RIGA - Historians Aivars Stranga and Eriks Jekabsons have said that a new book on Latvian history published in Moscow was another propaganda move on the part of Russia, which has been using state-owned media to soften the crimes it committed in the Baltics during the Soviet era while painting a picture of neo-fascism in the region.
"I see it as total nonsense," historian Eriks Jekabsons, a researcher at the University of Latvia Institute of Latvian History, said of the book, "Latvia Under The Nazi Yoke." He said the book was published for the sole reason of "turning public opinion in the intended direction."
University of Latvia Professor Aivars Stranga, head of the Latvian history faculty, seconded the opinion. "Everything they have put in there all has been invented and made up," he said.
The book does not meet any academic standards, said the Latvian historians. For instance, the book did not give either the names of the authors or the researchers, who selected the archive materials to be published. Only the publishers, Yevropa, have been indicated.
Stranga said the book has a very politicized preface, stating that Nazism was being reborn and glorified in Latvia. "It is unacceptable from an academic viewpoint," he said.
He pointed out absurdities such as an exact number of inmates at the Salaspils concentration camp in Latvia given by a person allegedly a former prisoner of this camp. "How could he know the figures? No witness can know the figures," said Stranga. He said that such accurate information was available to the Nazi military and officials, not a prisoner of the camp.
According to the book, 200,000 Jews from other European countries had been brought to Latvia and killed there during the war. Stranga said that in fact it had been 20,000 Jews, and there were lists to prove it.
He said he regretted that the book contained no new information, only the same statements as were available during the Soviet rule. Yet "the book is interesting enough to study how myths, Soviet-time myths, are created in history," said Stranga.
Jekabsons also pointed out that the statements by witnesses included in the book were taken during Stalin's rule, when it was important to demonstrate the evil of the other party by any means.
Jekabsons said that the book might have been meant as revenge for the book "History of Latvia: The 20th Century" published in Latvia last year and dealing with the Soviet and Nazi occupations in Latvia as well as the most important historic facts and processes in Latvia during the last century. The book, published in Latvia, was sharply criticized by Russia, particularly for describing the Salaspils concentration camp during the Nazi rule as a correctional labor camp, which was the official terminology at that time. In later issues of the book, this has been corrected.