(Usually) Weekly Latvian Mailer
and AOL Chat Reminder!
11:58:17 PM Eastern Standard Time
First of all, our best wishes to all, celebrating
the 82nd anniversary of Latvia's independence this November 18th just past. We
were in Philidelphia for the the commemoration activities there and for the
concert by the New York Latvian Choir.
Our apologies, we have been
extremely busy the last few weeks--and anytime close to or during the weekend
is not proving to be a good time to work on the mailer. Accordingly, we will
try out adjusting our schedule to publish during the middle of the week, with
the next mailer due out in a week and a half. In the meantime, this mailer will
bring you up to date on all the news since our last issue.
We have also
had issues with the mailing list size since converting over to AOL 6.0. We've
addressed that by splitting up the lists, however, this will be our first
mailing using AOL 6.0. (We also experienced an unusually large number of "This
is not an AOL member" rejection messages.) Please let us know if you hear of or
experience any problems.
As always, mailer or not, Lat Chat
spontaneously appears every Sunday on AOL starting around 9:00/9:30pm Eastern
time, lasting until 11:00/11:30pm. AOL'ers can follow this link:
Town Square - Latvian chat. And
thanks to you participating on the Latvian message board as well:
here: LATVIA (both on AOL only).
IN ACCORDANCE WITH AOL'S MAIL POLICY and good manners, please let
Silvija (firstname.lastname@example.org) know if you wish to be deleted from our mailing
list. Past mailers are archived at latvians.com. Your comments and suggestions are
We do have a link to share with you this week. It's to www.LRFA.org, the Latvian Relief Fund
In the news:
EU-Russia partnership beneficial for Latvia
Newswire Tuesday, October 31, 2000 11:35:00 AM
yer/dro (c) 2000
RIGA, October 31 (Itar-Tass) The
long-term partnership between the European Union and Russia, an agreement on
which has been reached in Paris, is beneficial for Latvia, a future EU member
and a neighbor of Russia, Latvian Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins said
The strategic cooperation is dictated even
by geography (one only has to take a look at the map) and historical relations
between Russia and Europe, the minister said.
Latvian coalition opposes further deficit
World Report Wednesday, November 01, 2000 9:27:00 AM
Copyright 2000 Reuters
RIGA, Nov 1 (Reuters) Latvia's ruling
coalition is expected to oppose proposals to increase the 2000 deficit beyond
3.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) when parliament votes on budget
amendments on Thursday, a spokesman said.
coalition does not support the increase of (the fiscal deficit), but of course
it's the parliament that makes the final decision," the prime minister
spokesman Andris Lapins told Reuters.
house approved the amended budget, with a total deficit of 129.9 million lats
($209.2 million) or 3.1 percent of GDP, in it first reading.
But since then, parliament's budget and finance
commission has approved additional spending proposals for extra funding in
areas such as education and health spending.
if the four parties that make up the majority coalition would support extra
spending proposals at Thursday's vote, Lapins said: "In principle, no."
A finance ministry spokeswoman told Reuters the
additional spending would ammount to 3.4 million lats.
"The additional spending of 3.4 million lats okayed
by the parliamentary budget commission would mean an increase in the fiscal
deficit to just below 3.4 percent of GDP," she said.
The goverment initially pledged to limit this
year's budget deficit to two percent of GDP, but later said it would break that
promise due to increased spending on social services, education and
The four-party coalition, with 69
seats in parliament, has firmly opposed increasing the budget deficit further.
"Earlier these proposals were reviewed by the
cabinet. The cabinet has expressed its opinion that only those proposals could
be supported that don't require additional financing but just redistribution of
funds within the exisiting budget," Lapins said.
Finance Minister Gundars Berzins had said Latvia
could receive a negative evaluation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
if the increased deficit was approved.
Latvia has a
precautionary agreement with the IMF that paved the way for a three-year, $120
million programme of structural adjustment loans.
Latvian court denies Nazi suspect arrest appeal
World Report Friday, November 03, 2000 5:12:00 AM
Copyright 2000 Reuters
RIGA, Nov 3 (Reuters) A Latvian court
said on Friday it would allow prosecutors to seek the arrest and extradition of
elderly war crimes suspect Konrads Kalejs from Australia.
Attorneys had appealed a court's decision last
month allowing prosecutors to seek the arrest of the 87-year-old, who was a
member of the Nazi-backed Arajs hit squad during the German occupation of
Latvia during World War Two.
Kalejs, who has denied
Nazi hunters' claims that he aided the wartime slaughter of Jews, is now an
Australian citizen living in Melbourne.
had appealed a court's order on October 23 granting permission for prosecutors
to order his arrest, saying the Kalejs was too old and sick to stand trial and
that the charges against him were insufficient.
think that this court decision will not serve as a decisive precondition to
achieve Kalejs's extradition because, first and foremost, the charges (brought
against Kalejs) are not grounded enough for Australia to extradite its
citizen," Maris Mezitis, one of Kalejs's lawyers, said.
If extradited, Kalejs would be the first Latvian
Nazi-era war crimes suspect to be brought to trial since the country regained
independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
against Kalejs stem from his time as an alleged concentration camp commander
during the war.
Although he has admitted being a
member of the hit squad, which was responsible for 30,000 murders in the Baltic
country, Kalejs has denied all war crimes, saying he was at university when the
killings took place in 1941.
Dadzite could not tell journalists how long it would take to achieve the
"We will continue preparing documents
for Australia to demand (Kalejs's) extradition," she said.
"Heads of prosecutor general's office have to
decide how to go about achieving this given that the extradition treaty (with
Australia) has not yet been ratified," she added.
Under Latvian law, the appeal ruling is final and
cannot be overturned.
Ninety-five percent of
Latvia's 70,000-strong Jewish population died during the World War Two
Latvia was accused abroad of being soft
on elderly Nazis after Kalejs surfaced last year in a British old people's
He later flew back to Australia to avoid a
Monument unveiled at cemetery of SS Latvian
Newswire Sunday, November 05, 2000 1:08:00 PM
yer/ (c) 2000 ITAR-TASS
RIGA, November 5 (Itar-Tass) A
monument was unveiled and blessed at the cemetery of the SS Latvian Legion in
Lestene, 70 kilometers west of Riga, on Sunday. The 150,000 strong Legion
fought against the anti-Hitler coalition in the World War Two.
The Sunday ceremony was attended by Defense
Minister Girts-Valdis Kristovskis, the army commanders, former members of the
Legion and former guerrillas from Estonia and Lithuania.
It is planned to open a museum at the cemetery.
Donations for the cemetery are being raised, and the government has given about
Latvians unveil memorial to Waffen SS conscripts
World Report Sunday, November 05, 2000 3:07:00 PM
Copyright 2000 Reuters
RIGA, Nov 5 (Reuters) About 1,000
people, including Defence Minister Girts Kristovskis, gathered on Sunday in
western Latvia to unveil a monument to men who fought alongside the Germans
during World War Two, local media reported.
Nazis drafted some 146,000 Latvian men into a Waffen SS unit in 1943 and 1944
in a last-ditch mobilisation after heavy setbacks at the hands of the Soviet
The Latvian unit, known as the Latvian
legion, was one of the last holdouts during the war, helping the Germans to
fend off the Red Army in the Western Latvian region of Kurzeme until Berlin
surrendered to the Allies. The unit has been at the centre of controversy for
Sunday's meeting in Lestene, about
100 km (60 miles) from Riga, was the culmination of several years of efforts by
the legionnaires to gather the remains of fallen comrades for a cemetery burial
and build a memorial to them.
News agency BNS
reported that Commander in Chief of the armed services Gundars Abols also
attended Sunday's rainy ceremony.
In 1998, Latvia's
parliament sacked then Commander in Chief Juris Dalbins for taking part in a
commemoration of the Waffen SS legion in Riga after the government had told
officials not to participate.
processions through the capital Riga have been criticised by Jewish groups for
making heroes out of those who fought for the Third Reich and have embarrassed
Latvian leaders eager to guide their country into the European Union.
However, the legionnaires say they have been
misrepresented as ageing Nazis nostalgic for the days of Hitler and note that
they were drafted illegally by the Germans.
end of the war, the Allies effectively cleared the members of the legion,
saying membership would not be a hindrance to immigration.
Latvia says Russia nostalgic for Soviet empire
World Report Monday, November 06, 2000 6:26:00 AM
Copyright 2000 Reuters
RIGA, Nov 6 (Reuters) Latvian
President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said on Monday Russian nostalgia for the Soviet
empire was still troubling its relations with Moscow nine year's after the
Baltic state regained its independence.
also told the BBC in an interview that Latvia would expect help from NATO if
Russia threatened her country, even though it is not a member.
"I think Kosovo is not a member of the NATO
alliance and yet the alliance was able to take action when it felt that,
according to the principles on which it is founded, action and intervention was
necessary," she said.
"I would expect it to do no
less anywhere else in Europe."
relations with Russia have been icy due to Moscow's accusations that the Baltic
state discriminates against its Russian minority. Moscow also opposes Latvia's
bid to join NATO, which Riga hopes to be ready to do by the alliance's next
summit in 2002.
Russia also accused Latvia of
rehabilitating Nazism earlier this year in its prosecution of elderly former
Red Partisan Vasili Kononov, whom Russia sees as a hero of the Soviet Union's
struggle against Nazi Germans, for war crimes.
case is still under appeals review and Kononov accepted Moscow's offer of
Russian citizenship following his prosecution.
Latvia has defended its right to try Kononov and
suspects accused of similar crimes against civilians, but Russia says the
country is punishing Russians for fighting against fascism.
"I think the Kremlin is trying to create a problem
where there isn't one in the faint hope that they can still recover the empire
that collapsed because it was unable to survive," Vike-Freiberga said.
Latvia has been criticised for pursuing
Communist-era suspects while not trying a single suspect in Nazi-era crimes,
even though 95 percent of its 70,000 pre-war Jewish population died at the
hands of Germans and their local collaborators.
Vike-Freiberga said the Soviets executed or exiled
many Nazi collaborators after it pushed the Germans out in 1944.
Prosecutors in September announced Nazi crimes
charges against Latvian-born Konrads Kalejs, now an Australian citizen. They
are now preparing extradition papers.
Latvia ready to hold talks with Putin in any time
Newswire Monday, November 06, 2000 9:29:00 AM
yur/ (c) 2000 ITAR-TASS
RIGA, November 6 (Itar-Tass) Latvian
President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said his country is ready to hold talks with
Russian President Vladimir Putin "in any time when there is a possibility for
such a meeting".
In an interview with a radio
station on Monday, she said that Latvia has been always ready to involve in
dialogue with Russia. The president expressed regret that the two sides
postponed a session of the intergovernmental commission, adding that she pins
great hopes to the commission's session which will facilitate the development
of dialogue with Russia.
CE chaired by Latvia to watch Balkan, Caucasian
Newswire Tuesday, November 07, 2000 9:18:00 AM
yer/ (c) 2000 ITAR-TASS
RIGA, November 7 (Itar-Tass) The
Council of Europe will continue to watch the Balkan and Caucasian developments
in the six months of Latvia's presidency in the European organization, Latvian
Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins said Tuesday.
Latvia will come to preside in the Council of
Europe on November 9, and Berzins will head the CE Committee of Ministers.
Another priority task is to provide for compliance
with the European human rights convention in member-countries and candidates to
the Council of Europe.
The six-months plan has been
coordinated with the CE secretariat.
Sports Tuesday, November 07, 2000 3:55:00 PM
MADONA, Latvia (AP) Four road rally
officials were convicted and sentenced to at least two years each in prison for
a 1999 race in which eight spectators died.
accident happened when two cars collided and spun off the track, with one
catapulting into a crowd. Among those killed was a 9-year-old boy. Twenty-five
The court ruled the organizers failed
to observe safety precautions by allowing spectators at the edge of a makeshift
The four officials were convicted
Monday of criminal negligence. One, 70-year-old Dina Daugule, collapsed in
tears as the sentences were read.
Baltic EU reports seen positive but work remains
Financial Report Monday, November 06, 2000 6:07:00 AM
Copyright 2000 Reuters
By Burton Frierson
RIGA, Nov 6 (Reuters) The Baltic
states expect praise from the European Union this week for their preparations
for membership, with approval likely for Latvian and Estonian efforts to
improve their treatment of minorities.
should also earn a mention in the Wednesday report for fixing its fiscal policy
while the EU could spur one or all three on economic restructuring and
improving their ability to implement Union laws and regulations.
Officials in Estonia a member of the first
group of countries to start negotiations in 1998 are optimistic after
what they say was their best year yet for membership efforts.
The government approved 64 draft laws connected to
EU integration and over 70 government directives. Parliament has approved 53
and is currently processing 32 more drafts.
confidently state that this year has been more successful for Euro-integration
than ever and through this we have obtained a better position among candidates
ready to join the EU," Prime Minister Mart Laar said at a recent conference.
"I believe (the report) as earlier will be strict
but fair," said Laar.
Estonia, whose small size
will make it relatively easy for the EU to absorb, expects praise for
harmonising its language law with EU norms a major issue for the country
of 1.4 million people, a third of whom are native Russian speakers.
Other areas of progress were on judicial training
and agriculture, particularly setting up structures to receive EU aid for farm
Areas of improvement for next
year could be fisheries and customs and strengthening of civil services
as last year.
Neighbouring Latvia, hoping to catch
up with the fast track group of applicants, also expects praise for harmonisng
regulation of language use in public and private spheres.
Officials note progress on judicial issues
training and cutting case backlogs and measures to curb corruption.
"The general message is we are much more
satisfied than not (satisfied)," said EU delegation head Guenther Weiss, adding
administrative capacity would be a key challenge ahead.
The judiciary will also need further improvement
and integration of the local Russians a third of the population of 2.4
million is expected to remain a long-term issue.
In Lithuania, seen as slightly behind Latvia, last
year's report singled out fiscal policy. Outgoing Prime Minister Andrius
Kubilius addressed this with massive budget cuts that contributed to his loss
in the October 8 general election.
anticipate in this report that there will be a positive note on...the outgoing
government's effort to insure fiscal stability, fiscal discipline and reducing
the current account deficit," said top EU negotiator Vygaudas Usackas.
However, the Commission's report is expected again
to question the ability of the economy to compete in the EU and call for
further economic restructuring through privatisations and progress in
Baltic states will not join Nordic Council
Newswire Wednesday, November 08, 2000 8:24:00 AM
(C)2000 M2 COMMUNICATIONS
NOV 8, 2000, M2 Communications The
Nordic Council Parliament decided at a meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland yesterday
(7 November) not to pass the proposal that the Baltic states should be offered
membership of the Council.
Instead it was agreed to
aim for closer co-operation between the Nordic countries and the Baltic states
Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia as well as northwest Russia,
reported the Iceland Review.
The Council also
debated ways to improve the competitiveness of the Nordic region. A schedule
was reportedly drawn up for increased co-operation in the employment market
between 2001 and 2004 in order to increase flexibility and remove border
hindrances to allow Nordic citizens to move freely between countries to find
Reuters historical calendar November 18
North America Saturday, November 11, 2000 4:04:00 PM
Copyright 2000 Reuters
LONDON, Nov 11 (Reuters) [Excerpted]
Following are some of the major events to have occurred on November 18 in
1477 William Caxton produced the
first printed book in the English language, "The Dictes and Sayengis of the
1626 In Rome, St Peter's
Basilica was consecrated by Pope Urban VIII.
The Latvian National Council proclaimed the independent Republic of
Latvia, with Janis Cakste as president.
Black and white leaders in South Africa approved a new democratic constitution
which gave blacks the vote and ended white minority rule.
Rautakirja expands operations in the Baltic
Newswire Monday, November 13, 2000 11:31:00 AM
(C)2000 M2 COMMUNICATIONS
NOV 13, 2000, M2 Communications The
Finnish kiosk chain operator Rautakirja Oyj is to take over the management of
the convenience stores connected with the Finnish oil company Neste's petrol
stations in Estonia and Latvia.
petrol station chain comprises 23 units. The shops linked with the stations are
expected to have sales of up to FIM50m this year.
In October Rautakirja signed a letter of intent
regarding the purchase of 85% of the shares in the Latvian kiosk chain Preses
Lithuanian diplomat to spearhead NATO entry bid
North America Friday, November 17, 2000 3:40:00 AM
Copyright 2000 Reuters
VILNIUS, Nov 17 (Reuters) Lithuanian
Presdient Valdas Adamkus on Friday appointed diplomat Giedrius Cekuolis, 41, to
coordinate the Baltic state's efforts to secure membership in the North
Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO). Lithuania hopes to secure an invitation to
join the defence alliance one of its key foreign policy goals at
the next NATO summit due in 2002.
believes this appointment will consolidate Lithuania's diplomatic efforts in
securing NATO memebership," Adamkus's spokeswoman Violeta Gaizauskaite told
Lithuania, together with neighbouring
Baltic states Latvia and Estonia, were deeply disappointed by a NATO decision
to exclude them from its expansion last year when former Warsaw Pact members
Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary joined.
three view NATO membership, vehemently opposed by Russia, as the best way of
guaranteeing the independence they won from Moscow in 1991 after 50 years of
Ethnic Russians threaten to blow up Latvian
World Report Friday, November 17, 2000 8:21:00 AM
Copyright 2000 Reuters
RIGA, Nov 17 (Reuters) Three youths
threatened to blow up a church in Latvia on Friday unless a jailed former KGB
officer and four members of a Russian ultra-nationalist group were freed, but
police managed to arrest them.
men, apparently armed with hand grenades, entered St Peter's church a
tourist attraction in a historic part of the capital Riga and hung flags
of the former Soviet Union from the spire, state police spokesman Krists
Leiskalns told Reuters.
They threatened to detonate
hand grenades and called for the release of 82-year-old Mihail Farbtuh, a
former NKVD Soviet secret police officer serving seven years for his role in
deporting Latvians to Siberia in the 1940s.
also demanded the release of four members of a Russian ultra-nationalist
organisation detained earlier this week for illegally entering Latvia, whose
population is about 30 percent ethnic Russian.
"They had hand grenades, but it is still unclear
whether they were dummies or real ones," Interior Ministry spokesman Normunds
Friday is Latvian independence day,
marking the 82nd anniversary of the setting up of the first republic. The
Baltic state's sizeable ethnic Russian minority is a legacy of 51 years of
Soviet occupation that ended in 1991.
repeatedly accused Latvia of denying its Russian population their human rights
and relations between the two countries have often been frosty.
& World Saturday, November 18, 2000 12:09:00 PM
Copyright 2000 The
By STEVEN C. JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer
RIGA, Latvia (AP) Leaders of Latvia's
four largest religious denominations refused to participate in Saturday's
Independence Day worship service to protest what they called rampant corruption
and lax abortion laws.
In a letter to President
Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the heads of the Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Russian
Orthodox and Russian Old Believers churches said numerous scandals have
weakened support for elected officials and increased public skepticism in this
"This year, I feel deeply sad and
ashamed about our country and it would be extremely difficult for me to head
the official service as if everything were in the best order," Lutheran
Archbishop Janis Vanags wrote in a letter sent to the president and released to
"Ordinary people, far removed from the
elite, have had the state they might have been proud of stolen away from them,"
Latvia's Independence Day marks the Baltic
country's first declaration of independence on Nov. 18, 1918. Latvia was free
until 1940, when Soviet forces invaded.
regaining independence after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, the nation
of 2.4 million has been plagued by various corruption scandals and has had nine
The church leaders also
criticized a draft law before parliament that would allow women under 18 to
have abortions without parental consent and bar fathers from having a say in
"Already, it's not difficult to have an
abortion in Latvia, and this law would pretty much do away with any
restrictions on abortion," Dean of the Riga Lutheran Church Janis Ginters said.
According to the Latvian Central Statistics
Department, 19,400 babies were born in 1999 and 18,031 abortions were
Vike-Freiberga did not comment on the
content of the letter but said she was disappointed that the religious leaders
did not take part in the service, which drew some 1,000 people to the Dome
Cathedral in Riga's old town. The service was led by a lower-level Lutheran
Juris Calitis, dean of the theological
faculty at Latvia University, said the protest letter was long overdue.
"This is the last hour for religion to start
talking about serious problems in this country," he said. "These things should
be talked about constantly and all the churches should be at the forefront of
Troubled Times for Chronicler of Soviet Horror
WorldSources Online Wednesday, November 15, 2000 12:14:00 PM
The Associated Press
Copyright 2000 THE MOSCOW TIMES
MOSCOW Just four and a half years
after opening, the Sakharov Center and Museum in Moscow could be forced to call
The feared closure is not the result of
governmental pressure, nor does the museum think it has finished its mission of
documenting the horrors of Soviet times.
Western grants and donations that kept the
center running dried up in September, and the staff, unable to find Russian
donors, found themselves living off the meager funds collected in donation
Sakharov museum director Yury Samodurov
warns he could be forced to close the museum as soon as December.
Opened in May 1996, the museum was named after one
of the most striking personalities of Soviet times double Nobel Prize winner,
dissident physicist and fervent human rights advocate Andrei Sakharov.
The two-story building on the banks of the Yauza
River tells the story of the Soviet regime with displays that include pictures
of political prisoners being sent off to labor camps and a short note by Josef
Stalin ordering an increase in the "execution quota." Visitors can also see
guitars used to sing protest songs and leaf through dusty, underground editions
of forbidden books.
Registered as a noncommercial
cultural institution, the Sakharov center functions as both a museum and a
human rights organization. It hosts news conferences, seminars, roundtable
discussions and free excursions for schoolchildren.
A public library on the premises lends books on
Soviet history, civil society and human rights, and its archive contains
numerous files on former dissidents.
To date, the
center has been supported almost solely by foreign grants, with less than 1
percent of the $1.7 million spent coming from Russian sources, director
Samodurov said last week.
About 80 percent of those
funds were provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development. That
financing was good through September of this year.
Samodurov said a new foreign donor has been found,
but has postponed the start of financing until May due to its own problems.
Now the museum is mired in a financial hole and the
prospect of a closure is looming, he said.
Samodurov said that most of the trouble in finding
Russian sponsors probably comes from a lack of laws promoting nongovernmental
and noncommercial organizations.
"Why would anybody
want to finance us if they get no tax write-offs for it?" he said.
"Finding money for human rights organizations is a
challenge everywhere in the world, not just in Russia," said a Western diplomat
involved with the museum. "Here it's even more difficult because of the legal
issues, such as nonexistence of tax write-offs. Plus there is a problem of
education. People still don't fully understand the importance of human rights."
Samodurov said another problem is that there's
little interest among businessmen in sponsoring a museum that condemns the
Soviet regime, especially at a time when President Vladimir Putin is honoring
Soviet agents like former KGB chief Yury Andropov and celebrating the 80th
anniversary of the security services that sent millions of people to prison
"We've sent 240 letters to various Russian
businessmen during the last two years," the director said. "We got only eight
answers, and only one of them was positive. The message is: Leave the past
But the director concedes that part of the
problem may also lie with the museum's inability to navigate through the world
of Russian business.
"Neither I nor any of my
co-workers have any contacts in these circles," Samodurov sighs, correcting his
horn-rimmed glasses. "It's another world from ours, I feel rather clumsy in
The museum cannot afford such
clumsiness, said Nikolai Nikishin, a museum specialist at the Culture Ministry,
who advised the Sakharov museum on financial matters for a few months in 1998.
"The problem of the Sakharov museum is that it has
been in a privileged position for a very long time, receiving grants of
$200,000 to $300,000 a year from the West, and they got a bit self-contented,"
he said in a telephone interview.
thinks that the current financial crisis will not spell the end of the museum.
"I believe the museum will survive," he said. "This
is a serious crisis, but far from fatal.
it can have positive results," he added. "The Sakharov museum is conducting a
very serious fight for the souls of the Russian people, and it cannot afford
complacency. This will toughen them up."