This is Juris Kaža’s reply to my comment on his recent post “20 years of freedom and they put you on the sh*t list”.
I am afraid that you have misread my blogs. I do not recall ever writing anything against Russians, if that is what you mean by speakers of other languages. As far as caring and tolerance, I think former diaspora Latvians have done their part by involvement in NGOs in Latvia and even by taking part in the Riga Pride marches as heterosexual, traditional family people who support tolerance and human rights. The local post-soviet screaming mutants were the ones expressing hatred, intolerance and certainly not caring for others who are different.
Juri, I didn’t mean you said something exactly against whatever you understand under “Russians” or the word you used (and explained) in this same post. And of course you are right about western Latvians being active in some NGOs or employed managing foreign funds for the third sector. I know that, too, have worked together with some years ago.
I am talking about western Latvians having democratic values in their luggage when returning home. Did they know Latvia had almost half of its population by 1990 non-Latvian speaking? Yes. Were they ready to accept it or did they really hope someone would whip them up in freight cars and throw out of Latvia? What perception did they have about this half of the country’s population, how were they going to treat that half, how much respect to this half did they have in their luggage?
Well, I am sure many locals wouldn’t be very surprised if the state would have really thrown some tens or hundreds of thousand out on the basis of their “registered” ethnicity. Psychologically, we all were prepared to ferocity under the totalitarian rule. Didn’t the Soviets repress people for belonging to specific ethnic groups? So it didn’t come as a surprise that a number of Latvian political parties did call for forcing non-citizens out of the country.
Fine, I have no idea whether western Latvians expected the new Latvian state to exercise an ethnic cleansing. But I am not sure either whether they were ready to speak up against this would-be violence. Just as they didn’t on the account of the non-citizenship, a practical expression of the state ferocity. Something cruel had to happen, if not a pogrom, then at least proclaiming them as not-really-citizens.
What I’m trying to say is that the democratic values, wisdom, knowledge, the experience from living in a democratic society should have come in the returnees. Now that 20 years have passed, Latvia is still a post-Soviet, non-western society. Not because the western Latvians didn’t do their job. But they could have made some difference.