“On the Demonisation of Russian Culture” – The Case of Latvia
Mrs. Tatjana Zdanoka, a European Parliamentarian from Latvia, and member of the Latvian Russian Union, gave a presentation to the July 8-9 Schiller Institute conference, based on her personal experience, on the campaign to “dehumanize” all Russians now raging in the Baltic states. In her view, the “burning hatred of everything Russian” in her country as well as in Estonia and Lithuania, is “irrational and caused by a complex of state inferiority of national elites”.
In Latvia, Mrs. Zdanoka explained, ethnic Russians make up 25% of the population, while the Russian-speaking linguistic minority represents about 37%. “This part of the country’s population is of mixed origin – some represent the descendants of the citizens of the Republic of Latvia from the period 1918-1940, and some represent the labor migrants of the Soviet era. There are approximately 25% of Russian-speaking citizens among the voters of the country, since 12% of Russian-speaking permanent residents remain in a status close to the status of a stateless person and cannot vote.”
Today, the Latvian authorities are involved in a full-scale campaign “to dehumanize, suppress and marginalize the country’s Russian-speaking population. Latvian society is sinking in the wave of hate speech in the mainstream media and social networks. Columnists and commentators openly compare Russian-speaking compatriots with ‘animals’, a ‘fifth column’ and ‘aggressive occupiers’. One of the members of National Parliament (Saeima) of the ruling coalition party openly called for ethnic cleansing, aimed at increasing the proportion of ethnic Latvians in the country’s population. The signatures are collected on a petition for the expulsion of ‘disloyal citizens’ from the country and deprivation of their Latvian citizenship, as well as on a petition for a ban on my party, the Latvian Russian Union, standing for the protection of the rights of Russian-speaking minority.”
Although the European Union has an instrument nominally aimed at combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia (Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008), it only mandates member governments to criminalize such acts. In Latvia, however, all such complaints concerning the Russian minority have gone unanswered or been rejected by the national courts.
The government is also involved in destroying memorials “dedicated to the soldiers of the Soviet army who liberated Latvia from Nazi occupation during World War II”, some 150,000 of whom “died in the battles for the liberation of Latvia”. Last summer and autumn, more than 70 monuments were torn down, one of which, she explained, stood on land that had belonged to Mrs. Zdanoka’s grand-parents, Jews who were victims of the Holocaust.
In addition to World War II monuments, statues of Russian figures, such as the great Alexander Pushkin, are also being demolished in Latvia and the Russian language is slated to be banned in education, in both public and private schools.