Russian documentary on WWII angers politicians

  • 2005-12-21
  • By Aaron Eglitis
RIGA - Local politicians have pilloried a new documentary film, "Baltic Nazism," covering the Nazi period in the Baltic states. They have gone so far as to appeal to the Russian Embassy and the local prosecutor in an effort to stop the film's premiere in January, just days after the documentary was shown to local journalists.

The documentary has drawn criticism because it reportedly juxtaposes video material from World War II with recent minority-related demonstrations in the country.

The documentary was shown to local journalists shortly after the European Council decided to end human rights monitoring in Latvia, causing some members of Parliament to conclude that the film was Russia's answer to the recent decision to end monitoring. Many have interpreted the documentary as depicting a revival of fascism in Latvia today.

It includes a march to the Freedom Monument by members of All For Latvia and some veterans of the Latvian legion on the day honoring the legion. The footage shows protestors clad in prison uniforms with the Star of David being hauled away by local police for physically obstructing the march.

"This tendentious and one-sided interpretation of the events of World War II cannot even for a small measure pretend to be an objective and serious historical expertise," Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks told the Baltic News Service.

The Greens and Farmers' Union have called for a halt to showing the film, which was produced by a little-known Russian company Third Rome, claiming it would ignite ethnic hatred and harm relations between the two countries.

"The film incites ethnic hatred, and is a noteworthy example of [Joseph] Goebbels' propoganda. It lies and distorts history," Janis Strazdins, a member of the Greens and Farmers' Union, said at a press conference.

"This is a known provocation in order to start a debate about the monitoring of human rights in Latvia," said parliamentarian speaker Ingrida Udre.

The prosecutor's office is reportedly considering a probe into whether the film promotes ethnic hatred.

Other than a group of journalists and politicians, few have yet to see the whole film.

The documentary features interviews with Nikolajs Kabanovs, a parliamentarian from the left-wing For Human Rights in the United Latvia, Margers Vestermanis head of the local Jewish Museum, Raivis Dzintars leader of the right-wing All For Latvia patriotic youth organization, Alfreds Rubiks, the former communist mayor of Riga and Viktors Kalnberzs of the left-wing Homeland party.

Historian Antonijs Zunda and right-wing parliamentarian Juris Dobelis are also featured in the film.

The film also interviews a number of people who claim that Latvia freely joined the Soviet Union in 1940 during the first Soviet occupation. The Latvian legion, which consists of two divisions, is reportedly portrayed as fighting for Nazi ideals, and not for the country.

Margers Vestermanis, who appeared in the film and was later interviewed by the television program Panorama, said the country's history was "extraordinarily complicated," and that the film does little to address those issues. "It again comes [across] with half-truths, where the political goal is clearly seen 's open provocation," Vestermanis said.

The 50-minute documentary will be shown at the beginning of next year on the Russian television station RTVC, which reportedly has an audience of some 30 million viewers.