Latvija in brief - 2005-02-02

  • 2005-02-02
At the recent ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks apologized to the victims of the Holocaust in the name of the state for its inability to stop the murder of Jews from taking place in Latvia. "If we had succeeded in doing this, there would not be only memorial stone pillars left in this place. But our state itself was under occupation, therefore our eternal responsibility now is to prevent the repeat of such tragedies," Pabriks said at the ceremony, which took place at Rumbula.

Russian Ambassador Viktor Kaluzhny visited the Occupation Museum, accompanied by Pabriks, historian Heinrihs Strods and a slew of journalists. Kaluzhny reportedly called the museum's exhibits "one-sided" as they did not properly show the Soviet period's positive aspects, such as investments into industrial development. Not surprisingly, the ambassador denied that an occupation by the Soviet Union had taken place.

Finance billionaire George Soros was awarded the Three-Star Order, the nation's highest honor, for his work in strengthening democracy and civil society in Latvia through the Soros Foundation. President Vaira Vike-Freiberga presented Soros with the award at the Davos World Economic Summit in Switzerland.

Riga Mayor Gundars Bojars suspended the head of the city's environmental department, Askolds Klavins, in order to evaluate complaints received about the quality of the bureaucrat's work. Klavins, however, said his suspension was related to his insistence that the mayor open for bidding a recent contract that concerns trash pickup. Bojars disagreed, and instead signed a contact with three foreign companies.

Historian Aivars Stranga was refused entry to Russia due to his allegedly Russophobic viewpoints and his attempts to rewrite history, according to the Russian news agency Regnum. Stranga had planned to visit Russia for the presentation of a Russian language edition of the book "The History of Latvia: the 20th Century," which Stranga co-wrote along with a number of other historians and was presented to the president last week. Stranga later said, however, that he was only unofficially warned that he might not be allowed in the country, and canceled the visit himself.

Russia's Foreign Ministry sharply criticized Vike-Freiberga over her recent statements about the end of World War II and the occupation. "Meanwhile, it looks like Mrs. Vaira Vike-Freiberga is not willing to come to Russia. This may be the reason why attempts are being made to do all for Moscow to recall the invitation, or, even better, 'not to issue the visa,' as Mrs. President herself has hinted," the ministry communique said.