pühapäev, oktoober 03, 2010

furious anger

Coming from New York, I usually give The New York Times a pass. Compared to the wildly popular (and yellow) tabloids like The New York Post or the New York Daily News, or even the The Wall Street Journal's preachy editorial page, it retains a semblance of clarity.

Unfortunately, the Times' recent coverage of the Baltic region continues to disappoint. At first I excused it as the fault of having a correspondent cover the Baltics from Moscow. But excuses have turned to disappointment, which has led to disgust and finally anger. Particularly worrisome is a article that appeared this week on Latvian parliamentary elections.

It's not that the writer, Michael Schwirtz, has his angle wrong: Latvia's economic woes have made Harmony Center, a party with ties to Putin's United Russia, more popular. I won't argue with that. But the language in which he coaches his account of Latvian politics since 1991 is suspect.

First, Latvia is tiny. "Unable to physically uproot the country from its tiny plot next to Russia, they sought to integrate as deeply as possible with the West." The dimunutive size of the Baltic countries, particularly when compared to Russia, the largest country in the world, is an attribute that is constantly recited by American journalists. Why? I think it is because by explaining away Latvia's smallness, American readers don't have to feel responsible for knowing where it is. But would The New York Times call Denmark tiny? How about the Netherlands? They are both smaller than Latvia. And Latvia is three times larger than Israel, something to think about when you consider that miniscule country's, um, tiny territorial conflicts.

Second, the article presents the foil of the West as something to which Latvia does not exactly belong. "The crisis, which hit harder here than anywhere else in Europe, shattered Latvians’ illusions of the West as a bastion of easy wealth and eternal prosperity." The West suffers a significant economic crash and Latvia suffers a tremendous economic meltdown, but they are not one and the same? Swedish banks bail out Iceland and Latvia in the same year under similar conditions, but somehow the crisis that is most similar to Latvia's doesn't even merit mention in the article. And, wouldn't you know it, but Iceland's crisis brought a left-leaning constellation of parties to power. It's not even fodder for an article: that's a whole goddamn PhD dissertation right there. But The New York Times doesn't connect the dots.

Third, the localization of history. "Despite Soviet and many modern Russian claims to the contrary, it is a period that the local populations consider an occupation." On June 18, 1940, Mr. Schwirtz's own paper's headline read: "Red Forces Speed into Baltic States; Push Occupation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania." The lead was, "Soviet Russia, which won important military concessions from Finland by war, was rushing troops and tanks tonight to new Baltic bases seized from Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania by ultimatum." Ooh, occupation, troops, tanks, seized by ultimatum? There are no weasel words in there, are there?

How is it possible that The New York Times can ignore its own reporting from the time in question? It took me three minutes to pull that from the online archive. And it's not like the United States government doesn't take a stance on the matter. This July, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Welles declaration. "This milestone document supported the Baltic States as independent republics at a critical moment to ensure their international recognition and facilitate the continued operation of their diplomatic missions during 50 years of occupation," Clinton stated.

Then there's the rehashing of Latvia's citizenship laws. "When they gained independence, the new Baltic governments enacted policies that alienated and oppressed the Russian-speaking population." This is just terrible. It's like he lifted it from a Russia Today or ITAR-TASS article, or maybe just a Russian foreign ministry press release. First of all, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania all have different policies regarding citizenship, not to mention minority rights. But look at the highly subjective language Schwirtz uses: "alienated", "oppressed." If he wanted to be taken seriously at all, he would have qualified it: "some say that Latvia enacted policies that have left them feeling alienated and oppressed." Then he would merely be reporting, which is his job, instead of editorializing.

Finally, a return to the script: "Latvia’s president, Valdis Zatlers, who has the power to appoint the prime minister, has vowed to ignore the candidacy of any politician who does not plan to continue Latvia’s Western course" paired with these final words of wisdom, contained in a quote: "We need to work with [Russia] in economy and culture. They have everything; they have gas and they have oil."

To me, it appears that The New York Times has taken the Ukrainian story and tried to apply it to Latvia. It's the dreaded "post-Soviet" line, where all off the former Soviet republics eventually fall under the control of Moscow. I think this is actually comforting to some Western journalists, because it allows them to excuse their laziness with grand ideas that they don't actually understand. The decoy of the Soviet Union or Russia as an anchor of regional stability is from a historical perspective quite laughable, but Western journalists keep falling for it, because it allows them to extricate themselves from tricky debates over Crimea or South Ossetia or Latvian citizenship laws, "quarrels in far-away countries between people of whom we know nothing," to borrow a line from one British prime minister. Better to leave it to the Russians. I mean, they have everything: both gas and oil.

Interestingly, Latvia managed to deviate from the script this week. Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis's center-right coalition was reelected. As Schwirtz wrote about Harmony Center yesterday, "the party appeared to make some gains on Saturday, but its hopes of a big win and a reversal of Latvia’s Westward tilt were dashed."

Read more:

"In Search of Jackboots" by Scott Diel (ERR)
"Foggy at the Bottom" by Edward Lucas (The Economist)
"Watching Clifford Levy" by Vello Vikerkaar
"Tiny Post-Soviet Journalism" by Kris Rikken (Blue, Black, and White Alert)

60 kommentaari:

Lingüista ütles ...

because it allows them to extricate themselves from tricky debates over Crimea or South Ossetia or Latvian citizenship laws, "quarrels in far-away countries between people of whom we know nothing"

That's about the size of it, Giustino.

Some will say that Russia is also trying to get a PR campaign going -- either bribing, or actually honestly convincing, American journalists to write "their version" of the story. I'm sure this happens, but in the end I think it's more the same old idea: they're too far away and too 'foreign' to be of interest, and, unlike the Middle East (where there is that tiny but culturally extremely important American ally, Israel), there is no big 'threat to us'.

Russia invaded Georgia; the US did some invective games, criticized Russia and all; but when push came to shove, what would they do? I frankly think the Russians could have happily occupied Tbilissi without fearing anything more serious than a tsk-tsk even from the Bush administration (to say nothing of Obama's).

With the problems in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, the truth is that the US doesn't want to think very much about the Baltics. Accepting elements of the Russian viewpoint (not all of them -- there were surprisingly many pro-Latvian elements even in the NYT article you discussed) is the easiest way out.

All in all, nothing new here.

Giustino ütles ...

I frankly think the Russians could have happily occupied Tbilissi without fearing anything more serious than a tsk-tsk even from the Bush administration (to say nothing of Obama's).

Actually, it was the much maligned Sarkozy who told Putin "the world" would not accept a Russian occupation of Georgia. It probably would have been a pretty stupid move by the Russians, too. Nothing like an ongoing guerrilla war next to your Olympics showcase ...

Lingüista ütles ...

Yes, but do you believe Sarkozy? In the end it would be a stupid move, but not in the immediate future; only later, if other reasons for taking a strong stand on Russia came about. The world would not go to war for Georgia; I don't think it would even stop buying gas from Gazprom.

In the end, given Israel and 9/11, the US decided to be involved in the Middle East. This is stretching their resources, and a very good case of American interest has to be made for them to do something else. Georgia wouldn't be enough, despite Saakashvili's American roots. What's the American interest in the Baltic States (or in the whole of the Ex-Soviet + Eastern Europe space for that matter)?

Giustino ütles ...

The world would not go to war for Georgia

On one hand, the US didn't intervene when German troops occupied France and bombed London 70 years ago. On the other hand, NATO bombed Serbia a decade ago. Things to keep in mind.


What's the American interest in the Baltic States (or in the whole of the Ex-Soviet + Eastern Europe space for that matter)?


NATO expansion was good business for the US. My cousin - a missionary, if you can believe a person of faith could be related to me -- was actually in Georgia the year before the war, spreading the gospel. When they saw Ukraine, many American contractors perhaps salivated, thinking of all the work the country needed to upgrade to meet NATO standards.

Does the US have any actual interest in the Baltic? I don't know. It still is a country bound by two oceans, Canada and Mexico. But the British have played in the region before, and the US tends to follow British imperial interests (Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, hello?)

Estonia's EU and NATO integration was favored by several ex-empires in the region: Germany, Sweden, and Denmark. (Poland was a NATO member and they are also a former empire, another case to consider). It's funny how the "macro" usually means the US and Russia. But at a local level, you see all this Swedish money here. The Scandinavians would always deny any neo-imperial interests, but the fact that Carl Bildt and Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Ansip and Laar are sauna buddies leaves room for speculation.

But what about Russian interests in the Baltic? Why would Russia need to go to war over Estonia? To stave off a German invasion? To build an undersea natural gas pipeline? There's not going to be any German invasion, and they are building the pipeline in Finnish waters.

plasma-jack ütles ...

And what vital US interests were at stake when invading Iraq?
Rational, the history seldom is, young Padawan. Lures people to dark side, to dark deeds, the power often does.

Piimapukk ütles ...

Wow! This is a tour-de-force right here! The righteous anger we need. A true brother's keeper, man. Presenting from the badlands of NY. Your bullets are the articulation that never misses. I am sure you sent this greeting to these miserable dweebs at NYT. Did you apologize for "breaking their concentration?"

I know what is written on your wallet, Giustino, you BMF. :-)

Take a bite out of their burger, they deserve it. Right on.

Giustino ütles ...

Viljandi needs a Hawaiian burger joint.

Lingüista ütles ...

And what vital US interests were at stake when invading Iraq?
9/11. Plus the oil.
Don't tell me Iraq wasn't part of 9/11. We know that. But the US felt it had to do something, and Saddam was there, being evil, so it happened.

I don't see any similar thing with Russia and the Baltic States -- not with so much effort concentrated on Afghanistan and Pakistan now. Hell, I wonder if there would have been any bombings in Yougoslavia if the Kosovo problems had started now rather than during Clinton's administration.

Rational, the history seldom is, young Padawan. Lures people to dark side, to dark deeds, the power often does.
But a lure there does not be, Obi-wan. Lures people to too many hopes, wishful thinking often does.

Giustino, I certainly wished I could say there was sufficient interest in the Baltic States in the US to guarantee that (a) the Baltic version of the situation would be better known, despite venues like the NYT, and (b) there would be more than shrugging of shoulders in case some Baltic incident happened. I wished I could, but frankly thus far I can't. Maybe the situation (and the degree of interest and attention) will be different in the future, but right now I just don't see it.

One thing I'm curious about, though, is the apparent lack of interest of the Baltic governments to dispute claims like the ones made in this NYT article. Would, say, the NYT print an article with counterarguments (by someone like, say, Edward Lucas) if it was offered? Is it really the case that nobody in Estonia (or Latvia) is willing to do the job?

Lingüista ütles ...

But what about Russian interests in the Baltic? Why would Russia need to go to war over Estonia?
Basically history. To wit, the fact that the Baltic states were Russian territory for quite a while; the fact that there are Russian populations there that the Russians think are being "oppressed;" and the fact that the recent history of Baltic independence left scars in many Russians that can still be easily turned to political profit by agitators à la Zhirinovsky. (You should hear my mother-in-law go about the "Pribaltiki" and their ingratitude...)

That's the nature of "interests", I think; like the Sudetenland, it's not that it follows logically that having them would bring clear economic advantages. Mass psychology is also important. I've often asked myself what interests Russia has in the Northern Caucasus, for instance, to feel so strongly about Chechen independence. There is nothing for them in there, I think -- except prestige. They don't want to lose face. And prestige means a lot to Russians, who think their Motherland was brought to their knees by external powers.

Giustino ütles ...

Giustino, I certainly wished I could say there was sufficient interest in the Baltic States in the US to guarantee that (a) the Baltic version of the situation would be better known, despite venues like the NYT

It's not the Baltic version when it comes to history. It's the NYT's own version. Their reporters are more willing to recycle Russian-produced talking points than their own coverage of the events. The New York Times has been in publication since the mid 19th century. They have an archive. Their reporters can go and check it.


Basically history.

But almost all conflicts that involved Russia in Estonia have taken part in some larger pan-European war. H
as there ever been a conflict between Estonia and Russia that did not take place during a time of total upheaval? The last time there was a war here, it was 70 years ago, during the Second World War, a conflict that touched almost every country in Europe. Before that was the Estonian War of Independence, which happened to coincide with the end of the First World War and the October Revolution. Before that were the Napoleonic Wars. See where I am going with this?

To wit, the fact that the Baltic states were Russian territory for quite a while; the fact that there are Russian populations there that the Russians think are being "oppressed;"

Baltic lands belonged to a lot of other empires. I guarantee you there are elements within the German elite that see this area the same exact way. They see the EU as a civilizational project, meaning their civilization, which is why they ran out of gas when they got to the Polish-Ukrainian border.

and the fact that the recent history of Baltic independence left scars in many Russians that can still be easily turned to political profit by agitators à la Zhirinovsky. (You should hear my mother-in-law go about the "Pribaltiki" and their ingratitude...)

Here I agree. It is worrying the extent to which anti-Baltic propaganda has continued to be produced by the Kremlin. To be fair, I don't think they know how to extract themselves from their propaganda war. Had Estonia said yes to Nord Stream, they would have had trouble portraying the "bad" Estonia in a suddenly good light. Unfortunately, their request coincided with the Bronze Soldeir riots, which were an effort on their part, partially, to undo the outcome of the 2007 parliamentary elections.

I've often asked myself what interests Russia has in the Northern Caucasus, for instance, to feel so strongly about Chechen independence. There is nothing for them in there, I think -- except prestige. They don't want to lose face. And prestige means a lot to Russians, who think their Motherland was brought to their knees by external powers.

Don't they realize that if they keep trying to play that game, they are going to wind up even weaker than when they started?

Putin has been bad for Russia. The 'modernizing tsar' has just recycled Soviet propaganda to keep himself in power. People hate Yeltsin, but at least Russia was provided some kind of alternative ideology at that time (and it's still being used, moreso by Medvedev). It was like an aborted revolution, with Yeltsin as revolutionary and Putin as counterrevolutionary. Which is why people in the West have a softspot for Medvedev (even Estonians). They hope that at last there will be a Russian running Russia instead of "Homo sovieticus." Putin's generation (and its counterpart in Estonia) is tainted by its relationship with the Soviet system.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Linguista, my example wasn't meant to suggest that US would go to war over Estonia, only to point out to Giustino that states, including US and Russia, often go to war without rational interest, just because the meanies are in charge. States act like people, wars are like bar fights - the initiator sometimes loses and even winning them has few real benefits. Nevertheless there's always a guy who will start a fight. Only sustainable way to avoid them is to have more women around - both in bars and in politics.

Lingüista ütles ...

It's not the Baltic version when it comes to history. It's the NYT's own version. [...] The New York Times has been in publication since the mid 19th century. They have an archive. Their reporters can go and check it.
Indeed I agree with you on that, Giustino. But I also wonder how often you'll find that in journalistic articles, even in a prestigious newspaper like the NYT: topics being treated without taking into account past NYT articles about it. Given the need to publish and react quickly, it may be that some reporters actually do that without evil intents.

Which is not to say that some people / reporters are out there to convince others of an opinion they already have, rather than to be impartial about world events.

But almost all conflicts that involved Russia in Estonia have taken part in some larger pan-European war. [...] See where I am going with this?
I'm not sure I do, Giustino. From my perspective, the problem is that Russia always thought of Estonia (whenever it happened to have it) as a piece of territory, not as a (potential or actual) country -- as Putin famously said in that interview in which he answered an Estonian journalist's question. And maybe this is because Estonians, after the coming of the Teutonic Knights, really didn't exist as a political unit, a "people": they were just the local folks, the maarahvas, like so many other rural populations all over the Russian empire.

So the fact that conflicts in Estonia always involved conflicts with foreign powers actually fits nicely in that old Russian worldview: of course it did, because Estonia itself is 'ours' (like Novaya Zemlya, or Kamchatka), so conflicts only arose because someone else wanted a piece of what is ours.

I guarantee you there are elements within the German elite that see this area the same exact way.
I'm sure there are, but these elements are not in power, nor do they wield much influence in Germany. Angela Merkel and her government do not support such ideas, at least openly; whereas the Russian government, and Putin specificially, do. The media keep repeating the message, so more people in Russia are "outraged" at the Baltics and their "ingratitude" than people in Germany, or in Sweden.

I think of the French reaction to the war in Algeria and the loss of their empire; right after they lost, their attitude was similar to Russia's (and De Gaulle was as unhappy with it as Putin was with the "worst geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century").

Lingüista ütles ...

To be fair, I don't think they know how to extract themselves from their propaganda war.
It would be difficult, I admit, but not impossible; Russia has done such changes before. A Dutch journalist wrote a book about his experience in Russia, commenting how the West went from being bad to good after the fall of the Soviet Union (speaking about his personal experience, he mentioned how everybody suddenly starting thinking it was cute that the Netherlands had a 'true queen', for instance) and during the Yeltsin years, only to go back to being 'the enemy' that doesn't respect us with the coming of Putin's age (with the journalist mentioning that now the Dutch queen is no longer 'cute', just 'absurd and ridiculous'...).

Don't they realize that if they keep trying to play that game, they are going to wind up even weaker than when they started?
I've often asked myself the same question, Giustino. My only (half-)plausible answer is that this is all for internal consumption: as long as 'we're strong' (because we're not yielding to those stupid Chechens), then we have a good image, we're not "on our knees, licking the boots of the West"; and that makes the people feel good and support the government. You could compare it with the Iraq war in the Bush administration: also no real motive to fight it other than to appear to be doing something about Al Qaeda and 9/11; or, to make a different comparison, with the sort of good feeling that Latvians get out of keeping their currency "more valuable than the dollar and the euro" -- it doesn't help their economy, arguably it actually harms them, but it's "cool" to think that one lat is worth two dollars. We 'feel stronger'.

States act like people, wars are like bar fights - the initiator sometimes loses and even winning them has few real benefits.
Plasma-jack, that's a quite accurate description! :-) I'm just not sure that having women around would change much in politics -- since the actual fighting is not as in-your-face as in a bar. The alleged reasons for going to war might change, but I don't know about the frequency...

Giustino ütles ...

I'm sure there are, but these elements are not in power, nor do they wield much influence in Germany. Angela Merkel and her government do not support such ideas, at least openly; whereas the Russian government, and Putin specificially, do. The media keep repeating the message, so more people in Russia are "outraged" at the Baltics and their "ingratitude" than people in Germany, or in Sweden.

Germany is a very interesting country. At first glance, they are just obsessed with their own problems. But when Slovenia and Croatia opted to leave Yugoslavia in 1991, a re-unified Germany was the first country to recognize their independence. And when it came to Kosovo in 1999, even Joschka Fisher found his inner warrior.

People were worried that German reunification would shift the balance of power in Europe: in a way they were right. In just a few months, the Estonian kroon, once pegged to the Deutschmark, later to the Euro, will be gone, and Estonia will have the same currency as Berlin. Think about it: the EU, Schengen, the European Monetary Zone, the military alliance NATO -- with German Luftwaffe planes taking off from Lithuania to guard Baltic airspace.

Now think about that as if things had gone the other way: imagine if Estonia had the same currency as Russia, freedom of movement to and from Russia, a military alliance with Russia, with Russian planes taking off to guard its airspace.

Tell me, now, who won Estonia after 1991?

And the funny thing is, the Russians blame the Americans for everything. The Germans get to pursue their post-1991 plan for Europe, and Washington gets to take all the blame. Maybe it isn't so funny.

jalkameister ütles ...

I really like Justin's entries and replies, I think you're really getting a handle on this foreign relations/historical/journalistic thing.

What I also find very perplexing is how when Bush was in power everyone was very fast to be critical about the foreign policy of the US. Maybe with good reason. But the paradox is that the same attitudes regarding Putin/Medvedev in the Kremlin are not criticized. What non-imperialistic use is it for Russia to have naval bases in Ukraine? Army and air bases in other ex-Soviet countries? Naval exercises with Venezuela and Cuba? Bomber plane trips into the airspace of independent countries, halfway around the globe from Russia? Planting a flag on the arctic's pole in order to claim the place? Maybe the Russian government wants to give Russians the impression that it is still an empire. But if no other country in the world is given that right, why should Russia have it? When will Russia get over its recent history? They say a generational change is needed, for example, to get over things that happened in and after WWII. Will it require another generation to get over the crumbling of the USSR? Why does Russia need to be threatened and dealt with a hard hand in order to receive its respect? Why does Russia feel that already being the largest country in the world it needs to grow larger? Why does Russia not analyze its own past of occupation and invasion? Even in the US it is discussed how lands were stolen/cheated from the Native Americans. Excuse me, but there were people already in the places where Russians invaded. Why can Russians not accept a different point of view than their official propaganda? There are plenty of Russians who do think and very clearly and wisely. Why do Russians not listen to their own thinkers?

I don't think Germany has recolonized the EU. They simply do what they know how to do best, science and technology and manufacture, and other people buy things from them. That has been their recipe for success. Even within the EU. Countries complain that they have deficits by buying German stuff while Germany has surpluses by selling their stuff to the others. Well, there's always the option to buy from someone else, or to make one's own. Or not to buy them. In the end the EU has been a positive thing, though it's weird that the public sector everywhere has to pay for the banks.

Coming back to security, a lot of the rustling of the leaves about the eastern neighbour would quieten down if we in Estonia armed ourselves up a la Finland, or a la Switzerland. Nothing wrong with that. If you want peace, prepare for war.

To buy defenses, we need more investment in education and science, because it's the only way we will have the society that can either develop them, and/or the means to buy the best available.

jalkameister ütles ...
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jalkameister ütles ...
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jalkameister ütles ...
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jalkameister ütles ...

And just a point of comparison:

Yes, the US has been expansionist in the past (19th century), but there are no US bases in Mexico nor Canada.

Piimapukk ütles ...

Jalkameister, could you please provide some links where Russian thinkers are thinking clearly. You have probably have done some reading. Please share, even if it is written in russian.

Lingüista ütles ...

Piimapukk, even though Russians of all schools of thought do have a certain tendency for exaggeration, you certainly can find Russians with a non-Putin orientation. Alexei, the guy who blogs at All About Latvia, is an example. Oh, and you could in principle look at people like Yulia Latynia (from the Moscow Times) for a clearly anti-Putin view.

balticfeatures ütles ...

Well said Justin.

Martasmimi ütles ...

Justin says

It's not the Baltic version when it comes to history. It's the NYT's own version. Their reporters are more willing to recycle Russian-produced talking points than their own coverage of the events. The New York Times has been in publication since the mid 19th century. They have an archive. Their reporters can go and check it.

Mom says:
If you feel so strongly about this why not send them a link to your Blog...and your CV...

karlis ütles ...

Hi! Reading through the comments it appears that no person from Latvia has commented on this. I found this because a news website in Latvia published a short article on this post (the original is here http://bit.ly/9tOvDA). The article You refer to was also read by me and I was rather surprised at the simplifications but not really shocked since the much-talked-about 'restart' in the relationships between Russia and the USA have altered the rules of the game a bit. I respect NYTimes and read it frequently, but, as You mentioned, this article does not live up to the standards.
I just wanted to say thanks for paying attention and being critical of sub-standard writing in a well-respected newspaper.

Karlis from Riga, Latvia.

Kangarooo ütles ...

Thx at least that NY times uneducated writer made some attention to topics that needs to be checked and all now is fine.
And u Palun.. thx for seeing this.
---
Kangarooo from Latvia

T.Murmurer ütles ...

Great article. If indeed the trend will continue and more western journalists will follow Kremlin's message, it doesn't promise anything good for international relations and stability in the region.. We're lucky that Harmony Center didn't win, not because they would indeed change something dramatically (well, at least I dont think so. to change countries Western setting would require far more then just victory in parliament), but because that would be serious symbolic victory for Kremlin, and that would encourage them for more diplomatic offensives in the Baltics (victory in Ukraine, Kyrgistan, Georgia, now campaign in Belarus, who's next?)..

elektritsaabtasuta.blogspot.com ütles ...

http://elektritsaabtasuta.blogspot.com/2010/09/mida-tahendab-vabadus-ja-soltumatus-ehk.html

ARK ütles ...

I get really confused. Didn't Latvian Riflemen fight hard to protect Lenin? (I learned that from some Sam Neill series.) Didn't Latvia sign some sort of pact with Russia during WW2? And, how did Latvia end up nearly half Russian-speaking if it wasn't a province? There's no way Latvians would oppress Russians or Russophones. I mean, hey, this is a longstanding brotherhood, isn't it? Once upon a time, Latvian was grouped in the Balto-slavic group of languages. (I think Sam Neill told me this. Jurassic Park?) I went to Riga once, and everyone seemed to be getting along.

Like I said, it's all very confusing. Why is the NYT doing this? Why is the NYT based in Moscow when they trade on the Big Apple?

It really messes with my head.

Thanks, G, for your piece. It helps clarify things somewhat.

(PS: Did the NYT decide to base itself in Moscow as a cost-cutting measure during the economic slowdown?)

Asehpe ütles ...

Hi ARK! Latvian (Latviešu valoda) is still one of the extant Baltic languages, together with Lithuanian, the extinct Prussian language, and also with a somewhat divergent sub-branch of Baltic called Slavic or Slavonic, which includes Russian (it seems Slavic became the most widespread branch of Baltic because of the Avar khaganate of the 6th century, which may have used Proto-Slavic as its official language). So indeed, Latvians and Russians are linguistically (and racially) related.

But their having problems with each other should not come as a surprise. The Swiss and the Germans had problems with each other, despite speaking both German. The Dutch and the Germans had problems with each other after WWII (some claim even today), despite the fact that they are obviously closely related people, and their languages are very close. Among Slavs, look how the Poles and the Russians have difficulties with each other (with some, ah, obvious recent historical reasons), despite the fact that Polish and Russian are also related languages.

The history of peoples is what determines their level of friendliness, not how close their languages are.

Latvia, like Estonia, was conquered and occupied by a number of different people: Germans, Russians, Swedes Russians again, Germans again, Russians again... It was a province of all those empires (Russia was only the last one). Therefore it developed very tense relations with the kingdoms of which it was a province.

There have been Russians in Latvia since the 16th century, I think, but their proportion was small (around 20%) till they were occupied by the USSR, when internal planning dictated that a number of non-Latvian USSR citizens should move to Latvia. There were also other largish groups, some of which also caused problems: the Baltic Germans were 7% in then 19th century, when Latvia was already part of the Russian empire, and probably more before; they behaved as a local nobility and thought they owned the place.

My (short) experience with Latvians is that indeed they do tend to get along well enough; many, probably most of the incidents that cause outrage every now and then are the result of efforts by radicals to stir up trouble. There are lots of mixed marriages, most Latvians have at least a passive command of Russian, and now finally most Russians are also learning Latvian.

If you'd like to see a little satyrical depiction of the History of Latvia, check out this short video. I find it hilarious. :-)

moevenort ütles ...

@jalkameister:

"And just a point of comparison:

Yes, the US has been expansionist in the past (19th century), but there are no US bases in Mexico nor Canada."

this is wrong. you should know historic facts better. I mean what about the bases in Cuba / Guantanamo, in Grenada, Puerto Rico, Panama, Colombia etc.? what about the large scale support of military- dictorship in Latin America in the 1960ies and 1970ies, in Braszil, in Argentina, in Chile? what about with the coup détats with us-support in the Region? especially in Chile. what was done there by US politics was even worse: they financed and supported a coup against democratically- elected president Salvador Allende. just because he did not fit into their ideologic picture. because he was a democratically elected socialist. the result was Pinochet. he was not just right winged. he was more: he was a facist and his regime was a facist regime. with human rights violation, diappeared people and concentration camps. and a testing ground for an economic ideology as well: for the neoliberal one. all the nice neoliberal politics Estonia likes so much right now was first tested there. in Chile under the conditions of a cruel dictatorship. so when we talk about history we should talk about facts and not work with falsifications.

Temesta ütles ...

@ moevenort:

And the democratically elected socialist Allende wished to implement in Chile some policies that were first tested in the authoritarian Soviet Union...

Piimapukk ütles ...

An article worth noting:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/oct/05/holocaust-secondworldwar

Lingüista ütles ...

@ Movenort,

Pinochet's Chile always marketed itself as an economic success story -- which, when you compare it with Argentina and Brazil during Pinochet's time, it indeed was. I guess this vindicates neoliberalism, Estonian or otherwise.

And even though in principle I agree with you on American interventionism in my South America (I'm Brazilian) and its bad consequences, the point was that the US didn't have bases in Canada or Mexico, which they don't. All the places you mention were neither in Canada nor in Mexico. (Of course, your comment about Latin America being "the US backyard" at the time still remain true.)

moevenort ütles ...

@ Temesta:

"And the democratically elected socialist Allende wished to implement in Chile some policies that were first tested in the authoritarian Soviet Union..."


thats again a falsification of history. I would ask you to stick to historic facts please. As I said, Allende was a democratically elected president of a coaltion of different political parties, social democrats, socialist, communist. and even the communist won their seats in democratic elections. there was no authoritarian politictics commited by Allende. this only came with pinochet. so who gave us- government the right to install a military dictatorship there?

btw: there is a very good american movie from director Costa Gavras and with Jack Lemmon, it´s called "missing" and describes what happened there including all the innocent people who were killed, the torture, the concentration camps etc.

moevenort ütles ...

"Pinochet's Chile always marketed itself as an economic success story "


who says this? the people of chile or just some big international companies who made a lot of profits out of the situation were trade units were forbidden and their members were put into pinochets concentration camps?
former president of chile Bachelet some month ago said in an tv interview that also all the economic measures that were introduced during that time were nothing than a big failure. for example the privatization of pension system. it just caused massive debts and the system became nearly bancrupt in the consequence.

moevenort ütles ...

what I wanted to say just is that international politics never is the simple black and white game some comments claim here. and it has also never been as clean as a chess game with different forces on a chessboard. its with real people suffering. the people in lation america did care a damm if the soviet union was the bad guy or the us claimed to be the good guy. it was real people suffering there.

Temesta ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Temesta ütles ...

The story about Pinochet's Chile's economic succes story by Paul Krugman:

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/03/fantasies-of-the-chicago-boys/

Temesta ütles ...

@ moevenort:

"thats again a falsification of history. I would ask you to stick to historic facts please. As I said, Allende was a democratically elected president of a coaltion of different political parties, social democrats, socialist, communist. and even the communist won their seats in democratic elections. there was no authoritarian politictics commited by Allende. this only came with pinochet. so who gave us- government the right to install a military dictatorship there?"

All the same is true for Estonia's neoliberal parties (democratically elected, in coalition governments,...), so why is it valid then to discredit Estonia's government by linking it to Pinochet's Chile (like you did) and not valid to link Allende to the Soviet Union? Allende was a democrat, Ansip and Laar also are.

moevenort ütles ...

where I have connected Estonia and Pinochet? I have connected Pinochet with neoliberal ideology. and that is definately true. it was the testing ground. I just said that Estonia is following the same ideology that was tested there first.


concerning democrats or not: I would rather call Ansip and Laar postdemocrats instead of democrats.
but that of course depends on the definition of democracy one uses: if one takes a narrow definition, saying pr-dominated elections all four years are sufficent for democracy they are democrats. if one takes a broader definition including citizens participation then they are postdemocrats.

moevenort ütles ...

@ temesta:

concerning Chile and the economy. first, you may should reas Krugman a lttle bit more careful. what you told here, he was definately not claiming. second, you should study apartz from thatz some more sources than a single blog entry. third, regardeless what economic policy in chile caused, not caused or whatever...it´s intersting that you speak about the economy only. is it all that counts? growth figures on the paper? no word about the victims, the torture the concentration camps? I am wondering, I guess you would be one of the first, talking about Russian human rights violation e.g., so why not here? is that double-moral?
the world is not black and white and international politics is no chess game with good and bad guys. what you do here is just use the policy as an instrument for justefying the own ideology, no word about crimes, backyard policy is said when it does not fit into the own ideologic picture.

Temesta ütles ...

@ moevenort:

"concerning Chile and the economy. first, you may should reas Krugman a lttle bit more careful. what you told here, he was definately not claiming. second, you should study apartz from thatz some more sources than a single blog entry. third, regardeless what economic policy in chile caused, not caused or whatever...it´s intersting that you speak about the economy only. is it all that counts? growth figures on the paper? no word about the victims, the torture the concentration camps? I am wondering, I guess you would be one of the first, talking about Russian human rights violation e.g., so why not here? is that double-moral?
the world is not black and white and international politics is no chess game with good and bad guys. what you do here is just use the policy as an instrument for justefying the own ideology, no word about crimes, backyard policy is said when it does not fit into the own ideologic picture."

You are accusing me of things I never said. I just posted the link to Krugman to show that Chile under Pinochet was NOT an economic succes story. Further, I do not feel any need to defend Pinochet, as I think Pinochet's regime was criminal.

moevenort ütles ...

@ Temesta: ok, if I got you wrong then I´m sorry. the original point was just this black and white picture of international politics that is presented here in some comments. I could also call it cold war ideology, the bad russian guy, the good american guy etc. I just wanted to show that it is not as easy and that in power games mostly the people who have nothing to do with that power games suffer most. I think that is one lesson of that cold war games and we should all be aware of it and not continue those silly games in the future.

moevenort ütles ...

ps: when I compare Ansip and Laar with someone like Salvador Allende, I would indeed say that Allende was more democratic. because he definately allowed a lot more participation of citizens in political decisions than someone like Ansip would ever do. Because Allende was definately interested in improving living conditions, while Ansipe mis a pure PR-politican. political content does not count for people like him.

jalkameister ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
jalkameister ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
jalkameister ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
jalkameister ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
jalkameister ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
jalkameister ütles ...

@moevenort:

You definitely have a big mouth and a fast trigger-happy, biased and distorting way of twisting people's point of view and do not even check your own facts. Your rants are also very hard to read given your 1) hate towards Estonia, 2) your lack of the simplest ethics and morals when writing in public, and 3) your lack of self-control and self-analysis and criticism.
(Not to mention your terrible spelling and grammar).

First, I wrote that, thanks to God, and that that's the way it should be, the US does not have bases in Mexico nor Canada. Is that a fact? Yes. You then go on to a rant I had nothing to do with. Has the US been a destabilizing factor in Latin America since the 19th century? Yes. That is a well-known fact. However, since then, it has militarily invaded Cuba and Grenada (perhaps Panama too, in order to get the renegade collaborator Noriega), but arguably not to expand their territory. This is not excusing or justifying them. They have screwed up the politics and the economy of the region for a long time. They have blood on their hands for the contra-guerilla movements in Central America, as well as their support of the criminal right-wing militaries in South America. Many hundreds of thousands were killed and disappeared, children of the enemies of the state were kidnapped and disappeared and given to police or military families. Those military governments dumped scores of corpses into the sea so that they would not be found. This is not the sole fault of the US, the local governments at the time were the ones who physically carried these things out, while many received training by the US. Students were shot in Mexico too. Ask me and I would have had Kissinger put on trial for murder. (And Churchill and Roosevelt guilty of treason towards East Europe at the end of WWII, and Stalin guilty of genocide) But that is not what I was talking about. Nobody is "falsifying" anything. These things I know much better than you ever possibly could. I have personal friends who escaped the Pinochet terror in Chile, as well as from the Videla terror in Argentina. Don't come to talk to me about justifying Pinochet. I never said anything about that. I didn't even mention any economic model. I was just simply stating that Russia should not be an expansionist and neo-imperialist state. I said that that right did not belong to any other state, the US nor China nor Germany included.

jalkameister ütles ...

@moevenort:

I did not defend any Estonian political party, even though I defend Estonia in its right to sovereign independence and freedom to chose whatever (legal) economic policies and political and military associations it wishes. I would certainly love to see more social support in Estonia, not only to entreprenuers and businesses, since human capital and a well functioning society is critical to develop the capital in the society. The only thing regarding Estonian society I mentioned, was that more investment should be directed to education and science and that this would create a better off society that could develop or buy defenses. Is that neoliberal? No. Did I support any economic model? No. Don't change people's words and ideas.

Temesta pointed out an article and you didn't even bother to read it before criticizing, accusing and lab
eling people's views and countries.

No one is defending economic models here except you. The blog article and our comments are about the misinforming and (criminally) biased Russian official point of view which is getting lazily or maliciously picked up by Western media that did not bother to check their facts. Sounds a lot like what you do.

Piimapukk ütles ...

moevenort, what do you make of the anti-gay riots in Belgrade? Any comments?

Lingüista ütles ...

Jalkameister, you have my support. Moevenort's definition of democracy is not the usual one, nor is his curious connection between Pinochet's and Estonia's neoliberalism (it would be like suggesting paid holidays in today's Germany are the result of Hitler's Kraft durch Freude program.)

plasma-jack ütles ...

By the way, what criteria makes a country a neoliberal country? I haven't studied economics but I doubt Estonia qualifies. After all university education is still state-financed, military service is still compulsory for all males, etc (mostly).

Temesta ütles ...

@ Plasma-Jack:

By the way, what criteria makes a country a neoliberal country? I haven't studied economics but I doubt Estonia qualifies. After all university education is still state-financed, military service is still compulsory for all males, etc (mostly).

Probably moevenort thinks about stuff like the tax-system, which is favourable for rich people and companies; longterm unemployed who have to survive on 1000kroons a month;...
If you refer to the abstract neoliberalism of economic theory then indeed Estonia is not neoliberal (or any other country in the world), but compared with most Western European countries Estonia is very liberal (economy and social policy).

plasma-jack ütles ...

Compared to Germany, we have no rich people. Or maybe two. When euro comes, we hardly have any millioners any more (:

Miacek ütles ...

Moevenort's is demagogically insisting on popularly elected Allende somehow being more democratic than freely elected Ansip or other Baltic leaders, because in Moevenort's view Allende's policies were somehow more ''democratic'' than those of the hated neo-liberals.

With the benefit of our knowledge of what Allende's policies, who ''unlike Ansip was definately interested in improving living conditions'' (Moevenort) included in real life, viz. nationalization of properties not to say confiscation, one could easily reach the conclusion that for Moevenort Lenin was also more 'democratic' than Laar or Ansip.

As he was also pursuing ''more democratic policies for people'', in many respects similar to Allende, though more radical and violent (but hey, Chile had democratic traditions too by 1970s, sth that the war-ridden Russia of Lenin lacked in 1917!)

jalkameister ütles ...

Just to add, Hitler should also have been tried for genocide and crimes against humanity, even if posthumously.

moevenort ütles ...

may be another "truth"? - it always depends on the picture that is drawn by the media. personally, I would not trust Estonian media "truth" too much:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3408822685024304278&hl=de#

plasma-jack ütles ...

FYI, they also showed this film on Estonian state television shortly after it was made.