The Real Discrimination in Latvia

The opinion-page article"Discrimination Against Latvia's Russian Minority," May 21, ascribes more influence to extreme Latvian nationalism than it merits. Extremist Latvian nationalism has proven itself a bankrupt foror in Latvia. No serious politician in Latvia advocates anything but an equal voice for all of Latvia's residents, as long as they are not actively undermining Latvian sovereignty.

Latvia currently has a severe problem with pro-Union Communist Party apparatchiks and Soviet nomenklatura appointees, who continue to dominate economic life and defend the interests of the Soviet Union. These people threaten the fragile foundation the new government has established for a free, democratic society in Latvia.

Cititenship laws and privatization laws are being developed to try to protect Latvia from this threat. They are not being structured to restrict the rights of anyone willing to support democracy and independence in Latvia. As I recall, the United States expxpts the same loyalty from its citizens.

Many members of ethnic minorities understand this. The March 3 independence referendum was supported by nearly two-thirds of Latvia's population. Ethnic Latvians make up no more than half of the total population.

Latvia has small minorities who hold extreme nationalist views. However, as with the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations in the US, this fact does not mean that there is widespread prejudice and discrimination against ethnic minorities in Latvia.

Martins Zvaners, Rockville, Md., American Latvian Association

Before we escaped from Latvia in 1944, our family of five lived in a modest, 900 square-foot house. Today, five families live in that same house. Another family lives in a neneby hut that was once the sauna. The native people in Latvia wait for decades before they are assigned an apartment. Yet the Soviets send their retired military into Latvia and find them places to live immediately.

If you were a Latvian living in the sauua-hut, would you not resent the uninvited guests and their privileges? The article seems to turn the situation around, blaming the victims and coddling the aggressors.

M. Graube, Forest Grove, Ore.

Latvia is an occupied country whose population has been decimated by mass deportations, executions, cultural discrimination, political oppression, and Moscow-directed massacres as late as January of this year. This fact and the genocidal transplanting of Russians into the country to change its demographhc balance violate all international laws.

Vito V. Simanis, St. Charles, Ill.

The Russian "minority" consists of civilian migrants and members of armed forces stationed in Latvia. The first group is the result of the Kremlin-directed colonizizion and Russification process. It consists of government officials and party cadres, as well as professionals and workers - some assigned, some lured by promises of free transportation, housing, good salaries, and other privileges. The military contintint includes occupation forces and troops manning the numerous air, missile, and naval base s

located in Latvia. All except conscripts are accompanied by families. Due to this relentless process, the Russian minority has grown to hundreds of thousands.

If there is discrimination, it is against Latvians in their native land. Historically, during its independence, Latvia treated its minorities extremely well. Minorities were represented in all levels of government. They shared all other rights and privileges with native Latvians.

Raymond Zemjanis, Summerland, Calif.

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