Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March 16 (58/100)

Today is March 16, an big day on the Latvian calendar. Big, but hard to describe without making someone angry. Each year on March 16th, depending on who you listen to, either: Latvians mark the historic date of a battle in which Latvian troops, conscripted largely against their will by the Germans, fought bravely and took great losses fighting against the armies of Russia, which had just forcibly taken over Latvia a few years before Germany did; OR, Latvians celebrate the Latvian contributions to the SS and Nazism in general. As is often the case in such battles over history and ideology, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

That doesn't stop annual promises of protests by self-proclaimed anti-Fascist groups, in turn provoking promises to defend the honor of the Latvian Legion by self-proclaimed patriots. It has gotten a bit out of hand, and to make sure that nothing spins out of control, the riot police come out in force, making the general order around the Freedom Monument comically well-defended. In the end, there were maybe 100 people participating in the ceremony laying flowers at the Freedom Monument, fewer people than that staging a demonstration in opposition, about 200 rubber-neckers, and about 1000 cops. I'm sure a lot of those cops made overtime, so maybe we can just chalk it up to fiscal stimulus.

1 comment:

Riga City Photos said...

One thing is for sure - they didn't had any intention to contribute to Nazism or SS (they wore SS symbolic uniforms just because Germans gave those uniforms, those uniforms were only ones available, but their units hadn't any connection with SS). So, the philospohical expression "the truth is somewhere in between" won't explain the real situation in this case. Basically, they thought they're fighting for Latvia's freedom. And other Latvians did the same in Soviet troops - and there were situations when brother shot to brother, or a son captured his father in captivity. Latvians were hostages of 2 mad superpowers.
However, I don't support the idea that they (veterans) should go to Freedom monument in those SS uniforms on 16th March, I'm overally against such rituals/traditions, which forces people to remember the pains and live in past instead of presence.