Karlis Ulmanis – Good Guy or Bad Guy? and other unanswered questions

karlis_ulmanisJust when I think I’m starting to understand the Latvian psyche I start to observe things for which I can find no logical reasons. I have 3 questions which I would like some rational answers.

  1. Why is Karlis Ulmanis still so highly thought of?

I don’t understand why a man who overthrew a democratically elected government, banned all political parties including his own, disbanded the Saeima (parliament), appointed himself President, Prime Minister and Head of the Armed forces is still so popular. I accept that he didn’t murder thousands of people, but no other dictator in Europe between the wars did what he did. It wasn’t as though his star was shining brightly at the time of the Coup d’etat. Before the coup in 1934 his party only achieve 12.2% of the popular vote in the parliamentary elections. The only 2 claims that can be made for this period which can be verified are improvements to the education system and development of Latvian cultural identity. From my perspective, based upon what I have read by Latvian academics, Ulmanis was simply a megalomaniac.

  1. Where has the Latvian motivation and desire to instigate change disappeared to?

Between 1988 and 1990 Latvians demonstrated amazing courage and fortitude to rid themselves of their Russian occupiers. Having done the very difficult part and gained independence all they seem to do now is complain, but don’t seem prepared to do anything about it. They complain about the unfair tax system, the success of other Latvians, the dreadful roads but mainly about the perceived high levels of corruption. Yet, I don’t hear about any protests or demonstrations and only 59% voted at the last election for the Saeima (parliament). I often hear people say “it doesn’t matter who I vote for, because nothing will change”, so they don’t vote. Why has this apathy towards instigating change surfaced? I don’t understand.

  1. Finally do Latvians really know what democracy is or do they even want it?

I have come to the conclusion that Latvians think they want Democracy but don’t really know what it is, and the commitment required by individual groups in a society to make it work. I have heard it said that countries without a sizable middle class struggle to make a success of democracy. That was certainly the case between the 2 world wars.

Please help me understand more about the Latvian psyche. I welcome your comments and opinions

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52 Responses to Karlis Ulmanis – Good Guy or Bad Guy? and other unanswered questions

  1. klivins says:

    The answer will not come easily in a couple of sentences, I’m afraid. Firstly, Ulmanis. One has to remember, that after the Soviet Russian, Nazi Germany, and another Soviet Russian occupations had taken place, all that happened pre-war seemed like paradise. Ulmanis, after all, was one of the men, creating Latvia back in 1918 in the first place. That, and the fact not much was told about Ulmanis until end of the 1980ies created a phenomena of glorifying Karlis Ulmanis in the eyes of the majority of population. Scholars might had another point of view of this.
    Secondly, the complaints in the everyday life. My sincere belief is the Kremlin propaganda is there much to blame for this. For years and years Latvians have been watching Russian TV channels, and those are keen to point out any minor blemish we happen to have here. Also, if we compare Estonia and Latvia, Estonians had better success of getting old communists out of the public and political circuses, thus better eliminating the infamous corruption network of the old.
    Thirdly, I believe you are mistaken. In my circles (I’m 41) almost everyone I know does vote.
    Hope it helps.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thankyou. I see your point about looking back after Soviet occupation. Everything will look better. But what about low percentage voting turnout and the lack of visible protests and demonstrations?

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      • Latvians are lazy. We want to live good or very good, but don’t want to do anything to succeed with that. We are waiting for someone who’ll stand up and fix everything on behalf of us – including protests, demonstrations etc. and – all these activities are in working time, so everybody who has a job, are working, not taking a day off to show their face on TV as one of protesters and losing their jobs.
        Low voting activity could be explained by not seeing anyone who could change anything. The same people (actors, farmers and businessmen who pretend to be politicians) just rotate between parties, and it doesn’t matter for which you vote if people remain the same.
        This is how I see it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh dear, but if everybody was to think as you do then there is a strong possibility that Latvia could cease to exist as an independent nation in the foreseeable future.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I tell what I see and hear. I’m not complaining of anything. Well, except for all those always not satisfied persons. Ok, we have corrupt officials, but which is that country which government members all are crystal clear and never has been accused for bribery or lobby anyone’s interests? Where are that country where everyone is wealthy and don’t have to think if they’ll got enough food for their kids? Where each person has a well paid job, always available (and good quality) healthcare without paying any for it? Is there a place on earth where are no homeless or drug/alcohol addicts? Where children are not suffering from abusive and violent parents, but seniors passes their days within loving families not struggling for a next meal, medical treatment?
        These problems are everywhere around the globe. We have them here too, but in general we are not living bad. Actually our life in Latvia is peaceful, we can speak what we want, do almost every thing we want, find a place to live (and even get some support €, if can’t afford it by ourselves) , some job to do.
        Have you seen full parking lots near shopping centres? These belongs to the same people who cries that they live bad, government sucks, and they plan to leave This country. If everything is so bad, where they get money for everyday entertainment at shopping centres, Friday parties, traveling once, twice or even more times a year? Is that what is called a bad life?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think people complain because in Latvia there doesn’t seem to be the improvements to their economy that Estonia has seen. In fact some months ago your President even said he was embarrassed that the Estonian budget was bigger than the Latvian one.

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      • Instead of being happy for one of our neighbours and learning from them to get better results to ourselves, to Latvia…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hugo says:

        “…President even said he was embarrassed that the Estonian budget was bigger than the Latvian one”

        Our President didn’t accounted that we have different distribution or resources than in Estonia. Our city’s and districts have they own budget and we actually do have larger budget then our Estonian neighbors.
        In the same time crooked system in how and where we tax and spend our money.
        Most obvious sector is car and road taxing. For, example, 1m2 of tarmac costs half the price in the Estonia. And road taxes goes on the roads where in LV it’s just an income source witch is called road tax.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I suppose statistical data can be used to the advantage of whoever is using it. GDP in Latvia is greater than Estonia but GDP/person is significantly smaller. I see Latvia fell down the Corruption Perception league tables, with the National Health Service being perceived the most corrupt.

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    • random latvian says:

      It just never ends. The debunking of alternative facts.
      1) I would have to double check to make sure but virtually always when talking about state budget what is meant is the… let’s use the Latvian term… “valsts kopbudžets” (state’s whole/total-budget), which as the name suggests is the whole/total budget of the state. And contrary to popular foolishness, yes, that includes the local towns and villages. All of that is counted in, because it is the prerogative of the state not local governments to levy taxes and duties. That number is for now larger for Latvia but if the current trend holds, Estonia will overtake Latvia in a year or two. Per-capita Estonia has had a larger budget for at least a year or more.

      After discounting the money that is given to local governments for general squandering (not even going to discuss this; deal with it, fools), what remains for financing things useful for the general populace and not just the local elects is, from the top of my memory, around 4 billion euros. Worse yet, that too is not used with sufficient strategic forethought and oversight but at least it’s not as blatantly squandered as the local governments are prone to do. Yes, local governments sometimes do good things, but on the whole I just consider those billions wasted. Who cares about paved roads in the middle of nowhere when important roads are in terrible state and some less important but often used local roads are literally reminding me of some kind of car suspension durability/destruction test track. And that’s before considering how budgetary strained pretty much everything else is, since taxation to GDP is pathetic (meanwhile low earning workforce taxation level (in percents of wage) is above what Nordic countries apply to high earning workforce). I’m currently trying to put together some kind of scheme, where I could actually earn money from my work, so that I can leave this forsaken place, and the 2017 taxation regime seems to be beyond what is feasible without huge liabilities, unless you’re already a well established corporation (the regressive tax system does its job of making sure that the serfs don’t start a business in Latvia).

      2) No, there is NO ROAD TAX. PERIOD. What you’re paying every year is called car exploitation/use tax and it’s literally just that – for owning a car. And as usual for Latvia it is engineered to be regressive – absolute luxury cars are taxed maybe 4-5 times higher while costing 20-100+ times more than my previous car (and, just to prove my point of being regressive, my current car is taxed maybe 25% more than the old one, even though it’s well into the more luxurious end and has literally twice the power and torque (that’s about 25% increase in tax against 100% increase in power)).

      Bloody bourgeoisie tax. That’s what I call it, because that is the spirit of the tax. In the thinking of the members of parliament everyone lives in Riga and the few farmers in countryside obviously can afford it. Why else would they be making millions? At least the ones that can afford to lobby in Saeima. Meanwhile I was on a drive today and saw heart wrenching poverty on the streets of one of the largest towns in Vidzeme. Clearly MPs don’t nowadays even visit the larger town or do so only via the main street.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lauma Bonnefina says:

    I suspect that it may well be the case (Latvia ceasing to exist that is). Latvians have been under one rule or another for centuries and being their own rulers I am afraid doesn’t come naturally any more… As for the complaining – I have come to believe that it is easier to moan about everything without really doing anything about it. After all – if you don’t try – you cant fail. Its a national trait sadly.Funny nation we are 😉

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    • Why were they motivated and able to do something in 1990?

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      • Simple says:

        I have always believed that this is a personality trait of every Latvian. As “Egita no virtuves” said – people here are generally OK. Why would we go out protesting if everything is the same as it has always been? We are fine. Yes, we like to complain about everything, yes, we like to make jokes about the bad roads and politicians. But there is no real need to go out on the streets. I think we mostly see protests as an extreme measure. And you only go for the last move, when you feel like that’s the only option. Like in 1991 or even 2009 (Jan.13).
        Because of this, we might not develop as fast as we would like to. But we also know how to be united when there is no other choice. Take for example the referendum in 2012 (about Russian as the second official language) – 70,5% voted!!. And most of them voted NO.
        We let the discussion about languages get to that point where they actually held a referendum about it, but at the second we understood there was only one move left to stop them – Latvians did what they do best – got up at the last minute and told everyone – WE DO NOT WANT THIS!

        It is my sincere hope, that whenever the situation goes to the extreme – we will handle it. It’s not the best way to deal with problems, but we are who we are. It’s not that easy to change.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are so right. Change is very difficult and even more so after 50 years of occupation. Mindsets have to change and that takes time.

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  3. random latvian says:

    These are some really tough questions that I sometimes ask myself but I’ll try answering them as honestly as I can.
    1. I think klivins gave a good answer, so I’ll only add that there’s also the cultural heritage passed down from family elders. I mean, my great-grandma was affectionately talking about how good the Swedish rule was in Vidzeme. And that ended after the Great Northern War around 1721 from the top of my head (also, technically Kingdom of Sweden was losing land to Russian Empire since 17.. um.. 1719?). And she died when I was probably 3 or 4 years old, yet I still remember that. That’s how strong Latvian cultural heritage is. Similarly the reign of Ulmanis is also glorified within families. Now, you asked why. And I really can’t give any answer that wouldn’t be cynical.

    2. Probably betrayed too many times over the years by politicians. I have voted in the not that many state and local elections there have been since I became of age. And not only have I concluded that it is literally completely pointless to vote in local elections (pensioners go and vote in such great numbers for whoever has the best smile, nicest hair and is approved by the established local government that it does not even matter what I’m voting for). Now I do not even have what to vote for in the upcoming parliamentary election, because there is no effin’ chance I’m voting for Unity ever again. Screw them. Needless to say there is no alternative I could vote for, which is a real shame as technically any European style green or pirate party would be just up my alley.

    3. No, they do not. How could they know it? If they’re over, say, 40 or somesuch, they probably never had any subject in school that would explicitly touch the topic of democracy. And even when they did, who knows how well it was taught. In most cases even well educated Latvians can’t accept the probably American idiom “Your Liberty To Swing Your Fist Ends Just Where My Nose Begins”. They literally think that is not kosher with democracy, which they equate to majority rule. Ergo what can you expect from them? That having been said, looking at victories of Brexit and Trumpism one has to wonder if even the old democracies really understand what the word means.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m getting very depressed reading these comments. What does the future hold?

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      • random latvian says:

        I’d like to say anything positive but the best I can think of is “Before it will get better, it will get a lot worse”, because Latvians only act when the only option is complete failure and destruction (that reminds me, 1988-1990 was like that, too, if they hadn’t pulled through then, then currently the majority here would be speaking russian and there would be ridiculously low chance of reestablishing a Latvian state even if the opportunity arose). Needless to say, 2009 banking crisis was exactly the same thing, either Latvia sinks or swims.

        I don’t think anything has changed, so we can expect the same next time as well (and there always will be next time), only I’m a bit worried that the political cretins have over-calculated this time and when the nation actually realizes with their hearts not cynical minds what’s upon them (likely either demographics crisis or russian invasion, whichever comes first), it will be all too insignificant and all too late.

        Sorry for being such a source of negativity.

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      • random latvian says:

        I just noticed that I missed a word as I was editing and re-editing it before posting:
        Latvians only act when the only *other* option is complete failure and destruction

        Liked by 1 person

  4. visnevskis says:

    You’re absolutely right – people here don’t know what democracy is. Not everyone of course, but it’s very popular to see criticism as negativity instead of a tool to build the future, and they complain in mystical hope to see some sort of humanistic response from state and fellow men.
    Fortunately it changes among educated progressive people. Unfortunately there is not a lot of those. Which produces a third – worst case – people that for obvious reasons have never imagined what a working democracy would look like and at the same time have lost faith in humanism, resulting in a vicious cycle of blaming Kremlin, their fellow man – anything but what they do or don’t do every day.
    European nations got their freedom through lots of bloodshed, which engraved certain values into each culture, developing even in every other hilly-billy a gut feeling for what can and cannot be allowed to happen. Albeit those things began to evaporate throughout Europe, we never had them in first place. Add to that numbness of critical thinking due to prolonged exposure to unquestionable national idea (in either ethnic group) and it gets quite grim. We need to reinvent ancient Greece.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Joanna says:

    Latvia has come a long way since we started visiting in the year 2000 and even over the last nine years since we have lived here. It is still a young democracy and I think part of the problem has been a lot of advice on turning it into a market economy and not enough on developing civil society. It is hard to change from a nation that had to do as it is ordered to one that has to decide for themselves at every level. Also I wonder how many dreams died in the chaos after independence when much greed was seen. Disappointment is hard to live with at times.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. nmp2 says:

    1. Ulmanis popularity- I would put it in perspective. From my childhood I remember my grandparents told me they didnt like him at all. I guess Ulmanis did some good things fot farmers and so, but life for working class in cities was nothing fond of. If not Soviet invasion, Im quite sure we would never feel any respect of Ulmanis. Soviets demonstrated life can become much worse, and their regime was really merciless and cruel. Over time people probably started to regard pre-Soviet Latvia as their paradise lost, and sure- Ulmanis was part of it. In my childhood that period of Latvia was informally called Ulmaņlaiki- Ulmanis’ time. Nowadays probably there are really very few people who firsthand remember real life in pre-war Latvia, and Ulmanis’ time is just feel good fairy tale. So its all about perception, based on the fake news concept:)
    2. In short – Latvians are still generally poor and almost everyone has mortgage to pay. I would say now people have way more financial stress than back then. “Proletary can loose only their chains” was popular slogan in Soviet time; now you can easily lose home for missed payment. Many former idealists turned capitalists, then some got disillusioned. For a small country there always limit on talent- politics clearly isnt most favoured route. Also I would disccount a bit the real impact of independence movement; it sure feels good to think we fought strongly for it, but then you remember that eas time when their independence got, say, Tajikistan and Belarus. Nothing against them, but really – did they fought for their independence at all?
    3. My sincere hope is as we will get richer our society will develop spare resources to make democracy working. Yes, we probably were poorly prepared to govern ourselves twenty years ago and still not very good at it; let’s face – how we would know substance of democracy not living it? Just by name? I think inner freedom takes time to develop, but we will eventually get there.
    Just my two cents:)

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    • Thank for your comments. Interesting perspective. I sense the legacy of Russian occupation is deeply ingrained and going to take a long time to shake off

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    • random latvian says:

      Now, I don’t want to play the devils advocate here but since I’m always an outsider even among outsiders, I might as well rebut some of your claims:
      1. Depends on the family, my grandmother’s aunt is still alive and she is not only old enough to remember his reign but even met Ulmanis once as part of a welcoming group when he visited a village my family hails from and she doesn’t have anything bad to say about him. Rather, as I mentioned, it’s part of his glorification as he disbanded the parliament for pretty much the same reasons that our current one could be accused of (furthermore, ours is far less fragmented due to the 5% entry barrier and I doubt corruption was anywhere as rampant back then either).
      2. Except in soviet era there wasn’t a home to lose since you pretty much by definition didn’t own one in the first place. Such nostalgia for good old days is what lead to Brexit, Trump’s victory and no doubt is a causing problems for Latvia as well as people are looking at the past when they should be living in today and thinking a bit about their future.
      3.a It’s the exact opposite, a lot of money tempts people in power and often corrupts them. Poverty does not play well with democracy as it generally implies low education and social participation levels but no democracy has ever been permanently established in an already rich state (with the only possible exception of England but I’d rather not open that can of worms). Something worth remembering in regard to the oil pipe to Ventspils.
      3.b Just out of curiosity, what do You understand with “inner freedom”? If anything, we need more external freedom. More people that actually express their opinions and hold to their beliefs, because they are not conforming to the silent majority, which is, sadly, dreaming of good old days that were actually very terrible instead of focusing on what should be done here and now.

      Liked by 1 person

      • nmp2 says:

        Well, I never intended to go too deep into this topic, but since you asked, random latvian:)
        1. My grandparents were in their thirties during Ulmanis time; almost certainly we are speaking of different perspectives here. With all due respect, as a person who was born at early seventies, please dont put too much weight if I try to discuss, say, Helsinki Accords of 1975, from my own experience 🙂
        2. My second point was mostly about debt. As a nation and individually Latvians essentially were debt free back then. Absolutely not the case today. In broader sense there is little difference if your house is owned by state or bank . I would argue eviction from a house is now even more “liberal” for a lack of better word 🙂
        3a-b. I know, i know – power corupts and absolut power corrupts absolutely:) My point is honest person would think twice before choosing political trail, because one need some financial independence to be able survive and succeed in that swamp. Not necessarily f* y* money amount, but still some. On a inner freedom I have met quite a few people who could be role models for that term – incidentally almost all Englishmen:)
        Thinking independently, voicing their beliefs and, most imortantly, not being afraid of it. So basically what you call external freedom I use opposite name but we thinking about the same thing….
        Im out, have to earn some money for my mortgage :)).

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  7. ricardsteilis says:

    Ulmanis was a central figure in gaining independence in 1918. That’s why he is still praised today. And then there’s the other side of him. A dictator who ended democracy in Latvia and is responsible for allowing the Soviet Union to move its army into Latvia which lead to losing independence for 50 years. A controversial figure.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. 1. To add to good comments already present in this thread, let’s not forget that “Ulmanis was great” is part of a legend about the lost state (lost paradise), which was cultivated in late 80ies. As a schoolboy, I remember visiting museums with my classmates. I loved looking at pre-WW2 aerial shots ,where you could clearly see how different that country looked like from collectivized, noone-owns-anything faceless soviet state. So Ulmanis became a face of that treasure we lost and aimed to restore. In addition, many young Latvians who are now in late 30’s were taught the version of the history, where Ulmanis reign was unquestioned. So those who didn’t care to re-visit the issue later (when more critical views appeared), hold the legend as the undisputed truth.

    2. I believe that in part it is the price we’re paying for joining the EU. In that sense that those who were hit the hardest by the crisis and bad political decisions, were able to leave the native shores and try their luck elsewhere. That, I think, explains why political landscape hadn’t changed a lot since 2008, despite name-changing. The desperate (and in a way – brave) left, the indifferent kept doing nothing, and those who more or less enjoyed existing status quo voted more or less the same.

    3. After having spent many years in one political party and several non-profit organizations I can only confirm that majority of locals do not really connect the dots between popular participation and quality of governance. That is one side of the problem. The other one – most people are still working hard to “get their shit together” or to build careers. Many successful young people (at least from my immediate surroundings) choose to spend their time building family (in the broadest meaning, incl. base for the future generations, like building the house, earning some capital etc.). We haven’t yet accumulated enough wealth to afford spending time on “secondary issues” (sadly so). Add to that lack of traditions (exterminated by Soviet rule), bad overall image of politics, and you have the outcome.

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    • random latvian says:

      2. Saying that it’s a price is again playing into the russian propaganda of EU being bad for Latvia. I dare say that people who are leaving Latvia on the grounds of wanting to live in a Western society opposed to just earning more (a valid cause in its own right) are a small fraction of the total immigration. Furthermore, I personally have met people who have integrated into Western societies and they all left Latvia more than 20 years ago. Being in EU makes it a lot easier but the argument that it’s EU’s fault is simply flawed and dangerous as not only would these people leave anyway but we’re such a small fraction that we can’t change anything even if we stayed in this hellhole (I’m actually planning my leave on the same grounds of being sick of living in what is essentially, excuse my french, F-ckery SSR – it’s harsh but I have concluded through interaction with STATE OWNED companies and establishments that people who remain here either can’t leave or actually like to either get f-cked over or f-cking over others).

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Latvian outside Latvia says:

    1. The nation is lost in its values, we do not know what is right and wrong, good and bad. There is no more Soviet ideology, there is no church, no need to fight for freedem, there are no ideological leaders who can inspire the people. Nobody has clearly told us that what Ulmanis did, was unlawful and therefore wrong and bad. He was authoriratian dictator. Period.
    On the other had, his and likewise every dictatorship is associated with conservative values, which are somehow neglected in modern democracies. We (and not only Latvians) have lost the balance between conservativism and liberalism, in favor of the latter, which makes many people feel unsafe and uncomfortable. We have somehow dissolved the border between democracy and liberalism, forgetting that they are completely different things, which should not be confused (let’s see where Poland and Hungary goes). So, its a sentiment towards conservative way of life which we find in admiration of Ulmanis.

    2. You should not underestimate Latvians in their abilities to achieve great things. The fact that a nation of barely 2 million has an independent state in the middle of european heawyweights, is the remarkable one. Who else has done it? Look at Catalonians, Basques, Occitans or Wallons for exmaple. They are far more numerous than we are but do not have their proper states. (Welsh and Scotts, anyone?)
    And again, the lack of moral and ideologic values. We knew what to do in 1988-1990, we knew what was good and what was bad, against whom to fight. There were leaders who inspired, and we did it. We are are doers. Now we are disoriented and mostly lost.

    3. No, we don’t know what is democracy, of course. How would we? We did not have our Magna Carta back in 13th century. There was a degree of autonomy under Swedish rule, but that does not count much towards gaining the experience and knowledge which can be carrier forward to the next genaration. And it was interrupted numerous times, with most recent ending only less than 30 years ago.
    The key is education here. To regain lost and catch up with lost years, we should overhaul our education system, encourage young people to study abroad (especially in countries with far greater democratic heritage) and persuade them return return back with what they have learned there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I totally agree with your last comment. A review of the education system is definitely required and all students should study, for want of a better word, “Citizenship”. This would be a step forward. There will be no quick fix unless there is some charismatic unknown politician waiting in the wings that can galvanise the masses into action.

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    • random latvian says:

      1. First of all, being allowed to be yourself does not mean you can’t be conservative, if you so choose. And no one forbids you from finding a partner for life that would share your views. Indeed, such examples are quite frequently shown on Latvian TV as exemplary families. Just respect that they (and here I especially mean young women) also have the right to choose their own way of life. If You are not fine with that, unfortunately it boils down to: “How can one reconcile with people who want to consider one or another group of people as less human?” Would You really enjoy leading a life where You can’t decide even the most important things in Your life? Because that seems to be the view of self-proclaimed conservatives regarding the place of women in society.

      Secondly, the West still has its philosophy on offer, which has greatly advanced since the days of Christianity, and Humanism which You may or may not like.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Latvian outside Latvia says:

        We might be slightly off the topic, but as I understand conservatism, it has nothing to do with dismantling or reducing democracy or revoking any human rights or rights of women (and it does not seem this is a problem in Latvia, or at least not the most urgent one). It is rather about freedom granted by democracy to exercise rights to enjoy the values which are acceptable for given group of people, even if their views differ from ours. What I truly believe is that the must be balance between liberal and conservative views in the society, and any prolonged shift in one direction creates discomfort in the other camp and increases risks of polarization, and the problems associated with it.

        And I totally agree with you that West has a lot to offer, in the sense that we are lagging behind in our understanding of democracy, development of society, ethics and so on. But let us not be fooled, as I said, let’s start with education, so we can make educated choices to select what is valuable in that offer and what is rubbish.

        Liked by 1 person

      • random latvian says:

        I fundamentally do not agree that balance is all important. If that was the case, then nothing would ever change and we’d still be living in stone age. It seems to me that conservatives around the world want to live in at least middle ages if not outright stone age but with 21st century quality of life. People, it does not work that way. You can go and
        live like the Amish do in pre-industrial society but expecting post-industrial quality of life without also accepting post-industrial lifestyle is not something you can have. That means democracy, respecting all people, not just those who are like you.

        In similar vein, at most we can at most agree on laws, which themselves are based on values we as the general society have, not an all encompassing lifestyle that every respectable member of society should have, lest it’s not a liberal society at all. But that’s the key point, isn’t it? To go back to being conservative. Just mask it as returning to some kind of righteous “balance point”, because in Your worldview life was better in the past. Simpler and all that. And without 21st century goodies.

        This might seem weird to virtually everyone so I’ll explain that often presence of a particular technology itself changes society, furthermore it can be that people or organisation that created it could only exist in particular setting, for example, it would be virtually impossible to establish Intel in a pre-industrial society, as its founding involved splitting away from the established organisation and there would be strong incentives in, say, a kingdom without the right of free establishment to deny creation of such a renegade organisation as Intel. And without Intel you do not get your personal computer. Of course, technology has this weird property that sooner or later it would have come about anyway but in my opinion that does not make it morally justifiable to use something which may have taken Victorian England 150 years to come up with without appreciated the world that gave it to you. And that means appreciating all of it, the “decadent values” included.

        No, I literally meant that Western philosophy has advanced a lot. It does not end with Christianity, nor with Machiavelli, not even Kant. I am not a philosopher myself but Western philosophy has answers about topics like happiness or beauty in a post-religious society, they’re just not widely taught because academicians are nowadays more concerned with their arcane abstractions rather than the plight of everyday human.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Latvian outside Latvia says:

        It is interesting how you are trying to portray people with conservative views: they seem to you as fanatic church going despots who want to deny rights of women, human rights in general and to live in middle age society (at least). Is that how Latvian media portrays them? If that is, then I am really sorry about that country and people there. And again, you seem to not notice difference between liberalism and democracy.
        I can assure you that conservative people do embrace and do contribute their part to the technical progress of the western society, and they are present everywhere: in science, tech, business, art, literature, music… you name it. It is not about what next great gadget can we have next year or how many times a year we can go holidaying. It is not about material values, but about ideals, I am sure every human being needs them. The lack of ideals is holding back the development of country, not lack of next generation PC powered by Intel i5 or i7 CPU. Has the country defined what it wants to be, where it wants to go, how it will be in the future? And how to achieve it? What are the priorities? Are they sorted out?
        Different ideals, not material values, are where conservatives differ from liberals. I cannot speak about people I do not know, but few things where I see differences: respect and appreciation of the past (yes, yes, also includes christianity), family as the basic unit of society, interests of the children (they are totally neglected in liberal world), respect of the gender differences (vs blurring and equalizing), interests of the nation, and what is very important: responsibilities and duties of individuals are as much important as his rights and liberties.
        By balance between conservatism and liberalism I did mean that conservative values are underrepresented in the society. I do not see why the people with above mentioned values should not be respected and represented? Isn’t that what liberalism propones: rights to everybody? Or does it have limits when it comes to accepting somebody with different views from their own? Doesn’t it create absurd paradox then?
        Also, our modern history already shows what happens if that balance is not kept. If it was, and the conservative values would be adequately represented, we would not need to witness the ugly resurgence of populism masquaraded as nationalism, conservatism, etc, as it is today in Europe and the US.
        By the way, I am curious what are the post-Christian ideals of Western philosophy you are fond of? What are the ideals which inspire you? What do you do to achieve them? Do you feel happy about it? No sarcasm here, I want to know, maybe I miss something important?

        Liked by 1 person

      • random latvian says:

        First of all, you are still missing the point that it’s not just people, it’s also the period. As I tried to explain, Intel was a counter-organisation that went against the engineering of its time, which is how we eventually got the Intel x86 architecture. In a different, more conservative time, they may have never been able to even establish that company.
        It is hard to believe but had Romans discovered gunpowder and oil drilling, 20th century may have happened about 2000 years ago. Such was the mechanical engineering level of the time. They were only lacking chemistry, calculus and cheap energy. Of course, chemistry and calculus are not easy to come up with but with the natural philosophy methods of the time, I am confident, they would have come up with great deal of what we know. After all, they were building huge structures out of concrete while modern use of the material began a little less than 200 years ago.

        A less extreme example is how England lost the person who cracked the Enigma cipher and built some of the first actual computers due to their conservative values of prosecuting homosexuals. Who knows what else Alan Turing would have done for humanity if he hadn’t died at the age of 41 (generally believed to have been a suicide due to mistreatment by the British Government).

        Interesting, family as the basic unit of society… I would have sworn that society was built by individuals. Time to replace my passport with a mark of the clan, I guess.

        How are children neglected “in the liberal world”? Is it neglect due to insufficient corporal punishment? I swear, I always wish I would be left alone in a room with people like that. 1 on 1 educational time. It’s quite funny how hard-knack schooling advocates change their opinion after the first pain. Oh, did you perhaps mean that women should be jail at home and raise children? Right, you’re all for gender equality, equal opportunities and a society where everyone can show their full potential. As long as that potential for women is raising children. Double standards creep. Just say I’m misportraying you lot.

        Like

      • random latvian says:

        Sorry, got so carried away by anger that I messed up my grammar. I meant to say, jailed at home.

        Like

      • Latvian outside Latvia says:

        What you have described is called domestic violence, not conservativism. And no need to be rude, we are trying to have an argumented discussion here.

        There is nothing much to add, you already answered the question on childrens rights in liberal society: it is based on individuals, not family. So interests of individuals in the first place, and then somewhere down the line: family and children, if anything is left over.

        And, by the way, take a good look in your passport: there still should be your last name, also sometimes called as a family name (call it clan name if you wish). Technically speaking, it is of course, a redundancy, since we all have our Unique IDs, so no needed for purposes of identification. So do our first names.

        Like

      • Radom Latvian and Latvian outside Latvia, I appreciate your comments about society, and I’ve always encouraged open, honest and objective debate. I also appreciate politics alway raises passions, but please refrain from personalising the discussion, it is very unhelpful.

        Like

  10. RP12a says:

    I think that one of the reasons why Ulmanis is so praised even in modern society by mostly radicals is that he may represent the true latvian. Coming from farmers party, living in countryside. We all know that traditional latvians are the ones in spades, hay forks and rakes in their hands sitting in tractors. Ulmanis liked to travel all around his “territory”. He was a bit narcissistic, too with his appearances everywhere. However, he took over Latvia, made a revolution. He did all these “bad” things against democracy, but still there are people who likes him. I think the reason is that since 1918 parliaments were changing all the time. Latvians didn’t like them, they were doing a bad job and so on. Situation today is the same. Big percentage of people who speak say that they don’t like Saeima. They don’t like people and their actions who they actually voted for (referencing to Trump). Of course, always we have this hope inside that this parliament will be THE ONE. But people now have become hopeless. They don’t know what to do. Where to start from? What opportunities do we have to change this country? These rhetorical questions makes some of us believe that a man like Ulmanis was who knows how to bang a fist on the table will be a better thing for our country than a parliament.

    Latvia is not ruled by people who lives there. But by 100 people full of greed, pity and impunity. If Saeima represents countries voice and mindset then i am not proud of it right now. I hate to see that all the biggest conflicts are about money. The President should have bigger power.

    Liked by 1 person

    • random latvian says:

      What I do not understand is how people can forget that Ulmanis is also the reason why russian propaganda can claim that Latvia willingly joined the soviet union, because he ordered peaceful handover of power. He did it in vain hopes of sparing the nation another horrible war but had there been a parliament in Latvia like there was in Finland, there would have been debates and either they’d have come to the same conclusion as Ulmanis or decided like Finns to go to war even if the odds were heavily stacked against them. I’m not sure if Latvians have yet forgiven the fact that the state was handed over, essentially betrayed in hindsight, without a single shot fired at the enemy, which is why i’m all the more surprised nationalists like Ulmanis. I think their power fantasies are just that huge that much like Republicans in USA they’re willing to worship any dictator, including putin, if that will give them what they imagine they want.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think one change could have a huge impact. Every deputy in the Saeima should represent a district of Latvia and should be forced to spend a minimum amount of time in the district talking to and meeting the electorate. Make the deputies accountable.

      Like

      • random latvian says:

        I’m not so sure, this generally leads to a two party system (and we all know which one of them will be) as described by C.G.P. Grey in his excellent video on the first past the post election system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7tWHJfhiyo
        There would also be issue with gerrymandering as the party/-ies who draws voting district lines would be strongly interested in making sure that they win as much as possible and opposition is fractured as much as possible.

        Like

      • I think I need to explain better. I am not for one minute suggesting that the Latvian voting system should adopt the UK system of “first past the post”. I think the Latvian proportional system is fair and represents most people in society. However I’m sure a system could be devised so that after the elections to the Saeima have taken place, Deputies are allocated a district in Latvia to represent. This would make them far more accountable. Although proportional representation is fair, it does lead to weak and unstable governments, as Latvia has discovered. If political parties are not willing, to compromise as the Social Democrats wouldn’t pre-1934 then many people are not represented and proportional representation fails in its objectives.

        Like

      • random latvian says:

        So I gave it another attempt, and almost immediately realized the fatal flaw in your proposal. Basically it hinges on two assumptions:
        1) implicit accountability (voters in a district can recall or impeach the MP; it just does not work any other way)
        2) MPs being held in check via voter trust they can loose (and here comes the major issue, it assumes that an MP in a random district has trust of voters by default, which is blatantly incorrect; if it was implemented, mine (or your) district would immediately recall any one of about 1/3 to 1/2 of all MPs – and in some districts that number may very well be around 2/3 to 4/5 of all MPs).
        In other words, your proposal can only work if districts choose their own representatives, which turns it into the first past the post election system with districts. Therefore imminent two party system and susceptibility to gerrymandering.

        Like

      • I think you are over complicating the issue.

        1) I don’t believe implicit accountability necessarily implies voters being able to impeach or recall an MP/Deputy (it certainly doesn’t in the UK), but don’t underestimate voters ability to apply pressure on an MP. It would work, but it will need data to do so; such as voting patterns, Saeima attendance etc. Everybody eventually succumbs to external pressures. Even Trump will.
        2) I actually think it is a good idea that a random MP doesn’t have the trust of the electorate. It means that they (the electorate) will watch him/her more carefully.

        Having a democracy doesn’t mean that the electorate who have voted can now pass all responsibility to their MPs to carry out their duties effectively. It is the electorates responsibility to hound their MPs to make sure they do their job correctly. ie apply pressure

        Most Latvian voters I have spoken to feel disconnected from the political process because there is no link between the MPs and voters. Somebody has to find a way of establishing a connection.

        Regarding the 2 different voting systems. I have a fairly open mind about them. Certainly PR appears fairer but can lead to unstable and weak governments. It seems to work well in some countries but not in others. Not analysed the reason for that. It certainly does require compromise and I suppose it depends upon the nations psyche. First past the post does usually provide strong government but many of the electorate can feel alienated from the political process. I suppose in the end it all comes down to which system can provide the best economic growth because in the end most people are just concerned about money in their pockets.

        Like

    • random latvian says:

      I see; I guess there is a subtle difference. Whether that would work, I need to think about some more. Time to get some stuff done, maybe I’ll think of something as I’m tweaking the PIR motion sensor settings and doing other random work at the grandparents’ house.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hugo says:

    About Kārlis Ulmanis. Im certainly not an expert on his deeds, but people love him mainly, because he was working for the people and they din’t have to think about political games which happens to be a part of Democratic system and Latvia was flourishing, people had jobs, farms (he even made an demo village “Uzvaras līdums” for farmers, so they could start they lives). Export was booming, mainly to UK with pork and dairy products. We became wealthy. Wealthier than some of our Scandinavian neighbors. He wasn’t a tyrant as people perceive dictators. That’s why older generations love him. And that’s why our first president in in 90’s also happen to be Uldis Ulmanis.

    Like

    • Everything I have read about the economic situation in Latvia before and during Ulmanis’s time in charge says he can’t claim responsibility for improvement in the Latvian economy. The problems of the world recession were largely over by the time he came to power. I suspect as some others have suggested, that when people looked back after gaining independence again in the 1990’s his time in office seemed wonderful in comparison. However when you analyse the facts carefully, he can claim credit for 2 things; improving the educational system and cementing Latvian consciousness through promotion of Latvian culture. I suspect he will always be a divisive figure in Latvian history.

      Like

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