In Latvia, Sympathy Not Only for Putin, but Also for Pushkin Has Become a Crime

NEW – August 17, 2022

Vladimir Linderman (Abel) is one of the most prominent representatives of the human rights movement in Latvia, the organiser of referendums for Russian schools, who has repeatedly been persecuted by the authorities. He has been behind bars for two months on charges of “justifying genocide” (this is how statements in support of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine are interpreted in this country). From the Riga Central, Abel gave his answers for an absentee interview with

Having written “I stand with Russia” in February, did you assume that you would be arrested? Or did the detention on July 21 by the Latvian State Security Service (SSS) come as a surprise?

“These words do not mean that I blindly approve of any actions of the Russian leadership. They mean that I categorically refuse to participate in a crusade against Russia. In all this Russophobic bacchanalia, which in Latvia has taken especially caricatured forms.

As for the arrest, I don’t think that one or another of my statements influenced it. Local ‘lawyers in civilian clothes’ have long wanted to put me in jail for real, for a long time. And now, in their opinion, a window of opportunity has opened, which they hope to use. But I’m not going to give up.”

How is your mood and health? What are the conditions of stay in the isolation ward, the attitude of the administration and cellmates?

“A working mood. My state of health is normal for a person who will turn 64 in two months.

There is a saying: the first half of your life you work for your reputation, the second – your reputation works for you. Reputation is working now. It’s about the attitude towards me from the administration and the prisoners.”

Journalist Lato Lapsa spoke about the “Abel case” and believes that he himself was previously persecuted for criticising President Egils Levits. He designated you as an “enemy”, nevertheless noting that in the future other public figures and media representatives may fall under the steamroller of repression …

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“Lato Lapsa, of course, is a Latvian nationalist, but unlike many, he has brains and respect for freedom and law. Today, any sympathy for Russia, its history and culture can be interpreted as a crime. Sympathy not only for Putin, but also for Pushkin, figuratively speaking.

An atmosphere of intolerance towards everything Russian is being created, anything can get caught up in this. Even Raimonds Pauls, a national icon, was almost bullied for trying to take a position above the fray.”

The SSS officers have already opened more than 20 cases for “justifying genocide.” In what form can the Russian movement now express itself? Or will it be crushed with the help of that same article 74.1, and those who disagree will be squeezed out to Russia?

“Hard times have come for Russian activists. This is not only about Article 74.1, here it’s possible to try to fight back. Still, squeezing people for ‘justifying a crime’ that is not recognised as a crime in a legal court order is too much, Kafka and Orwell in one bottle.

The Russian community of Latvia is threatened with extinction. The community stood on three pillars. A school where teaching in Russian was preserved. A more or less extensive network of Russian-language media. Uniting sacred symbols and rituals (the main one is the celebration of Victory Day near the monument to the Liberators of Riga). Now all this is destroyed or has already been destroyed.

But that doesn’t mean I’m a pessimist. History sometimes makes amazing zigzags. And, perhaps, we are now at the start of such a zigzag.”

Why did the authorities of the Baltic republics, Latvia in particular, take almost the most Russophobic position in Europe? Countries such as Hungary or Turkey, being members of NATO, understand that it is beneficial to maintain at least neutral relations with Russia. And they in Riga do not understand?

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Latvian radical nationalists (and today almost the entire ruling class has come over to their side) see their goal in creating a ‘Latvian Latvia’. This essentially means ‘Latvia without large and influential national minorities.

Once upon a time, the Second World War allowed to get rid of Jews and Germans. It is assumed that the current acute confrontation between Russia and the West will allow getting rid of Russians. We are not talking about physical destruction, but about squeezing out of the country those who remain and bringing them to absolute submission and assimilation.

Of course, not all 100% of people in power think this way. There are pragmatists who wonder if Latvia will be able to live without Russian transit, gas, and so on. But even such a cautious position today is perceived as national treason, and the pragmatists are shyly silent.”

Previously, in especially zealous manifestations of Russophobia, the European Union straightened out the Latvian authorities. Now, apparently, in this country it is quite easy to call for the expulsion of Russians from the country, ethnic cleansing, and segregation in society. There is someone to do the straightening out?

“The ‘straightening out’ from the European Union was so delicate that the Latvian authorities practically did not notice them. But today: yes – there is no one to appeal to.

However, I repeat once again: history does amazing zigzags. I do not rule out that some of the elites of the countries of ‘old’ Europe may get tired of the strategy of endless conflict with Russia. I do not claim that this will be the case, but this is one of the options for the development of events.”

P.S. Vladimir Linderman, together with Eduard Limonov, was the author of the Second Russia project, which involved the struggle for the creation of an independent state in the Russian-populated territories of one of the neighbouring countries. Now this is exactly what happened in Donbass…

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Andrey Dmitriyev

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