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Monday 23.10.2017 | Name days: Daina, Dainida, Dainis

Latvian nationalist about May 9th: I would like to say kind words to our Russian friends

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‘I am a Latvian nationalist, and I am proud of it. I lived in Russia for many years. I love Russian language and Russian culture, especially Russian music. I will not add translations to the lyrics (please forgive me, those who do not know Russian language). I believe only Ojārs Vācietis would be capable of saying in Latvian what these songs said in Russian. Even Pūt, vējiņi! Is impossible to translate into Russian, at least not correctly,’ – said President of Latvian Doctors Association Peteris Apinis in his interview to BNN.

Bulat Okudzhava would be 90 today. ‘Nearly thirty or so years before his concert in the north of Siberia, I had the pleasure of sharing a table with him. We almost drank too much that time. He passed away in 1997, leaving his fantastic song to us. No other Russian singer had the sheer power of will to encourage others to love Russia and Russians as he did. I would like to say kind words to all of my Russian friends today, and say that I am proud to know them. I don’t know any better way to express this than by using Bulat Okudzhava’s words:

Nevertheless, May 9th is not just Okudzhava’s birthday. It is also Victory Day. May 9th has strong roots in Russian traditions. It helps strengthen national identity and celebrate a national holiday. Remembrance of victims of war in Russia legitimized a vertical model of state management, respect of military hierarchy and mystified social structure. World War II and victory in it justifies centralized power, large military forces and special services. The latter are often used to strengthen the current power. Moreover, Victory Day is no less important to the people than it is to those in power. It allows for the justification of such a non-democratic structure. Outside of Russia Victory Day is an important element that helps maintain ties with ethnic homeland. As a Latvian, for me it is different – my uncle served in a Latvian division on the Soviet side. Three of his brothers served in the Legion. For me the war was tragedy because it put Latvian versus Latvian. It is a tragedy that killed people. The only justification of war is stopping other wars. And seeing as how I had the honour of meeting Bulat Okudzhava, I would like everyone to listen to what he – a frontline fighter and an honourable person had to say about the end of the war – “War is over, take your greatcoat, let’s go home”:

I am prepared to sing this song with thousands of Russians who come to Victory Monument on May 9th. Victory Day has become, perhaps, the only holiday from Russia’s legitimacy, because Russia’s Independence Day (June 12th) is remembered by less than 5% of residents. Even the most loyal of communists have been forgetting the October Revolution lately.

The Russian traditions for May 9th are similar to how they celebrate Maslenitsa, Easter and Troitsa – usually come together to drink as three, carry eggs, bread, salt and vodka to graves (especially to the World War II Brothers’ Cemetery), wear good clothes and adorn them with ribbons and go on festivities to the central square of a city or village. There are opponents of this theory. They claim traditions for Maslenitsa were taken from March 8th holiday. It was March 8th when Russian actor Anatoly Kuznetsov (famous for his role as Sukhov in the “White Sun of the desert” film by Director Vladimir Motil) passed away. This ашдь became a masterpiece. It is the all-time most viewed Russian film about war. It proudly holds the title of the most favourite film of all time by Russians. May of the phrases have become part of the Golden fund of Russian expressions: “Восток — дело тонкое” (East is a delicate matter) and “Мне за державу обидно!” (I feel sorry for the country). I believe this song from this film is suitable to be heard on May 9th:

On May 9th, I would like to mention that I know a certain Russian musician – Aleksandr Rosenbaum – who is well-known in Russia and other countries. He has a certain ringing in his voice and manner of singing, which some people tend to compare with that of Vladimir Visotsky. During one of his concerts in Riga, I sat next to then the Russian ambassador to Latvia Kharitonov and several influential Latvian bankers. It is hard to describe Rosenbaum’s music – he is a bard who tends to become somewhat rock ‘n roll-ish. Sometimes he does some country music. That depends on his mood and nostalgia. He usually sings what is known as emigrant music – something that brings about nostalgia. The majority of Rosembaum’s fans are middle-aged people. They have plenty to feel nostalgic about: their years as Soviet youth, parties, discos, the racket of trains passing by and, of course, the sound of a playing guitar,’ – says Apinis.

‘I am fascinated that the company I was in we considered Russians – they were all people of different nationalities who studied in Russian schools. And after the Soviet Era, they all longed for something unfathomable – exactly what Rosembaum sings about. An association of mine – as Latvia entered the EU, we have closed up our borders with Russia in a way. Russia is now all alone and defenceless. We are not the ones who should cry, but they are – to watch how Latvia has managed to climb all the way to the 37th place in the world in terms of economic success. Russia, on the other hand, has slumped down to the 60th place. Latvia is dying out or is being abandoned – the country’s population reduces every year. Russia’s population drops by 3% every year.

Russia is on the second place in the global outlook of the UN in regard to dying out. Today I would like my fellow Latvians who know Russian language and like Russian music to listen to Aleksandr Rosembaum:

Now this is interesting – why do people keep coming to Victory Monument? I used to say some five years ago – “Latvian drinks like a Russian”. We had our own stereotypes. We did not think of Russians as a nation that had Pushkin or Tchaikovsky. We thought of them as a nation who was prohibited to swear by President Vladimir Putin, thereby limiting Russian language by one-third. I do believe Russian had their own stereotypes about us as well. I would imagine drunken participants of festivities, all carrying medals and such, whose cultural level required quite a bit of work. In reality, however, Russians more often drink cheap beer from plastic cups, not vodka or kvas when they come to the Victory Monument. They eat European foods, not pelmeni. Moreover, I have to admit that Russian children are often more industrious in their learning, they are often more motivated to develop and often know Latvian language even better than Latvian children know Russian language. Judging from results of countless contests, I can also say Russian children often know English language far better than Latvian children do.

I had once compared Rosembaum with Visotsky. In reality, I believe Vladimir Visotsky cannot be compared with anyone on this Earth. If you want to understand one-sixth of this world, you need to understand Visotsky’s music and lyrics. On May 9th, I would like everyone who does not know what war is to listen to Visotsky:

The pointless war, the war that was started by maniacs, the war that took the lives of boys and girls, the war that destroyed cities and burned children alive, the war that had concentration camps and Gulag,’ – Apinis expresses his views.

‘This year’s May 9th is different – we do not know what might happen elsewhere in the world tomorrow. We don’t know if God gives us peace or if tanks and firearms may be used someplace in Eastern Europe. There is no difference who starts wars – fascists, terrorists, revisionists or nationalists. People will die; mostly young people. Sure, the global arms trade will benefit. Generals will smile. DDT sings about war:

Nevertheless, the story about Russia, about war, about victory and simple people would be lacking without Aleksandr Malinin’s story about poruchik Galitsin:


Leave a reply

  1. mike walsh says:

    A thoughtful and wise analysis and a pleasure to read. I think, as far as the war is concerned, all those interested should now, after all these years, be able to learn, judge and debate dispassionately.
    I do not think refutation of existing history, much of it written with malice or an eye to profit, should be punishable. The modern generation of analysts is threatened, discriminated and gaoled for up to 5 years for merely revising official dogma. That could be a running sore that keeps reconciliation at arm’s length.

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