Latvia’s powder keg: Russians discriminated against or a fifth coke?

A group of children are playing football in the park. Riga without paying the slightest attention to the monumental powder magazine that stood behind his target: a 79-metre obelisk and two statues. One of them is dedicated Russian “motherland”another to the soldiers the Red Army. It was built in 1985 to commemorate the Soviet victory. Latvia on Nazi Germany during World War II, the monument has been the subject of constant controversy and even some attacks since this small country of less than two million people regained its independence in 1991. Latvian nationalists It is nothing but a shameful symbol. “Soviet Invasion”. A symbol whose days are numbered after a law passed last month, destruction of hundreds of monuments dedicated Soviet past.

Latvian and Ukrainian flags next to one of the statues of the Victory Monument in Riga (Latvia) were covered by the police before they were removed. FRANCE RICHARD MIR


cracked cement riga monument As a result, it is one of the tectonic plates sliding again in the heart of the Baltic. ukraine war. The occupation, organized by the Kremlin, was resumed. derussification policies a country in Latvia a quarter of its inhabitants are ethnic RussianA percentage very similar to that of Estonia, speaking Russian or culturally related to Moscow. (In Lithuania it is about 6%). “Dismantling the monument is a mistake. We need to maintain the ties between the two communities, and it only serves to divide people,” says Oleg Tiunchik, 62-year-old pharmaceutical director, as he prepares his bike for a little exercise. “Our leaders are overreacting.”

The removal of monuments was accompanied by other laws that confused the public. Russian minoritylike someone trying to stop Kremlin propaganda banning television channels or phasing out Pushkin’s language Latvian secondary education. All this in a country where Russian is the lingua franca in cities like Riga. ethnic marriages relatively often and where there are political parties that defend the interests of Russian society. The government is playing with fire incite ethnic tensions instead of reaching a consensus nationalist speech This situation is radicalized as the war in Ukraine progresses,” says Sergey Kurk, a political scientist at Riga Stradins University. more homogeneous society and he believes that the way to achieve this is through language”.

Apartment blocks in a working-class neighborhood of Riga, mostly populated by ethnic Russians. RICHARD MIR FROM FRANCE


this Russian presence in Latvia Although it was fired during the war, it dates back several centuries. communist eraWhen tens of thousands of Russians are sent to work in their factories, they hold high positions in the Administration or supply military bases in the Baltic that opened up on the USSR’s new western borders. many finished naturalization after independence Through Latvian language and culture test This was required of immigrants arriving in the country after 1940, when the first Soviet invasion began. But not all of them did, either because they found the exams humiliating or because they preferred to hide their Russian passports.

Russians without citizenship

Today 30% of Latvian Russians do not have citizenship and the rights it encompasses, which provides a basis for community activists to claim that they have been ‘discriminated against’. An adjective with explosive resonances in the Kremlin, Protection of the “Russian world” a State policy that does not hesitate to resort to occupy countries.

Degi Karayev is one of these activists. A businessman by profession came to Latvia in 1979 from the Caucasus, where the country was still part of the Soviet Union. “After independence they kept looking for us. ‘invaders’ and since the war began in Ukraine, directly ‘enemy’ or ‘Russian agents’,” he says from a cafe in Riga. Karayev, who was recently questioned by the police for his activism, is a non-citizen as he considers it a disgrace that Russians in Latvia are not automatically naturalized. “I can speak and read Latvian, but I don’t know because there is nothing interesting in his literature or cinema”, he says with a certain disdain for the culture of the host country.

Russian activist Degi Karayev at a cafe in Riga. RICHARD MIR FROM FRANCE


ethnic conflict

It is this kind of attitude that angers the Latvian establishment, which does not hesitate to define a part of Russian society as a nation. “fifth column” especially to these 20,000 Russian army, KGB agents and Communist Party officials those who remained in the country after independence. “These people came to Latvia with no intention of learning anything because they felt owner of everything. Many have maintained this mentality,” said Edvins Snore, MP for the Latvian populist party, the National Alliance, which is part of the governing coalition. “We call them the fifth column because they are still loyal Russia. There is no other way to describe it”. He adds that his government is preparing measures to encourage some of the population to leave the country.

According to a recent survey, only 40 percent of Latvian Russians condemned the invasion of Ukraine. For Professor Kurk, it is a veiled critique of Riga policies rather than genuine support for Putin, and for the Latvian nationalist deputy, it is a reflection of the true loyalty of Russian society.

What seems clear is that the ghost of an ethnic conflict Drive over the country. “Latvia was part of the Tsarist Empire and the USSR and I can imagine that one day it will return to Russia. “I don’t see a problem with that,” says Russian activist Karayev. civil war”. His nationalist enemy does not seem bothered by this question. “Everything will depend on Russia. If things went well for them in Ukraine, we would be in grave danger because the Russian media keep saying that. We are not a country and we have no right to exist. And of course, if they do something one day, they will turn to the Russians in Latvia”, concludes Edvins Snore.

Source: Informacion

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