The planned June 16 start of a festival of Russian culture in Latvia is “demeaning and unacceptable,” the American Latvian Association says in an open letter to Helēna Demakova, Latvia’s minister of culture.
The Oct. 5 letter, signed by ALA Chairman Mārtiņš Duhms, comes in response to an announcement that a protocol has been signed by Latvian and Russian officials for a cultural exchange. Latvia’s “culture days” in Russia are scheduled to start Oct. 16 with guest performances in Moscow by the Latvian National Opera. Events will continue through April.
Russia’s “culture days” are scheduled to begin June 16 with a guest performance by the Russian State Academic Grand Theatre during the Rīga Opera Festival.
“The ALA board considers that the scheduled dates of the Russian Culture Days in Latvia are very close to the dates of tragic events in the history of the Latvian state,” Duhms wrote, adding that the association in principle supports the idea of cultural exchange between the two countries.
However, the date is unacceptable and should be changed, the ALA said.
June 14 marks the start of the 1941 deportations from occupied Latvia at the hands of Soviet troops. June 15 is the date of the 1940 attack by Soviet forces on the Latvian border post at Masļenki. June 16 is the date in 1940 when the Soviet Union issued an ultimatum demanding its troops be allowed to enter Latvia. And June 17, 1940, marks the start of the illegal occupation of Latvia by the Soviet Union, the ALA board said in the letter.
“Latvians in the United States still are painfully aware of the effect these events had on the state of Latvia and the fate of the Latvian people,” Duhms wrote, “and view this time as a time of sorrow.” The arrival of Russia’s delegation on June 16 would be an insult to Latvians who suffered during the Soviet occupation, especially because the Russian government still has not officially recognized or apologized for the occupation of the Baltic states, Duhms added.
Russian officials have gone as far as acknowledging the Soviet Union annexed the Baltic states in 1940, but argue that if the countries were annexed then they were not occupied.
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