Russian ambassador faces Latvia's past

  • 2005-01-06
  • From wire reports
RIGA - Despite disagreeing with the name of the Occupation Museum, Russian Ambassador to Latvia Viktor Kalyuzhny said he would visit the establishment out of "human interest."

The embassy said it could not turn down Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks' invitation to Kalyuzhny to join the minister in visiting the museum. "Seeing the exposition is interesting not because of diplomatic gestures but because of human interest in this issue. Latvia is trying to surprise the whole world and is actively using this topic," the embassy wrote in a statement.

Upon taking his post, Kalyuzhny said he did not see any problems with visiting the museum.

At the same time the embassy asked why the museum had been given a name that "scares us away." "Do the museum founders really have something so terrible on display?" asked an embassy official in regards to the Occupation Museum's name.

The embassy also expressed bitterness over a statement by Latvian Culture Minister Helena Demakova in a television program in November that the museum "is not as much the object of culture as an 'ideological weapon' in Latvia's fight for the recognition of its version of history."

Pabriks' spokeswoman Dagnija Stukena said that Kalyuzhny had not yet confirmed whether he would visit the museum on Jan. 26.

But given how badly Russia wants the Baltic presidents to attend Victory Day ceremonies in Moscow in May, the Kremlin may see an ambassadorial visit of the museum as a gesture of good will.

Pabriks, in the wake of recent remarks by Kalyuzhny that Russia has nothing to apologize to Latvia for in connection with the country's Soviet period, invited the ambassador to see the museum.

To this day Latvia and Russia maintain a radically different perception regarding the 50-year Soviet period in Latvia, which the Baltic nation sees as an occupation. Russia, on the other hand, denies this.