Deception - the Case of latvia

A series of articles by the Centre for Eastern European Studies

CEEPS: Deception – The Case of Latvia #8

By Arnis Latišenko, Researcher of the Centre for Eastern European Policy Studies

On January 10, 2018, report ‘Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for U.S. National Security’ by US Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations was published. Senators report that the discredit campaign against the Baltic States already began in the first half of the 1990s.

But over the past decade, the Kremlin has sharply intensified operations of influence, corruption and disinformation. The objectives of these operations in Latvia are:

  • to divide society on the basis of ethnicity and manipulate the Russian diaspora;

  • to promote public distrust of the state and its institutions;

  • to undermine public faith in Western values and democracy;

  • to discredit and paralyze the country’s membership in the EU and NATO

  • to despise the culture, history, traditions and achievements of the country and its people.1

It can be observed that these goals have been partially achieved, including due to the long-term failure of the Latvian institutions, politicians, media and civil society to address these issues. This is also true of many other EU and NATO member states. Latvia’s failures and mistakes have facilitated the Kremlin’s task. The message about Latvia as a ‘failed state with a corrupt and ethnocratic Western puppet regime contributing to the resurgence of fascism’ has reached a certain audience. The report shows that the effectiveness of disinformation campaigns decreases when public awareness is high. This section is an awareness raising event.

Deception: On January 2, 2018, an article about the history of Latgale was published on the portal : ‘Chunked off (Отжали – in Russian original). How Latvia seized Russian and Belarusian lands’.2 The article not only emphasizes the differences of Latgale, but Latgale is completely contrasted with the rest of Latvia as something unfamiliar and naturally unrelated to it. Latgalians are called a different ethnic group, which was subjected to Latvian assimilation. A quote from A. Gaponenko’s book “Latgale. In Search of Other Existence” is mentioned, in which the public figure Francis Kemps is quoted without a reference: ‘Latgalian and Latvian languages are not the same, and we shouldn’t unite because of one language.’

Refutation: Paragraph 1 of the 1917 Latgale Congress resolution defined: ‘We, the Latvian trustees of Latgale, assembled on the 26th – 27th of April at the congress convened in Rēzekne, recognizing Latvians living in Vitebsk Governorate, as well Courlanders and Livonians as one Latvian nation…’3 Thus, at that time, the Latvians of Latgale clearly identified themselves as a united nation with the Latvians of Kurzeme and Vidzeme. The separatist feelings of Francis Kemps have been largerly exaggerated. Namely, he did not oppose the unification of Latgale with the rest of Latvia, but considered that it should take place under other conditions. Francis Kemps in his 1910 book ‘Latgalians. Cultural-historical sketch’ already in the first sentence names Latgale as the third part of Latvia. In turn, on page 48 Kemps writes: ‘If we are talking about the Latgalian language, then we must not think of any separate language, only related to the general Latvian language. It is the old dialect of Latvian language…’4 Finally, the existence of Latgale within Vitebsk Governorate until 1917 does not mean that Russia or Belarus has any special rights to this land.

Deception: On November 11, 2017, the article from Russian vortal, called ‘Latvians went on a torchlight march commemorating the Waffen-SS Legion’5, was republished on the vortal, which pretends to be the information portal for the Russian community in Latvia.6 The article is actually about the torchlight procession from the Lestene Community House to the nearby Brothers’ Cemetery, which occurred on November 10, 2017.7 The Latvians were reproached for not mentioning the soldiers of the Soviet Red Army within this commemorative event.

Refutation: Lāčplēsis Day is celebrated by commemorating the victory over the Bermont-Avalov army on November 11, 1919. Traditions of this Remembrance Day date back to the time of the first Latvian free-state, and it commemorates those fallen in Latvia’s War of Liberation. This misleading text is another article aimed at maintaining the message of the alleged resurgence of fascism in Latvia. This aggressive defamation campaign against Latvia has been going on for at least two decades and is bearing fruit. The 2016 research made by the Center for Security and Strategic Research of The National Defence Academy of Latvia ‘Possibility of social destabilization in Latvia: potential threats to national security’ concludes that 30.9% of the population agree or partially agree with the statement about the resurgence of fascism in Latvia.8

Deception: On December 11, 2017, the article ‘Vladimirs Buzajevs: Riga – the Capital of Apartheid’ was published on the vortal The article mentions that Vladimir Buzaev, a former member of Saeima, the Latvian Parliament, and current co-chair of the Latvian ‘Human Rights’ Committee, has published a statement on his Facebook page that a quarter century ago the citadel of racism has moved from Cape Town to Riga.10

Refutation: On 30 November 1973, the UN General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. Latvia joined it on April 14, 1992. Article 2 of the Convention exhaustively explains what apartheid is in relation to an oppressed race or group: 1) denial to the rights of life and personal liberties; 2) deliberate creation of conditions aimed for the partial or complete physical destruction of certain group; 3) deprivation of all political and other rights; 4) establishment of reserves and ghettos, segregation of persons and prohibition of interracial marriages; 5) labour exploitation and the use of forced (slave) labour; 6) deprivation of fundamental rights and freedoms of those who oppose apartheid.11

In practice the mentioned political features have not been observed in Latvia, as they would be in conflict with Satversme, the Constitution of Latvia, and regulatory enactments. If, according to the former Member of Latvian Parliament, there is an apartheid in Latvia, then why does international community consider Latvia as a democratic state and why international restrictive measures (sanctions) have not been still introduced against Latvia as they were carried out against the Republic of South Africa.

Deception: On November 30, 2017, an article ‘Latvia and the EU have been involved in a criminal conspiracy’ was published on the portal .12 The article states that the concluded conspiracy between Latvia, the EU and the US envisages that ethnic minorities in Latvia will be destroyed as a class. It is clarified that this means the closure of Russian schools. The article states that since 1988 the number of Russian pupils in elementary and secondary schools has decreased by 52%, but Latvian – by 15%. In the last 15 years, the rate of decrease in the number of Russian schools is 3.5 times higher than the reduction of corresponding Latvian schools. It is added that Latvia violates the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Refutation: The decrease in the number of schools is related to demographic trends rather than to a comprehensive Western conspiracy against Russian schools in Latvia. According to the Central Statistical Bureau, 13 the number of Russians in Latvia has decreased by 409 thousand or 45.27% since 1989. Since 2011, the rate of decline in the number of Russians has been on average three times higher than corresponding rate of decline in Latvians. It should be noted that schools implementing ethnic minority education programs will not be abolished, but will gradually switch to education in the state language (i.e., Latvian) while maintaining the possibility for ethnic minority students to study their native language, literature, culture and history related subjects in their mother tongue.14 The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights15 and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms16 do not oblige states to provide education in the languages of ethnic minorities.

Diag. Nr. 1

Number of Latvians and Russians in Latvia

Diag. Nr. 2

Rate of decrease in the number of Latvians and Russians in Latvia in relation to the previous period (per cent)