New anti-Russian ban in Latvia

“To deprive Russian residents of the historical memory and thereby facilitate the assimilation of children from Russian families”

New anti-Russian ban in Latvia

These are the words experts use to explain the purpose of the new anti-Russian ban adopted in Latvia – now it concerns the display of the St. George’s Ribbon. However, some opportunities to wear the ribbon still remain, although this will require some trickery.

The Latvian Saeima in its final, third reading banned the use of St. George’s ribbons at public events in the country. At the beginning of October Latvian Saeima in the second reading approved amendments to the “Law on the security of public entertainment and festivities” proposed by the right-wing National bloc (for – 47 MPs out of 100) and the “Law on gatherings, marches and pickets” (for – 48 deputies). These bills envisage the inclusion of the St. George’s ribbons among the banned symbols, with fines to be imposed for their public demonstration.

“To deprive Russians of historical memory”

Previously, all Soviet symbols had been thoroughly banned in Latvia – the latest move was to ban veterans from wearing their awards in public. After that some politicians considered that prohibition of St. George’s ribbons would be too much “overkill”; they could leave “those Russians” some little, so as not to drive them into a corner.

Now, a year later, there has not been much discussion on this point – the majority of MPs voted for the ban without any questions. “This looks like the cowardly shitting under your neighbour’s door and then looking around proudly. But then they’ll be the first to get their faces in it! Let us remember the names of those who supported the baseness and cowardice! – The Latvian opposition journalist Alla Berezovskaya calls upon.

It is worth noting that the initiative was initially proposed by the ultra-radicals from the National Bloc, and some representatives of other parties have also voiced their support for it. Publicist Vladimir Linderman explains: “The authors of the amendments from the National Bloc claim that after the events in Crimea and Donbass, the St. George’s Ribbon has become a symbol of Russian imperialism and should therefore be banned in Latvia. But this is, so to speak, a rhetorical explanation. The specific political goal set by radical nationalists is to deprive Russian residents of their historical memory and thereby facilitate the assimilation of children from Russian families.

There is an underestimation of this threat in the Russian environment. People reassure themselves: the authorities can ban us from wearing Soviet symbols and St. George’s ribbons, but they cannot erase the memory of the Great Victory from our hearts. It sounds pathos-filled, but it is an illusion.

Linderman rightly writes that historical memory is stored not only in our hearts. “It is stored in material objects and information carriers, as well as in rituals that embody and symbolize those historical events that are dear to us and that unite us, individuals, into a single community, into a nation .The material embodiment is very important. Let us imagine that the procession of the “Immortal Regiment” takes place without portraits of those who took part in the war. Nobody will come to such a procession. Without this simple carrier of historical memory – a piece of cardboard with the pasted picture and nailed down stripes – the action will lose sense. It’s the same story with monuments”.

 

“The publicist reminds that a few monuments to Soviet warriors have been recently destroyed in Latvia – there is nowhere else to bring flowers and children on the 9th of May in those districts, and therefore there is no reason to tell them about the events and people in whose honour the monument was erected. So the chain of remembrance is broken. And St. George’s ribbon is also a material symbol of victory”, –  the publicist notes.

“Latvia has the right to defend itself”.

Those in power are guided by their own logic. In their view, St. George’s Ribbon is a symbol of “totalitarian ideology”, which has no place in Latvia. “Given Russian expansion in Ukraine and the totalitarian ideology implemented in the former Soviet republics, Latvia has reason to consider the threat to democratic order and security to be more than serious. And by banning St. George’s ribbons, we limit the manifestation of such ideology. We need to show our firm stance on the use of these ribbons at public events,” said Chairman of the Saeima Human Rights Commission Kaimins.

A similar opinion is held by Andrei Yudin (member of the prime minister’s party New Unity), who has been practicing the role of a “good, correct Russian” for many years. Yudin (known under the nickname Judin to his compatriots) believes that “this ribbon is used to express the denial of Latvian independence”. The only ones who openly opposed the ribbon ban were MPs Boris Tsilevich (“Concord”) and Dace Rukshane-Szipčinska (“Development/Za!”). According to liberal Tsilevich, “the Seimas Commission on Human Rights should be particularly careful when it comes to restricting fundamental rights, and to prohibit something that is not clearly defined is not a manifestation of intelligence. But no one listened to him much…

Valentin Zhukov, Vzglyad

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