Russians chastise removal of monument

  • 2007-08-22
  • By Talis Saule Archdeacon

SOVIET ROCK: Russian press is comparing the transfer of themonument to that of the Bronze Soldier in Tallinn.

RIGA- Latvia's ethnic Russian communityslammed the town ofBauska for relocating a Sovietmemorial stone to a local cemetery,sparking pleas from the presidentand prime minister not to politicizethe event.The monument, erected to honorSoviet soldiers who fought againstNazi Germany, is a large boulderinscribed with the words "to the liberatorsof Bauska." The relocationof the monument from a local gardento the Soviet military cemeteryis due to be completed on Sept. 1.

Russian media immediatelylinked the decision with the recentincident in Tallinn, when a wellknownSoviet war memorial 's theBronze Soldier 's was moved from adowntown square to a militarycemetery. Two days of riots followedthe statue's removal, resultingin one death and nearly 60 millionkroons (3.83 million euros) indamages to the Estonian capital.The Russian television newsagency RTR was present for theAug. 9 initiation of the Bauskamonument's move, which theybranded an example of the"Tallinn syndrome" in Latvia.The Regnum news agency waseven more explicit in their comparisonof the two events, claiming intheir headline that "Latvia followsEstonia's example in transferringmonument to Soviet soldiers." Theagency went on to claim that theNGO that proposed the move, theLatvian Community for NationalWarriors, "holds sacred the memory"of Latvian soldiers who foughtfor Nazi Germany during the war.

Latvia's president and primeminister stressed the decision tomove the boulder had been madelong ago and that Russian Federationofficials were notified of the intention.They reiterated there was noneed to politicize the decision.Russian Ambassador to LatviaViktor Kalyuzny claimed thatRussia was not informed about theDecember 2005 decision to relocatethe memorial, calling such claims"nonsense."The Latvian Anti-FascistCommittee, a rights group based inRiga and composed mainly ofRussians, made similar claimsshortly after the monumentremoval process started.Maris Freimanis, deputy headof the Bauska City Council, hadpreviously told Telegraph, aRussian language daily, that themonument's replacement was initiated"by an NGO whose namenobody remembers any longer."

Janis Miculis, Bauska CityCouncil's executive director, toldthe Latvian language daily Dienathat "on March 3, 2006, thenRussian military attache in Latvia,Sergey Kolevatov, his assistantViktor Adoniyev and a technicaldirector visited the city. Both sidesagreed that the stone can be transferredto a military cemetery."President Valdis Zatlers toldreporters Aug. 16 that "the stonemust be treated very seriously. Theissue should not be excessivelypoliticized."Kalvitis took an identicalstance, adding that there were nopolitical undertones in the decisionto move the monument. "Gravesand memorial sites are not anobject of political intrigue," he said.Despite these warnings, theleftist bloc For Human Rights inUnited Latvia decided on Aug. 19 tostart a campaign to protect Sovietmemorial sites.

The oppositionparty says that it does not want toallow the "deliberate destructionof WWII memorials by nationalistsof the Baltic states."The bloc claims that there aremore than 300 Soviet soldiermemorial sites in Latvia, manyof which are in dire need ofrepair.