Latvian Fascism – Not Necessarily Who You Think It Is – Part III

Dear Readers:

Today we finish this informative essay by Vyacheslav Vishnevsky.  We saw some examples of ethnic Latvians who don’t hate the Russian minority dwelling within their country.  The motivations of the non-Russia-haters were of two broad varieties:  (1) Ex-Communists who are still Socialists and who still believe, even in this rough times that we live in, that nations are equal, that national differences are less important than class differences, and that all people deserve civil rights and should be treated with basic respect; and (2) an example of a famous Latvian “Far Right” politician, who is disillusioned with the European Union (EU) and wants better relations with Russia.

Viktor Orban of Hungary’s Fidesz Party.

In the latter example, namely Imants Kalniņš, people might conclude that this famous Latvian music composer and politician is a “Putin-Versteher“, that’s the derogatory German neologism which anti-Putinites assign to those European politicians who “understand” Russian President Putin, or at least don’t believe that he is the anti-Christ incarnate.  Examples of Putin-Verstehers are mostly those of the classical or “New Right” brand of national politicians, such as Marine Le Pen in France, Viktor Orban in Hungary; or now, I suppose, even President-Elect Donald Trump of the U.S.  These are politicians who distrust the EU/NATO cabal and want to forge better relations with Russia.  The European prototypes distrust American interference and war-mongering, they want to bolster Europe’s security, and make it more independent of America’s hegemonistic ambitions.  These people are patriots-verging-on-nationalists of their respective nations; i.e., they stand for the interests of their national entities as opposed to the interests of a foreign power or bloc (such as the U.S. and NATO).  They see Putin as a strong leader similar to themselves — i.e., as a man who stands for the interests of the Russian sovereign entity amongst the nations of the world  And they see nothing inherently wrong with that.  In contract to the American political establishment which sees Russia as a rogue state completely lacking in legitimacy; nor possessing any legitimate national interests of its own.

Russian Cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyov (right) was born in Riga.

Kalniņš fits almost perfectly into this mold of the Putin-Versteher.  In his interview, he explicitly stated that he respects the Russian ethnic minority dwelling within Latvia, not necessarily because they’re nice people, nor because this talented ethnos has produced a huge list of notable people who brought glory to Latvia — including the likes of ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov, classic film-maker Sergei Eisenstein, cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyov, and many many others…  No, Kalniņš respects the Russian ethnic minority because he sees them as a useful diaspora with a direct conduit to Vladimir Putin.

Self-Haters And Non-Verstehers

But are all the Latvian Russians pro-Putin?  Are they willing to play this role as conduits between disgruntled Latvians and the Russian government?  No, not necessarily.

Igor Shishkin (left) wearing cute Nazi armband

Here again, reality is more complicated than we like to think.  Vishnevsky goes on to provide examples of ethnic Russians who have completely bought into the “Latvia for Latvians” political line.  The most notable of these is a man named Igor Shishkin.  Who prefers to spell his name in the Latvian style: Igors Siskins.  Shishkin is in love with Latvian Nazis, his hero is Latvia’s primo Nazi collaborationist Gustavs Celmiņš, after whom Shishkin named his political center.  Celmiņš, by the way, was one of those typical Eastern European Nazi collaborators, like Stepan Bandera, whose current-day fans attempt to whitewash their crimes by claiming they fought against the Nazis.  Which they most definitely did not.   Such a claim is just a crude lie.

Gustavs Celmiņš

And the Celmiņš wiki is typical historical revisionism in this regard:   According to his wiki, this Latvian hero was horrified to learn that his own battalion was just running around insanely massacring “rural Jews and other civilians” at the request of the visiting Germans.  Not at all what Celmiņš expected – no Sir!   His soldiers were supposed to be building a sovereign Latvian state based on democratic ideals and fair elections.  Also typical is that the revisionist historians focus on minor disagreements between the Nazi rulers and their ethnic underlings; they blow these minor tactical disputes up into “They fought against two forms of totalitarianism simultaneously!”  Bullshit.  There is a grain of truth, in that people like Bandera and Celmiņš may have had their own agendas, which didn’t always align with the day-to-day project plans of their bosses.  Heck, in any group of two or more human beings, you are going to have factions forming, that’s just the way we are, as a species.  And it’s also true that from time to time the Germans got quite annoyed with brutal and incompetent employees such as Bandera and Celmiņš, such types may have been demoted, punished, or even arrested from time to time; but that’s just the price you pay for being a Nazi henchman.  Note also that Celmiņš  followed the typical “European Nazi” track of getting himself “rescued” by American soldiers at the end of World War II, whisked off to the United States, and given a cushy job lecturing students about the dangers of Communism.

But returning to Shishkin:  Who is a fan-boy of Celmiņš and who marches in those uplifting Latvian Nazi Waffen SS parades every year…  Well, as Stanislavski might have said, “His motivation is very clear.”  Shishkins is a fascist, a fanatical anti-Communist, and he identifies with Latvian Nazi collaborationists.  Not a complicated type at all!

Russian schoolchildren in Latvia demonstrate for the right to study in Russian-language schools.

Slightly more intriguing is the example of Dmitrijs Mironovs.  Another ethnic Russian who self-identifies as a Latvian nationalist.  Sorry, I can’t find a wiki page for this guy.  Mironovs is described as a radical student who founded a political party called “Everything For Latvia”.  Which in Latvian is Visu Latvijai!” This nationalist party was founded in 2006 and has enjoyed a modest success:  In the 2006 Parliament elections it received 1.48% of the vote; and in the elections to the European Parliament in 2009 it received 2.81% of the vote.  The Party platform includes a strident call for “de-colonization”.  By which they don’t mean LEXIT from the European Union!  No, the “colonial power” they have in mind is Russia, not the EU or the United States!  Because realistically, just like in Nazi times, a small state such as Latvia (with a population of under 2 million, including non-ethnic Latvians) is destined to be a colony.  Of either Germany or Russia, realistically.  Under Soviet “occupation”, at least the Latvians had a chance (thanks to Leninist doctrine of “self-determination for nations”) to continue developing their language, literature, and cultural traditions.  Under EU (=German) suzerainty, they are simply dying off as a people, as Kalniņš has pointed out.

Coat of arms of Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic

But Mironovs doesn’t see it that way.  He calls upon the Russian-speaking minority to declare their allegiance to the “national state” of Latvia.  Those who don’t comply with his order are threatened thusly:

“I am issuing this frank warning to people with a colonialist mindset and a chauvinistic arrogance [he means non-compliant Russians]:  Because I care about your, and our, emotional and political-economic well-being, I am warning you:  Your fears have a rational basis.  We are going to defeat you.  With love we will escort you to a place where you will be happier.”

Not knowing much about Mironovs, his background, or his family life, I am unable to speculate on the possibly Freudian reasons why he regards his own ethnic group with such contempt and wishes to expel them from his beloved Latvia.  Eastern European racists and rabble-rousers are known to portray Russians, even those who were born in these titular states and possibly lived there for generations, as ill-behaved “colonists” and intruders.  There is obviously a lot of history there, and a lot of ill-will.  And, as in any society, you are going to find people who despise their own kind and root for the other team.  I even personally happen to know some citizens of Boston who root for the Yankees instead of the Red Sox.  They are regarded as despicable traitors, of course.  Sometimes such people are misfits who came from dysfunctional families, or have mental health issues.  Sometimes they are just free-thinkers who march to a different drummer.  Depending on one’s definition and point of view.

From Marginal To Mainstream

Vishnevsky points out that the “Everything For Latvia” movement started off as a fringe outfit of street thugs, but in recent years has gone mainstream and acquired respectability, even receiving allotted posts in the coalition government.  The ruling coalition also contains the national-liberal party called “Unity”, one of the major political parties in Latvia.  Among the denizens of “Unity” are two self-hating (they call them “correct”) Russians, named Aleksejs Loskutovs and Andrejs Judins.  The former, ironically, is the son of a Communist Party functionary who is now considered one of the Untouchables caste of “non-citizens” of Latvia.  Loskutovs and Judins provide a convenient fig-leaf for Latvian nationalists whenever they need to pass new laws destined to harm and offend the Russian community.

Nazi SS Legion marches in Riga every year.

For example, Judins, whose unpleasant-sounding surname makes it irresistable for his enemies to dub him “Judas”, was one of the authors of a repressive law requiring jail time for anyone “denying, justifying, praising, or contesting the occupation of Latvia by the USSR or Nazi Germany.”  Please note again, that tossing in “Nazi Germany” is simply another fig-leaf for these nationalists.  Required by the EU as part of their bogus “cover story” that pro-Nazi collaborators during World War II fought equally against both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.  Required for plausible deniability, but not really fooling anyone who has studied the actual history.  And also not fooling anyone who witnesses, year after year, the Waffen SS marches through downtown Riga.  Marches which are not only not prohibited by law, but actively encouraged by the authorities.  Hence, the “we fought against both forms of totalitarian” B.S. is just part of the propaganda game, which is understood by everyone.  Why else would Latvian nationalists brag about the fact that they just can’t get along with anyone?

Andrejs Judins, a Russian “Judas”

Judins understands the game all too well.  Namely, that to be a true member of the European community, it’s okay to be a Nazi, but not okay to be a Russian.  Because most Russians, even ones who are not ideologically Communist, continue to venerate the wartime achievement of the Soviet Union, in defeating Nazi Germany.  That glorious military victory is imprinted upon every truly Russian mind and is a key component of the national consensus.  Latvians, on the other hand (at least, the type of Latvian in power nowaday) rooted for the other side in that great war.  They are sore losers and never really accepted, psychologically, that the German side lost.  Due to this discordance and the resulting attitude of revanchism, the European consensus (Who were the good guys?  Who were the bad guys?) is at polar odds with the Russian consensus.  Thus creating an unresolvable civilizational conflict.

Lashing out against the Russian mentality, Judins insisted, in his repressive legislation, that any trivialization of the “Soviet occupation” must be punishable by jail time.  He also proposed to ban the showing or wearing of any Soviet symbolism, such as a hammer and sickle tee-shirt, for example.  Although it’s okay to brandish swastikas in the annual Waffen march.  Judins has also come out categorically against giving the Russian language the status of an official or state language in Latvia, alongside Latvian.  Thus depriving Latvians, and not just Russian Latvians, of the chance to learn one of the world’s major languages and thus open the gateway to a huge body of classical literature and scientific publications.  Latvian is a beautiful language too, but it is a dying language, and it simply cannot offer that kind of opportunity to schoolchildren.

“We Are Cultured Europeans”

In the concluding paragraph of his essay, Vishnevsky mentions still a third type of creature swimming in the Latvian political pond.  This is the party of “European Russians”.  And this is a relatively new trend.  These are ethnic Russians who don’t pretend to be Latvians, but who look out at the broader context and declare that they are “Europeans”.  For them, I reckon Latvia is just the geographical platform for their EU membership.  And that’s fine too.  These people are reminiscent of the extreme “Westernizers” of 19th century Russia.  They dislike Russia and make it clear to everyone that they are not Putin supporters.  They just want to fit in, and that’s okay too.

Igor Vatolin: DOA

The founder of this trend is Pedagogue and Publicist Igor Vatolin, whose movement is called “EU Russians”.  If Judins is the “Judas” of the Russian community, then I suppose you could say that Vat-olin wants to take the “vat” out of “vatnik“.  I apologize, it is not seemly to pun on a person’s name.  But anyhow, Vatolin has accused the Kremlin of financing the “subversive activities” of his political opponents.  His opponents reply with the counter-accusation that Vatolin himself is bankrolled by the Security agencies of the Latvian government.  Either way, Vatolin has not experienced any electoral success with his movement, which seems to be Dead-On-Arrival; and with that Vishnevsky ends his essay.

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8 Responses to Latvian Fascism – Not Necessarily Who You Think It Is – Part III

  1. marknesop says:

    “Judins understands the game all too well. Namely, that to be a true member of the European community, it’s okay to be a Nazi, but not okay to be a Russian. Because most Russians, even ones who are not ideologically Communist, continue to venerate the wartime achievement of the Soviet Union, in defeating Nazi Germany. That glorious military victory is imprinted upon every truly Russian mind and is a key component of the national consensus.”

    That’s actually very perceptive, and although there seem to be many reasons to dislike Russia and Russians these days, for Europeans at the leadership level this just might be at the bottom of it. Germany is the driving force behind Europe, figuratively and economically, and it is most peculiar that the Europeans most willing to acknowledge and repent of their Nazi heritage are the Germans themselves. It is others, and notably the Baltics, who are apologists for the Wehrmacht.

    Europe has made it clear that Russia will never be welcome – although they describe it as ‘ready’ – in the European community, although realists are perfectly willing to trade with Russia on profitable terms. But it’s a little like who actually follows international law despite all the squawking and fluff about international law, isn’t it? Some can’t bear to have a mirror held up to themselves.

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      I’ve more and more come round to the conclusion that WWII and “revanchism” are at the heart of the dispute between Europe and Russia.
      And, while the Germans technically repent of their Nazi past, I don’t see them reprimanding the Ukrainians and Balts for their veneration of Nazis.
      Curious, eh?

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      • Pavlo Svolochenko says:

        Was in a Munich bookstore, 2005. Vast number of ‘Fatherland’ copies for sale, and you don’t need to be terribly cynical to figure why.

        Fritz and Gretchen are sorry they lost – their penitence is only a trick. Forget this at your peril.

        Like

        • yalensis says:

          Dear Pavlo:
          I’m afraid I don’t keep up with current reading as much as I should.
          I googled “Fatherland”, are you talking about this book?
          It actually sounds pretty good, I might read it.
          I skimmed the plot in wiki, it doesn’t sound pro-Nazi.
          I probably won’t bother reading it, if it’s pro-Nazi. I’m sort of narrow-minded that way.

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          • Pavlo Svolochenko says:

            That’s the one, and while it is entirely anti-Nazi, I guarantee Germans are reading it and wistfully imagining what might have been.

            Harris has written other novels, but if you’ve read one of them you’ve pretty much read them all.

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            • yalensis says:

              Yeah, I get it.
              I stopped reading Kurt Vonnegut novels much for the same reason, he just seemed a little too much into the Nazi nostalgia thing, and too much special pleading for the German side.

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    • davidt says:

      “…never be welcome”- hope that you are wrong. Anatol Lieven, recall his latest article at Valdai, is rather more optimistic. The reality is that it is crazy for Europeans to pass up trade with Russia and to ultimately risk a big war to boot. The Germans especially don’t seem to be thinking clearly- perhaps Trump might cause them to rethink their position. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
      And to both of you- merry Christmas and all the best for 2017.

      Like

      • yalensis says:

        Dear David: Merry Christmas to you too!
        (Well, actually it’s Boxing Day today, but that’s even better, because that’s when I receive my treats, all boxed up in nice packages!)

        Like

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