Alfred Rubix, a staunch defender of preservation of the Soviet Union, recently visited Moscow. The man spent over six years in Latvian prisons for his credo, but didn’t give up his views. Despite miseries that he suffered, the former first secretary of the Latvian Communist Party’s central committee is still in good spirits, energetic and has sound mind. The rights of Alfred Rubix are restrained in Latvia till 2005, that is why he cannot become member of the parliament; nevertheless, the man is an active participant of Latvia’s political life.
Alfred Petrovich, how would you describe the present-day political, social and economic situation in Latvia?
The situation in Latvia is rather complicated. First of all, the population of the republic is split not only because of the nationality principle, but they also split on citizens and non-citizens, on people optimistic about EU/NATO incorporation and on those who treat these incorporations pessimistically. Five or six years ago we all hoped that the society would proceed to integration, but unfortunately the hope didn’t justify. The government is making too few efforts for solution of the problem. For example, a legislation was adopted according to which school education will be in the Latvian language only starting with September 2004. The problem of the republic is that about 42% of the population are not Latvians, Russian is their native language. Cessation of school education in Russian means that pupils will have defective education, which further will influence their efficiency on the labor market. It’s perfectly clear that this factor seriously splits the society. And this problem is obvious not only for parents, but also for the youth of the republic; they organize protest movements to support the Russian language. Solidarnost (Solidarity), is one of the organizations that sympathize with socialists. The leader of the organization is working on preparation for a referendum on switching of school education to the Russian language only that is supposed to be held in the republic.
Many problems arise in connection with the question whether Latvia should incorporate into the European Union or not. This issue entails another problem: what is to be done with non-citizens of Latvia if the republic gets incorporated into the EU? About 500 people out of the total population of 2.390 thousand people have no citizenship at all; it is quite enough – about 20% of the total number of the Latvian population and 18% of the population that can participate in elections. These people have no political rights, they don’t participate in elections, they cannot nominate their candidatures for elections to the parliament and to local governmental authorities. It’s not clear what will happen with these people and what political status they may get if those who have rights will approve of Latvia’s incorporation into the European Union. All these facts cause nervousness and uncertainty in the society.
People in power have no clear vision of future prospects of the republic in case if Latvia gets incorporated into the EU and NATO or not. It is the topic of the day that in case Latvia gets incorporated into NATO, some of the NATO bases will be moved from Western Europe, from Germany first of all, on the territory of the Baltic republics. This very issue poses problems even for those citizens who are optimistic about EU/NATO incorporation: they have no objections to incorporation into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but they don’t welcome NATO bases on the territory of the republic.
All these troubles occur against the background of almost complete destruction of Latvia’s agriculture and industry that used to be glorious in the Soviet era. As is seen from statistics, the growth makes up 5-6% in these sectors, but unfortunately if we look closer into the structure itself, we will see that the growth is due only to the increase of transit and expansion of the services sector, but not due to growth of industrial production itself. The republic subsists on credits, its foreign debt is constantly increasing, but the right-wing parties that are in power now think that the situation can be saved only with incorporation into the European Union. They expect that the EU will settle Latvia’s problem with payment of pensions and other social problems of the republic. But in fact, it’s perfectly clear that some growth is possible only if we ourselves earn something, if we manage to find some methods to restore our industry and agriculture. And it’s no use to hope that rural or landscape tourism will help the republic recover. Latvia is a particular republic: we have nothing but peat and little reserve of mineral resources.
Do you think mentality of the Latvian population has changed within the years of the republic’s independence?
Years ago, we tried to organize policy and propaganda so that multinational cultures could integrate. Nothing of this kind happens now, we observe more and more isolation. Recently we examined Latvia’s pension organizations, and it turned out that delimitation is also obvious there. People of Latvian nationality and Russians have different pension organizations. If we add the problem of switching the school education to the Latvian language only, we will see that these two communities, Russian and Latvian are getting more isolated. This may give rise to a more serious conflict.
What is your estimate of the relations between Russia and Latvia?
My opinion is that the course of development of relations between the two countries is abnormal. While Russia evinces the wish to improve the situation somehow, but Latvian officials in power demonstrate no initiative of this kind. Sometime we hear suggestions saying that relations with Russia should be improved, but nothing is done in fact. This happens because Latvia disagrees with Russia’s demand that non-Latvian population must have equal civil and political rights with Latvians, and that problems of non-citizens must be settled in the republic. But ruling parties representing interests of the right-wing forces and large-scale capital are reluctant to fulfil the demands. They insist on a patriotic factor and say that Latvia is for Latvians, and people of other nationalities must leave the republic. This is clearly seen from reports in mass media, and tendencies of this kind get no adequate repulse. I don’t mention the fact that no top level meetings are held in Latvia. Once a meeting between the presidents of Russia and Latvia met in some European country, but that superficial meeting had no considerable consequences. On the whole, no exchange is made neither on the level of the foreign ministry or other particular ministers. Inter-parliamentary groups are said to be cooperating, but issues they consider are insignificant. Those commissions that were created in the governments of Russia and Latvia for holding negotiations cannot settle even such problems as how to count the period of service of citizens who worked on the territory of the Soviet Union. It’s awfully unjust that if you are a Latvian citizen, this period of work on the Soviet Union territory is included into the total period of service, but it’s not included if you don’t have Latvian citizenship. I don’t mention that fact that Russia and Latvia have radically different points of view upon NATO expansion eastward, as well as concerning the Iraqi war. As is seen from opinion polls, 75% of the population are against settlement of the problem with force, however, Latvian authorities support US’s aggression. Russia’s opinion isn’t taken into consideration at that. I don’t see any progress in the bipartite relations between Russia and Latvia, the present-day situation is obvious stagnation.
You are well-known in Russia, and many people worried about your fate. What are you doing now? Tell us about your political plans.
I know that may people in Russia are my friends, those who understand me now and supported in my hard times. I really appreciate efforts of the RF State Duma that approved a number of declarations to support me. Unfortunately, Latvia’s authorities gave no response to these statements, but I say that Russia’s efforts taken in this respect really supported me during my imprisonment. I’m very grateful to everyone who now calls me and sends letters. I was really surprised when people recognized me in the metro and in the streets, when they started talking to me. It’s a big surprise for me when it happens in Russia, as it’s a very big country and I’m not a very popular figure for all Russians to know me.
I have been the leader of Latvia’s Socialist Party for four years already; the party has a particular economic program based on social problems first of all. We don’t put a question of revolution, which by the way would be absurd now; we support socialist Marxist positions and stand up for closer relations with Russia. We are going to take our every effort to strengthen neighborly relations with Russia, mutual integration of our economies, cultures; we will work on development of mutually beneficial agreements between the countries.
What is the potential of your party at elections?
Together with three parties we made up in the union “For Human Rights in United Latvia” at the elections to the Seym. We won 25 seats of the total number of 100, which is a good result. But one of the three parties abandoned the union, and now we have only 8 seats in the parliament. We make up a faction of our own in the parliament. Now we are getting ready for elections to the local government authorities. I hope we will be a success.
Maksim Artemyev Nezavisimoye Obozrenie newspaper
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://world.pravda.ru/world/2003/5/73/210/8926_rubiks.html