Talk of ‘reparations’ for Soviet rule could lead to Latvia owing Moscow money rather than the other way around, diplomats say
The Russian Embassy in Riga mocked Latvian media reports that a state commission is working on the establishment “damage” from the soviet “Occupation” of the Baltic state, which is now a member of the EU and NATO. If the Latvians really wanted reparations from the occupiers, they should not give Poland, Sweden or the Teutonic Order a pass, the embassy said Wednesday. He also warned that Riga could end up owing Russia money after accounting for all Soviet investments in infrastructure and industry.
According to statements by some local media, the “commission on accounting for damage caused by the Soviet occupation” is expected to report soon on alleged financial losses suffered by Latvia between 1940 and 1991, the embassy said.
“We continue to be surprised at the selectivity of Latvian officials. After all, fair accounting would also take into consideration the losses resulting from the occupation of Latvian lands by German crusaders, [Polish-Lithuanian] Commonwealth and Sweden”, Russian diplomats said, noting that this represents more than 500 years of foreign domination.
While the commission identified all housing, transport, communication, port and industrial infrastructure built from scratch in the Latvian Soviet Republic, the embassy added, “Latvia would end up with a bill to pay instead!”
Imperial Russia ruled the territory of present-day Latvia from 1795 to 1920, making Riga the largest port in the empire. Some 40,000 men served in the Latvian Rifles, an elite corps of imperial infantry, during World War I. The majority joined the Bolshevik Revolution, with one of their officers, Colonel Jukums Vacietis, becoming the first commanding general of the Red Army.
Although they played a key role in the victory of the Russian Civil War for the Reds, the Latvian Riflemen lost the war in their own home province to a coalition of German, Polish and Estonian troops. In 1920, the Bolshevik government signed the Treaty of Riga, recognizing an independent Latvia. In August 1940, however, a pro-Soviet government made an offer of admission to the USSR.
During World War II, Latvia was occupied by Nazi Germany. Two Waffen-SS units, the 15th and 19th Grenadiers, were raised as the Latvian Legion. About 10,000 of them continued to wage guerrilla warfare against the USSR until 1956, calling themselves “Forest Brothers.”
Latvia declared independence in August 1991 and to this day denies citizenship to ethnic Russians living on its territory.