its owners, so the nation-state was restored to its citizens. This is not only a matter of what you refer to as historical interpretation -- it's a matter of law. The last Supreme Soviet was elected when even Russian soldiers and KGBeshniks could vote. It voted to restore the Republic. It passed the first language law. An attempt was made by some to extend the franchise to non-citizens. That attempt failed on the principle that only the Saeima, the restored Parliament, could enlarge the body politic. The question, in other words, was and is a question of enfranchisement, not disenfranchisement.”

The question is one of 280,000 people being denied political rights in a country in which they have been long-term residents.

“You're saying that the judges in the Grand Chamber of the ECHR twist the law in order to advance some Russophobic agenda? Sorry, but I don't believe that -- the laws and the courts are a cornerstone of the Europe we are building, and the building seems pretty sound to me.”

I’m saying not only that, I’m saying that Estonia and Latvia were seceded with unseemly haste and before their record in human rights was acceptable in order to extend the EU to Russia’s borders.

“A stunning example of your sloppy reading skills, sorry -- I make it quite clear that I am referring to the founding of the Republic of Latvia in 1918, which was followed by the introduction of citizenship laws that basically gave citizenship to everyone and the first truly free elections in our history, to the Constituent Assembly in 1920. The Republic wasn't founded in 1991 -- it was restored, and the 1993 elections were to the Fifth Saeima, not the First.”

There was not a continuity between that short-lived republic and the present one no matter what nationalist semantics are employed. The demographics of the country had changed substantially and over 50 years had elapsed.

“I think you're projecting your own politics onto a country you know little about. To write about Westminster when I obviously meant Stormont is indicative -- what would the comparison be, to Latvia? The suggestion that we had representation via Goldmanis and Zālītis, in the Duma in St. Petersburg in 1915, maybe!?”

I was not drawing comparisons. I was directly addressing a point after YOU had brought Northern Ireland into the argument. The majority of people in Northern Ireland recognise the Westminster Parliament as the sovereign parliament of this country. That is a fact. Therefore we certainly were not without a parliament until recently.


“The decision re Zhdanok, which I would recommend reading, involved her continued membership in the Party after the OMON attacks began. Such people were and are barred from candidacy (though not for the EP, where she works hard against the country she theoretically represents).”
She represents a substantial number of residents in that country. She dissents from the nationalist perspective and is therefore barred from participating in domestic politics. That is analogous to a person of Indian origin in Scotland being debarred from representing the SNP at Westminster because they desire the break-up of the UK.


“You can look upon this as undemocratic -- but I and the judges in Strasbourg do not. I see it as being as "undemocratic" as banning Nazis from candidacy in Germany after the War. That you include those who would destroy your country in the Government is the result of a very different history -- and a society far more bitterly divided than Latvia's is. As I said, we don't have intercommunal violence. We would like to avoid coming to that pass.”

There was no desire for intercommunal violence from the vast majority here either, but denying political representation is the type of oppression that foments such violence.

“that does not mean that one has to divvy up Latvia between homines sovietici and those who want to see a truly independent European democracy. One needs to think about collective rights whilst protecting and enhancing individual rights.”

In a true European democracy it means allowing both political representation and winning the political argument. The latter sentence encapsulates the limitations of newly triumphant nationalism. Even a committed nationalist like WB Yeats was forced eventually into disillusionment with the Republic of Ireland, conceding that nationalism’s inevitable course was to subjugate the needs of the individual to the community.

“I often quote Dominique Arel to stimulate discussion, from Gagnon and Tully's Multinational Democracies(Cambridge, 2001), on the idea that multinational states can be politically stable "but not because of the deceptively appealing concept of the civic state, which glosses over the important issues." States can be stable when they "reverse assimilatory trends," which "can be obtained through 'politically incorrect' means, such as closing all Castilian-language schools in Barcelona and eliminating freedom of choice in the language of instruction for immigrant parents in Montreal."”

So that’d be like the Russification and Sovietisation policies of the USSR then?

““Your country (or the Fourth Green Field [grin]), born of a horrible imperialism and an inability to overcome its legacy, is not one I look to for an instructive stability -- we don't have to build high walls or fortify police stations. Indeed, religion doubtless makes comparison impossible”

It was you who raised the comparison with Northern Ireland Peteres. Obviously I don’t agree with your assessments but I see little point in discussing N Ireland on this thread.

I read and enjoyed your long argument for integration. But I couldn’t help but notice the delicious irony that it was Soviet attempts at integration (and I appreciate the methods) were more brutal, that you most stringently oppose. As is the case with all nationalists, there is no consistency there, simply a religious conviction that whichever idea of a nation they cleave to and its supposed national territory are inviolable.

“By the way, a simple question -- why do you use the name "chekist"?”

An allusion to Vladimir Putin. I’ve now changed the name as it was doubtless insensitive and ill-conceived.

Giustino said...

Whatever the ills of the Soviet regime, these individuals deserve representation, participation and the right to maintain their culture, whether they embrace a Latvian identity or cleave to their own language and oppose Latvian statehood. That is the essence of a proper democracy.

They also enjoy the right to be thought of as rude, boorish, insulting and downright stupid, as in all proper democracies. ;)

In the US, there have been times that I have wondered of the capacity of the state to continue along. But recognized statehood creates a mighty force in history.

I guess the same could be said for Ireland. In 1916 perhaps the idea that Ireland would leave the British Empire and form its own republic seemed highly questionable. In 2007, the idea that Ireland would rejoin the British empire in an era of devolution seems laughable.

In 1920, the idea that Iceland would achieve true independence from Denmark was questionable. In 2007, the world without an Icelandic state seems somehow less fun :)

This is the very nature of the settlement of 1918.

If we look back at the seas of history we can see quite clearly that following some major revolutions in the 19th century -- rise in literacy, industrialization, urbanization of population -- the imperial construct of European society was dead.

This was brought to the fore in 1914 and the outbreak of the first world war. After that deadly and insane conflict, solutions were ironed out in Versailles and in Brest-Litovsk that the former imperial masters accepted in a moment of exasperation with conflict that allowed them to quickly return to peace.

And there was no war in Europe from 1920 to 1940 while the new codes of self-determination were adhered to. It was only in 1939, when Mr. Hitler and Mr. Stalin decided to try and undo Versailles and Brest-Litovsk and Tartu and all the other treaties that a new, deadly war over land and power erupted.

The post war settlement left Stalin successful with that attempt. But Stalinism's attempt to decapitate subject countries by murdering their intellectual classes began to be overturned the day after the war ended and new babies were born. Because you really can't arrest intellectual development, and the seas of history once again intervened, carrying forth such ideas as Latvian statehood.

In 1989-1991, the USSR somewhat wisely understood this. They understood that a new continental war, like the one in 1914 and the one in 1939, was inherently stupid and ultimately detrimental to the lasting European peace.

They, in essence, capitulated on their European front (not in Chechnya obviously) to the new European principles established in 1918. These principles -- of national self-determination -- have served the continent quite well.

When my forefathers left Italy in the 1910s and 20s, Europe was poor, backwards, and subject to constant conflict between poorly constructed multi-national empires over ports and rivers and valleys and islands.

When I went back to Europe in 2001, I found a continent that seemed far more forward thinking and progressive and safe (this was autumn 2001 afterall) than the one I left behind.

So my question to you is, why do you even bother to question the lasting peace of 1918? Why undo nearly a century of the right idea?

Chekov said...

“ guess the same could be said for Ireland. In 1916 perhaps the idea that Ireland would leave the British Empire and form its own republic seemed highly questionable. In 2007, the idea that Ireland would rejoin the British empire in an era of devolution seems laughable.”
Ireland was not part of the British Empire in 1916, it was a functioning and represented component of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Today that situation still pertains in Northern Ireland.

“o my question to you is, why do you even bother to question the lasting peace of 1918? Why undo nearly a century of the right idea?”
You proceed to describe a century of war and turmoil and then pronounce a lasting peace! Wilsonianism was a major contributor to that century of mayhem. Ethnic nationalism and the will to fracture states into smaller and yet smaller entities continues to wreak havoc in many parts of the globe and its last burst of destructive energy in Europe is scarcely 10 years behind us!

Indeed only as states have begun to surrender sovereignty to supranational bodies such as the EU (or have begun to aspire to such an outcome) has something like equilibrium returned to Europe.

Pēteris Cedriņš said...

I’m saying not only that, I’m saying that Estonia and Latvia were seceded [sic!] with unseemly haste and before their record in human rights was acceptable in order to extend the EU to Russia’s borders.

Have you thought about getting a job in the field of polittekhnologiya? It's an open field, no qualifications required. All you need is hubris and a talent for distorting reality and history. I do believe that Finland borders Russia, my dear former chekist, and that it was in the EU for a bit, before we entered. Hey, it stands diabolically at the gates of long-suffering St. Petersburg.

I no longer have anything to add to this discussion and am gaining nothing, so I shall withdraw. I see little point in discussing what's "acceptable" in human rights with someone who lauds the EU on the one hand but has such deep doubts about the bases of European law on the other -- not when you have such difficulty with elementary facts. I tried very hard to talk about meaningful specifics, chekov/chekist. I shall now return to my nice liberal town with no need for walls -- please enjoy your Good Friday Agreement.

Giustino said...

You proceed to describe a century of war and turmoil and then pronounce a lasting peace! Wilsonianism was a major contributor to that century of mayhem.

Peace without victors was not achieved in 1918. Hence 1939. Other than that I disagree. There have been relatively few conflicts since 1945. Let's compare this scenario to the 17th through 19th Centuries when empires existed in some ways for the purpose of continuous warfare in Europe.

I mean how long exactly were the British and the Dutch at war? Did they ever really stop being at war, or did one just slither away to Aruba and forget its plans for world domination altogether?

Ethnic nationalism and the will to fracture states into smaller and yet smaller entities continues to wreak havoc in many parts of the globe and its last burst of destructive energy in Europe is scarcely 10 years behind us!

That wasn't destructive energy. That was one crumbling 1914-style empire, officially multinational but with one at the top, the Serbs, trying to fight against Wilsonianism.

Indeed only as states have begun to surrender sovereignty to supranational bodies such as the EU (or have begun to aspire to such an outcome) has something like equilibrium returned to Europe.

That is exactly the point! Montenegro's statehood was achieved through that very Wilsonian, internationalized way.

I am not saying that Wilson was 100 percent correct. But I am saying that the imperial interpretation of Europe is dead. So I guess it's still dying for Serbia. Let's see what happens with Kosovo.

Chekov said...

An interesting (and totally neutral) post on tripadviser about your "nice liberal town".

Latviantourist I have also had a thread deleted for no apparent reason. My thread also detailed the level of violence/intimidation we saw.

We were inside Delacys bar when england played Israel in march.
There was also a large group of both irish and scottish fans inside all singing songs together and generally having a good time.

When i went outside for a cigarette i was amazed to see approx 50-70 latvian police lining the opposite side of the road all with Long riot batons and 2 police vans on either side of the street. This was extremely menacing and very scary, so unfortunatly the response of the latvian police comes as no suprise to me they seem to have no idea how to control crowds, from reading this forum posts and my experience violence towards certain age/gender/type of people seems to be a way of life for Latvians.

My post also agreed that Latvia is without doubt the most corrupt and menacing place i have ever been. I saw a guy get hit with a baseball bat outside a bar and when the police turned up 30 minutes later they didnt even get out of the car! they just spoke to the bouncers of the bar and then drove off. They guy who had been hit was in the back of the bar bleeding all over.

Tripadvisor - Get the truth and go - Unless the truth is about how bad latvia is and then it will just get deleted.

And before Anyone starts ranting about how bad english/british citys are - can i just say that i have been to many citys (including London many times) in England/ireland/wales and scotland and never seen anything like what i saw in Riga and all my friends agreed also.

martins said...

its more than laughable that you're using tripadvisor as evidence of violence in Riga.

shall we google up any number of british towns and violence?

you cant expect anyone to take what you've posted seriously.

I didnt read anyone denying that there is violence in riga, that there are law-enforcement problems, ect. ect. peteris' linked to several posts he wrote lamenting and attacking the sick homophobia present in the country.



-m