Deception - the Case of latvia
A series of articles by the Centre for Eastern European Studies
CEEPS: Deception – The Case of Latvia #11
By Arnis Latišenko, Researcher of the Centre for Eastern European Policy Studies
The official Russia criticises Latvia for continuing education reform, while Russia itself does not adequately help nations to preserve their ethnic identity and develop their own culture. One of the examples is related to Tatarstan, which is the Russian federal entity with the indigenous Tatar nation. According to Rosstat’s 2017 figures, 53.2% of Tatars and 39.7% of Russians live in Tatarstan. There are two official languages in Tatarstan, Tatar and Russian, so it was mandatory to learn both languages in schools in the region. The issue of language training in Russia escalated in 2017, when the Russian Ministry of Education developed a training plan that abolished compulsory teaching of indigenous languages.
Instead, the plan stipulates that minority languages in Russia may only be handed out at the written request of the child’s parents or guardians and not more than two hours a week. Such regulation was supported by the organisation Committee of Russian-speaking parents of Tatarstan, which has been fighting for the abolition of the compulsory teaching of Tatar.
The Committee of Russian-speaking Parents of Tatarstan has much to do with some organisations in Latvia who are fighting against the strengthening of positions of Latvian language. It is important to note that there is nothing that endangers Russian language and Russian ethnic identity in Latvia, unlike many peoples in Russia who are rapidly assimilated, leaving only the names of rivers, lakes and settlements behind.
Deception: On 3 April 2018, the State Council of Russia approved a statement on “preventing the liquidation of school education in Latvia in ethnic minority languages”, in which it expressed the need to apply specific economic measures against Latvia (sanctions). In the interpretation of the Russian State Council, the education reform in Latvia does not conform to the Constitution, contradicts Latvia’s international commitments, and the consequences will be poor education of minorities and the loss of their ethnic identity. It is also argued that the Russian language is subject to persecution in the Latvian media.1 Also Russia Today (RT) called the education reform in Latvia a “forced assimilation”.2
Refutation: Russian officials and the misleading ‘media’ apply sharply different rhetoric in the case of Latvia and Russia, ignoring the real situation. In Russia, a so-called “single education area” was introduced throughout the country in 2007. In 2009, in Russia abolished the possibility for pupils to take the uniform national exam in minority languages, only in the official language.3 In Latvia, minorities are not prevented from learning their mother tongue and cultural subjects, these rights are provided for in Article 41 of the Education Law4 and in the General Education Law, Articles 30 and 42. 5 It should be noted that the Latvian language does not have any other country to develop, with the guarantee of national protection enshrined in the Constitution. According to the language principle, the distributed education system is inherited from the Soviet occupation period and significantly impedes the cohesion of society in Latvia. Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine showed that ethnic tensions are not only a challenge to democracy but can become a threat to national security.
In Russia, besides Russians, there are many other nations with no other country to develop their cultural diversity and language. Vladimir Putin’s regime boasts about great “multinational” Russia and its people “peaceful living alongside” while in practice the long-term existence of these nations (in some cases even in the medium term) is at risk.
Deception: On 11 March 2018, the portal Baltnews.lv published an article entitled “200 people were detained in Latvia for marking 8 March: distribution of false news in Russian in the United States”.6 The originally misleading article on detentions was published on the portal Panorama.pub, while Baltnews.lv takes on the role of debunker of disinformation, stressing that information about detentions is fake news. Baltnews.lv adds that the IP-addresses of computers generating the portal Panorama.pub are located in the United States. From this, Baltnews.lv concludes that the US government artificially creates the impression of the spread of false messages in Latvia.
Refutation: The fault by the association is a logical mistake in the reasoning, but in the particular case it is a blatant deception. The fact that the Panorama.pub IP-address localisation is in the US does not automatically mean there is a US government conspiracy. Moreover, Baltnews.lv does not provide any evidence of US government involvement. It should be noted that the technical possibilities allow you to change your IP address, including to the IP address of another country. Baltnews.lv IP-address is 184.108.40.206, its location is in the Netherlands.7 The owner of the portal is the company Baltnews.lv, registered in Latvia. Its board member8 and its chief editor are Alexander Yakovlev, who is a former aide to Tatiana Zdanok in the European parliament.9 The Security Police informs that Baltnews.lv, like Sputnik, receives funding from the information agency set up by the Russian government and owned by the Russian government agency Rossiya Segodnya, the director-general of which is Dmitry Kiselev.10
Deception: A million EU citizens request Brussels to protect rights of ethnic Russians in the Baltic States, the portal Rubaltic.ru published on 30 March 2018.11 This article refers to the initiative of the organization Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN) to ensure minority rights in the European Union. It is argued that the FUEN initiative requires Latvia to respect the rights of non-citizens. The article contains a note on amendments to the Education Law and uses a picture of protests against amendments to this Law.
Refutation: The misleading article aims to present the collection of signatures for the FUEN Minority SafePack initiative and protests in Latvia as interrelated events. For the first time, Minority SafePack was presented to the European Commission in 2013 but was rejected. On 3 February 2017, the General Court annulled the EC decision12 and the Commission therefore launched a year-long collection of signatures on 3 April 2017.13 The misleading article seeks to present differences in the status of Latvian citizens and non-citizens as ethnic discrimination of Russians. The Minority SafePack initiative mentions that non-citizens’ problem exist, but it does not claim that there is systematic discrimination against Russians in Latvia.14 The Latvian Constitution and Laws directly prohibit discrimination.15 All persons, including non-citizens, in Latvia are guaranteed the human rights stipulated in the Constitution.16 Non-citizens have the possibility to acquire Latvian citizenship thus the full political rights. According to national citizenship and migration authority data, 64% of Russians in Latvia are citizens of the country and differences between citizens regarding their ethnic background do not exist.
Deception: March 29, 2018, the portal ru.sputniknewslv.com published an article by the feetonist Alexander Hrolenko entitled “Suicide Course: Latvia’s Dangerous Games with NATO and Russia”. Mr Hrolenko writes that increasing Latvia’s defence budget and the financial investments of NATO allies in building and improving Latvia’s military infrastructure increase the risks of war in the Baltic region, while the deployment of NATO’s multinational battalions in the Baltic States and Poland has been carried out to implement aggression against Russia. The author concludes that Russia has no reason to attack its neighbours and any of its actions are aimed at its own defence.
Refutation: Manipulative ‘media’, seeking to discredit the increased military budget of NATO member states, including Latvia, and the strengthening of NATO’s presence in the Baltic region, disseminate two misleading messages:
1. NATO will not react in the event of aggression against Latvia.
2. The reason for the concentration of NATO forces is the planning of aggression against Russia.
Firstly, the deceptive media also do not purposefully mention that this policy is a direct consequence of the annexation of Crimea and Russian aggression in Donbass.18 It should be recalled that the decisions were taken at the 2014 NATO summit in Wales19 and the 2016 NATO Warsaw Summit20 after the events of Ukraine. Secondly, the deployment of reinforcements in the Baltic States shows that the allies are ready to react; the objective is deterrence so that third countries would not become tempted to check whether the North Atlantic Treaty works in a conflict situation. Finally, unfortunately, after the events of Georgia and Ukraine, it has become obvious what is happening in Russia’s neighbourhood if those countries do not have the guarantor of national sovereignty and territorial integrity that NATO holds for the Baltic States.
4 https://likumi.lv/ta/id/50759-law #p41 & pd = 1
7 https://check-host.net/ip-info? host = baltnews.lv
9 https://rebaltica.lv/2017/04/sputnik-unknowable-bralis /
10 http://dp.gov.lv/lv/noderigi/publikacijas/drosibas-Police-Publice-Parskatu-par-service-labour-2017-year.art 99
11 https://www.rubaltic.ru/news/30032018-million-grazhdan-es-prizvali-bryussel-obespechit-prava-russkikh-v-latvii /
13 https://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/32/public/# /
15 http://cilvektiesibas.org.lv/lv/database/category/likumu-articles-concerning-non-discrimination /
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