Latvian–Baltic MailerVolume XI Nr. 7March 10, 2017


Sveiki, all!

We celebrate the life and mourn the passing of choir director Gido Kokars, who with his brother Imants, were the very embodiment of the Latvian passion to rise up in song.

Lines are drawn over heros and villains during and after WWII, more Latvian politicians are investigated for ignoring the law and addressing constituents in Russian instead of the national language, and a cyber-innovation center opens in Rīga even as other premises are searched for cyber-criminals.

In this issue:

Ar visu labu,

Silvija  Peters

Baltic Link(s)

We were greatly saddened to hear of the passing of renowned and dearly beloved Gido Kokars. He and his twin brother, Imants, who died in 2011, were pillars and personification of the Latvian choral tradition and passion. Our link this edition is to an audio-restored video from the 1985 Latvian Song and Dance Festival, featuring "Lūk, Roze Zied" (Behold, a Rose Blooms), music by Andrejs Jurjāns, lyrics by Ansis Līventāls. Kokars conducts.

1985 Song Festival, remembering Gido Kokars


Moscow Advises US Troops to Commemorate Allies Who Died Fighting Nazis

The Russian Foreign Ministry advises US soldiers who have arrived in Poland and the Baltics to commemorate the Allies of the anti-Hitler coalition who died fighting against the Nazis, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The Embassy of Poland in the United States said on its Twitter account on Monday that thousands of people, including American military personnel stationed in Poland, took part in memorial runs across the country to honor the anti-communist Polish resistance movements. Resistance to the Soviet Union, a then-US ally in the anti-Hitler coalition, was one of the key objectives when the groups were originally formed.

"We could not but pay attention to the fact that US servicemen who have recently arrived in Poland and the Baltics have already had time to participate in ‘historic action’ of a distinctly anti-Russian character. In particular, this concerns the memorial run in memory of the so-called ‘cursed soldiers’ – members of the Polish anti-communist underground movement who fired in the backs of Red Army soldiers who freed their country of Nazism," Zakharova said on Thursday.

Apparently because Stalin wound up opposing Hitler after launching WWII in partnership, U.S. troops should not participate in events commemorating post-WWII anti-Communist resistance. Russia would prefer U.S. troops join in celebrating Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War. The fundamental issue with Russia's complaint is, of course, that the USSR did not "liberate" eastern Europe from Hitler, it merely replaced the Nazis as the invading, occupying power. While Stalin himself stated that the USSR fully respected the sovereignty of the countries lying between Russia and Germany, actions spoke otherwise. Nor did Churchill or FDR have any illusions about what was to come for 100,000,000 Europeans, FDR stating, "The European people will simply have to endure Russian domination, in the hope that in ten or twenty years they will be able to live well with the Russians."

She also mentioned the fact that US and Estonian servicemen participated in the so-called "march to the East" after which they took pictures with the Ivangorod Fortress overlooking the Narva River in the background. The Nazi Germany took control of the fortress during World War II and used it to host prisoner of war camps.

"We are convinced that such dubious actions, in the least, cast a shadow on the history of the joint struggle of the US and the USSR against the Nazis. It would be better if, instead of participating in such propaganda campaigns, Americans found an opportunity to pay tribute to their allies in the anti-Hitler coalition," Zakharova stressed.

US Army Europe spokesperson Steven Lamb told Sputnik on Thursday that participation of US soldiers in events in Poland commemorating the resistance fighters against the Soviet Union’s Army is a routine matter.

The resistance movements in Poland were established in 1944 but most ceased to exist by the late 1940s.

World War II lasted from 1939 until 1945, involving 61 countries. The Allies of WWII, comprising the Soviet Union, the United States, France and China, among others, fought against the Axis, formed by states including Germany, Japan and Italy.

In a giant plane, America sends a message

A long way from their home at Fort Frum, New York, the U.S. 10th Mountain Division's Assault Helicoper Battalion touched down in Rīga aboard the U.S.'s largest transport, the C-5M Super Galaxy, bringing with them three UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

The article includes quotes from battalion members and background on the battalion and their sense of mission and responsibility—well worth the read.

You can read the full story at the link, above.

State Language Center Launches Inquiry into Suspended Ventpils Mayor Lembergs

The State Language Center (VVC) has initiated an investigation into the execution of his duties by suspended Ventspils mayor Aivars Lembergs ("For Latvia and Ventspils" party), having addressed viewers at culture house "Sea Gate" in Russian. The law strictly specifies that at any events, deputies must always use the state language[, Latvian]. If someone else is organizing an event, that is, not a state or local governmental entity, and does so in a foreign language, translation [to Latvian] myst be guaranteed.

Having said his hellos in Latvian, the evening of February, shortly before signing an agreement with Rīga's Russian Theater to continue their partnership, Lembergs addressed the packed audience for some minutes in Russian. No translation followed of what he said.

We are compelled to observe that twenty-six years after the collapse of the USSR and restoration of independence, non-Latvian speaking Russian speakers are non-Latvian-speakers by choice.

Lembergs justified his use of Russian address the public in the grounds that those in the hall mostly understood the Russian language.

The event was organized by the municipal enterprise "Kurzeme's Philharmonic." Chairman of the Board Sigita Migoļa acknowledges that subtitles were prepared for the show "Garnet Bracelet" and were shown during the play. However, Lembergs' speech spontaneously took plae titres were prepared and plays during translation were shown. But Lembergs' address spontaneously took place in Russian, probably because the room had a lot of Russian-speakers.

"The public was largely Russian-speaking. Greetings were done in Latvian, then in Russian. Obviously, that's no excuse, but we are also aware that people understand Russian better. Obviously, [also,] state laws must be obeyed," said Migoļa.

"We've only just begun our investigation, thus we can't say anything yet about this particular case," admitted VVC Deputy Director Ingrīda Bērziņa.

During the inquiry, all parties involved will be invited to offer explanations. Nevertheless, the law clearly states how to speak at events.

"If an event is organized by a state or municipal authority, the working language is Latvian: if a deputy speaks, a deputy of the Latvian Republic must always use the state language," added Bērziņš.

It has already become public that the Center is also investigating Rīga mayor Nils Ušakovs ("Harmony") conduct, addressing student on Shadow Day in Russian. The Center admits that it is investigating a number of municipal leaders, but only Ušakovs' name has leaked to the public. Limits of language use are clearly specified. For example, if foreign students had participated in Shadow Day, Ušakovs would have also been able to address them in English, having made arrangements with the VVC.

"One can hold closed international events, but that then has to be coordinated with us. We address each case individually, approving or disapproving. But it is not forbidden to speak in any English, French, or any language," stated the VVC representative.

The fine for such a violation is 35-70 euros, 140 euros for repeat offenders, to be paid by the event organizer, not the official who has chosen to express themselves in other than their national language.

It is true, that no one hesitates using Russian, at least in Ventspils. During a public Internet town hall on February 1, Lembergs and other municipal officials answered residents' questions in Russian for an hour and more.

Accenture opens innovation studio in Latvia

Accenture has opened a center for rapid prototyping in the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, blockchain (a highly secure, distributed, time-stamped, ordered database), immersive experiences, and emerging technologies.

You can read the full story at the link, above.

Police in Latvia, Germany and Great Britain raid homes and offices linked to a gang of suspected cyberthieves

Police conduct coordinated raids netting a dozen suspects in phishing attacks which eventually allowed them to receive money transfer authorization codes for the accounts of their victims.

You can read the full story at the link, above.

Picture Album

An overcast day along Old Riga's cobbled streets

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