Latvian Mailer2000 Archive

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  May 7, 2000

Latvian Mailer for Sunday, May 7th, and AOL Chat Reminder File: D:\\Oct94\Picts\Perlu-dzirnavas-5130-09.jpg (91895 bytes)
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Yes, we're running a bit late this weekend... we've been busy moving and doing home construction projects... Also, it took QUITE a while to sift through all of this week's news, as you'll see! Our sincere apologies for this week's huge mailer...

First, we start you off with a bit of commentary from Silvija regarding Russia's reaction to their defeat in the Ice Hockey World Championship, being held in St. Petersburg. Continuing in that vein, we follow with a link to the championship's official web site, featuring a write-up on Arturs Irbe, followed by the sports section.

Following that is the news. Most newsworthy is that Latvia's new coalition government has been approved.

This week's picture is from October, 1994, and Peters' trip to see his grandfather's first water mill, "Perlu Dzirnavas" (the Pearl Mill), in Vidzeme.

Remember, mailer or not, Lat Chat spontaneously appears every Sunday on AOL starting around 9:00/9:30pm Eastern time, lasting until 11:00/11:30pm. AOL'ers can follow this link: Town Square - Latvian chat.

Silvija Peters

IN ACCORDANCE WITH AOL'S MAIL POLICY and good manners, please let Silvija (Silvija) know if you wish to be deleted from our mailing list. Past mailers are archived at Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.


We're sure most of you have enjoyed the news of Russia's defeat by Latvia in ice hockey; certainly it has spurred much spirited discussion on the Latvian Sveiks mailing list! Among others, we're including one of the more "entertaining" articles about Russia's defeat. We're used to Russia whining constantly, but the quotes and comments in this article take the cake, so to speak. Little bitty Latvia ganging up and picking on poor, great big Russia.....claiming the game was a "well-prepared and well organised political and nationalistic action from the side of Latvia against Russia." Give me a break! It was a hockey game!! In the same article the Russians admitted they put together a "dream team" — bottom line? The Latvian team was just better. End of story. And end of our editorializing....enjoy the article!! Savor the victory!

(Article follows in the Sports section under the lead: Ice hockey-Beaten Russia slammed by media, fans, MPs.)

  Latvian Link

You can find the official home page of the Ice Hockey World Championship 2000 in St. Petersburg at:

This particular link spotlights Arturs Irbe, the sensational Latvian goalie.


Ice hockey outshone nearly everything else this week, even delaying ratification of the new Latvian government!

Ice hockey - Latvia celebrate first win in world championships
© 2000 Reuters Ltd.      ST PETERSBURG, Russia, May 2 (Reuters) — Alexandrs Belavskis and Juris Opulskis scored two goals each to power Latvia to a 6-3 win over Belarus on Tuesday in a tense world championship match between the two former Soviet republics.
     Belavskis opened the scoring on a breakaway at 5:13 of the first period when he was able to lift the puck over Belarus goaltender Andrei Mezin despite being tripped from behind. The momentum carried Belavskis into the net just as the puck went in. It took several minutes for officials, looking at the replay, to award the goal.
     Late in the period with the Latvians on a powerplay, defenceman Karlis Skrastins made it 2-0 with a powerful blast from the blue line.
     Opulskis gave Latvia a 3-0 lead at 27:44 and after Andrei Kavalev pulled one back for Belarus a minute later, he restored a three-goal cushion with his second at 33:40.
     Both teams exchanged goals in a wide-open second period but the game changed to a tight defensive battle in the third.
     Belavskis scored the lone goal and netminder Arturs Irbe shut out the Belarus attackers in the final 20 minutes to give Latvia their first group A win to the delight of several thousand Latvian fans, who made the short bus ride from the Baltic state to St Petersburg.
     "It's very important to score the first goal when you have two equal teams on the ice," said Belavskis. "It gave us enough confidence and we also had some luck in the final period."
     Sweden, who beat Latvia 3-1 in their opener on Sunday, were playing Ukraine later.

Latvia hands Russia third successive hockey defeat
© 2000 Reuters Ltd.      ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) — Alexandrs Semjonovs scored two second-period goals and Arturs Irbe made 37 saves to lead Latvia to a stunning 3-2 win over Russia Friday, leaving the hosts on the brink of elimination from the hockey world championship.
     Following defeats by the United States and Switzerland in their opening two pool A matches, the Russians were desperately in need of a win. But the disciplined Latvians and Irbe, in particular, stole the show.
     "I have waited for this game all my hockey life," Irbe said.
     "We are a small country and had to play Russia in their own building. Such a game required the ultimate effort from every one of our guys."
     With Valery Kamensky in the penalty box for hooking, Latvia's Alexandrs Belavskis opened the scoring 1:58 into the second period.
     He skated around the Russian goal and lifted the puck over the shoulder of Ilya Bryzgalov for his fourth goal in four games.
     Then, just two and a half minutes after Oleg Petrov levelled the score for Russia, Bryzgalov dropped a wrist shot by Semjonovs and it trickled over the goal-line for a 2-1 lead for Latvia.
     Less than two minutes later the Russians suffered another disaster.
     With the Latvians on a powerplay, Sergei Gonchar tried to clear his zone but the puck ricocheted off Semjonovs's stick, hit Bryzgalov in the back and went into the net. The goal led to Bryzgalov being replaced by Yegor Podomatsky.
     Russia captain Pavel Bure, the NHL's top goalscorer this season, gave his team a chance with just 35 seconds left in the second period when he stole the puck from Andrejs Maticins, went around the goal and on his third attempt stuck the puck inside the near post.
     Irbe took center stage in the final period, making several outstanding saves. But Russian defenseman Igor Kravchyuk missed two excellent chances to level the match with about six minutes left.
     Latvia had Rodrigo Lavins in the penalty box for a questionable elbowing penalty when Kravchyuk's shot came back off the post and seconds later he fired over the empty goal after Irbe was knocked down.
     As the game ended the Latvians hugged Irbe, joining him in an impromptu dance to the delight of several hundred noisy fans.
     "We've got ourselves in a very difficult situation," said a dejected Bure. "But we still have two more games remaining and we'll try whatever we can to get the best out of it."

Thousands take to streets after Latvian hockey win
© 2000 Reuters Ltd.RIGA (Reuters) — Thousands of Latvians took to the streets of the capital Riga Friday after the former Soviet republic scored the biggest hockey win of its history with a 3-2 defeat of Russia at the world hockey championship.
     Minutes after the underdogs beat a high-powered Russian team hundreds of people, holding flags or with the national colors painted on their face, began to gather at the Freedom Monument in the center of the capital.
     Inside parliament, a vote on a new government was delayed as deputies crowded around televisions to watch the final minutes of the game.
     Thursday Latvia celebrated a decade of independence which came after five decades of Soviet rule.
     As the crowds grew, an impromptu parade started toward the nearby Russian embassy where Latvian fans sang the national anthem as police kept their distance.
     Police said they had made no arrests although eyewitnesses said they saw several minor skirmishes between Latvian and Russian youths.
     Tensions between Latvians and the country's large Russian-speaking population rarely occur, although Moscow and Riga have been locked in a bitter war of words over what Russia sees as official discrimination against the minority.

Ice hockey-Beaten Russia slammed by media, fans, MPs
[emphasis is ours]
     ST PETERSBURG, Russia, May 6 (Reuters) — Russians were feeling a sense of shame and shock on Saturday after their team crashed to a third successive defeat at the ice hockey world championship.
     Even worse, Friday's defeat was at the hands of tiny Baltic neighbour Latvia, with which political relations are at a low.
     "Shock!" read the headline in daily Sovietsky Sport following the 3-2 loss, which left the host nation with only a slim chance of reaching the quarter-finals.
     "The city of St Petersburg has not seen such a nightmare since 1917," said daily Sport-Express, referring to the Bolshevik Revolution.
     This was supposed to be a year of revival for Russian ice hockey. Having assembled probably their best team for the championship, filled with some of the NHL's top names playing at home, the Russians thought they would march through the first week without any difficulties.
     But defeats by the United States and Switzerland in the opening round and by the Latvians in the first match of the second round left the hosts on a brink of elimination.
     The Russians have never lost three matches in a row since they began participating in the world championships in 1954 and have never finished lower than seventh place.
     "We were robbed. We are in pain and ashamed. All of us have been desperately searching for the long-awaited triumph of our national hockey team on our home soil," Sovietsky Sport wrote.
     "But the team, which had many NHL superstars, including (Pavel) Bure and (Alexei) Yashin, and was named the 'Dream Team', stole with its pitful play one of the rare moments of happiness in the otherwise difficult lives of our people."
     Russian politicians also got in on the act.
     Alexander Shokhin, a member of the State Duma lower house of parliament, said the loss was "a shame for our country."
     "This is a national humiliation and our players had no right to lose, especially to Latvia, with which we have fairly tense relations," Shokhin said.
Fellow MP Anatoly Lukyanov said the game was a "well prepared and well organised political and nationalistic action from the side of Latvia against Russia." [He couldn't admit Latvia out-played Russia; he had to ascribe political motivations...sounds like Soviet-speak from a poor loser!]
     Ties with Latvia are complicated by allegations the Baltic state discriminates against its Russian-speakers. Latvians are still angry after 50 years of occupation by the Soviet Union.
     Most Russian sports fans have already seen their national soccer squad fail to qualify for any major championship in the last four years but ice hockey was always different.
     It was said the Canadians invented the game but Russia perfected it by winning 22 world and eight Olympic titles, more than any other country.
     But since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has lost its supremacy, failing to win a world championship medal of any colour since 1993.
     The last time Russia hosted the world championship, in 1986 in Moscow, they finished undefeated with five of their players voted into the tournament's first team.
     One of them was star defenceman Alexei Kasatonov, a St Petersburg native, who is the general manager of this team.
     "In my days it was always a great tragedy for the whole nation if we didn't win gold medals. I think it would still be a tragedy now if we didn't win, especially playing at home."

Russia Out After Swedes Draw With Swiss in Hockey
© 2000 Reuters Ltd. By Gennady Fyodorov [excerpted]
     ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) — In the worst possible scenario for Russia, Kristian Huselius scored late in the third period to earn Sweden a 1-1 draw against Switzerland at the world ice hockey championship on Saturday.
     The second round draw clinched a place in the quarter-finals for Sweden but means Russia are now out of contention.
     They cannot finish any higher than ninth in the final standings after disastrously losing their first three matches.
     In what was supposed to be a year of revival for Russian ice hockey, home fans thought they would get through the first week easily.
     But defeats by the United States, Switzerland and Latvia left the hosts in disarray.
     It is the first time they have lost three matches in a row since they began taking part in the world championships in 1954 and previously they have never finished lower than seventh.
     The draw in the Swedish-Swiss game put the nail in the coffin.

World Hockey
© 2000 The Associated PressBy ERICA BULMAN, Associated Press Writer [excerpted]
     ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Sean Haggerty's late goal pulled the United States into a 1-1 tie with surprising Latvia at the World Hockey Championships on Sunday, keeping intact the Americans' unbeaten streak.
     Latvia stunned their rivals and fans alike, jumping to a 1-0 lead just 6:33 into the game. Aleksandrs Kercs made a perfect pass from the American net to Rodrigo Lavins, who fired a slapshot from the blueline through heavy traffic in front of the crease and past American goalie Robert Esche.
     The small Baltic nation kept the Americans scoreless until midway through the final period, when Haggerty rushed the Latvian net, scoring as he crashed into the prone Arturs Irbe. [Shucks! Almost!]
     The Americans will now face 1998 champion Sweden in a fight for the top spot in the group.
     Russia, meanwhile, continued to self-destruct in front of its furious home fans, losing 1-0 to the former Soviet republic Belarus for its fourth straight defeat.
     The latest loss leaves Russia stranded at the bottom of its group table. Its medal hopes had already been snuffed out on Saturday.
     It marked the first time either Russia or the Soviet Union failed to make the quarterfinals since their first world championships in 1954. Russia was heavily favored at the beginning of the competition as they boasted an impressive all-star cast of NHLers that includes the Florida Panthers' Pavel Bure, Ottawa Senators holdout Alexei Yashin and the Chicago Blackhawks' Alexei Zhamnov.


     After the hockey match, everything else paled in comparison! Given the Latvian president's comments on Russia's political motivations these days, it's not surprising the Russians felt beseiged this week!

Latvian President Says Russia Trying To Undermine Baltic Unity
     TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said Tuesday that Russia has singled out her country for diplomatic pressure to drive a wedge between the ex-Soviet Baltic republics and thwart their Western integration.
     The Latvian president, speaking at a news conference during a three-day state visit to Estonia, accused Moscow of trying to restore its Soviet-era influence in the region by undermining Baltic unity.
     "The more united the three Baltics stand in their foreign policy the more they move away from their earlier state of forced incorporation in the Soviet — or Russian — sphere of influence," she said.
     She underlined the Kremlin's opposition to Baltic membership in NATO and the European Union, which all three nations have made a top foreign policy goal. Russian officials have said Baltic membership in NATO would constitute a threat to Russian security.
     "It would not be in Russia's interest for these countries to stand united, particularly in their movement towards the West, towards the E.U. and NATO," she said.
     The Baltics cooperated closely during their drives for independence from Moscow ten years ago and have continued to work closely in pursuing pro-West, pro-reform policies since regaining independence following the 1991 Soviet collapse.
     Moscow at various times has criticized Estonia and Latvia for allegedly mistreating their large ethnic-Russian communities and for prosecuting agents of Stalinist-era crimes.
     The Latvian president said Tuesday Russian officials had a pattern of criticizing one Baltic state at a time — never all once — in order to upset their cooperation.
     "For a while complaints are made about Estonia, and for a period there is an intensity of comments about the situation in Latvia," she said. "There seems to be a program about making remarks about interstate affairs in regard to Latvia which go well beyond those commonly acceptable in international diplomacy."
      Vike-Freiberga said she thought Latvia was being targeted now because it was the geographic center of the three small, Baltic-coast nations.
      "Geographically and strategically, Latvia is an appropriate wedge," she said.
© 2000 Dow Jones & Co., Inc.
Russia Denies Latvian Accusation Over Foreign Policy
     MOSCOW (AP) — Russian officials on Wednesday denied Latvian accusations that Moscow is trying to unduly influence the Baltics, the Interfax news agency reported.
     During a visit to Estonia on Tuesday, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said Russia was trying to extend its influence in the Baltics and drive a wedge between the three Baltic states to keep them from gaining NATO membership.
     Leonid Ivashov, chief of international military cooperation at the Russian Defense Ministry, said Russia has "no aggressive aspirations toward its neighbors."
     Vike-Freiberga was "trying to dramatize the situation and whip up militaristic hysteria," Ivashov said, according to Interfax.
     Relations between Russia and its Baltic neighbors have been tense since Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania gained independence after the 1991 Soviet collapse. Tensions are particularly high with Latvia, which has introduced a law making it more difficult for ethnic Russians to get citizenship.
     Latvia and Russia have also squared off over the small Baltic country's recent prosecution of Stalin-era crimes. Latvia accuses Russia of denying human rights abuses during the period of Soviet control.
© 2000 Dow Jones & Co., Inc.

Russia hits back over Latvian leader's remark
© 2000 Reuters Ltd.
     MOSCOW, May 3 (Reuters) — Russia blasted Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga on Wednesday over an interview in which she accused Moscow of harking back to the Cold War, saying her remarks were "unprecedented in their anti-Russian tone."
     Moscow and Riga have been locked in a war of words over the case of Vasili Kononov, a 77-year-old former Communist partisan sentenced to six years last year for his role in killing nine civilians in 1944. Russia regards him as a persecuted hero of the Soviet Union struggle against Nazi German invaders.
     In her interview with the BBC on Monday, Vike-Freiberga said recent statements by Russia, which opposes Latvia's bid to join NATO, were reminiscent of the Cold War.
     "The statements heard from Riga are unprecedented in their anti-Russian tone and follow the worst Cold War traditions," Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
     "We could not help but be alarmed that this rude and unfriendly rhetoric towards our country has given Latvia grounds for giving NATO no alternative but accept it as a member."
     Vike-Freiberga said in the interview that NATO and the European Union protection against Russia should already extend to Latvia, which gained independence in 1991.
     Latvia's Supreme Court recently released Kononov for the duration of his appeal, in which has asked for a review by international experts, and Moscow has granted him citizenship.
On this Day, May 4th
      [excerpted] 1990 — Latvia declared itself an independent democratic republic in the first stage of withdrawal from the Soviet Union.
Latvia fires shot at former master
© 2000 Reuters Ltd. By Martins Gravitis
     RIGA, May 4 (Reuters) — Latvia celebrated a decade of independence on Thursday, firing a shot at former colonial master Moscow for its "inadequate understanding" of the Baltic nation's foreign policy.
     On May 4 1990, Latvia's Supreme Council voted to restore the independence the Baltic state lost in 1940 under a secret Nazi-Soviet pact dividing up Eastern Europe as spoils of war.
     Though not a national holiday — Moscow officially recognised Latvian independence in September 1991 — officials took the opportunity to reiterate the country's early goals of "rejoining Europe."
      But the celebrations come against the backdrop of a bitter diplomatic dispute with Russia after Moscow officials on Wednesday blasted Latvian president Vike-Freiberga for her recent statements that they said were "unprecedented in their anti-Russian tone."
     Latvia responded in kind.
     "Politics of good neighbourly relations between Latvia and Russia will not be possible until the Russian Federation gives up on its acid and ungrounded rhetoric, replacing it with a willingness in both shaping a dialogue and cooperating," the Latvian foreign ministry said in a statement.
     In an interview with the BBC on May 1, Vike-Freiberga said recent statements by Russia opposing Latvia's bid to join NATO were reminiscent of the Cold War.
     Moscow and Riga have been locked in a war of words over the case of Vasili Kononov, a 77-year-old former Communist guerilla sentenced to six years in prison last year for his role in the killing of nine civilians in 1944.
     Russia regards him as a persecuted hero of the Soviet Union's struggle against Nazi German invaders.
     Latvia, which has been persuing suspects for participation in communist-era attrocities, says such crimes should be punished regardless of ideology.
      Latvia's Supreme Court recently released Kononov for the duration of his appeal, and Moscow has granted him citizenship.
     Despite the bitterness of the dispute, Latvian politicians still celebrated the 10 years since they declared independence, which have seen difficult economic reforms pay off in an invitation to start European Union entry talks this year.
     "We have restored a state not for its own sake but a state for the individual to live in and freely, otherwise it would have made no sense," said Ivars Godmanis, head of the first Latvian government following the declaration.
     "Just as important, we irreversibly established a market economy. There is no way back to socialism," he added.
Russian pensioners in Baltic states to get Russian stipend
     MOSCOW, May 4 (Itar-Tass) — Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin has signed a decree on paying lump-sum grants to Russian pensioners residing in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia on the occasion of the 55th anniversary of Russia's victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.
     The sum to be paid to the war veterans will be three times as high as the size of the minimal pension fixed by the Russian legislation; the widows of servicemen who were killed during the war will receive a sum equal to the minimal pension on condition they have not remarried.
     All the payments will be made out of the Russian federal budget.
© 2000 ITAR-TASS

Latvian Government Approved
© 2000 Reuters Ltd.
     RIGA, Latvia (Reuters) — The Latvian parliament approved the government of Prime Minister Andris Berzins Friday, ending weeks of negotiations and giving the former Soviet republic its ninth government in less than 10 years of independence.
     Berzins has pledged to maintain a tight fiscal policy as the former Soviet republic heads along the path to EU and NATO membership.
     His new four-party centrist government, which holds 69 of the 100 seats in parliament, easily carried the confidence vote, which divided along party lines, with all 69 coalition deputies approving the government.
      Twenty-four voted against. Seven abstained or were absent.
     Voting went off without a hitch, although it was delayed slightly as deputies watched Latvia beat Russia 3-2 at the world ice hockey championships in St. Petersburg.
      "(The coalition parties) have agreed to form a government that will work until the next parliamentary election," the government declaration said.
     "The government will continue the work started by the previous administration to achieve faster state development so that the improvement of macroeconomic indicators reflect on the higher living standard for all Latvians," it added.
     Berzins put together the coalition after former Prime Minister Andris Skele resigned on April 12 when his Cabinet unraveled over the sacking of Economy Minister Vladimirs Makarovs in a row over privatization.
     The government declaration pledged to keep the lat currency stable and to maintain the previous government's tight fiscal policy. Membership in the EU and the NATO military alliance remain key foreign policy goals.
     But the thorny issue of privatization, which has felled two governments since the last general election in October 1998, remains a potential flashpoint, especially between the Peoples' Party, which holds 24 seats, and the nationalist Fatherland Freedom party, which has 16 seats.
     Berzins, a member of Latvia's Way with 21 seats, was chosen to lead the government because of his reputation as a team player. He is expected to draw heavily on his diplomatic skills to keep the coalition together.
     The final coalition member, the New Party, has just eight seats and is in government for the first time. But it could be a key player in keeping Fatherland from making excessive demands since Latvia's Way, the Peoples' Party and the New Party would still hold a majority if Fatherland left the coalition.
Latvian Premier aims to restore confidence in authorities
     RIGA, May 5 (Itar-Tass) — Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins has announced as the key goal of his Cabinet to restore people's confidence in the authorities. He spoke at the national parliament, which approved the new government of Latvia on Friday.
     Society is tired of unexplained changes, Berzins said. He thinks that all the reforms should be made in a dialog and discussions. "My principle is to see that people, who wake up in the morning, do not learn that their pensions are halved, the morning coffee costs more and all education has to be paid for," he said. The authorities' knack to listen to the people and the knack of everyone to hear the other should become a political norm in Latvia, he noted.
     The coalition has overcome differences that ruined the former cabinet, Berzins said. "We must prove that the top priority is given to interests of the country and the people, and personal interests must be forgotten," he added.
      Berzins expects his Cabinet to work till the next parliament election. All the previous governments stayed in office for no more than 8-9 months.
     As for the foreign policy, the Premier said they would target "at strengthening and improvement of the relations with neighbor-countries."
© 2000 ITAR-TASS

  Picture Album

Peters visited his family's former homestead, Perlu Dzirnavas, in Vidzeme, in 1994. The current owners (whose family had bought it from Peters' grandfather) had just started to face the monumental task of rebuilding. [When we eventually visited again some years later, we found they had given up the good fight. We were warmly welcomed by the new residents despite their appearing, discouragingly, to be largely living off the land.]

Perlu Dzirnavas (Water Mill)

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