Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard at Stalker Zone
Now, the Baltic states consist of three countries – Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, which received sovereignty in the course of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Each of these states position themselves, respectively, as the national states of Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonians. Nationalism in the Baltic countries was raised to the level of a state policy, which explains the numerous examples of the discrimination of the Russian and Russian-speaking population.
Meanwhile, if to figure this out, it becomes clear that the Baltic countries are typical “replica states” with the absence of their own political history and tradition. Of course not, the states in the Baltic region existed before, but it’s not at all Latvians or Estonians that created them.
What did the Baltic region represent before its lands were included in the structure of the Russian Empire? Before the 13th century, when the German knights/crusaders started conquering the Baltic region, it was a complete and utter “zone of tribes”. Here lived the Baltic and Finno-Ugric tribes, which didn’t have their own statehood and professed paganism.
Thus, modern Latvians as a people appeared as a result of a merger of the Baltic region (Latgalians, Semigallians, Selonians, Curonians) and Finno-Ugric (Livonians) tribes. At the same time it should be taken into account that Baltic tribes themselves weren’t the indigenous people of the Baltic region – they migrated from the South and pushed aside the local Finno-Ugric population to the north of modern Latvia. It is especially the absence of their own statehood that became one of the main reasons for the conquest of the Baltic and the Finno-Ugric people of the Baltic region by more powerful neighbors.
Since the 13th-14th centuries the peoples of the Baltic region found themselves between two fires – from the Southwest they were squeezed and subordinated by the German Order of Knighthood, and from the Northeast – the Russian principalities. It’s not at all the ancestors of modern Lithuanians, but the Litvin – “western Russians”, Slavs, the ancestors of modern Belarusians – who were the “kernel” of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
The adoption of the Catholic religion and the developed cultural ties with the neighbouring Poland provided differences between Litvin and the population of Rus. The situation of the Baltic tribes was far from being joyful both in the German Knighthood states and in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. They were subjected to religious, linguistic, and social discrimination.
The situation was even worse for the Finno-Ugric tribes, which subsequently became the basis for the formation of the Estonian nation. In Estland, like in the neighbouring Livonia and Courland, all main levers of governance and economy were in the hands of the East Sea [Ostsee – ed] Germans.
Before the middle of the 19th century in the Russian Empire such a name as “Estonians” wasn’t even used – all natives of Finland, the Vyborg Governorate, and some other Baltic territories were united under the name“chukhna”. Moreover, there were no distinctions between Estonians, Izhorians, Vepsians, and Finns. The standard of living of “chukhna” was even lower than that of Latvians and Lithuanians. A considerable part of villagers moved towards St. Petersburg, Riga, and other large cities in search of earnings.
A large number of Estonians even moved towards other regions of the Russian Empire – thus Estonian settlements appeared in the North Caucasus, Crimea, Siberia, and the Far East. They left for the “world’s end” not at all because they had a good life. It is interesting that in the cities of the Baltic region there were almost no Estonians and Latvians – it is they themselves who called themselves “villagers”, opposing themselves to city dwellers – Germans.
The main part of the population of Baltic cities up to the 19th century consisted of ethnic Germans, and also Poles and Jews, but not at all Baltic people. In fact, the “old” (pre-revolutionary) Baltic region was completely built by Germans. Baltic cities were German cities – with German architecture, culture, and system of municipal management.
In knighthood states, in the Duchy of Courland, and in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth the Baltic people would never become equal with title Germans, Poles or Litvins. For the German nobility dominating in the Baltic region, Latvians and Estonians were people of the second grade, almost “barbarians”, there couldn’t even be talk of equal rights. The nobility and merchants of the Duchy of Courland completely consisted of East Sea Germans.
The German minority for centuries dominated Latvian peasants making up the main part of the population of the duchy. Latvian peasants were enslaved and in terms of their social status they were equated to ancient Roman slaves by the Courland statute.
Freedom came to Latvian peasants almost half a century earlier than to Russian serfs – the decree on the cancellation of serfdom in Courland was signed by the emperor Alexander I in 1817. On August 30th in Mitava the release of peasants was solemnly declared.
Two years later, in 1819, Livonia’s peasants were also released. Thus Latvians received long-awaited freedom, with which the gradual formation of a class of free Latvian farmers started. If it wasn’t for the will of the Russian emperor, who knows how many more decades Latvians would’ve remained in the condition of being the serfs of German sirs.
The incredible mercy shown by Alexander I in relation to the peasants of Courland and Livonia had an enormous impact on the further economic development of these lands. By the way, it’s not a coincidence that Latgale turned into the most economically backward part of Latvia – liberation from serfdom came to Latgale peasants much later, and this circumstance affected the development of agriculture, trade, and crafts in the region.
The liberation of the serfs of Livonia and Courland allowed them to rather quickly turn into successful farmers who lived much better off than the peasants of Northern and Central Russia. An impulse was given to the further economic development of Latvia. But even after the liberation of peasants, the main resources of Livonia and Courland remained in the hands of East Sea Germans, who organically fitted into Russian aristocracy and merchants.
A large number of prominent military and politicians of the Russian Empire – generals and admirals, diplomats and ministers – emerged from the environment of the East Sea nobility. On the other hand, the situation of Latvians or Estonians remained denigrated – and not at all because of Russians, who are now accused of occupying the Baltic region, but because of the East Sea nobility that exploited the population of the region.
Now in all the countries of the Baltic region people like to argue about the “horrors of Soviet occupation”, but they prefer to keep quiet about the fact that it is precisely Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonians who supported the revolution that gave them their long-awaited liberation from the domination of East Sea Germans.
If German aristocracy of the Baltic region in its majority supported the white movement, then whole divisions of Latvian Riflemen were at war on the side of the red movement. Ethnic Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonians played a very large role in the establishment of Soviet power in Russia, and their percent in the Red Army and the state security bodies was the highest.
When modern Baltic politicians argue about “Soviet occupation”, they forget that tens of thousands of “Latvian Riflemen” fought all across Russia for the establishment of this same Soviet power, and then continued to serve in the bodies of the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission, Joint State Political Directorate, NKVD, and the Red Army, and not in the lowest posts either.
As we see, nobody oppressed Latvians or Estonians on ethnic grounds in Soviet Russia. Moreover, in the first post-revolutionary years Latvian formations were considered as privileged ones, and it is precisely they that guarded the Soviet leadership and carried out the most responsible tasks, including suppressing numerous anti-Soviet actions in the Russian provinces. It is necessary to say that, without feeling kinship and cultural proximity with Russian peasants, Riflemen dealt with the uprising quite rigidly, which the Soviet leadership appreciated.
During the inter-war period (from 1920 to 1940) several worlds existed in Latvia – Latvian, German, Russian, and Jewish, which tried to cross each other’s paths at a minimum. It is clear that the situation of Germans in independent Latvia was better than the situation of Russians or Jews, but there were certain nuances all the same.
Thus, despite the fact that Germans and Latvians were Lutherans or Catholics, German and Latvian Catholic and Protestant churches and schools existed separately. I.e., two people with apparently close cultural values tried to maximally distance from each other. For Latvians, Germans were occupiers and the descendants of exploiters/feudal lords, and for Germans the Latvians were almost “forest barbarians”. Especially because as a result of the agrarian reform, East Sea landowners were deprived of their lands, which were transferred to Latvian farmers.
Among the East Sea Germans pro-monarchic moods dominated at first – they hoped for the restoration of the Russian Empire and the return of Latvia into its structure, and then, in the 1930’s, German Nazism started to spread very quickly – it is enough to remember that Alfred Rosenberg, one of Hitler’s key ideologists, was from the Baltic region.
The East Sea Germans connected the restoration of their political and economic domination to the spreading of German power across the Baltic region. They considered the cities of Estonia and Latvia built by Germans falling in the hands of “villagers” – Estonians and Latvians – to be extremely unfair.
In fact, if it wasn’t for the “Soviet occupation”, the Baltic region would have been under Nazi rule, would be attached to Germany, and the local Latvian, Estonian, and Lithuanian population would be faced with second-class status and the subsequent fast assimilation. Despite the fact that in 1939 the repatriation of Germans from Latvia to Germany had started, and by 1940 practically all the East Sea Germans living in the country left it, they would anyway return there again if Latvia found itself as a part of the Third Reich.
Adolf Hitler treated the population of “Ostland” very disdainfully and for a long time hindered the implementation of the plans of a number of German military leaders for the formation of Latvian, Estonian, and Lithuanian units as a part of the troops of the SS.
On the territory of the Baltic region the German administration was recommended to forbid any slight movement of the local population towards autonomy and self-determination, and the creation of higher educational institutions with studying in the Lithuanian, Latvian or Estonian languages was strictly forbidden. At the same time, it was allowed to create for the local population vocational and technical schools, which testifies to only one thing – in the German-occupied Baltic region only the fate of service personnel awaited Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonians.
I.e., actually it is precisely Soviet troops that saved Latvians from returning to a situation where they would be a majority deprived of civil rights under German sirs. However, taking into account the number of natives of the republics of the Baltic region serving in Hitler’s auxiliary police and the SS, it is possible to be sure that serving the occupiers as collaborators wasn’t a big problem for many of them.
Now, the auxiliary police that served Hitler are being rehabilitated in the countries of the Baltic region, and at the same time the merits of those Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonians who took up arms and followed the way of fighting against Nazism, served in the Red Army, and fought as a part of partisan units are being suppressed and refuted.
Modern Baltic politicians also forget about how huge the contribution of Russia and then the Soviet Union was in the development of culture, written language, and sciences in the Baltic republics. In the USSR a large amount of books were translated into the Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian languages, and writers from the Baltic republics had the opportunity to publish their works, which were then also translated into other languages of the Soviet Union and were printed in huge numbers.
It is precisely during the Soviet period that a powerful and developed education system was created in the Baltic republics – both secondary and higher, and all Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonians received an education in their native language and used their scripture, without experiencing any discrimination during subsequent employment.
It goes without saying that in the Soviet Union the natives of the republics of the Baltic region had the opportunity to develop their careers not only inside the borders of their native regions, but also inside the borders of the huge country in general – they became high-ranking party figures, military leaders and naval commanders, they formed a career in science, culture, sport, etc.
All of this became possible thanks to the huge contribution of the Russian people to the development of the Baltic region. Sane Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians never forget what the Russians did for the Baltic region. It’s not a coincidence that one of the main tasks of the modern Baltic regimes became the eradication of any adequate information about life in the Baltic republics during the Soviet period. After all, the main task is to forever tear off the Baltic region from Russia and Russian influence and to raise the younger generations of Latvians, Estonians, and Lithuanians in the spirit of total Russophobia and admiration for the West.
Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
Spanish architecture: The story of Madrid’s abandoned ‘beach’ for its working class | Culture
La Playa de Madrid was just 15 minutes from the Spanish capital’s Puerta del Sol square when it was inaugurated. Nine decades later, the distance is the same, but the premises developed by the architect Manuel Muñoz Monasterio in 1932 to create a “beach” in the landlocked city are in a state of complete disrepair.
The great leisure project for Madrid’s working class on the banks of the River Manzanares now houses fetid mattresses, crumpled beer cans, rank swimming pools, tattered tennis courts and facilities that are at risk of disappearing altogether.
Owned by the state agency Patrimonio Nacional, which manages Spain’s national heritage, La Playa de Madrid has been closed for six years. Defaults in rent payments forced it to close, and it subsequently became the target of vandalism. “There is no longer even any security,” says Juan García Vicente from the green group Ecologists in Action, who is upset by the state of dereliction of a site with social and architectural significance in the city’s history.
The access point to the “beach,” which borders La Zarzuela racetrack on one side and the Puerta de Hierro Sports Park (previously known as Parque Sindical) on the other, has not been opened since the authorities evicted staff and members at the end of October 2014. The company running the complex at that time, which belonged to the former president of the Spanish employers association CEOE, Arturo Fernández, received a court order to vacate the premises as it had failed to pay rent or any tax despite operating the five swimming pools, 11 tennis courts, four paddle courts, one roller-skating rink, four frontón courts, the cafeteria, the restaurant and the parking lot.
Arturo Fernández has left a hole in the National Heritage agency’s accounts to the tune of €867,006, which will have to be paid as soon as his company’s bankruptcy is resolved. The 3,000 Playa de Madrid members who had paid their fees were also denied access. Fernández’s contract had been renewed in 2011, despite the fact that he was already €466,831 in arrears. It was a sum that, according to the Court of Auditors, “he paid a few days before signing the new contract.”
To add insult to injury, EL PAÍS has learned that on July 30, National Heritage filed a complaint in court in a bid to evict the new company running the complex, Centro de Eventos Playa de Madrid, which is also behind on payments.
“It has not paid even one month’s rent and has run up a debt of €530,523,” says a National Heritage spokesperson. The new contract went into effect on October 17, 2017, after the president of National Heritage at the time, Alfredo Pérez de Armiñán, decided to lease the 184,800 square-meter property to a company that not only failed to pay rent, but also reneged on a commitment to invest €3.2 million to renovate the complex.
Meanwhile, under the National Heritage’s current president, Llanos Castellanos, an initiative is underway to revamp the more than 22,000 hectares of green spaces owned by the institution throughout the country, including the Playa de Madrid complex, which will be finalized when the judicial process ends. “The aim is to turn it into a sustainable property that is financially self-sufficient, and to make sure that what has happened does not happen again,” says Castellanos.
The phony beach was fashioned from a shallow river, from which “a beautiful arm of the sea” was created, to quote an ad from that period. But the dam that stored up the water to create a 300-meter shoreline was dismantled this January by the Tajo Water Confederation so that the river could follow its natural course unimpeded, according to García Vicente.
“It was a very interesting dam because it still allowed the water to flow and remain clean,” says Alberto Tellería, a member of the Madrid Citizenship and Heritage Association, who still remembers the complex’s dance floor and the announcement of a design competition for cheap evening dresses in 1934.
The “beach” was very popular among the working classes during the Second Republic, before Francisco Franco’s air forces razed it. And it was there that the photojournalist Robert Capa constructed his iconic image of of two militiamen greeting each other under the lighthouse tower.
But unpaid dues and ignored commitments have proved the ruin of the site, which is these days trapped between two highways. “These are public facilities of extraordinary significance,” says Juan García Vicente, who has been fighting for years for a path that will connect Madrid with El Pardo, on the left bank of the river.
This path should be ready in a couple of months and access to the “beach” will be reserved for pedestrians and cyclists. Meanwhile, the dignity of the complex is still to be restored, which according to Carlos Ripoll, a member of the Madrid Architects Association (COAM), has an “impeccable” language all of its own.
The simple and modern lines of the structures designed by the creator of the Las Ventas bullfighting ring and the Santiago Bernabeu soccer stadium are hidden behind pines, cork oak and poplars, and they are reminiscent of the international tone set by Swiss architect Le Corbusier. Muñoz Monasterio, who sided with the regime after the civil war (1936-1939), carried out the post-war reconstruction in 1948, refurbishing it according to Franco’s taste, with slate roofs and spires. But the subsequent inauguration of the nearby Parque Sindical (now known as the Puerta de Hierro Sports Park) and water contamination ended Madrid’s dream of having a beach.
English version by Heather Galloway.
Russians’ Alcohol Consumption Drops 80% in 7 Years
Alcohol consumption has been reduced by 80% over the past 5-7 years in Russia, Minister of Health Veronika Skvortsova stated at a working breakfast during the Gaidar Forum today, reports RIA-Novosti.
The Gaidar Forum is an annual event in Moscow hosted by the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, which brings together economist, Nobel Prize winners, leading professors, and representatives of the Russian and foreign elite to discuss the most acute problems of the day, especially as concerns Russia’s position and strategic role in the world.
“We have managed to reduce the consumption of alcoholic beverages by 80% per capita…” Skvortsova stated. Meanwhile, “the number actively engaged in sports has grown by more than 40%.”
She also noted that smoking among adults has dropped 22%, and has been reduced thrice over among children and adolescents.
According to a 2012 report from the World Health Organization, the number of Russians who drink several times a week had by then declined to 5%, and the number who drink several times a month to 33%. Russian citizens were found to drink about as much as citizens of Denmark, Great Britain and Croatia.
The Russian Orthodox Church has played a key role in reducing the amount of alcohol consumption in the country. There are more than 500 active anti-alcoholism projects in Russia today under the auspices of the Church.
“One of the Church’s most successful works in the sphere of temperance education is the celebration of the All-Russian Day of Sobriety on September 11,” stated Valery Doronkin, head of the Coordinating Center for Combating Alcoholism and Endorsing Sobriety of the Synodal Charity Department.
Special prayers are added to the Litany of Peace and the Litany of Fervent Supplication on the Day of Sobriety. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill stated on this day in 2016:
By decision of the Holy Synod in 2014, the day of the Beheading of St. John the Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist is deemed the Day of Sobriety, because precisely the mad state of Herod, drunk on wine at his banquet, was the cause of such a frightful order which he gave—to behead the holy prophet.
We know what terrible sufferings drunkenness has brought our people in the past, and which continue today: the destruction of families, the birth of sick children, people, losing the meaning of life and health, called to the fullness of existence, becoming invalids in youth only because they didn’t have enough strength to turn from sinful attractions and stop drinking.
According to the primate, not only the health of the nation, but also “the very existence of our people and state” depends upon this question.
Source: Orthodox Christianity
G7 countries accused of prioritising military spending over climate action
G7 countries “are stuck in the 1970s and 1980s” and avoiding profound societal changes needed to address the climate crisis, while embracing “the ruse of net-zero” carbon emissions, according to leading climate scientist Prof Kevin Anderson.
Speaking at a briefing on climate issues at the summit of the Group of Seven leaders, comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States, in Cornwall, Prof Anderson said: “Net zero is the latest ruse that we’re using to avoid making profound social changes and to avoid the rapid and just phasing out of our existing oil, gas and coal industries.”
The former director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the UK said this was also avoiding the adoption of challenging policies and the huge transformation of infrastructure required.
Net zero was “a way of passing the buck to future generations”, he said at the event hosted by the COP26 Coalition – the campaign group seeking greater climate justice commitments at the United Nations climate conference in November.
“We need leaders now who are prepared to grasp the enormity of the climate challenge but also the wider ecological crisis – rather than the eloquent, simple greenwashing of ‘business as usual’. And that’s what we’re seeing currently.
“Despite ramping up of good news stories in advance of COP26, the reality is that the gap between the necessary action and actual cuts in emissions for both 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees is just getting bigger. Playing into this ongoing failure is the ubiquitous language of ‘net zero’, under which almost any organisation, region or country can claim to be aligned with the Paris commitments,” Prof Anderson said.
“But dig a little deeper and claims of net zero are often little more than a ruse whereby immediate cuts in actual emissions are substituted for future speculative ‘negative emissions’, offsetting and other forms of mitigation denial,” he said.
Niamh Ní Bhriain of the Transnational Institute’s war and pacification programme said prioritisation of military spending, costing almost $2 trillion (€1.7 trillion) a year, was an issue that “must be brought into the room in discussing climate justice and global poverty”.
A total of 57 per cent of that spend on military, security, intelligence and borders came from G7 countries, she added. “This is a political choice. This is a question of political will; that we’re spending this much on the military.”
Unprecedented spending on borders by rich countries of the global north to prevent migrants coming to their shores was part of a militarised response to migration, which she predicted would become even more prevalent when parts of the world became uninhabitable as the climate crisis deepened.
COP26 Coalition spokesman Asad Rehman of War on Want said G7 countries, who bear the greatest responsibility for fuelling crises that threaten the lives and livelihoods of billions, could no longer make empty statements or hollow promises to act. “Leaders must listen to the millions of people in every corner of the world who are demanding a justice transition.”
As a first step the G7 must commit to doing their fair share of emissions reductions by 2030 to limit warming to well below 1.5 degrees, he said, and commit “to unlocking the trillions needed to build a sustainable economy of the future – one that guarantees universal public services, living wages and puts people before profit.”
Rising sea levels
Meanwhile, Extinction Rebellion Ireland have been staging theatrical displays along the coast of Ireland calling on G7 leaders to take adequate action against sea level rise.
The UN estimates there could be anywhere between 25 million and 1 billion environmental migrants by 2050, with many of those on the move because of the effects of sea level rise, an Extinction Rebellion Ireland spokeswoman said. “These estimates envisage flooding of Irish coasts; meanwhile, other island nations around the world are already suffering,” she said.
“Since signing the Paris Agreement in 2015 these nations have utterly failed to meet their commitments to reduce emissions and mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Greenwashing and empty promises won’t stop the sea levels from rising; our crops from failing or the entire ecosystem on which our lives rely on from collapsing. 2021 is a critical year and the decisions made by the G7 are make or break,” she added.
In Cork, protestors used a tape measure to mark the rising sea levels and highlight the risk of flooding that coastal communities face. Off the Down coast Extinction Rebellion Northern Ireland members dressed as red rebels served tea at a table half submerged in the sea.
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