Historians left to agree on history

  • 2011-01-05
  • From wire reports

MOVING FORWARD: Valdis Zatlers (left) and Dmitry Medvedev discuss the historical relations between their countries during their December meeting in Moscow.

RIGA - There are complicated pages of history in relations between Latvia and Russia; however, their discussion belongs at the academic level and not between politicians, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said at a Dec. 20 press conference after his meeting with visiting Latvian President Valdis Zatlers, reports Nozare.lv. For this reason, both presidents agreed on the establishment of a joint Committee of Historians, to thoroughly analyze ‘historical events.’ It is expected that the historians will be able to gain access to archives that were not accessible before.

The history of Latvia-Russia relations is complicated, one that has not always brought the countries close together, noted Medvedev. In a conversation with Zatlers, historical issues were discussed, among them those with different points of view, including the Second World War.

It would be an achievement if Russia would ever admit to the occupation of the Baltics, asserts University of Latvia history Professor Aivars Stranga, speaking in an interview with the daily Neatkariga. “As I understand it, Russia has a four-step policy in tackling sensitive historical issues. This can be seen clearly at the moment in regard to the Katyn massacre. First - admission that a crime has taken place. Second - expressing regret. Russia has expressed regret to Poland in regard to the Katyn massacre. Third - an apology, which Poland has not yet received. Fourth - apologizing on several occasions, to show your sincerity,” the historian said.

Stranga said that in Latvia’s case, just the admission that the country was occupied would be an achievement. Then an expression of regret. “We do not even need several apologies. Just an admission that the occupation took place would be enough,” he said.

The historian is skeptical that Russia will admit to the occupation of Latvian anytime soon, however, there is always hope, as can be seen in regard to Russia’s stance on the Katyn massacre. “However, in regard to the Katyn issue, it must be pointed out that Latvia is not such a global player as Poland. I highly regard Poland’s stance on this issue. Poland recently welcomed Russian President Dimitry Medvedev with much respect, but without over-eagerness. Poland announced that Medvedev made a historical visit to Poland, but they still intend to purchase fighter jets from the United States,” the historian said.

Assessing the December visit by President Zatlers to Russia, Stranga said that this was a symbolic visit. “For 20 years we have been called a country of fascists, and now the leader of this country will be received in Moscow. I have a neutral point of view on this visit. I do not have too many hopes or illusions. It is clear that historical issues will not be on top of the visit’s agenda,” the historian said.

Medvedev admitted that even though it is impossible to completely separate politics from history in relations between both countries, it is necessary to try and do so. There will always be historical events that will be complicated, and this refers to many other countries as well.