02 December 2007

The First Sunday in December

Whilst Russians stream to the polls to elect Putin's rubber-stamp Duma (including Russian citizens in Rīga and Daugavpils, where there are long lines at the Embassy and Consulate), Latvia marks Remembrance Day for the Victims of Genocide Against the Latvian People by the Totalitarian Communist Régime. Today's day of mourning is devoted to those Latvians who were murdered in the Soviet Union, repression reaching a peak in the winter of 1937/38.

As many as 200 000 Latvians lived in the USSR after World War One -- primarily settlers from the 19th C and refugees from the First World War. There were numerous Latvian schools, newspapers, and cultural institutions. Seventy years ago, at least 70 000 were "liquidated." Repression actually began much earlier in Leningrad, and some who were deported remained incarcerated decades later.

The photograph by Ojārs Lūsis shows one of the first illegal demonstrations marking the horrors of Stalinism -- the laying of flowers at the Freedom Monument in Rīga on 23 August 1987 (the date the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was concluded, its secret protocol providing for the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states). About 200 participants were arrested. In June that year, the deportations were marked with black flags (Alfrēds Rubiks, the hardliner who today heads one of the parties in the popular pro-Russian Harmony Center list, shouted that people with black-and-white television sets would think they were seeing the Latvian flag, then forbidden). An article on the repression of Latvians in Russia is here, in Latvian. In English, here
is a fascinating article about one of the remaining Latvian communities in Siberia today.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Phil BC said...

I've not long been reading about how the NKVD operated in the Baltic states prior to their being invaded by the Soviet Union, where they busied themselves drawing up a list of possible dissidents. Was there a similar round up after the Nazis had been driven out?

03 December, 2007 01:26  
Blogger Pēteris Cedriņš said...

The Communists' own figures (Kalnbērziņš of the Central Committee) are that 119 000 Latvians were persecuted between 1945 and 1953. If one adds the 1940/41 figures, estimates of the total number persecuted in Latvia range from 140 000 to 240 000. Besides the mass deportations of 1949, smaller groups were affected -- the so-called "French Group," intellectuals who gathered to read French literature, for example, and the remaining Baltic Germans. Almost all of the prominent Social Democrats, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews during the so-called "Doctors' Plot"...

03 December, 2007 11:12  
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23 February, 2010 20:28  

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