The residents of the Baltic States are experiencing what can be described as existential crisis. During the last years, the Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonians have found a high reason for existence of their peoples in the phrase “We are Europeans too!” They were ready to sacrifice much for that “weareeuropeanstoo,” for the awareness of belonging to the “Great European Family.” However, when Europe began forcing the Balts to do the things that inherently run contrary to their state of mind - they faced acute cognitive dissonance.
“It is time to bring back that land”
It is about the migration crisis. The Baltic States along with other EU countries are forced to give asylum to rather big number of uninvited guests from Africa and Middle East. At first, the countries were asked to receive a not large number of migrants – about several hundred. Although it was harm to the national honor, the country had to swallow its pride. Meantime, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker recommended Latvia to give asylum to 776 refugees, Lithuania – to 1105 people, Estonia – to 523 people. Nevertheless, these figures are not of paramount importance, as even the ruling politicians of the Baltic States do not conceal that “the migration quotas” will grow dramatically shortly. It is hard to imagine that these figures may reach hundreds of thousands.
This has become a deadly problem for the natives. Self-awareness of these peoples is based on xenophobia and the need to have its “own land.” The point is that the Baltics had been part of other empires and state unions during the entire their history. Lithuanians are the only exception, as they had their own powerful state in the Middle Age. Yet, they also have an inferiority complex, as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania is in the distant past. In the 20th century Latvia and Lithuania, as conditional “independent states” were let have emblems, anthems, and other attributes of independence, they were happy as never before. They sacrificed much for independence: they refused from the developed Soviet industrial heritage, did not object to the large-scale outflow of their compatriots through the opened borders.
Yet, there was something that did not let them feel that harmony in full – presence of hundreds of thousands of Russian “occupants, migrants, and colonists” in the Baltic States. This part of the population that has never enjoyed equal conditions with the “titular nation” was called with various, much more insulting epithets. The existence of a big number of the Russian-speaking people did not let the Balts feel that territories as “their own.” They applied dozens of methods, though invented hundreds, to oust the “occupants” or, at least, assimilate them. However, much to the regret of the local “svidomits,” the Russians do not hurry to migrate, much less change their identity. Against this background, the EU – “the hope and defense” of the Balts against the “aggressive Russia” - did a bad favor to them: now they are reluctant to receive Africans and Arabs, while they did not yet managed to oust the “Russian colonists.” This one these “small, but proud” countries cannot tolerate.
Last summer, Eurobarometer conducted a survey in the Baltic States about the attitude of the local population to refugees. It turned out that Latvia was most reluctant in accepting migrants from the non-EU countries. Only 14% of the respondents in Latvia said YES to migrants from the non-EU countries, while 78% said NO. A similar situation was in the Czech Republic (14% and 81%, respectively). The survey results were not that dramatic in Greece, though the country is experiencing crisis and permanent inflow of refugees. 19% of the respondents in Greece said YES to migrants, while 78% said NO. In Estonia and Lithuania the given figures were as follows: 18%-73% and 23%-70%, respectively. Rich Sweden and poor Romania were the most positive toward refugees: 66%-31% and 48%-34%, respectively. The average result in the EU was 34%-56%.
Elements of revolt
Considering the results of the survey, it will not be surprising if incidents connected with the opposition of “the natives” to “the immigrants” happen in Latvia – there were precedents. Suffice it to say that even the local authorities that had been curtseying to Brussels for the last eleven years began to grin now. For instance, President of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis said in an interview with LNT TV that the refugee crisis will not destroy Europe. At the same time, he said the European Union needs to take immediate measures to resolve that crisis. Otherwise, the inflow of migrants will keep growing and endanger the security of the EU. He said the EU will face several burning issues.
First, it is necessary to regulate the situation with the people that have already reached the EU countries. In addition, it is necessary to exert efforts to stop the flow of refugees into Europe. To that end, it is necessary to strengthen the external borders of the EU and help the conflict-stricken counties which these refugees flee. In addition, Raimonds Vējonis considers it important to join the fight against the “Islamic State.”
Prime Minister of Latvia Laimdota Straujuma said in an interview with LTV that the country will be reluctant to resettle more than 250 migrants, as it was promised earlier. “It is very realistic,” she said. However, the prime minister said she was speaking of “hundreds, not thousands of people,” though, she did not look confident when pronouncing that. “I do not believe that we will be able to avoid a gesture of solidarity," she said. At the same time, Straujuma did not hide that she would leave for Brussels and express her support to the refugee resettlement plan only if she receives support from the coalition of the Saeima. “Without a mandate, I cannot travel and discuss a different number and different conditions,” she said.
Straujuma said the three Baltic States are very likely to reach an agreement on a joint policy in the refugee matter soon. She criticized the EU for its updated refugee policy. She believes it is necessary to create a list of countries whose refugees should be allowed to resettle. “I can confirm that the EC may not be as serious as it should be in matters concerning prevention of refugee influx. This massive influx is odd, as African countries have been unstable for years,” Straujuma said. Yet, the prime minister admitted that lately there have been talks in the EU that it is necessary to cut the financial support to the countries refusing to resettle refugees and use that money to support the asylum seekers.
It is noteworthy that the refugee may spark a government crisis and, maybe, even resignation of Straujuma. The point is that the National Bloc VL-TB/LNNK that is part of the coalition and enjoys equal rights with its three coalition partners (some openly call the representatives of that political force the Nazis) has realized that the refugee problem is its “last defense line” and shows readiness to stand up for it.
In this light, we may become witnesses of a spectacular show at the top echelons of power in Latvia shortly.
Such kind of shows may be observed in the neighboring Latvia and Estonia too. At least, look at the recent arson of the Asylum Center in Estonia.
The street nationalists take action too. On 22 September, Riga will be hosting a concert and a march with an eloquent title “Baltic States are ours.” Its organizers want to show their disagreement with the migration policy of the EU and try to influence the Government of Latvia. Talking on Latvijas Radio 4, Viktors Birze, a representative of the Latvian nationalist political force National Union “Justice” said: “Now, it is necessary to exert maximum pressure on the government. Second, it is necessary to mobilize the people against the existing threat. The problem of immigration can change Latvia as such. There is poverty in Africa, permanent disorders, military actions. What is the solution? Should we resettle the entire Africa in Europe?”
It is critical to underscore that Birze is so disagreeable a radical that he is not welcome even in a nationalist state like Latvia. Social anthropologist, Aivita Putnina, in turn, told Latvijas Radio 4 the protests are nothing but “populism” and made an offensive comparison for the national minorities. “The Russian speaking people, gays and all the other minorities ‘are lucky,’ as new ‘danger’ – refugees - has emerged. There are again ‘outsiders’ the country must unite against. Nationalists will be using that fact as a toy to speculate on the xenophobic sentiments,” Putnina said.
The concert organizers do not think their idea is a game. “Do you really compare the domestic conflicts of all times with the Al Qaeda and the Islamic Army that behead people? Look at Norway. The statistics shows that more than 90% of violent incidents are committed by immigrants from the African states. These are incomparable things!” Birze said indignantly. He said the National Union “Justice” jointly with lawyers is drafting legislative amendments “to ban the government from involving into the actions which the people is opposing not to endanger the country’s security.”
Passions run high in the Baltics, but the refugees, which these countries are so afraid of, have not even reached them. What will happen when refugees arrive in the Baltics? Here is what Viktor Marahovsky, a Russian journalist, former citizen of Riga, writes on this particular matter in social media: “Globally speaking, the present-day Eastern Europe was created to hate and be afraid of the Russians.” The journalist believes that such model could be created only on “a carcass of crass xenophobia, narrow-minded prejudices and fear of foreigners.”
“…And then come bosses and say that due to…some…weather conditions… by 6,000-7,000 of new residents arrive in our common European house every day. They are good guys who suffered from the consequences of Kaddafi in Libya, the consequences of Saddam in Iraq, the consequences of Brezhnev in Afghanistan and the consequences of Stalin in Syria. In short, you must resettle by ten thousand people as a first step. Meantime, the East European golems were not created for that. They cannot even understand why the East Europeans should deal with those subhumans– it is a fatal blow to the golems. They were hardly persuaded to agree to gay parades. That is why the East Europeans are in a shock. Passions run high and are gradually getting out of control: What?! Those subhumans will be living besides us, “the white people”? The West Europeans are shocked too… They claim they are white and cannot live with subhumans. It is important to know that for the true West Europeans, there is no difference between Romanians and Polacks, Syrians and Libyans. All they are subhumans! So, wait for dramas!” Marahovsky writes.