Divided commemoration: Latvia and May 9

Many ethnic Russians in Latvia celebrate the end of World War II with a huge party on May 9. Many Latvians, however, take a dim view of the celebrations because for them, although this date marks the end of Nazi occupation it also marked the start of 50 years of Soviet rule. Voices in the Latvian press reflect on the different attitudes towards this day and on how the commemorations of World War II are changing.

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Latvijas Avīze (LV) /

A matter of perspective

Latvijas avīze compares different takes on May 9 - from Moscow, the ethnic Russians in Latvia and the Latvians:

“In Moscow the victory of 1945 has taken on a mystic splendour - the monster Nazi Germany was defeated not by the Soviet Union and the Soviet people but by mighty Russia's brilliance. Among the Russian community in Riga, May 9 has become a huge party in recent years. Most of the so-called WWII veterans have already passed away. The hundreds of thousands who gather at the Soviet monument in Riga are demonstrating their joy at the fact that there are so many of them in the Latvian capital, that Riga's mayor is a compatriot and that they can get along just fine without speaking Latvian properly. For the Latvians, however, all that happened back then was that one occupation was replaced by another.”

Diena (LV) /

WWII as popular culture

Latvia's Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis outlines his concern in Diena that the memory of the Second World War is becoming increasingly superficial and over-simplified.

“Unfortunately the history of the Second World War is slowly becoming the stuff of pop culture - there are computer games, comics, adventure films and lots of other things that our teenagers love and for which you can just press 'restart' to watch them again. But history has no 'restart' button. History tells us that totalitarian and populist ideas do develop. That ideologies do arise whose first step is to divide people into worthy and unworthy. And whose next step is to eradicate all those deemed unworthy.”