Levits calls on Saeima to adopt bill to "eradicate and prevent" glorification of Russification or totalitarian regimes in place names

  • 2023-06-19
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA -  Latvian President Egils Levits has called on the Saeima to adopt a bill to "eradicate and prevent in the future" the glorification of Russification or totalitarian regimes in street and place names, according to the president's statement.

He pointed out that over the past ten years there has been a global trend to review colonialist policies of Western European empires and their continuing effects to the present day. According to the President, solutions ranging from radically erasing all traces of colonialism and demanding reparations from the descendants of the former colonizers to forgetting these tragic pages of history are being proposed.

"It is clear that the neutral view or weak condemnation that has long prevailed in the West is no longer acceptable and will not be possible. In the context of these global discussions, it would be necessary to look also at the attitude of Latvian society towards its own complex, often tragic history," the President emphasized.

He noted that Latvia's state policy is consistent in this respect - it commemorates and condemns the crimes of the occupation regimes in many different ways and honors its freedom fighters. In Levits' view, this is also in line with the view of the majority of the society. This state policy and the conscious position of the majority of the society indicates that in this respect "our system of democratic values is stable".

The President pointed out that our mentality is full of the imprints of Russian and Soviet colonialism, some of which are more visible, some of which are less visible, but most of which "remain at a subconscious level". He drew attention to the fact that the monuments to Vladimir Lenin and other occupant officials were removed during the restoration of Latvia's independence, but many of the monuments and other signs remained untouched.

Levits pointed out that during Russia's aggression against Ukraine, it became clear to the majority of the society that these monuments and other signs were not just "innocent" historical legacies, but were purposefully installed ideological objects. In his view, their existence today actively symbolizes an ideology hostile to an independent, democratic, Latvian national state.

The President recognized the dismantling of the monument in Victory Park as a symbolic act, clearing Latvia's public space from signs glorifying the Soviet occupation regime. In his view, there is another legacy of the Soviet occupation and the related Russian policy of Russification and colonialism - street names and other place names.

He urged the Saeima to adopt a law on changing the names introduced as a result of the communist totalitarian regime and the policies of Russification. 

"The law is technically simple. It should contain the following regulation: a list of street names and other place names that the respective municipalities have to rename, an obligation for the municipalities to rename these names within one year and a regulation on the costs of renaming," Levits said, expressing the view that the costs should be covered by the state.