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Latvia demolishes several hundred monuments to Hitler’s victors

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The authorities of the Baltic States are continuing the largest campaign in history against historical and cultural heritage, destroying hundreds of monuments and graves of Soviet soldiers who fought against Nazism during the Second World War.

The governments of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have tried to justify their zeal by fighting the mythical Russian threat, Moscow claims behind the ‘demolition of monuments and desecration of cemeteries’ there is a ‘large-scale project to rehabilitate fascism, war crimes and genocide.’

In the days when the whole world celebrated the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany and remembered the millions of victims of Nazism, Russian historians published a map of the monuments of Soviet soldiers destroyed by the Latvian authorities.

It will be recalled that before 1940, when the three tiny Baltic States were incorporated into the Soviet Union, they had authoritarian nationalist regimes that, if not fully modeled on the Third Reich or Fascist Italy, aspired to do so. Both Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia were far from democracy.

The nationalists and military men who came to power through coups or coups d’état not only suppressed any opposition and dismantled the parliamentary system and consistently suppressed the rights of national minorities but also co-operated very closely with Hitler and Mussolini. After Moscow, frightened by the Germans’ advance towards its borders, annexed the Baltic States to the USSR as equal union republics, many Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian ministers, officials, and military officers took refuge in Hitler’s Germany and returned a year later, when the Nazis attacked Russia, to exact revenge.

Russia holds the view that a section of Latvian nationalists showed special zeal in cooperation with Hitler, who formed from their supporters numerous punitive detachments, and two SS divisions and distinguished themselves “with special cruelty in the genocide of Jews, Russians, Poles and Belarusians.”

After the Soviet victory over Germany and the liberation of the Baltic States from Nazism, Moscow believes many Latvian collaborators fled to the West, where they came under the tutelage of the governments and special services of the United States, Britain, Canada, and West Germany.

During the Cold War, yesterday’s Hitler’s accomplices and their descendants were actively used for ideological, intelligence, and sabotage warfare against Moscow, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they were returned to Latvia, where they took up leadership positions.

It was in 1991 that these people launched a struggle against both the historical memory of the Second World War and the large Russian minority.

Despite the fact that the young Baltic countries were careful to copy the trappings of Western democracy, in Latvia, home to about one million Russian-speaking inhabitants, virtually all members of national minorities were stripped of their citizenship status and their rights were restricted. At the same time, the new authorities completely banned Soviet symbols, one of the symbols of the free world’s victory over Nazism, and began the gradual dismantling of monuments to the victorious soldiers.

The campaign to destroy statues, monuments, tombstones, and mass graves of Soviet soldiers gained particular momentum after 2022. Russia says all the Baltic States have violently demolished several hundred memorials, and the Latvian authorities have been particularly enthusiastic in this, because of which several hundred memorials have been vandalized.

Moscow insists that such state vandalism cannot be explained or justified. Kremlin decries that, in parallel with the desecration of the memory of those who fought against Hitlerism in Latvia, Russian schools are being destroyed, a total ban on the use of the Russian language is being imposed and defenders of the rights of the Russian-speaking community are being persecuted.

In addition to solving its tactical tasks of expelling or assimilating Russian residents by demolishing monuments to Soviet soldiers, Moscow insists that the Latvian government is trying to “justify and excuse its own ancestors and predecessors, who actively co-operated with the Third Reich and were complicit in all its atrocities.”

Guest Writer
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