Russian official criticizes Europe for slow response on Baltics

European officials remain “sluggish” in their response to efforts at rewriting the history of World War II and to claims of discrimination against the Russian-speaking minority in the Baltic states, an official from Moscow has told a meeting of ethnic Russians in Belgium.

Grigory Karasin, Russia’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, told the third annual European Russian Forum that “the Russian community in traditional overseas countries could play an important role in supporting fellow compatriots in the (Commonwealth of Independent States) and the Baltic states, by drawing on its rich practice of ethnocultural survival in a foreign environment.”

The forum was initiated three years ago by Tatjana Ždanoka, who is a member of the European Parliament representing Latvia and a member of the pro-Russian political party For Human Rights in United Latvia (Par cilvēka tiesībām vienotā Latvijā).

Speaking Nov. 9 in Brussels, Karasin applauded the forum’s effort to encourage dialogue between the European Union and Russia, according to a transcript of his speech released by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

However, he criticized those in Europe who would rewrite history, particularly attempts to equate Nazi Germany with the Soviet Union.

“I am deeply convinced: to try to make the USSR a culprit or accomplice of the unleashing of this war means to mock at common sense and cynically manipulate the facts,” Karasin said. “And from the human point of view—just to desecrate the memory of the 27 million Soviet citizens who gave their lives in the fight against fascism.”

Karasin zeroed in on the Baltic states, and especially Latvia, noting that “for some time now they have been openly making heroes of those who during the Second World War joined the Nazis and participated in their crimes under the pretext of fighting against the Soviet regime.”

Authorities also have turned against anti-fascist fighters, Karasin said. He pointed to the case of Soviet war veteran Vassili Makarovich Kononov, who in 2003 was convicted in Latvia of war crimes. The conviction was overturned in 2008 by the European Court of Human Rights, but now is under appeal to the court’s Grand Chamber. Kononov was implicated in a May 1944 incident at Kārsava, Latvia, in which nine civilians were killed by Soviet commandos for allegedly collaborating with German forces.

Latvia’s foreign minister, Māris Riekstiņš, responded to Karasin’s criticism by observing that recent efforts by various Russian officials to influence the court’s decision are unacceptable. Russian representatives are without reason criticizing others for politicizing history, but they are doing the same, Riekstiņš said in statement issued Nov. 9 by the Latvian Foreign Ministry’s press office.

Karasin told the forum that Russia also has repeatedly raised questions with European officials about discrimination against the Russian-speaking minority in the Baltics, noting problems such as “mass statelessness, the systematic liquidation of Russian-language secondary education (and) discrimination in the labor market.”

“We feel compelled to state a sluggish reaction of our European partners to Russia’s concerns,” Karasin said.

For this reason, the official said, it is important to solidify links between Russia and the Russian diaspora. Karasin noted the upcoming World Congress of Compatriots, scheduled Dec. 1-2 in Moscow. The congress is expected to draw 500 representatives from 90 countries.

“We are for the continued buildup of links with the Russian community abroad so that each of you feels the support of your historic homeland and sees a reliable mainstay in it,” Karasin said. The congress, he said, “will be another step towards the consolidation of the Russian overseas community.”

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

8 thoughts on “Russian official criticizes Europe for slow response on Baltics

  1. Well, what could one expect? If they think the USSR had no responsibility in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, and that the occupation of the Baltic States was small potatoes… what else can we do, other than keep repeating the obvious?

  2. Mr. Karasin needs to be educated on some WWII basics: MOLOTOV RIBBENTROP PACT, Or I suppose that was all a lie… I find it humerous how a nation of 142 million can blame a nation of 2.5 million for so much !

  3. Nothing to worry about Mr. Karasin. Anyone can see he has no solid basis in his so called arguement about us (non-democratic?) Latvians. If I am not mistaken there are approximetly 700,000 Russians living in California and a good number of them came after 1990. Is he not going to criticize the U.S.A. for forcing the English language on the Russians, thus making the Russian language as secondery? Comming to the subject of discrimination in the labor market I remember when I was in Latvia how Latvians were discriminated by the Russians during the communist era. Russians holding the higher positions and the main language being Russian. But don’t worry. Now the majority of businesses in Latvia, if one business does not have Russian workers then it will have a hard time to communicate or Russians will charge the company for discrimination. He has a point when he says that one cannot equate the then Soviet Union to Nazi Germany. Under Germanys Nazi government 10,000,000 people were put to death and under Stalin 30,000,000.

  4. I guess that this issue will go on for many years without resolution. It is, though, important to see both sides of the argument from the perspective of the residents of Latvia. On the one hand are those of ethnic Latvian origin who are justly proud of their rich culture which was rescued from what was rightly perceived to be deliberate cultural cleansing by the Soviet authorities from the 1940s onwards. On the other hand, though, there are the hundreds of thousands of ordinary people of Russian origins who find themselves in Latvia, the vast majority of whom are proud to call themselves Latvians nowadays. Most are second – and third-generation “immigrants” who do not identify themselves with Russia at all. For the Russian government to use these people as pawns in a strategy to extend Russian influence (or even to re-consitute the Soviet Union) is likely to be counter-productive since it inevitably perpetuates the ethnic divide in Latvia. At the same time, the Latvian government should now show its confidence in Latvia’s independence by considering defusing the issue by granting citizenship to all who live in Latvia.

  5. If it wasn’t so extremely important for the truth to be told in historical context, Karasin’s comments could be viewed as absolutely comical if they were accompanied with actual visual footage of Soviet crimes against humanity (we are not speaking about Nazis at this point, but all other Eastern European countries that were besieged by the Soviets.) The disconnect between what Karasin is purporting happened will not reflect the truth of what is shown on the screen or in photos of that time. Karasin must believe all in the West are stupid and incapable of distinguishing between truth and fiction. His silly efforts in complaining about discrimination are laughable and deserve to be dismissed out of hand. One example of Soviet claims of discrimination lies in the story that when Soviet military troops that still remained in Latvia for a time, after re-independence in 1991, cried foul when they were now required to pay for their bus, train and trolley fares, which they did not pay for over 50 years during the illegal occupation. Now I ask, how petty is that? Every school child knows that when one travels on a commercial bus, train or airplane, one must pay a fee for that priviledge. Why is it that the Russian leadership cannot figure out how absolutely ridulous they sound about all of their complaints. They can’t all be stupid… or can they? When a country has a Putin (KGB, GRU, NKVD) and a buddy, Medvedev, and other KGB cohorts leading Russians, can they really trust what their politicians say when they all know they have been trained to lie, lie, lie.

  6. Roy, I agree with all that you had written except that Latvia does grant citizenship to all who live in Latvia including non Latvians. Case in point.The Vietnamese who were sent by the communist Vietnamese government to the Soviet Union as a payback to Moscow for it’s military aid to the Vietnamese government. These Vietnamese workers were sent to different satellites, one of them being Latvia. Up to this day there are those who are still there. The same can be said about the Russians who were either born in the Baltic States before 1990 or who have been living there before that date.

  7. What USSR has done to Latvia and its people, there should be no Russians in Latvia, unless they are proper citizens of Latvia, speak fluent Latvian, and know the true history of Latvia, NOT one made up by USSR. I lost my entire family in 1940 and 1944.

  8. It is unfortunate that in Russia there is this continued misinformation about WW2. But I have to say that it is unfortunate that Latvia decided to not give citizenship to the the people who lived in their country at the break up. Especially since the majority of the ethnic russians were in favor of an independent Latvia. Now the result is a large portion of the population who could have been strong patriots of a democratic Latvia have a more pessimistic view of the country they were born in yet have to apply to be a part of mostly because of their ethnicity. This is a backwards way to preserve a country and culture which I am afraid will backfire.

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