ALA says June 16 wrong for Russian culture day

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.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

5 thoughts on “ALA says June 16 wrong for Russian culture day

  1. I wonder if Mārtiņš would protest if our government in Washington tried to set up an Arab/American “culture days” event within two days of September 11. I mean, I wonder if Mārtiņš cares as strongly about the Homeland as he does about his country of origin.

  2. Would someone explain why an independent country would “choose” to be “annexed” by a hostile foreign power (and, what – “settled by new guests,” as opposed to being “occupied by occupants?”); and, furthermore, “choose” to “just switch” to the foreign language of its “annexer.”

  3. To SS: What are you trying to say? “That is why many people THINK [caps mine] that occupation was illegal.”
    The occupation and annexation of the Baltic States was IN FACT and IN LAW (de jure) FORCIBLE and ILLEGAL in violation of international laws and treaties. I recommend some brush-up reading: The Annexation of the Baltic States and Its Effect on the Development of Law Prohibiting Forcible Seizure of Territory by William J.H.Hough (New York Law School Journal of International and Comparative Law). Quoting from page 389: ” …the occupation of the three Baltic nations was a breach of every major treaty signed between the Soviet Union and the Baltic States’ perpetual right to sovereignty and independence. … The use of force had been outlawed in Soviet-Baltic relations by the treaties of nonaggression and peaceful settlement of disputes. …” Putin, his Russian “minority” supporters, and big bully Russia need to stop “whining” to the world about Latvia and that there was no occupation, admit the occupation and annexation as heir of the Soviet Union that readily took the Soviet war bounty of Abrene, apologize for the murders and massive deportations, pay reparations for untold loss (with seventy years of interest). You don’t change the past but you learn to say “never again.”

  4. I would say that quite a few people wanted to join SU, but not completely abandon its language and culture, but Stalin did not like that and forced people to accept its idialogy. That is why many people think that occupation was illegal. Also its been almost 70 years, SO STOP WINING and go on to the future. Past was in the past and no one can change it. You should start thinking of the future and not grind all the mistakes and problems of the past. Latvija is a GREAT country and with great culture. SO FINALLY, STOP WINING AND JUST GO ON.

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