Connect with us

Europe

Latvia in the Aftermath of 1991

Alexandra Goman

Published

on

 

Riga Latvia 1991

Latvia along with other Baltic States was the first to break ties with the Soviet Union in 1990-1991. It has been West-oriented ever since, trying to move away from Russia as far as possible.  It had been rapidly modernizing its economy to bridge the gap with other European countries. The results of such reforms were, first, joining the NATO in March 2004, and then, becoming a part of the European Union two months after.

Such distance from Russia resulted in a new driving force for Latvian rhetoric. It started to represent Russia as an aggressive massive neighbour, trying to return its borders. Ever since the collapse of the USSR, the Soviets were shown as occupants who replaced Nazi-regime. Following this approach, it meant that Latvia placed the Soviets at the same level with the Nazis. This way of thinking has been evolving and becoming more powerful each day.

Following the events in Ukraine, especially after the Crimean annexation, these assumptions seem to be on the rise. The relations with Russia have begun rapidly deteriorating.  However, these interpretations of the events are different between Latvia and Russia. This, unfortunately, impairs any positive developments between the countries.

This article presents Latvian political discourse after 1991 through post-structuralistic approach (a theory in international relations). The theory itself has caused many controversies in the international relations. Many claimed that it is not a reliable theory, because it failed to establish any new theoretical basis that is able to provide scholars with an authentic framework to comprehend relations between countries (Blair, 2011; Jarvis, 2000; Selby, 2007). However, the very fact that it has generated so much heated arguments makes an immense contribution to the school of IR.

To briefly give an outline of the theory, we can start by saying that relations between countries may be understood by means of a structure that is different from reality and abstract ideas. It claims that there is no neutral point of view from which anyone can access knowledge. As Scott Burchill (2013, p.190) writes, “There is no ‘truth’, only competing interpretations. Knowledge is dependent on power. Though in philosophy and social frameworks, it has to be free from any external influences and be based on rationality, it was Kant (1991, p. 115).  who cautioned that “the possession of power inevitably corrupts the free judgment of reason”.

In Nietzsche works, for instance, it is noted that by saying something about the world, a person inevitably says something about the perception of the world (Bleiker and Chou 2010, p. 9). That means that people treat facts and phenomena according to their assumptions and previous knowledge, acquired over time and later codified in language (Ibid.). Peoples’ mind is reflected by the means of language; in its turn, how the mind works depend on language. Our mind is able to construct and produce knowledge. Further, this knowledge constructs reality in which society lives.

The reality of the people who live in Latvia (yet, hardly of the people with the status of “non-citizens”[1]) is that Latvia was occupied by the USSR. On 22 August 1996, the Latvian parliament declared that the Soviet Occupation of Latvia in 1940 was a military occupation and, therefore, illegal under the law (Case of Kononov v. Latvia, 2010). Moreover, along with the government of Latvia, it has been recognized by the United States of America and the European Union. The occupation of Latvia is usually supported with the provisions of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its Secret Additional Protocol of August 1939 with Nazy Germany[2], when both countries divided their spheres of influence. However, Russia itself did not acknowledge the impact of the pact on the sovereignty of Latvia, therefore did not admit the occupation.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia says that “The Latvian Government of 1940 had to decide between a hopeless, bloody resistance and acquiescence to an ultimatum under the threat of overwhelming military force. The regime was… under the guise of legality”[3]. It concluded that its destiny over the next 50 years was sealed by external secret treaties, protocols and agreements. This trauma drives the current political discourse after it 1991. It does not recognize the Soviet input into economy and aims to erase the history that unites Russia and Latvia.

This knowledge drives political discourse of Latvia for a long time as well as it is being delivered in all the schools of Latvia. It is told on the streets, written in the newspapers and shown on the walls of the Occupation Museum of Latvia. Yet, another historical point of view is often disregarded.

For example, according to the editor of the book in IV volumes “Latvians and Latvia”, Janis Stradins, during the Soviet time there were not only repression and oppression, but also positive things (Freecity, 2014). Apart from the presence of attributes of a sovereign state, Latvia was developing as a nation. “Latvians and Latvia” represents Soviet time only from one negative aspect. What it does not mention is that during that time many economic sectors were thriving. For instance, the largest factory of electronics and the leading communication technology producer in the USSR, Valsts elektrotehnikas fabrika (State Electrotechnical Factory) was rapidly developing. In addition, new medicine was being discovered and new technologies were being created. “Latvians have had an ability to express themselves”, says Stradins (Ibid.).

The way how one piece of history is represented results from the notion of genealogy that expresses relation of knowledge and power. As Roland Bleiker (2000, p. 25) says, “genealogies focus on the process by which we have … given meaning to particular representations of the past, representations that continuously guide our daily lives and set clear limits to political and social options”. Likewise, interpretations of the Soviet past by Latvia leave strong imprint on its society and guide peoples’ thinking and attitudes towards modern Russia. This, therefore, leads to the particular behavior when it comes to international relations.

Following the theory, these formed attitudes have been possible because power and knowledge are mutually supportive. In 1991 when Russia was recovering from its own political and economic decline, Latvia was enthusiastically celebrating its independence, freedom from the enemy. Textual construction of the USSR began with horrors and violence of the past, omitting many advantages, because it was not beneficial for political power. Russia, on the other hand, was not politically strong to be involved on that matter. This rhetoric remained in the hearts of the Latvian people that is why the nationalist political party received so much support from its population.

In this way, political power seeks its support in knowledge and at the same time it creates knowledge. Thus, knowledge and power are always interconnected. Foucault (1987, pp. 80-85) writes that one implies another: power does not exist without knowledge; knowledge does not exist without power.

This type of thought has been produced by many other scholars. Ashley (1989) draws attention to Foucault’s interrelation between the state and knowledge by referring to the principle of “statecraft is modern mancraft”. He further claims that it is man who originates knowledge, meaning that it is man’s responsibility to give meaning to events (Ibid. p. 264). Indeed, the interconnection of power and knowledge is undeniable.

Yet, a renewed Russia, which returned to the world stage after the sharp decline of the 90s as a strong political player, does not seem to be able to reverse these past and current attitudes. As powerful as it might be, Latvia has gone through almost 30 years of certain textual reconstruction that shaped the reality in which its society lives. These textual representations are fuelled by other countries who suffered from the USSR (for example, other Baltic States). All in all, interpretation of history written by many victims (and let us not forget about a strong negative image, constructed by the USA) is more powerful in the terms of influence than a single history of one country. This might be a reason for a strong political and social response after the events in Georgia in 2008 and in Ukraine recently.

However, coming back to Latvia itself, it should be highlighted that the Latvian Government has drawn a distinct line between “self” and “other”. The notion of “us, Latvians” and “them, Russians” is deeply felt because of the history and continuous political reminders that USSR undermined their independence, therefore, is to be treated as an enemy.

Scott Burchill (2013, p. 205) describes this threat for difference as a constitution of political identity. These distinctions between “self” and “others”, “us” and “Russians” are integral for Latvia which national identity has not been entirely formed. This approach significantly implicates the situation with the Russian minority. According to statistics, only around 61% of the population is Latvians. Other 32% comprises the Belarusians, Ukrainians and Russians, i. e. Russian-speaking population (The remaining 7% are people of other nationalities)[4]. Still, the majority of the former still has a passport of nepilsoņi, namely, non-citizens.

Even a sharp separating line between Russian and Latvian languages has been drawn in order to maintain Latvian identity and independence. In this scenario, all that comes out of domestic space is treated as alien, foreign and dangerous (See Campbell, 1992; 1999). Thus, the danger should be excluded.

Recently, the Centre of National Language (CNL) has obliged the citizens of Latvia to speak only Latvian language at the workplaces and even in the breaks. These restrictions are not only common in daily life but also in the social networks. For instance, mayor of Riga, Nils Usakovs has been fined by the CNL because of using Russian on his facebook page (ves.lv, 2016).  Further, the CNL voiced its concerns regarding the decision of the US Embassy in Latvia to use Russian language along with Latvian and English (DELFI, 2016).  On the one hand, there is comfortable environment which is inside of the country. On the other, there is a threat, posed by outside environment (See Ashleey, 1988).

Many key points of post-structuralism are issues of power and authority. It is power and authority that is able to impose certain knowledge (in the case of Latvia, the Latvian Government). It is power that may interpret events and persuade people into this. If Soviet legacy is thought to be impairing Latvian identity, then authorities will try to construct certain political discourse in order to distant itself from unwanted factors. They will consider specific time frame, choose significant facts to support arguments as well as certain perspective. This is the reason why the same facts of history (or events) are interpreted differently.  After all, it is human nature to perceive, interpret and give meaning to different events.

Whether the Latvian political discourse will remain, it probably depends on the situation with migrants. After all, willing or not, Latvia has more in common with the Russian people than with incoming refugees of different culture and religion (this has been repeatedly said by the Latvian newspapers for the last months). In the end, the Soviet time, no matter how difficult it was, has left its imprint on Latvian identity. Whether Latvia will accept it is yet to be seen.

References

  1. Ashley, R. K., 1989. Living on Border Lines: Man, Poststructuralism and War. In: J. De Derian and M. J. Shapiro (eds.). International/Intertextual Relations: Postmodern Readings of World Politics. Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books.
  2. Ashley, R. K., 1988. Untying the Sovereign State: A Double Reading of the Anarchy Problematique. Millennium, 17 (2). Pp. 227-262.
  3. Blair, B. 2011, Revisiting the “Third Debate” (Part I). Review of International Studies, 37 (2), pp. 825 – 854.
  4. Bleiker, R., 2000. Popular Dissent, Human Agency and Global Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
  5. Burchill, S. et al., 2013. Theories of International Relations. 5th Ed. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
  6. Campbell, D., 1999. Violence, Justice and Identity in the Bosnian Conflict. In: E. Edkins, N. Persram and V. Pin-Fat, Sovereignty and Subjectivity. Boulder: Lynne Riener.
  7. Campbell, D., 1993. Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  8. Case of Kononov v. Latvia, May 17, 2010. European Court of Human Rights. [online] Available at <http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-98669#{“itemid”:[“001-98669”]}> [Accessed 18 June 2016].
  9. DELFI, 2016. US Embassy Began Using Russian Language While Communicating with the Latvians. [online] Available at: < http://rus.delfi.lv/news/daily/latvia/posolstvo-ssha-v-socsetyah-nachalo-obschatsya-s-latvijcami-na-russkom-yazyke.d?id=47806159> [Accessed 30 July 2016].
  10. Foucault, M., 1987. Nietzsche, Genealogy and History, In: M. T. Gibbons ed. Interpreting Politics. London: Oxford University Press.
  11. Freecity, 2014. Academician Stradins: During the Soviet time Latvia has Preserved the Attributes of a Sovereign State. [online] Available at: <http://www.freecity.lv/obshestvo/17182/> [Accessed 25 July 2016].
  12. Jarvis, D.S., 2000. International Relations and the Challenge of Postmodernism: Defending the Discipline. Columbia: South Carolina.
  13. Kant, I., 1991. Political Writings. H. Reiss, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  14. Selby, J., 2007. Engaging Foucault: Discourse, Liberal Governance and the Limits of Foucaudian IR. International Relations, 23 (3), pp. 324-345.
  15. Secret Supplementary Protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact, 1939. [online] September 01, 1939, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Library of Congress. Available at <http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/110994> [Accessed 18 June 2016].
  16. lv, 2016. Usakovs is Punished. The Centre of National Language Has Fined Him on the Grounds of his Facebook Posts in Russian. [online] Available at: < http://www.ves.lv/ushakov-nakazan-tsentr-gosyazyka-oshtrafoval-ego-za-posty-v-facebook/> [Accessed 27 July 2016].

[1] Non-citizens are individuals who possess neither Latvian nor any other citizenship. These are immigrants (or their descendants) who lost their USSR citizenship after its dissolution and resided in Latvia after it. Although these people are protected by Latvian law, their rights in some cases are restricted (for example, they cannot travel without a visa in the European Union).

[2] Secret Supplementary Protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact, 1939. [Online]. September 01, 1939, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Library of Congress. Available at http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/110994 [Accessed 18 June 2016].

[3] Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, 2004. Occupation of Latvia, Three Occupations: 1940-1991. Riga: Occupation Museum Foundation. [online] Available at <http://www.mfa.gov.lv/data/file/e/P/Occupation%20of%20Latvia.pdf> [Accessed 18 June 2016]

[4] Centrala statistikas parvalde. Population Census, 2011. [online] Available at <http://www.csb.gov.lv/en/statistikas-temas/population-census-30761.html> [Accessed: 19 June 2016].

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse

Specialist in global security and nuclear disarmament. Excited about international relations, curious about cognitive, psycho- & neuro-linguistics. A complete traveller.

Continue Reading
Comments

Europe

The Best Handmade Souvenirs from Spain are Just a Click Away

Published

on

travel spain souvenir

Artisan decorative figurines are one of the most common purchases among the tourists who visit Spain and want to get something special as a souvenir to remember their stay. Spain’s craftsmanship is known throughout the world for the enormous talent behind it, and for years it has prompted tourists to visit the country and purchase ceramic figurines as souvenirs or to complete a previous larger collection of antiques.

But the people fond of arts and decoration who want to get pieces for their collections can’t always come to Spain to buy them. Indeed, lot of tourist can’t bring craft souvenirs back home because they do not have enough room in their suitcases, or because they want to keep traveling before returning to their countries and they can’t carry them around safely. Luckily, shopping is easier now thanks to the Internet, and customers can get products made in other countries from anywhere in the world. What used to require to go to a specific place, look around and ask for prices, and then proceed with the purchase, now is as simple and convenient as entering a website, click here and there and waiting at home for the product to arrive.

The craftmanship field is not foreign to this new concept of shopping. Some companies, especially in the souvenirs’ field, have noticed the needs of the modern public and have wisely approached a niche as specific as this one. For  this reason, there are online companies such as Toledogifts which are dedicated to the sale and distribution of these decorative figurines through the Internet. The e-commerce technology offers numerous facilities for the sale and distribution of handcrafts online, which makes posible several websites such may offer plenty of options and fair prices.

Toledogifts has brought internet solutions to a sector as traditional as ceramic and porcelain figures, craftsmanship in general. It is no longer necessary to travel to buy collectibles or anything like that, now all you have to do is go to their website and proceed through the catalog to choose what you like. Their online store stands out for its variety and professionalism. They sell high quality handmade products crafted by Spanish manufacturers, and they ship to any part of the world, allowing the customer to confortably receive the products at home, forgeting plane incoveniences.

The first thing that stands out in this company is its catalogue. Scrolling down the webpage, the user can find a wide range of the most popular craft products from every Spanish region. Thanks to the number of filters and options available -essential tools to speed up the search and, of course, the purchase-, you can easily find what you are looking for.

Toledogifts complies with the standards of online stores to ensure consumer satisfaction. Besides high quality products, they also offer the best delivery service. They take care of shipping in the shortest possible time and ensuring, above all, the proper protection of the pieces so that they are not damage during in the journey. Also, they always guarantee that the price is as close as possible to their real value.

Amog the different great products that can be found on this website, the unique damascenes from Toledo stand out. Damascene is defined as the art of inlaying gold on a soft iron base. Damascenes take their name from the city of Damascus, because it is craft technique which originated in the Syrian capital. Their origins are remote -there are vestiges of more than 1500 years old, and pieces have been found in different civilization, but the Imperial City of Toledo became the world’s largest producer of damascenes.

There are three different styles of damascenes: the traditional and genuine Arabic modeling, where the gold or silver thread is highlighted with chisels; the Renaissance style introduced in the 16th century and which represents floral, animal or landscape motifs; and also the new model called “vistas”, in which the city of Toledo is represented often centred on motifs of Don Quixote, so logically rooted in these Castilian-La Mancha lands. The pieces are beautiful and not so easy to find outside Spain, which makes them perfect for picky art collectors.

Other best-sellers of the webpage are artisan ceramic plates and porcelaine figures. Porcelain is considered a luxury material and is widely worked by artisans in Spain given its moldability property. Porcelain’s composition is kaolin, which provides the distinctive with pigmentation after it’s baked, feldspar and quartz. An artisan creates a clay figures inspired in the given design, providing it with the details that will be seen in the final figure. Afterwards, the artisan takes molds of and pours liquid porcelain in them. When the consistency is adecuate, molds are retired and the artisan will paste, polish, sculpt and bake the final figure.


Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse

Continue Reading

Europe

Top 10 reasons to visit Iceland by car

Published

on

Iceland car travel

For a long time Iceland was a well kept travellers secret. It was not the typical choice of holiday, but now this wonderful country is becoming more and more well known for that holiday of a lifetime and a chance to see and do things that you can’t do anywhere else in the world.

And there really is only one way to really experience this wild country properly and that is using car rental in Iceland to explore it for yourself. It is far better, and far cheaper, than trying to take day excursions with the other tourists and so many great adventures can be had this way. Here are the top reasons why touring Iceland’s roads absolutely should be your next holiday without delay.

1.The people are really, really nice

This is absolutely true. Icelandic people are very proud of their beautiful country and very keen to show it at its best to visitors. Other places in the world are known for quite a surly reception, but this is absolutely not the case here. You’ll notice it the second you head of to the car rental in Keflavik Airport. The conversation is easy, and english quite widely spoken which can make travel easier. Of course once you are out on the road exploring for yourself you should absolutely get chatting to the locals as you explore, they often know the best places to visit or eat that simply aren’t available on google or tripadvisor. Local knowledge is key for getting off the beaten track.

2.Iceland is really easy to navigate by road

Iceland is not a huge country, and there is one huge road that traverses most of it for about 190 miles. It is known as the Golden Circle. So this means that you have a great point of reference for when you are exploring. You can easily slip away from the main road to explore into the countryside, and then hop back on the Golden Circle to get to your next location. The roads are pretty well kept here – even the gravel ones, so you don’t need to worry too much about the terrain when choosing a hire car. Unless you are planning to get really off road that is.

3. The night sky is a thing of beauty

The night time is truly beautiful, especially in winter when the nights are much longer. With so little light pollution and the chance to see the aurora borealis this is a sight few people actually get to experience for themselves. Of course to really get the best of this opportunity there is really only one way to do it, instead of a car look at camper rental in Iceland instead and stay out all night. This is especially useful in the summer when the nights are very very short. This way you have all night to enjoy it while snuggled up warm in your sleeping bag.

4. The unspoiled beauty of Iceland

Of course the other great thing about Iceland camper rental is that by getting out of the towns and into the beautiful countryside you can see Iceland how it should be seen as a beautiful, scenic natural landscape. Imagine being able to camp somewhere so inspiring and free from the intervention of man and waking up to the freshest air and sounds of nature.

5. Visiting the villages gives you a real taste of Icelandic life

Most of the population don’t live in the major cities of Reykjavik, Isafjordur and Akureyri. Most life in smaller communities dotted around the country, and bearing in mind how friendly the people are, it is a chance to really embrace a different culture and take part.

6. Get out there and try the amazing fresh food

The great thing about hopping from village to village on your tour is the chance to try real local food. It is not too dissimilar to Scandinavian food, and there is of course plenty of fresh fish available, as well as lamb. You have probably heard of Skyr, the Icelandic cheese a little like yoghurt. Well here it is made into all types of delicious dishes you absolutely have to try.

7. Iceland has so many different landscapes

It is almost magical the different landscapes you can see. From grassy fields with Icelandic horses, to snow covered tundra, from magnificent coastlines to moonscapes and lava fields it is really something quite special and like nowhere else on earth. With your car you can experience all this, jumping out to hike on foot and get close to nature, before driving to what might seem like a completely different world at your next location.

8. You can watch the landscape change before your very eyes

There are volcanoes in Iceland, and the geology is formed on an every moving tectonic plate that is actually causing the country to grow in size by 2 cm every year. Its impressive and by driving up to the Lake Myvatn area you can see where steam is being vented from the heat under the earth’s crust. The volcano fields are also very beautiful, and give a strange quality to the landscape, almost like you have landed on the moon.

9. Take your binoculars with you, the bird watching is fantastic

With very few predators on Iceland, bird populations are able to thrive here. There are so many varieties, and depending on the time of year there is a chance to see many migratory birds too. It is not just birds you have a chance to see, you can also opt to go whale watching too at certain location. Heading out by boat to cruise alongside the magnificent animals.

10. You will feel like you have had the most amazing adventure

There is nowhere in the world quite like Iceland. Heading out on your road trip with nothing but a map and an open heart will help you discover wonders only shown to the few brave enough to get off the well travelled path. You’ll create memories hear that will last a lifetime.

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse

Continue Reading

Europe

Top tips for renting a car in Malaga

Published

on

Car rental malaga

The Costa del Sol is a great choice of holiday destination. With many great places to see, absolutely glorious weather and a chance to enjoy the famous Mediterranean lifestyle it is perfect whether you are travelling with friends, as a couple or with a family.

Whether you are heading to Torremolinos, Marbella, Nerja or the city of Malaga, where the international airport is, the best way to make the most of your stay and give you the freedom to really explore the region is to rent a car. There is a lot of choice for car hire in Malaga airport, so here are some tips for getting the deal that is right for you.

Choose the right car for your group

Thinking about your budget, you can aim for a smaller car, such as the Toyota Aygo or the Fiat 500. Absolutely perfect for solo travel or as a couple.

However if you are travelling as a family, these smaller cars might not be right, especially when you have a lot of luggage to carry. But there are still some very good deals to be had on medium size cars like the Ford Focus or Nissan Juke.

However, if comfort is your top priority, and you want to drive around in style, then consider models like the BMW X5 or Range Rover Evoque.

Don’t forget the extras

You will need to be sure to add on any additional items you might need for the length of your hire. For example, if you would like more than one driver you will need to let the rental company know so that they can be included in the hire and therefore included in the insurance cover.

You should also be sure that you ask for child car seats, and that those car seats meet safety standards. It is often possible to hire a GPS loaded with local maps as well, that can be very handy when driving in a new country.

You should also double check the insurance details. The basic insurance might be great value, but it will usually only cover injury to passengers or theft of the vehicle, and won’t cover any damage. Event the theft cover will likely mean a very large excess will need to be paid. However opt for a package with full cover and excess protection and you will have far great peace of mind.

Book online for better deals and guaranteed availability

There is nothing worse than finally reaching your destination, queuing at passport control, waiting at the baggage collection point and then having to spend ages in a queue for car hire , when all you want to do is go and enjoy your holiday.

If you book online in advance you will not have to worry about all of that. You can simply head to the car pick up point, usually via a free shuttle bus that online takes a few minutes, and then be on your way to enjoying yourself.

Choose a car hire company with good service and 24 hour availability

This can make all the difference to your holiday. There are over 100 car hire companies at Malaga airport, however not all of them are able to offer good prices, good quality vehicles and excellent service.

Also if you are travelling at night, or your flight ends up delayed you want to be sure that this will not cause any problems for your rental. So be sure to choose a company that has a helpline telephone number open 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse

Continue Reading

Trending