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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How Latvia's Support Of Ukraine Is Complicated By The Russian Language

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has sparked an anti-Moscow nationalist upsurge in Latvia, which is now seeking to reduce the use of the Russian language in the public sphere in a country where almost 40% of the population are Russian speakers. While support for Kyiv is widespread, tensions in the country are growing, including on the language front.

RIGA — On a building facing the Russian embassy in Latvia's capital, a gigantic banner is adorned with the portrait of Vladimir Putin, whose face is gradually distorted, as if the lower part of his face had melted into the grimacing jaw of a skull and crossbones. A provocative gesture in a city where all official buildings are decorated with both the Latvian and Ukrainian flags.

As in other Baltic countries, support for Ukraine against Russian aggression is overwhelming. "Here, it's black or white, there's no gray," says Rihards Kols, chairman of Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee.

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Down in Riga's old town, the recently renovated museum of the Soviet occupation recalls the exactions endured by Latvia — which had gained independence in 1918 — after the 1940 Soviet invasion and Nazi invasion in 1941, to fall back under Moscow's yoke in 1944, from which it would not free itself, like Estonia and Lithuania, until 1991.

Anti-Russian sentiment, in other words, is very strong and has intensified since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, and Moscow's full-scale invasion last year.

Yet at the same time, of the three Baltic States, Latvia has the largest Russian-speaking population: almost 40%. They form a very heterogeneous group, of Belarusian, Ukrainian, Georgian or Russian origin. Politically, they range from young progressives to conservative voters who support Ukraine (around one-third of Russian speakers, according to a July poll).

Others, however, take their attachment to Russia a step further by setting their watches to Moscow: they'll be firing off firecrackers an hour before everyone else on December 31st.

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The "Good Russians" Debate Is Back — And My Rage Just Grows Deeper

A Ukrainian journalist considers the controversy over the shutting down of exiled, independent Russian television station TV Dozhd. Can Russians be opposed to Putin's war and yet support the troops?


What's been unfolding in Latvia this week is minor compared to the brutality that continues every day in Ukraine. Still, it is telling, and is forcing us to try to imagine what will happen in the future to Russia, and Russians, and the rest of us in the region.

What has been a largely respected and independent Russian television channel, TV Dozhd ("TV Rain") was forced off the air in Latvia — where it's been based since being forced into exile at the start of the war in Ukraine — after Alexei Korostelev, one the channel's main anchors, said on live TV that Dozhd viewers could help the Russian army soldiers and urged viewers to write about mobilization violations.

Korostelev was immediately fired, and the television's management reiterated its absolute opposition to the war and repeated calls for Moscow to immediately withdraw its troops.

Nevertheless, the next day Latvia — a fierce Ukraine ally — revoked the channel's license to broadcast

It is a rude return to the "good Russian" debate, which spread across independent newspapers and social media in the weeks after Moscow's invasion. What must we demand from Russians who are opposed to the war and to Vladimir Putin? Should we expect that they not only want an end to the fighting, but should also be pushing for the defeat of their own nation's military?

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What Happens When Soviet Monuments Are Torn Down

The toppling of statues and other political symbols creates new spaces that are themselves a reckoning for society.

In the Latvian capital of Riga, an 80-meter concrete obelisk came crashing down in late August to the loud cheers of a nearby crowd. It was created to commemorate the Soviet Army’s capture of Latvia in 1944.

Days earlier in Estonia, another Soviet monument, this time of a tank adorned with the communist red star, was removed and taken to reside in a museum.

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Such scenes are happening all over central and eastern Europe – in Poland, Lithuania and the Czech Republic. The removal or destruction of Soviet-era monuments is a powerful reminder of the complex relationship that exists between history, memory and politics.

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Putin Meets With Erdogan, Turkish Leader Emerges As Most Likely Peacemaker

“Our goal is to continue the momentum that has been achieved and bring an end to the bloodshed as soon as possible,” Erdogan said just before his meeting with Putin, referring to earlier agreements he helped seal.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin met Thursday in Astana, Kazakhstan, with the world holding out slim hope of a peace deal to halt the war in Ukraine.

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The two sides in the war currently appear too far apart to even begin negotiations, but Erdogan has maintained regular contact with both Moscow and Kyiv, establishing himself as an indispensable diplomatic resource for trying to halt the bloodshed in Ukraine and eventual help orchestrate a peace accord.

Speaking just before his encounter with Putin, Erdogan said Turkey’s aim is to orchestrate a ceasefire. “Our goal is to continue the momentum that has been achieved and bring an end to the bloodshed as soon as possible,” the Turkish leader said, referring to earlier agreements he helped seal.

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Busking In The Shade

It was so hot on the shores of the Baltic sea that August that we had to look for shade everywhere we could, just like this street piper in Riga, Latvia.


Eurovision Contestants 2015: Latvia

Latvia ran in 15 editions of the Eurovision Song Contest since its first participation at the turn of the millennium. The former Soviet satellite failed only to qualify in 2004 with expand=1] this song — we have no idea why it didn’t work, people probably forgot what real rock’n’roll was at the time.

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Freedom Skyline

Five years after Latvia's independence was recognized by the Soviet Union (one of the last things the dying Union got to do), we toured the Baltic states, still then in the early stages of painstaking de-Russification.

But from above, Riga, the largest city in the three Baltic republics, looked as beautifully Latvian as ever.

Klaus Brill

Latvia And The Euro: A Bittersweet Achievement

Latvia becomes the 18th member of the European single currency zone, adopting the euro just as the small Baltic nation starts to enjoy economic growth. Will Latvians come to regret it?

RIGA — In Latvian, it is called the eiro, not the euro. But on the new European single currency coins that Latvians are exchanging for their beloved lats, the value is given in "euros" — spelled the same way as it is in the rest of Europe. The other side of the coins still show either the trusted emblems of the national coat of arms or Milda, a young woman in national costume who symbolizes the fight for independence.

These symbols always resurface in the small Baltic nation whenever a new era begins, so it is fitting that they will appear on the Latvian euros. Today, Latvia becomes the 18th member of the European single currency zone, and its entry is more than welcome.

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Soviet Legacy Looms Large Over Latvia's Upcoming Russian Language Referendum

Latvians will decide this weekend whether to make Russian the country's official second language. Demographically, doing so makes sense. A third of the population is Russian. Many Latvians, however, still associate the language with their years u


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