Latvia: debate about 9 May commemoration in Riga

More than 100,000 Russian-speaking Latvians gather each year on 9 May in Riga to celebrate the liberation of Latvia from Nazism by the Soviets. Now Mayor Mārtiņš Staķis is considering banning the celebrations because they also serve as a rallying point for Putin supporters. Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Kariņš has called the celebration a "glorification of the occupation of our country" and is not ruling out a nationwide ban.

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Latvijas Avīze (LV) /

A danger to Latvia's security

Latvia's minister of the interior has said in a radio interview that despite the ban, it should be possible for those who lost family members in the war to hold a memorial service. That is unacceptable, MEP Inese Vaidere writes in Latvijas Avīze:

“Is the interior minister really planning to check the family trees of people who come to the occupation monument? Does she not really understand how insulting this event is for the victims of totalitarianism in the ex-Soviet Union and their families? And as the person responsible for the internal security of our country, doesn't she see those who gather at these activities - the Z-symbol supporters - as a serious threat to Latvia's security? ... The minister's proposal to allow such an event to take place is absolutely unacceptable.”

Satori (LV) /

The people, not the government, must solve this problem

Philosopher Artis Svece writes on the website Satori:

“Latvians have a false understanding of May 9. We take these celebrations too literally - as a glorification of the occupation and a longing for empire. ... And to a certain extent we are right. ... I would, however, say that May 9 has become a celebration of the identity of Latvia's Russian or Russian-speaking community. The dead are commemorated, but this is not a day of mourning. Even though many wear symbols of Putin's Russia, the rest gather to be among themselves. I would say that Latvians cannot solve the problem of May 9. But banning it is a bad idea. ... At this juncture the Russian community in Latvia itself must come up with proposals.”

Õhtuleht (EE) /

Give the day new meaning

The 9th of May is controversial in Estonia too. Õhtuleht comments:

“It's clear that even in the past marching around the Bronze Soldier in Russian uniform was a deliberate provocation, not to mention the 'Immortal Regiment' marches that tested the limits of what was tolerable in Estonia. Banning symbols by law is a two-edged sword, but it does send a clear message that their use is undesirable. In light of the war initiated by Russia, Europe Day on 9 May could also be given new content, for example in cooperation with Ukrainian refugees and Russians opposed to the war.”