From Monsters and
March 25, 2006

Riga – Citizens in the Baltic state of Latvia on Saturday commemorated the mass deportation of more than 40,000 Latvians by Stalinist forces in 1949.

The memorial events in the capital Riga were observed by a strong police contingent, but passed off peacefully.

Groups representing survivors of the 1949 event laid wreaths at the station from which the deportations were carried out, and at cemeteries across the country.

After the ceremonies, around fifty representatives of ultra-nationalist political parties formed a picket outside the Russian embassy and made speeches denouncing Russia, the now defunct USSR and the European Union.

Dozens of policemen and members of the security forces watched over the protest.

March 25 is officially known in Latvia as \’Victims of the Communist genocide’ day.

It commemorates the deportation of 42,133 Latvians to Siberia by Stalinist forces on March 25 to 28, 1949.

Most of the deportees were small landholders and independent farmers, the so-called \’kulaks.\’ At least 10,000 deportees were children under the age of sixteen.

Further ‘genocide memorial days’ commemorating the victims of Soviet deportations and the Holocaust are held annually on June 14, July 4, and December 3.

In all, Latvia is reckoned to have lost 17 per cent of its pre-war population, or over 325,000 people of all nationalities, to Nazi and Soviet repressions in the 1940s.

The Republic of Latvia was founded in 1918 during the collapse of the Russian Empire. It was occupied by the Soviets in 1940, invaded by Nazi Germany in 1941 and re-occupied by the Soviets in 1945.

Along with the neighbouring states of Estonia and Lithuania, Latvia declared the renewal of its independence in 1991. All three Baltic states joined the EU and NATO in 2004.