For the last couple of months, I have been wondering what is wrong with theUnlike Mr. Kovalev I don’t find any reason to wonder. This irrational from the first sight behavior has very sound explanations – this kind of “recognition” of Stalin’s crimes will have very dire consequences for ethnic Russians and Ukrainians who live in Latvia and Estonia. About 30% of Latvian population and 15% of Estonian population are so called ‘non-citizens’. They pay all taxes but are not allowed to participate in elections including municipal elections at small towns and villages where sometimes ‘non-citizens’ make up to 90% of population. That’s right – in some towns officials elected by a very small minority decide how to use taxes collected from the majority. If I’m not mistaken at the end of the 18th century taxation without representation was one of the main reasons for the American Revolution. At the same time any EU citizen can vote at municipal elections in Latvia if he or she lives for more than 3 months at one place.
Russian political elite. Its members are behaving like obstinate donkeys and
stupidly dragging their heels on any reconciliation with the Baltic states.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have one simple request: that Russia recognize
that Josef Stalin committed crimes against their citizens. In other words, they
are asking the Kremlin to do exactly what Germany did decades ago in relation to
The reason why ethnic Russians and Ukrainians are ‘non-citizens’ is because they are ‘civil occupants’ even if they were born in Latvia or Estonia and lived all their life there. Being exemplary European democracies Latvia and Estonia let ‘non-citizens’ gain full citizenship if they learn the language and pass a constitution and a history exam. The history exam means accepting the official version of history. For example, some people can believe that Latvian SS-men were not really Nazis but freedom fighters; some can believe they committed war crimes killing Jews at Salaspils concentration camp. When it comes to getting Latvian citizenship only the first answer is correct and of course Salaspils was a reformatory. But that’s not the main point. The main point is the knowledge of the language – the perfect knowledge of the language is required. For example, I study English for more than 30 years but if I knew Latvian as well as I know English I wouldn’t pass the exam because I still make mistakes and my grammar is rather shaky.
What are legal grounds that make ‘non-citizens’ legitimate in the eyes of European human rights watchers? The Geneve Convention. According to the convention an invading state and an occupant is not allowed to settle its civilians on the territory of the occupied nation. This way ‘non-citizens’ are somewhat very close in status to Jewish settlers on the West Bank. Thus the “reconciliation” actually means not just shaking hands, forgiving and forgetting. It also means that Russia recognizes the fact that Latvia and Estonia were occupied territories with all the consequences.
So why is this hysteria NOW? Why is it necessary to make Russia blame Molotov-Ribbentropp Pact TODAY? The Baltic Republics are safely in NATO and EU. Isn’t it time to settle down, think about good home-keeping and put the Book of Baltic Grudges somewhere into the dusty corner? The problem is young ‘non-citizens’. Before 1991 for ethnic Russians or Ukrainians the knowledge of the language in the Baltic Republics was not a problem of survival. But since 1991 it is. Almost all teenage ‘non-citizens’ are bilingual, they speak perfect Latvian or Estonian – they had to learn it and for young people it’s always much easier. Three or four years more and Latvian/Estionian officials would have no formal reasons to flunk ‘non-citizens’ at language and history exams. Young ‘non-citizens’ have their own Big Book of Grudges – they remember well all the humiliations that had to pass throughout their childhood in the 90s. When you are only five and kids at a kindergarten bully you and call you 'dirty Soviet occupant' you don't forget it easily. This young generation is a real threat to the present political elites in Latvia and Estonia. At the same time young ethnic Latvians and Estionians don't remember the "horrors" of the Soviet occupation. They are not such Russophobes as their parents and they don't see their ethnic Russian contemporaties as a threat to national sovereignty. Not that long ago at the parliamentary elections in Lithuania a "Russian" party got most of votes even though ethnic Russians make less than 9% of Lithuanian population. Unless Latvian/Estionian political elites restrain their nationalistic ardor they could loose power pretty soon.