Egils Levits
Valsts prezidenta Egila Levita uzruna Ilgoņa Upmaļa grāmatas “Latvija–PSRS impērijas militarizētā kolonija” atvēršanas svētkos

Honourable Madam Vaidere,

Honourable Mr Upmalis,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today is a big day for the historical community. Mr Upmalis’ research reveals on of the main weapons of Soviet power – its military might. Those of you who had experienced Soviet era and went to school at the time must remember all the ‘dues’ you had to pay as pupils. During October celebrations and on other occasions. All of that was part of military propaganda and militarisation. That is also the reason why Soviet Union’s economy was so weak and could not keep up with Western world, although its ambition was to catch up and even surpass it. Major part of its resources was invested in military sector. By military sector I mean direct investments into military capabilities and indirect investments into military industry and other sectors that worked for the military sector. So, if you include all military production costs in gross-domestic product, the share that you will get will be significantly higher than in the developed Western countries.

Latvia, which was occupied by the Soviet Union at the time, was subjected to heavy militarisation. There was a substantial presence of Soviet military personnel in Latvia. Share of military significantly outweighed the number of inhabitants. Soviet Union took these steps because of threats associated with its now-Western territories and also because it placed human resources here to get Soviet military industry on the roll here.

Name of Mr Upmalis will forever remain in our history. In 1990s he was the official coordinator designated to oversee the withdrawal of Soviet occupation army from Latvia. The official end date of Latvia’s occupation is 31 August 1994 when the last Soviet troop left our country. Skrunda Radar Station was closed one year later, in 1995. Ilgonis Upmalis was behind both of these achievements that are forever inscribed into the history of our nation. Later Mr Upmalis joined researchers who are focusing their studies on this particular period. His notable research activities meet the highest academic standards. His sources include Latvian archives and, as Madam Vaidere already said, also archives of Russia. He has also used other sources of information that have provided the core background information underpinning this study.

He has given us a book, a study that everyone should read. From the first page to the last. That is how one can fully comprehend what happened back then. This is probably the only research of this kind that meets the highest academic standards, is easy to read, has images, references to various archive documents. A comprehensive study of how military industry and Soviet occupation power ruled Latvia.

Title of this book contains the term ‘colony’. Until now we have generally overlooked this subject, whereas Western researchers have been engaged in post-colonial studies or post-colonial dimension of history for the past 20 or 30 years.  They are actively studying post-colonial periods and their impact on present-day situation, and they call it ‘post-colonial studies’. The term ‘post-colonialism’ is usually used to describe the overseas colonies of Western countries and, for example, Turkmenistan, which was a colony of the Russian Empire until 1917, regularly mentioned alongside others. More recently, this political history term has acquired new layers of meaning and allows us now to look at the post-colonial history through in a different light.

We should probably have a little recourse here to European Parliament and member of the European Parliament, Inese Vaidere, who has made European Parliament funding available for this book. European Parliament is an international organisation, which has mentioned Latvia in the context of post-colonial history of the Baltic countries once, and as far as I know, just once – in its 1983 Resolution regarding the Baltic States. 1983 was the time when colonialism was still here.

Let me once again thank Mr Upmalis for everything he has done, for this monumental work, the book that contributes to more complete understanding of the history of Latvia through documents and expert opinion. To be able to better understand where we are right now, we must know better where we come from.

I would like to once again thank Mrs Vaidere for supporting the publishing of this book. There is also the Occupation damage assessment committee that has recently reconvened under the Cabinet of Ministers, although its funding is quite limited. It is very important to keep assessing the damages caused by occupation (and a book describing these damages was already released in 2012) and also continue researching the consequences of the Soviet occupation. There is a long road ahead in this regard. This period in our history has mostly been studied and analysed very little. Such research is critical not only for historical community, but also the whole society. To understand where we are, where we come from and where we are headed. Once again thank you and enjoy the book everyone!

09.10.2020. Valsts prezidents Egils Levits piedalās Ilgoņa Upmaļa grāmatas “Latvija – PSRS impērijas militarizētā kolonija” atvēršanas svētkos