[lg policy] Latvia: Great Russia=?windows-1252?Q?=92s_?=divine nationalistic mission

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 18 15:55:45 UTC 2012

Great Russia's divine nationalistic mission

Otto Ozols

January 16, 2012

Speaking about languages, at times it seems that Russians, and
especially politicians, do not understand how fatal their policies
have been. Overall, the Russian Empire collapsed twice precisely
because of its unreasonable Russian language policies. For many
decades, for innumerable people, this was the language of the
occupiers. It symbolizes oppression, reprisals and arrogance. People
do understand that it isn't reasonable to blame common Russians or the
language itself. Even so...

It appears that politicians whose home language is Russian--beginning
with Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin and Nils Ušakovs in the Rīga City
Hall--haven't ultimately understood the lessons of history. Reviewing
how 19th and 20th century history is portrayed in Russian language
books, it's rare to find explanations of the destructive role that the
Russification policy played, which in large measure ruined and brought
to an end the Russian Empire. In fact, the resentment felt by minority
nations and their longing for freedom demolished the powerful Russian
Empire. In large measure this explains the support of the Bolshevik
revolution and Vladimir Lenin by Latvians, Jews and other people. In
contemporary times it's not unusual to hear the conclusion that the
1940 occupation of Latvia by the U.S.S.R. was a symbolic retribution
for the Latvian Riflemen's support of the Red revolution and their
participation in the Russian Civil War.

This is a primitive and misleading assertion. Joseph Stalin simply
repeated the mistakes of his predecessors. The idea proved to be a
fatal tragedy. Both during Czarist Russia and the Soviet regime,
Russian chauvinism most frequently manifested itself with the
imposition of the Russian language. This engendered opposition,
antipathy and hatred. It has to be admitted that even now the wounds
from these policies haven't healed. The Harmony Centre party, with
Ušakovs as its head, carelessly ripped open the wound again, most
likely because of ignorance. If representatives of the Kremlin support
or encourage this policy, then they too haven't understood its
importance. In the beginning of the 20th century similar pressure led
to the emergence of anarchists and other radicals. Later they
enthusiastically participated in the destruction of the Russian
When pacifists reach for bombs

Russia's problems, which continue in contemporary times, began in
1880. In that year Konstantin Pobedonostsev became chief prosecutor of
the Holy Synod of Russia, a highly influential position in Czarist
Russia. He was a notable person in the Czar's court--the constitutional
rights teacher of both Czar Alexander III and Czar Nikolai II. The
British historian Alan Palmer wrote, "Pobedonostsev was a person of
strong principles, extremely anti-Semitic and just as hostile toward
Catholics, Islamic believers and any form of representative
government. ("Parliament in our time produces the greatest of lies,"
he wrote in 1896.[1]) He believed in Great Russia's divine mission and
that the blessings were embodied in the highest autocrat--the Emperor
of Great Russia." Many, perhaps, would disagree, but looking at
contemporary Russia it is hard not to think that a similar vein of
thinking is quite strong. Many continue to feel blessed with a unique
mission and an emperor of sorts exists. In huge, rich Russia with its
many wise and talented people, the only alternative to Putin is...

Returning to historical events, Pobedonostsev had enormous power and
he began his devasting imperial Russification program and the
imposition of the Russian Orthodox religion. The historian Kristīne
Volfarte wrote about this: "1888 and the next two years brought great
changes to Rīga's schools, since as a result of the government's
Russification policy, Russian replaced German and Latvian in the
classroom. This was an enormous turning point for school children. All
subjects, except for religious instruction, were taught in a language
that pupils didn't understand. The law allowed the use of a
non-Russian language only in the beginning of the school year, as a
temporary teaching aid. The situation became even more acute as a
result of the 1893 law that declared that the Russian language was not
only the language of instruction, but was the only one allowed to be
used in schools. This meant that pupils and students, both during
conversations among themselves or with teachers, could speak only in

Beginning in 1887, almost all higher education institutions began
using the Russian language. The notable University of Tartu in
Estonian territory ended, replaced by the University of Yuryev. All
legal and legislative matter had to be conducted in the Russian
language. The ruthless Russification policy was imposed on all of
Czarist Russia's European lands--from proud Poland, through the
Baltics, and even upon self-reliant and peace-loving Finland. In
Latvian literature this era was strikingly portrayed in Pāvils
Rozītis' novel The Boys from Valmiera (Valmieras puikas)

This all evoked huge resentment, anger and protests. The
Western-leaning, well-educated Baltic people refused to accept the
brutality of Russian chauvinism. It was precisely at this time that
these small nations understood that they had to escape from the
Russian Empire. Palmer wrote, "On June 16, 1904, a young activist, a
jurist who worked in the Senate, Eugen Schauman, shot and fatally
wounded Bobrikov (Finland's governor-general), and afterward committed
suicide. While vacationing at the Finnish resort in Kotka, Czar
Alexander II had once said, 'Finland! What a wonderful place to live!
No one makes bombs, there are no gangsters.' The foolishness of
Russian policy had provoked a member of the most pacifist of nations
to engage in murder."[3]
Without Russification, everything would be different now

In fact, during this time period, a substantial seed of hatred had
been sown that's alive today. The situation became even more inflamed
by the unrest of 1905 and the czar's brutal, punitive death
expeditions that ensued. The "White Russians" were never forgiven for
this by the future Latvian Riflemen. During the Russian Civil War, the
Russian monarchists and "White Cossacks" were especially hated. As the
czarist regime weakened, it was precisely representatives of the
minorities that were on the front lines of the extremists. After 1905,
a constellation of notable Latvian anarchists appeared, some of whom
found their way into Lenin's regime.

Jews fought especially hard against the czar's regime. Pobedonostsev
had been especially evil toward them--arranging deportations,
restricting freedom of movement and limiting education opportunities.
The infamous pogroms against the Jews came into being at this time. In
large measure that explains why Jews joined and supported the
Bolshevik conspirators, since they'd suffered so terribly from the
czar's policies. The Finns, for their part, acted according to the
principle: we will support the enemies of our enemy. They always
provided sanctuary to those extremists who fought against the Czar's
regime. Precisely for this reason, Lenin found refuge in Finland, safe
from the Czar's secret police.

Of course, the czarist regime collapsed for other reasons as well, but
the brutal Russification policy gave an enormous impulse for the
minorities to oppose the Russian Empire. The language of one's birth
was the foundation on which all of these minorities used to bolster
their self-confidence and dreams about freedom. The imposed Russian
language was a symbol of repression and arrogant domination. The
Russian Empire even as late as 1918-1919 still had hopes of ridding
itself of communist conspirators and create a new, modern nation. Yet,
they let this chance go due to this same arrogant conceit. The Finns
and Estonians were ready to help the monarchist, the White Army
General Nikolai Yudenich, crush the Red regime. But the White general
and other monarchists refused to promise the smaller nations the
freedom to establish their own governments. After hearing this, the
Finnish General Carl Gustaf Mannerheim with his army and the
Estonians, as well as others, refused to help Yudenich. Lenin, who
promised freedom and independence, remained in power. Of course, Lenin
had an entirely different understanding about the freedom of
minorities, but at that moment, this was the deciding factor.
Leave the beautiful and rich Russian language in peace

What Lenin couldn't accomplish, Stalin completed in 1940. He actually
revived the old empire and once again, in a slightly different form,
the Russian language was used as a weapon to oppress the smaller
nations and their desire for freedom. A love for the Russian language
was once again imposed from above. This time this wasn't done only
with bayonets, but also with tanks, the KGB and trains to Siberian
labor camps. The Russian language again came to symbolize repressions,
stolen freedom and the arrogance of those believing in their
superiority. One's language of birth became the last and only
salvation for the oppressed nations. This is grandly demonstrated by
the popular Raimonds Pauls song with Alfrēds Krūklis text, "Why should
I sing a foreign song?" ("Kāpēc man dziedāt svešu dziesmu?"). The
language of one's birth was one of the most important values that the
Balts and others needed to protect. Precisely for this reason they
actively did all to wreck the Soviet regime. Of course, this wasn't
the only reason why it imploded. Even so, the Balts again were at the
front lines of the empire's collapse.

A variety of pseudo-historians and politicians will have a thousand
versions of the "true" history, and will claim that "the whole truth
is different" and so forth. But, Ušakovs and his supporters should be
made aware that this is the Latvian understanding about our history.
This is our experience. Latvians never make a joke at the expense of
their language. It's been a hard battle and one that's occurred for
almost 100 years, while experiencing the collapse of various empires.

The only place in the world where it is possible to protect and
develop our language is in little Latvia. It's incomparably smaller
than the unimaginably large Russia. Isn't it possible to leave it in

Isn't it also possible to leave the beautiful and rich Russian
language in peace? It's a truly wonderful language that Latvians have
always appreciated. Isn't it high time to stop abusing the Russian
language for cheap political points? And isn't it finally time to end
using Latvia's Russians as hostages to the Kremlin's dubious
geopolitical ends?

1 Palmers, Alans (2007). Baltijas jūras valstu un tautu vēsture. Rīga: Atēna.

2 Volfarte, Kristīne, and Ervīns Oberlanders (2004). Katram bija sava
Rīga. Rīga: Izdevniecība AGB.

3 Palmers, Alans (2007). Baltijas jūras valstu un tautu vēsture. Rīga: Atēna.

(Editor's note: This is a translation of a commentary in Latvian, Dižā
krievu nacionālisma dievišķais uzdevums, that appeared Jan. 13, 2012,
on the TVNET portal. It is published with the permission of the
author. Footnotes are translated from the original Latvian text, not
their sources.)

Otto Ozols is a writer and publicist. He is the author of the 2011
Latvian best-seller Latvieši ir visur.


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