In recent times various discussions have been present about the question of the Latvian identity and the fundamentals the state of Latvia. Usually such questions are beyond discussion and have been answered before. But, the political shift in present Latvia, pleas by radical forces and foreign pressure has forced Latvians to answer these questions once again. This article will discuss this issue. The statements here are made according to assessments made by the judge of European Union Court and the Chairman of the President of the state Constitutional rights committee Egils Levits.
Latvia is the state of the Latvian nation. This goes right from the foundation of the state of Latvia. It has been coded in Satversme (the constitution of Latvia) even if it’s not directly written in it. This higher principle his the fundamental axiom of the Latvian state its source of existence. With guarantee for democracy, juridical state and socially responsible state it’s the main principle for the state of Latvia.
This was discussed in the times of regaining independence, but it has been neglected by the Latvian political parties and the Latvian the majority of the Latvian intellectuals. They have easily gained post-colonial inferiority complex and cultivated exaggerated political correctness, therefore refraining to speak about this principle. Therefore this axiomatic fundamental has been made unclear and vulnerable for faulty interpretations.
In Estonian and Lithuanian new constitutions it was clearly stated that these states are the national states of Estonians and Lithuanians. It has been said by their politicians and taught in schools. It is clear for every Estonian and Lithuanian. In the Estonian constitution it said that the main priority of the Estonian state is to secure the existence of the Estonian nation, language and culture through the centuries.
The nation and the state national identity is the normality in Europe. The nationstate identity defines the cultural national identity that is seen in common language, culture and social memory. Therefore the nationstate has to be open, it must involve the national minorities and immigrants in its language and culture, so there can be no ethnic divisions within the state.
It does not mean that national minorities and immigrants must give up their identity, its the personal matter. But it means that they must also learn the nationstate identity and be involved in it. Therefore school system must be united and education must have unified democratic and civil standards. Everyone must acknowledge the state they live in and accept the main values of the Latvian state.
This the policy that is needed to overcome the division of the society by ethnic, religious and other criteria. That is the present day European approach for this question.
It has been recently stressed by such European leaders as Angela Merkel, Nikola Sarkozy and David Cameron. Accepting the challenge of the globalization these numerically superior nations also are concerning the questions of their national identity – language, culture, main value preservation to avoid antidemocratic ethnic division.
In France there is annual report by the parliament about the condition of the state language, that is widely discussed by the parliament. There is also national identity minister whose mission is to promote the empowering the national identity and integrate the immigrant people in the French nation.If this has been done the large nations such as French, than this also must be done by the small nations such as Latvians.
There is also question of geographical identity. It’s not the same as exact geographical position. For Finland is located at the edge of Europe, but according to Finns themselves they live in the center of Europe. Also Estonians define themselves as the national European nation. Estonia is located in Europe and nowhere else in the Western world not “somewhere between East to West.” The Estonian president Thomas Ilvess has clearly stated that Estonia must be the part of the “European core” not periphery.
For Estonians it is clear, but if you ask to everyday Latvian the answer will be hesitation. What is European western identity ? How its related to Latvian national identity? The Latvian identity is national- cultural identity, which fundamentals are language, culture and historical and social memory. Its the same as Estonian, Finnish, Swedish and Russian national identity.
However, European identity is structured differently as the national identity. Its fundamental is not language, religion, but wide cultural and historical framework. In last century an addition to this also European common values have appeared. They respect human respect, equality, lawfulness and minority rights and plural democracy. By this possible to divide what political action is European or not. These political values make wider European identity and hold many nations outside Europe who follow these values.
However in Latvian socially political thinking and world view these values are not yet too strong. It is witnessed by comments made by Latvian politicians and simple citizens. Latvians therefore needs no apprehend themselves as European nation just as Estonians, Portuguese and Finns.
Modern Latvian nation can be together deeply Latvian and European and Westernized. Those who try attempt to counter Latvian and European do not understand the base of these identities. The treaty of Lisbon respects the national identity of the member states as written in Fourth amendment.
The last question is the social memory or the concept of Latvian history. Social memory is the collective memory. Nobody lives with his personal memory only. Common experiences make common world views for the nation and therefore common political stance. Social memory is the same as history. History is what has been. Social memory is how we comprehend the what has been. Its not the one in the same.
The social memory forms either unaware or directed by the state to integrate society. For instance independence day 18. November unites the society even if practically none has ever witnessed. The social memory gives the historical facts meaning.
Democratic and national Latvia must form the social memory policy at least according to late century. We must not be afraid from assessing the history. Its needed to better understand our present and state identity. Therefore meaningful social memory policy must be needed for assisting the Latvian state. Inadequate assessments of history negatively affects the Latvian politics and attitude against nation and state.
The main events in XX century are regarded as the revolution in the 1905. as the first Latvian action for social and national freedom. First World war as the birth of Latvian military, even if some regard the founding of the Latvian rifleman as myopic and faulty, it was the first step to make independent Latvian armed forces. The main attention must be given to the foundation of the Latvian state and the war of Independence. This is the main event of Latvian victory and must be given full attention. The coup by Karlis Ulmanis in 1934, should not be regarded as heroic and needed actions for the facts are proving the otherwise. There is needed a differentiated view on Karlis Ulmanis and his time of rule not through the mythical prism.
The occupation of Latvia in 1940, without any doubt must be recognized as the greatest disaster for Latvian nation. It must not be forgotten it has to be researched and the names of the perpetrators and victims must be spelled out. The forming of the Latvian SS Legion and Latvian Red Army divisions must be seen as international crime and action against the Latvian people. But, the veterans of these formations, especially legionaries must not be condemned and they have rights to commemorate their past. The German occupation of Latvia must not bee seen as far more better that Soviet occupation as it was based against the interests of the Latvian nation. There is no need to believe that Nazi Germany was more friendlier to Latvians rather than Jews. The event of German victory would mean the destruction of Latvian nation so the glorification of the Nazi Germany is not needed.
Instead the national resistance against the both sides must be acknowledged; The Latvian Central Council and Latvian National Partisans. And the dissidents during the Soviet occupation must be praised.
Without understanding the past, we cannot understand the present cannot adequately make our future.