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Death of the Motherland. What awaits Latvia after the destruction of Soviet monuments

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MOSCOW, August 25 – RIA Novosti, Mikhail Katkov. The authorities of Latvia decided to isolate the Russian population of the republic and finally destroy the symbols reminiscent of Russia. The heaviest blow fell on the monument to the Red Army soldiers – the liberators of Riga from the Nazi invaders. How such a policy will turn out for the country – in the material of RIA Novosti.

End of Legacy

Demolition of the country’s most famous monument dedicated to the victory over fascism has begun in Riga. The ensemble consists of a 79-meter column crowned with golden stars, sculptures of the Motherland and liberators are placed on the sides. Work should be completed by mid-September. The authorities plan to do without explosives. They will also destroy the platform on which the complex is located, the pool and the basement.
© RIA Novosti / Stringer / Go to the photobankMonument to the soldiers of the Soviet army – the liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga from the Nazi invaders in Victory Park on the left bank of the Daugava in Riga
Monument to the soldiers of the Soviet army – the liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga from the Nazi invaders in Victory Park on the left bank of the Daugava in Riga
By the evening of August 23, heavy equipment had demolished the sculptures of three soldiers, and in the afternoon of August 24, the personification of the Motherland. Many locals are protesting the act of vandalism, but they are not even allowed to lay flowers or light candles, accusing them of throwing rubbish.
On the night of August 24, police detained about 40 defenders of the monument in Victory Park, eyewitnesses say. Despite the fact that people did not show aggression, did not chant slogans, did not demonstrate any symbols, the security forces wringed their hands and dragged them into paddy wagons. It is possible that such tough measures are connected with the resignation in May of the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Maria Golubeva, due to the inability to disperse the Victory Day celebrations.
The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia stated that the monument is of no historical value, therefore it will be destroyed, and not taken out for storage. The complex was opened in November 1985 in honor of the 40th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War and the liberation of Riga. Since then, every May 9, tens of thousands of people have gathered there.
The monument became the object of hatred of local nationalists. For example, in 1997, members of the fascist organization “Perkonkrusts” tried to blow it up, but then the city authorities allocated money for restoration. After 15 years, activists began collecting signatures for the demolition of the monument, but President Andris Berzins opposed it. In 2019, there was a second attempt, but then the mayor of Riga, Dainis Turlais, opposed it.

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Previously, the authorities of the republic did not want to once again aggravate relations with Moscow and were worried about the international image, but now they have become one of the main supporters of the confrontation between the European Union and Russia. In particular, President Egils Levits said that there is a part of Russian society in Latvia that is disloyal to the state and should be “isolated.”
Recall that this year, on May 9, mass events near the monument to the liberators were banned, and the next morning the flowers laid on it were removed by a bulldozer. On the same day, opponents of the monument announced the collection of donations for its demolition. On the first day, 43 thousand euros were collected. At the same time, the Latvian Parliament canceled the 13th article of the agreement with Russia on ensuring the safety of memorial structures, and the Riga City Council decided to dismantle it. The vice-mayor of the city suggested that Moscow take away the remains of the sculptures.

War on memory

In addition to the complex in Riga, 69 monuments to soldiers of the Red Army must be demolished in Latvia by November 15. Including destroy structures in Liepaja, Rezekne and Daugavpils. In total, there are more than 300 such monuments in the country. In the future, they can all be liquidated, warns the deputy of the Riga City Council, Yakov Pliner.
© Sputnik / Go to photobankParticipants in the ceremony of reburial of the ashes of Soviet soldiers at the Brotherly Military Cemetery in Jekabpils
Participants in the ceremony of reburial of the ashes of Soviet soldiers at the Brotherly Military Cemetery in Jekabpils
However, Latvia is not alone in its aspiration. For example, in Lithuanian Klaipeda, a composition of two concrete stelae with a lowered sword between them and three warriors opposite was destroyed. And in September, Lithuanians dismantled six granite figures of Red Army soldiers at the Antakalnis cemetery. They were installed in 1984 in memory of three thousand soldiers who died in the battles for Vilnius.
In Estonia, the government of Kai Kallas achieved the demolition of the T-34 tank in Narva. The monument stood on the left bank of the river – at the place where the Red Army crossed during the liberation of the city. Now the car is in the Estonian War Museum. In addition, the director of the institution, Hellar Lill, said that 22 graves of Red Army soldiers, which are located in “inappropriate” places: parks, squares and densely populated areas, will be transferred in the republic.
Other European countries are also not far behind. One of the most high-profile cases occurred in Finland, where the song “World Peace” was dismantled. The Soviet authorities presented it to Helsinki in 1989. The further fate of the sculpture is unknown, and a sidewalk will appear in its place.
© RIA NovostiDismantling the “World Peace” monument in Helsinki. Video frame
Dismantling of the monument “World Peace” in Helsinki. Video frame
The leaders in the destruction of the Soviet legacy were the Poles. Since the beginning of 2022, they have destroyed at least five monuments, but this is not a record for them. Local authorities from year to year work in this direction. So, in 1997, there were over 560 monuments in the country, in 2018 there were 134 of them, and in 2021 – a little more than a hundred.

Reason for vandalism

Vladimir Olenchenko, senior researcher at the Center for European Studies at IMEMO RAS, believes that Latvia stands apart among countries where Soviet monuments are being destroyed. Every time Riga pursued an independent foreign policy, it leaned towards cooperation with Moscow, the expert claims. One of the most striking episodes of this interaction was the participation of Latvian riflemen in the Civil War.
“The political leadership of Latvia is not native to the republic. Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins is a US citizen who was appointed head of state to break with Russia and oppress the Russian population. Prior to that, he failed in the role of Minister of Economy, and as a member of the European Parliament lobbied for an appeal to the United States with a call to ban the sale of T-shirts with Russian symbols in America,” explains Olenchenko.
© RIA Novosti / Aleksey Vitvitsky / Go to photobankPrime Minister of Latvia Krisjanis Karins at the EU summit in Brussels
Prime Minister of Latvia Krisjanis Karins at the EU summit in Brussels
At the same time, the party of the head of government “Unity” in the parliamentary elections of 2018 won a little more than six percent of the vote. Soglasie received the most support, with nearly 20 percent. The organization is made up of native Latvians and Russians who advocate overcoming differences, fighting discrimination and normalizing relations with Russia. However, the party failed to form a ruling coalition, so power went to Unity and their Western-oriented partners.
“The next parliamentary elections will be held on October 1. By this date, the authorities want to finally intimidate the Russian population so that people refuse to vote,” says Olenchenko. “As for attempts to cross out the history of cooperation between Russians and Latvians, nothing will come of it. Locals are well aware that at the head of the country are temporary workers who are indifferent to its future.
Until February 2022, the leadership of Latvia could not unilaterally terminate the agreement with Moscow on the protection of monuments, so as not to fall under international condemnation, political scientist Andrey Starikov notes. But even after that, it took them six months to properly prepare for the destruction of the Soviet legacy. It was necessary to find contractors, draw up a dismantling plan, figure out where to get 2.1 million euros to pay for the work. And also to conduct a formal check of the object for historical value, which was another act of humiliation for the Russians.

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In addition, the Latvian authorities were worried that the Russians would come out to mass protests. For example, in 2007 in Tallinn, in the riots caused by the transfer of the Bronze Soldier, one person died and 171 were injured. Accordingly, Riga previously strengthened the repressive apparatus so that people were afraid to protest.
According to the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, the Latvian authorities will not stop at the demolition of the memorial: their main task is to dismantle the historical memory.
“They risk a complete split within their country. Absolute, not just a temporary violation of public peace, but pitting people and the impossibility of a harmonious existence of citizens of their own country who know the history, who remember, who have the history of their family, despite this, they are all they will do the same as they do, this is their mission,” Zakharova said.
In turn, the Russian embassy in Latvia called on the international community to no longer cover up the authorities of the republic and to adequately assess what is happening in the country. The destruction of the monument to the soldiers-liberators was regarded by diplomats as a “barbaric and Russophobic trick”, they demanded an end to police arbitrariness and persecution of people for political reasons. However, hardly anyone will heed this call: the degree of anti-Russian hysteria is too high.

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Translation by RJ983

Disclaimer: Via RIA Novosti – Checked

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