25 March 2007

"The Surf"

Today is one of the two major days of remembrance set aside for the victims of Soviet genocide in Latvia. Last night in 1949, many received the dreaded midnight knock on their doors. Others were arrested at work or taken to trains directly from school.

Fifty-eight years ago this morning (and for two days thereafter), 42 322 Latvian citizens were deported to Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Amur, Irkutsk, Omsk and Tomsk. Ca. 11 000 were under the age of 16. 3369 were under the age of 7. 734 were over the age of 80. 167 were pregnant. Their property was sold or distributed to the kolkhozes -- or simply stolen. The operation bore the Russian code name "Прибой" -- "the Surf". The top secret instruction "Concerning the Procedure for Deporting Several Categories of Inhabitants from the Latvian SSR, Lithuanian SSR and Estonian SSR" had been issued by the Kremlin in January -- Vilis Lācis, one of Latvia's most popular novelists and a leader of the occupation régime, signed the decision for the Latvian SSR on March 17th.

Anna Rancāne, a poet and journalist, wrote a fine article in
Diena two years ago about "the Hawks of Latgallia" -- high school students who tried to resist the occupation and managed to foil the deportation of some rural Latvians by stealing the list of persons to be deported and booby-trapping the road from Rogovka to Ruskulova. The organization was later betrayed, its members shot or deported. Antons Ludboržs is among those still living -- he returned to Latvia after Stalin's death. When Lenin's statue came down in Rēzekne after the restoration of independence in 1991, he was the one who cut it down.

Breaking rocks in a copper mine in Kazakhstan, watching the guards stab skeletons drawn from the shaft, his only prayer was: "Lord, give me a little piece of bread so that I might walk to the Latvian border, lay down my head and die."

An analysis of the 1949 deportations by the historian Heinrihs Strods is available in English here. The photograph of people laying flowers at the Freedom Monument in Rīga was taken today by Reinis Oliņš for Apollo -- more pictures from today's commemoration are avalable here.

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Blogger jams o donnell said...

Another very interesting post Peteris. Another good rason why the Soviets might not be seen as liberators...

27 March, 2007 11:47  
Blogger Pēteris Cedriņš said...

Thanks, Jams -- I'm glad our Transylvanian friend suggested I post it; as she pointed out, most people don't know about these things.

Of course, even if they do, if they are, er, Pochoistas, it doesn''t matter much -- for instance, consider some of the comments at this response to Kosachev...

27 March, 2007 12:15  

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