March 16: Foreign Powers and National Statehood

Today in the plenary session of the Saeima a proposal was submitted as every year when March 16 comes closer to mark that day as a commeration day for Latvian national soldiers. Allow me to briefly explain why March 16 cannot be the day to commemorate our national soldiers.

The reason is altogether very simple. Toward the end of the Second World War, when Latvia was occupied, Latvia was not even considered as a state – we lived in Ostland (Reichskomimissariat Ostland). Nazi Germany’s policy was the same as that of the Soviet Union – to eradicate the Latvians as a nation and to Germanize Latvia. The USSR had the same policy but with the opposite aim of russification.

The Latvian Legion was founded after the German capitulation at Stalingrad in February 1943. It was formed under forced mobilization. These people were not part of the Latvian National Army, but rather only a part of Germany’s armed forces. Exactly the same as the 130th Latvian Corps was a part of the Soviet army.

Latvians fighting on the oppposite sides believed in their hearts they were fighting for Latvia, but with one big diference. In the beginning the Latvians in the Soviet army believed in Soviet Latvia and Soviet ideology – remember the purge of Latvian national communists in 1959 - while on the German side the Latvian soldiers did not believe in Hitler or his ideology. And that is the only difference.

We cannot mix the ideologies of foreign countries and their actions against the Latvian state with our understanding of Latvia as a sovereign state, with the national consciousness of the Latvians, with what is our state and what is national! Otherwise we will never free ourselves from the heritage left by the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany. If we vote for the proposal to mark March 16 as the Latvian soldiers’ commemoration day, history will only repeat itself, and once again we will not fight for our own state, but will find ourselves in a schizofrenic state of mind where one Latvian part is for one foreign big power and the other for another foreign power.

Both March 16 and May 9 are dates dictated by foreign big powers. They have nothing to do with the decisions by the Supreme Command of the Latvian National Armed Forces! We can and we must remember the tragedy of our soldiers fighting against each other on opposite warring sides, but under no circumstances in doing this must we depart from the firm foundations of our national state. Those who began the Second World War – Hitler and Stalin – were, are, and will remain our enemies in equal measure who killed hundreds of thousands of people in Latvia.

Instead of officially commemorating a day dictated by one occupying power whose aim was actually to destroy us, we should rather ask ourselves: isn’t it time to examine why Latvia in 1940, without offering any resistance, even symbolically, let herself be destroyed as a state?

The time as come for Latvia as a full member of the EU and NATO to mature in her national statehood.

In conclusion. Three of my uncles fought in the Latvian Legion on the front and I must say that with this proposal we are actually belittling the role played by our “kurelieši”, who have been all but forgotten. These underground soldiers suffered in real terms for fighting for what the legionaires sang in their songs against both Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. Further, they were under the command of the Latvian Central Council founded during the German occupation with the aim of restoring Latvian independence led by Konstantīns Čakste, the son of the first President of Latvia.

Published 14 March 2013

Author Atis Lejiņš