October 18, 2006 (the date of publication in Russian)

Victor Guschin


NATO's summit to be hosted by a state where ethnic cleansing is daily practice

Since 1991, the Latvian state has been focused on establishing a so-called "Lettish Latvia". In the national history, there was already one attempt to build up an ethnically homogenous society here – namely, after Carlis Ulmanis's coup d'etat of May 15, 1934. That attempt, which definitely followed the pattern of Adolf Hitler's "Aryan nation", resulted not only in elimination of democracy but eventually in the collapse of Latvia's first statehood.



The alliance of political forces, raising the motto of a "Latvia for Letts" in early 1930s, included Pērkonkrusts ("Iron Cross"), an association of Latvian fascists, officially established on January 19, 1932.

Emerging originally under the name of "Latviešu tautas apvienības Ugunskrusts", this organization inherited its radical nationalist ideas from the Riga-based National Club of 1920s. The central idea was that Latvia is a state of Letts, and therefore, the interests of the titular people are superior to those of any minorities in politics, as well as in business and culture. In its cradle, the radical nationalist movement was both anti-Russian and anti-German, condemning not only the long-time rule of the Russian empire but also the seven-century Germanic domination in the area. However, this anti-German sentiment was later not an obstacle for sympathy with the Nazi, as Pērkonkrusts shared the Nazi ideas not only on the Slavs but equally on the Jews.

On April 12, 1933, Pērkonkrusts' activity was officially forbidden by Latvia's Government. Thirteen months later, Ulmanis's coup d'etat, establishing an authoritarian and ethnocratic regime, absorbed Pērkonkrusts' views as a central concept, indicates historian Janis Siels in his introduction to Armands Paeglis's research "Pērkonkrusts pār Latviju. 1932-1944" (Riga, 2005).



The rightist nationalist wing of the new political establishment, misleading the non-Letts and thus seizing power in 1991, promptly undertook a new attempt of a "Lettish Latvian" utopia. Pērkonkrusts' ideas were again in demand; the revival of Ulmanis's cult naturally coincided with both Russo- and Judophobia, while the new court historians started a revision of the whole history of the Letts for the needs of ethnocracy. They tried to whitewash not only Ulmanis's dictatorship, describing it as "humane and tolerant" (The History of Latvia, Riga, 2005, p.168), but also the Nazi occupation, and smearing any fact of history, somehow related to the Soviet period of Latvia. From this standpoint, they insist that it was the Soviet policy of 1940-41 to blame for the involvement of a lot of Letts in Waffen-SS and for extermination of Jews, and not the ideological relationship between Pērkonkrusts, Ulmanis's regime, and German Nazism.

Those historians are trying to prove that atrocities towards Jews were committed only by a few Letts. Meanwhile, Alexander Bergman, one of the few Riga's Holocaust survivors, reports that the involvement of the local population in the hunt for the Jews was massive. Not only police agents but neighbors would eagerly assist the Nazis in their crimes, especially in small towns. Therefore, today's misinterpretation of the background of the Holocaust in Latvia actually represents an attempt to diminish the real involvement of Letts in the tragedy (Bergman A., An Untermensch's Memoirs, Riga, 2005, pp. 24-25).



Since May 4, 1990, in order to justify the necessity to establish a "Lettish Latvia", the radical nationalist government developed a concept of "historical continuity" of Latvia's independent state, the Soviet period being portrayed as the time of occupation and “spiritual and physical extermination of the Latvian people” under the Communist totalitarian rule.

In their effort to establish a "Lettish Latvia", the nationalist officials declare that the principle of "equality of citizens" does not contradict to the motto "The Letts Are to Rule". The "Lettish Latvia" design is based on the following assumptions:

  • Latvia is the state of Letts, who are the masters, while all the rest are the inferior, who have to adjust themselves to this role;
  • the Russian language is illegitimate, and therefore has to be reduced to the level of other foreign languages (though the Russian language had acquired a legitimate status in Latvia long before Latvia's first independence, in a competition with the German. Not the Lettish);
  • without a good knowledge of Lettish language one should not normally exist;
  • this knowledge suggests a privilege in employment;
  • therefore, a reform of the education system would primarily focus on elimination of Russian-language schools. "Through children, you easily pressure the parents, and they will be forced to leave, like those Jews and Germans who emigrate for the sake of children".

(Boris Cilevic, "A Time of Harsh Decisions", Riga, 1993, pp. 146, 149, 150, 155, 162).



The national legislation, since May 1990, is based exactly on this approach. According to the Open Society Institute (Budapest, 2001), the post-1991 Latvia practices "legislative and political measures, restricting rights and possibilities of the Russians in education, use of language and employment... The major problem the Russian-language population is facing is the negation of their right to be different from the majority, and a right to retain their identity. This challenge is expressed in restrictions for use of Russian language in secondary schools, as well as in public and political life. Moreover, as those language restrictions are combined with demands in the sphere of citizenship and employment, they not just deprive the Russian-speakers of a right to be different but actually alienate them from public life, which should be rather described as discrimination. The government ...does not allocate necessary finances for education of teachers for minority schools. Being deprived from a right to vote, the Russian-speakers have no possibility to influence the decisions of local municipal bodies, concerning foundation or elimination of schools".



The efforts of today's ideological successors of Pērkonkrusts and of Ulmanis's regime to build up an utopian "Latvia for Letts", are an alarming phenomenon. The experience of the XX century indicates that a "Lettish Latvia" design is directly associated with policies of nationalism and fascism, with anti-Semitism and Russophobia, with extermination of coercive assimilation of minorities.

Throughout the past century, we can identify a number of policies expressing the intention to establish an ethnically pure Latvian state. The first policy was the reluctance of the first independent government to recognize the Latgalian minority with a language and culture of its own – though Latvia owes its very name to this people; therefore, the decision to close Latgalian-language schools, with inevitable coercive assimilation. Next came the policy of coercive assimilation under Ulmanis's dictatorial and ethnocratic rule. The third link of the same tendency was the repatriation of Germans, ceasing the existence of Latvia's Germanic community. The fourth was the physical extermination of almost 90 per cent of Latvian Jews during World War II, mostly by the hands of the Lettish collaborators of the Nazi regime. And, finally, the post-1991 commitment for expulsion of Russian-speakers and a coercive assimilation of those whom it appears impossible to expulse – a new, and unfortunately persistent non-democratic effort to establish a utopian state. Judging upon the history of the XX century, we have to admit that a policy of this kind eventually turns a tragedy not only for the minorities but for the titular majority as well.

Victor Guschin, Ph.D. (Hist.)

Co-Chairman, Unified Congress of Latvia’s Russian Communities

Assistant Professor, Baltic International Academy, Riga

Number of shows: 1552
(no votes)
 © GLOBOSCOPE.RU 2006 - 2023 Rambler's Top100