Dithyrambs for Dictators
In that spirit, I invite you to view an argument about every Latvian's favorite dictator, Kārlis Ulmanis (the photo above -- why does a democracy erect a monument to a dictator in the center of its capital? -- is by Gatis Dieziņš [AFI]). An excerpt:
Some remarks on my supposed “obsession” with Ulmanis. The Republic of Latvia has a short history—fourteen years as a democracy, six as a dictatorship, and not yet seventeen since the restoration of democracy. The occupation, though it did involve numerous Latvians, was not the work of Latvians. Since I live in the Republic, it is naturally important to me to consider how and why the system failed in 1934—at the hands of Latvians.
As Felikss says, “the spirit of Ulmanis still lives.” So does the spirit of Salazar in Portugal, say—he also did a lot of great things. I would note that neither Estonia nor Lithuania are as obsessed with their dictators as we are with ours (of course, theirs were actually less dictatorial, preserving some forms the Ulmanists would have seen as less “modern” than ours—Päts did introduce a new constitution, for example, a promise Ulmanis did not keep).
“The spirit of Ulmanis” definitely does live, mixed with the spirit of Soviet totalitarianism. We could see it in Kalvītis as the “guarantor of stability,” in Joachim Siegerist’s campaign based upon the return of the relics of the Vadonis to Latvia, in Ziedonis Čevers’ Saimnieks, in Repše as Saulvedis, in Šķēle’s suggestion that we need a man like Pinochet, in the belief that the Satversme can be changed lickety-split if it’s inconvenient to those in power, and—most importantly—in the disdain for, and ignorance of, democratic norms. A large part of the population will keep waiting for the man on the white horse, and as long as they’re waiting we’ll stew in nihilistic apathy and watch Estonia overtake Portugal.