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On the destruction of the Soviet obelisk in Riga

Recently it was widely reported that the – to use its lengthy official name - Monument to the Liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga from the German Fascist Invaders was destroyed by local authorities in the Latvian capital. This is certainly not without precedent, as numerous Red Army monuments have been removed in the Baltic states and also in Poland, Czechia and other nations formerly in the Warsaw Pact, many of these decisions being clearly driven by events in the Ukraine since 2004. I think we on this forum are mostly aware of the talking points used to justify their removal so I won’t bother to repeat those here. Instead I’d make the simple assumption in this particular case that those Latvians who support this decision are clearly unhappy with the direction their national history took in the past, and ask the question what sort of past they’d have preferred to have. I suppose this is a relevant Culture War question in Eastern Europe.

Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that Operation Barbarossa begins as it did, and then history develops differently. From then on, I think Latvia had the following options:

A – Germany wins decisive victory in the East and incorporates Latvia directly into the Reich; it only remains as an administrative area, if that; presumably, local Jews and Russians are either deported/killed or used as slave labor, and German settlers move in

B – same as A, but Latvia is allowed to retain limited autonomy as a vassal state / protectorate

C – the war in the East concludes with a separate negotiated peace in 1941 or 1942, and Latvia remains an independent nation as part of some demilitarized neutral zone between Germany and the USSR

D – same as C, but Latvia remains under German influence and its autonomy remains limited in the practical sense, maybe the Germans even retain military bases in Latvian territory

E – the war concludes with decisive Allied victory, but Stalin recognizes the independence of the Baltic states and withdraws his troops from there; still, Soviet influence remains palpable

F – same as E, but the USSR incorporates Latvia into a new military and economic system of cooperation under Soviet hegemony, and maintains military bases on Latvian soil; also, the Soviets have enough influence, soft power and political mechanisms to ensure that Latvia cannot leave this sphere of influence

G – everything happens as it actually did, but the Baltic states get nominal independence after 1945 instead of getting turned back into Soviet republics. Basically, the Warsaw Pact and COMECON have 3 more members.

I assume hardliner Latvian nationalists would prefer B (even for them, A is too extreme), and more moderate nationalists would prefer C or D. For obvious reasons however, even in the current climate of general anti-Russian/Soviet sentiment, I very much doubt they’d be willing to say this out loud. After all, A, B, C and D all mean that Nazi Germany remains undefeated, and Latvian Jews get genocided and pogromed. For the same reason, I believe these 4 options are unacceptable for the Russian and Jewish minorities in Latvia. After all, even C entails the strong possibility that they get oppressed and ethnically cleansed.

Also, I cannot help but notice that the same very obviously applies to Ukrainian nationalists in general, no matter how much leeway they currently get in Western media.

I’ll make the guess that E is the most ideal option in the eyes of Latvian centrists/normies at first sight; however, it still means that, realistically speaking, Latvia never gets to join either NATO or the EU. It’s the same as Finland’s fate but worse, as the border region between Russia and Finland at least consists of dense forests and numerous lakes, practically impassable ground for Russians if they invade (again). Also, I think it’s clear that the Soviets would agree to something (in their eyes) so unrealistic only if the US agrees to the same in Western Europe. In short, this means that even if NATO is formed, it remains limited in its geographical scope i.e. West Germany never gets incorporated into it, in other words, either the two German states remain neutral or the German state never gets divided and remains neutral.

G is very obviously unacceptable for most Latvians, as the difference from what actually happened is negligible.

F is, I think, also something most of them would only begrudgingly accept. However, the issue with this is that it’s basically merely the local version of NATO, but overseen by Russians. If our position today is that this would be unacceptable and violates our political norms, we’d also have to say that it was not acceptable for the Americans to maintain hegemony over Western European states and station their military units and nuclear weapons on their soil. (I’ll make an expectation for West Germany, as it was a defeated enemy and no peace treaty was signed.) Alternatively, one can make an argument that “but it’s different when the Americans do it, the Russians have always been Mongoloid Ugric-Turkic savages”, but I don’t know how many normies would be willing to say this unironically.

Also, both F and G entail the very real likelihood that the Soviets still get to erect a huge monument in Riga. Even in the case of E it’s relatively likely.

So where does that leave us?

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When i wrote this piece for MWI a lot of folks assumed i was advocating tearing down confederate monuments. I really dont have a strong opinion about that particular issue. I get both sides might have strong feelings.

However, given the actual threat to eastern europe of russian occupation and coercion, i do think tearing down that particular soviet monument is not just within Latvias sovereign right, but also prudent national security policy. Its not a culture war issue, this is about actual war.

Everyone in replies has stressed how this decision has nothing to do with alternative histories. It clearly does. When you denounce Soviets in the hindsight, you explicitly deal with counterfactuals, assuming that Soviets could have avoided their excesses (presumably like other European states or US), but had chosen not to. And that this choice – of pursuing aggressive political agendas, by brutal means – might be attributed to the barbaric attitudes of their leaders (and probably people).

Isn’t this a purely causal interpretation? If instead you could have attributed Soviet policies to other factors, partially beyond their control – like geopolitical prisoner-dilemma-like situations, or mere incompetence of the leaders – you wouldn’t denounce them.

This counterfactual reasoning is at the heart of most cultural wars, and it has nothing to do with "rewriting" the past. It has to do with imputing motives and hidden geopolitical variables, in the hindsight.

I would be glad to hear counter-arguments, as it seems many commenters disagree.

When you denounce Soviets in the hindsight, you explicitly deal with counterfactuals, assuming that Soviets could have avoided their excesses (presumably like other European states or US), but had chosen not to. And that this choice – of pursuing aggressive political agendas, by brutal means – might be attributed to the barbaric attitudes of their leaders (and probably people).

Isn’t this a purely causal interpretation? If instead you could have attributed Soviet policies to other factors, partially beyond their control – like geopolitical prisoner-dilemma-like situations, or mere incompetence of the leaders – you wouldn’t denounce them.

I think you're right, but it's not exactly what I had in mind. I was thinking more along the lines of "You do know that you were only ever going to escape Soviet occupation if Nazi Germany prevails, don't you?"

I was thinking more along the lines of "You do know that you were only ever going to escape Soviet occupation if Nazi Germany prevails, don't you?"

See https://www.themotte.org/post/57/on-the-destruction-of-the-soviet/4625?context=8#context

One might use a following analogy: imagine that a woman is being raped by some guy, then another guy barges in, violently throws off the rapist, and then proceeds to rape the woman himself. What do we call the second guy? We call them a rapist. What if the first guy was planning to rape and murder the woman? We still call the second guy a rapist.

Also, one may create (very unlikely) alternative scenarios like USA proceeding to destroy USSR. Or USSR collapsing after WW II. Or meteor dropping on Moscow. Or USSR being less evil.

I was thinking more along the lines of "You do know that you were only ever going to escape Soviet occupation if Nazi Germany prevails, don't you?"

My response would be "So? They were still bad enough and their inheritor is bad enough that I refuse to owe them anything."

It's not counterfactual. It's very factual - Soviets kept Baltic states under occupation for decades, and Russia just showed they are fully embracing the Soviet doctrine of occupation and subjugation of bordering nations. In fact, they are willing to go further - while Soviets nominally embraced the "multicultural" doctrine (the reality was more complex, but at least the goal was not to completely destroy the subject cultures), the Russians are openly declaring Ukraine is a "fake nation", Ukrainian culture does not exist, Ukrainian language is a mere "corrupted dialect of Russian" and one of the first things they did when occupying Ukrainian territories was to take over the schools to institute Russian-driven learning programs heavy on emphasizing how Russia is the only thing around that has the right to exist. All that points not to "multiculturalism" but to embracing full-fledged cultural genocide of neighboring nations, intending to wipe any non-Russian identities that might exist there.

Seeing that, there's no wonder Baltic states have little tolerance for endorsing and lauding any actions of Soviet occupiers or the current Russian government. Nobody cares "what happened if in 1940s..." - but a lot of people care what actually happened and what is happening now. Removing Soviet monuments is a way for them to show their rejection and lack of tolerance for any Russian expansionist ambitions.

I view removing Soviet monuments in the Baltic states the same way as I view the U.S. removing Confederate monuments - it is a short-sighted attempt by ideological tyrants to rewrite history and force it to conform to whatever ideological fad is currently dominant in their society. This mindset is disgusting and I oppose anybody who supports it.

Now I'm not saying that these monuments should remain standing in public when they're clearly offensive to so many people. By all means, remove them from public display in the city streets. But like it or not, they're art - and more importantly, they're art with significant historical value. They belong in a museum, where people who want to see them can go and study them to their heart's content. History never looks kindly on people who destroy historical artifacts to appeal to whichever short-term political view is trending, and I personally view people like that as barbaric savages.

History never looks kindly on people who destroy historical artifacts to appeal to whichever short-term political view is trending, and I personally view people like that as barbaric savages.

History surely allows for some change in the public symbols whenever an old conquerer is undone.

I don't think "being free from foreign occupation" qualifies as a "fad". And yes, if you were a slave, maybe you don't want to keep things around that remind you about your slavery. Those who oppose Confederate monuments have a bit lesser claim since they personally never been a slave (the last US slave died in 1940) but still some claim to that remains. Unfortunately, the American Left destroyed that claim by attacking monuments to people like George Washington, Churchill, Lincoln, 54th Massachusetts Regiment, Cervantes, Frederick Douglas and others. They conclusively proven it is not about slavery. The situation with Baltic republics is different - the history we're talking about is still fresh, and it continuing today. It's like there was a statue of a Confederate general in Gettysburg while Lincoln was speaking there, and the war were raging on - I think if the people of Gettysburg decided to take this statue down, it'd be understandable, despite Confederacy being part of their history, undoubtedly. Not every historical even deserves remembering the same way - we don't erect statues of Hitler, we remember what he did in other ways.

But like it or not, they're art

That's a very weak argument. First of all, they are not that beautiful. To be honest, there's a lot of "art" like this anywhere, and any second-rate sculptor could produce it, given necessary payment. Second, anything is "art", as Duchamp has proven us with his famous "Fountain". That works both ways - if anything is art, then why should we be so deferential to it? So, it's art - to the garbage heap with it. Third, it's not much chance Baltics would ever forget they were occupied by the Soviets, at least not soon. So there's no real "historical value" to this symbol of Russian domination over them - they already know Russians dominated them, they don't need a reminder.

History never looks kindly on people who destroy historical artifacts

History is who? If somebody in the future would lament over the historical value of Soviet artifacts and their unique value lost to the future generations - I think Baltic people could live with it without losing too much sleep. And ultimately, it's their decision, they don't owe anything to a hypothetical future history freak obsessed with Soviet artifacts. The historians can use the photos if they like.

I personally view people like that as barbaric savages.

Neither they owe anything to you. If you think Soviet domination artifacts are beautiful and majestic, you can order one to be erected on your own property for your own money (it is possible people who designed that one may be alive yet, or at least left the buleprints intact). Baltic people do not owe you any resources or any of their territory, or in fact any effort at all, to satisfy your feelings.

First, I support removing any traces of Soviet Union from the countries, annexed by it. I don’t think any invasion could be justified by historical narratives (if at all). Moreover, Putin’s narrative, even wrapped around geopolitical calculus, is not consistent with his real actions anyway.

I disagree with sweeping extrapolations of Stalin’s policies to other Soviet leaders and Soviet people (and Russians). I think Kennan well outlined Stalin's maniacal drive for purges and deportations in the Long telegram:

At bottom of Kremlin's neurotic view of world affairs is traditional and instinctive Russian sense of insecurity. [...] To this was added, as Russia came into contact with economically advanced West, fear of more competent, more powerful, more highly organized societies in that area. But this latter type of insecurity was one which afflicted rather Russian rulers than Russian people; for Russian rulers have invariably sensed that their rule was relatively archaic in form fragile and artificial in its psychological foundation, unable to stand comparison or contact with political systems of Western countries.

Without it they would stand before history, at best, as only the last of that long succession of cruel and wasteful Russian rulers who have relentlessly forced country on to ever new heights of military power in order to guarantee external security of their internally weak regimes.

But the Soviet experiment was not doomed from the beginning. Many revolutions had started with war and terror, but some cases (French, English, American) had positive impacts in the long run, not apparent from the outset. Idealists like Lenin and Gorbachev even attempted to implement decent reforms, and tried to grant certain autonomy to and promote (or rather enforce) ethnic character of republics. Lenin:

Politically and culturally, the nativization policy aimed to eliminate Russian domination and culture in the said Soviet republics. The de-Russification was also implemented on ethnic Russian groups and their children. For example, all children in Ukraine were taught the Ukrainian language in school. The policies of korenization facilitated the Communist Party's establishment of the local languages in government and education, in publishing, in culture, and in public life.

Gorbachev removed Soviet aggressive stance abroad, and enacted actual democratic reforms domestically -- in a pretty unilateral way in both cases. Khruschev got rid of Stalin’s cult and at least started to care about quality of life, while his aggressive international stance was not unilateral, US administration also took role in the positive feedback loop.

One crucial factor, distinguishing Soviet project from successful revolutions, is that they tried to impose their vision on everyone around. Why overstretch, why waste your effort at all on other states with their own distinct visions and identities? Enjoy your utopia on your own, if you manage to survive it.

Lenin hasn't been any different from Stalin - the only reason why red terror has been attached to Stalin's name but not Lenin's was because Lenin died relatively soon after taking power, and has been gravely ill even before. But he was not an iota less enthusiastic about suppressing dissent and killing the enemies of the revolution (by which he, as well as Stalin, considered anybody who opposed his rule). He may be less paranoid than Stalin (which didn't serve him well - that's why Stalin could take over at the first place) and with slightly more pleasant manners, but there weren't substantial difference between them. He wasn't some unicorn-riding idealist hippie dreamer, like many in the West consider him. Read his contemporary letters, especially ones concerning the Red Terror, and you'll see it.

As for national policies of Soviet regime, they underwent several evolutions. Intermittently, they oscillated between giving the local elites more power (especially if this was necessary for promoting Moscow's goals) and taking that power back. What I talked about was the state of these policies in mature Soviet empire, not Lenin's initial designs.

However, Lenin's revolution scarcely could end up in anything but blood and terror, because by design that's what they were building - an oppressive totalitarian state. It's not some mistake where things went unexpectedly wrong - they actually succeeded to build exactly what they set out to build. Namely, a totalitarian socialist dictatorship.

all children in Ukraine were taught the Ukrainian language in school.

Formally, yes. But if they didn't speak Ukrainian at home, they rarely were able to speak or read it unless they wanted to. The quality of such teaching was quite low, I can witness to that. When you talk about Ukrainian culture or Ukrainian history, it was even worse - the whole thing was mostly how it lead Ukrainians to the peak moment of their history - joining Russia - after which pretty much nothing of note happened. Ukraine though were in privileged position (very privileged - formally Ukrainian SSR was a separate state, they had a seat in the UN!) Together with Belorussian SSR, the two slavic SSRs were privileged republics, other ethnic republic got much less deference than that.

Gorbachev removed Soviet aggressive stance abroad, and enacted actual democratic reforms domestically

That's giving him a bit more credit than he deserves - more correct would be to say he presided over Soviet aggressive stance abroad disintegrating, due to overall collapse of the state driven by multiple economic and political factors, and refused to spill too much blood to delay the inevitable collapse for a bit more. Here opposing him to Stalin is appropriate - Stalin wouldn't have hesitated, neither would Khruchev (1956) or Brezhnev (1968). As for democratic reforms, he tried to do as little as possible to keep the state from collapsing and keep the socialist dream going - unfortunately for him, by that time nothing could be done for that. Briefly, the democracy broke out in Russia - only to be promptly extinguished.

One crucial factor, distinguishing Soviet project from successful revolutions

Soviet project was a successful revolution. They just had very different goals from what French or American revolutions had. Imposing their vision on others (ultimately, the whole world) was also the part of it, the part that they failed in (due to Marx's economic and societal theory turning out to be utter bullshit) and subsequently abandoned, satisfying themselves with opportunistic conquest when possible, and "peaceful coexistence" talk where they were too weak. The "World Revolution" was their initial goal, and even though it became clear pretty fast they won't achieve it anytime soon, they never abandoned the dream of subjugating every country there is to the communist rule. Because if their system is the best ever, why deny others the glorious future of communism?

I think a minimal level of nuance is warranted here. Let's look at the following statements:

A. Ukrainian national identity and culture are real, distinct and legitimate i.e. those who belong to it have the right to maintain and defend it.

B. Ukraine is a real nation, and has a right to its own state.

C. Ukraine is a real nation, and has a right to exist as an ethnostate within the post-1954 borders of the former Ukrainian SSR.

D. This ethnostate should be a NATO member, permit American bases and weapon systems on its soil if it sees fit, and take Sevastopol away from the Russian Navy if it sees fit.

Based on past Ukrainian events and their timeline, it seems clear to me that Russian government, and the majority or Russians, object to C and D, not A and B, and even C would not have warranted military action in their eyes.

Russia is objectively a multicultural state, and ethnonationalism was never practiced there by the state. To accuse them of "embracing full-fledged cultural genocide of neighboring nations, intending to wipe any non-Russian identities that might exist there" is laughable.

When one lives in a Finno-Ugric nation and has even a cursory understanding of history, it becomes evident that the fundamental difference in whether a Finno-Ugric nation thrives or faces a slow disappearance from existence is whether it has been able to detach itself from the Russian/Soviet state or not.

It doesn't matter if ethnonationalism is practiced in Russia or not, the practice still is that being a part of the Russian/Soviet state has meant a slow, ongoing process amalgamation and disappearance to the general Russian culture for all nationalities within, expect perhaps those that don't have the clear separator of religion.

Wasn't the Finnish homeland incorporated into the Czarist state for more than a century? That should have been ample time for it to disappear. No?

With respect to Siberian Finno-Ugric peoples, I'd say that whatever misfortune has befallen them is due to them being hunter-gatherers and also being few in numbers, not due to living within Russian borders. Hunter-gatherers are in a similar situation all around the world, I imagine.

Wasn't the Finnish homeland incorporated into the Czarist state for more than a century? That should have been ample time for it to disappear. No?

Finland had a specific form of autonomy that guaranteed completely separate institutions from Russian ones, which helped in preserving Finnish culture.

More to the point, though, I'm not talking about some sudden disappearance - I'm talking about a slow but inevitable-seeming process. Finnic tribes of Merya and Murom, and some others, have already disappeared. Numerous other Finnic nations are doing the same, even the ones that have titular republics, like Mari, Udmurts and Mordvins - if I remember correctly, all are already minorities within their republics - none of them in Siberia, incidentally, or hunter-gatherers. If Soviet Union had not fallen, Estonians (along with Latvians, at least) might be facing the same fate.

Could I ask your view on late Russian Empire? Although lagging behind, it seemed to be more in touch with European states (than its own people, ironically), industrialized at impressive rates, and eventually yielded to some democratic changes. If Russian whites were as successful as Finnish ones during their civil war, I believe - in the hindsight - they could steer toward better trajectory, than the Soviet one.

It's an interesting question, but I think that fundamentally the sheer ease at which the Russian empire (and then the white rule) fell also belie internal weakness that might have doomed it anyway.

Of course, if Russian Whites had won, it might have been very bad for Finland, since it is not all that probable they would have accepted any former subject nations as independent even temporarily, and would have also been intent in crushing national movements (alongside socialist ones, so all political forces in Finland). This was actually acknowledged by many Finnish Whites, which is why they said no when Mannerheim wanted to help his White former Russian army comrades to take back Petrograd from the Soviets.

Imperial regime as a whole survived defeats in two consecutive wars (Japan, WWI), two revolutions (1905/17) and had adapted to incessant domestic unrest -- all within 20 years. And was definitely defeated only after few more years of civil strife. World war pushed many states down the similar roads, so I don't see relative to whom Russia was an easy case. What indications of ease do you mean?

intent in crushing national movements

Even Ru Provisional government inherited that stance, sadly. Historical irony though, is that much of early Bolshevik maneuvering was a pure opportunism - including acceptance of Finnish independence (if that acceptance is to be considered legitimate at all), Brest-Litovsk treaty, etc. When they secured power, the game had changed. Eh, Mannerheim.

I'm not sure how you make conclusions about "majority of Russians", given they are a totalitarian society where dissent is being violently suppressed. But the official propaganda is constantly questioning A and B, with some saying and others heavily implying that Ukraine's culture is nothing but a corrupt dregs of Russian one, worth at best to be laughed at, and Ukraine's nationhood is an unfortunate historical accident that needs to be corrected, and the Ukrainians themselves are just Russians who were misled by ruling Nazi clique into forgetting their true roots, and need to be liberated and deprogrammed. I have no means to know if "majority of Russians" agree or not - but I know for a fact that's exactly what Russian semi-official propaganda (i.e. propagandists not officially holding the government post but are allowed to exist - including on state-run TV - while all other voices are suppressed) and many Russians in private conversations wholeheartedly support. I have heard and read many people expressing these exact statements. And remember, if you express sentiments that are officially disapproved, you get heavy fine in best case, jail in worst. These people never been prosecuted, and are allowed to speak freely on the government-sponsored forums. You can make conclusions from there.

But denying B is the official position of Russia right now, and denying C has been since forever, and it has been occupying part of Ukrainian territory - by military action which you have managed to ignore somehow - since 2014. A is not officially denied, but denied both in propaganda and in action.

and has a right to exist as an ethnostate

Ukraine is not an ethnostate and never has been, and never wanted to be. It's a nation-state, as most of currently existing states are.

take Sevastopol away from the Russian Navy if it sees fit.

Sevastopol is not a property of Russian Navy.

Russia is objectively a multicultural state, and ethnonationalism was never practiced there by the state

It's not as multicultural as you think., certainly not in the Western sense of it. Surely, "colorful national traditions" are allowed, but only within the framework of the imperial culture. The exception now is Chechens, which have a peculiar arrangement where they have de-facto self-rule within Chechnya, as long as a) 99% of them "vote" as prescribed (of course, nobody cares how or whether they actually vote), b) the ruler is approved by Moscow and c) what they do outside Chechnya is subject to Moscow's approval. But not many others would enjoy such arrangements and certainly that's not what was planned for Ukraine. It's not exactly "ethno" nationalism - your ethnicity doesn't matter much, as long as you politically and culturally loyal to the Empire. They are not primitive genetics-based racists, that's not what it is about. It's about having one imperial culture and one single cohesive political movement leading it, obviously based on the Russian culture, but not emphasizing primitive genetic basis, but rather the cultural basis. Shoigu is Tuvan, but as long as he leads the Victorious Russian Army to glorious victories (ha!) nobody cares. Once he has thoroughly failed, of course, some would not mind reminding that he's not "real Russian" and that's why...

is laughable.

You may laugh as much as you want, yet this is exactly what the plan was - and still is. You can witness it by reading the February-time propaganda, when they thought they have already won. You can witness it by looking at their actions on the occupied territories, where the first thing they do is to convert everything into Russian, institute Russian-language schools teaching Russian curriculum, have cultural celebrities from Russia come to "support" the new order, etc. - and, in parallel, ship thousands of "refugees" from Ukraine to remote areas of Russia.

You're talking about Russians not upholding peaceful goals when they're not at peace. That makes no sense.

For example, imagine that I'm a Roman general and I'm talking to a barbarian tribe that I want to assimilate into Rome. I make them a promise like "If you accept our terms, not only will your current leadership be allowed to remain in power, but we promise that your tribe will maintain its freedom and we promise not to enslave any of you." The leader's response is to tell me to go screw myself. So I send in the legions, execute the barbarian leadership, and start taking lots of slaves to send back to Rome.

Now the barbarians start complaining "You promised that you would allow our existing leadership to remain in power, and that you wouldn't take any slaves!" Are the barbarians being reasonable here? My promise was entirely contingent on them accepting my terms. They didn't do that; instead they chose to fuck around and find out. So I have zero obligations towards them, and in fact from the perspective of Rome it's good that I'm making a horrible example of them because it'll teach other barbarian tribes what happens when they choose to cross Rome instead of playing nice. I think that in this example, the barbarians are out of line to complain about me failing to uphold a promise of fair treatment when that promise was entirely contingent on them playing nice and helping me to accomplish Rome's goals.

This is how I feel we're holding Russia to unfair standards. For better or worse, Russia and Ukraine are enemies now, which means we can't expect Russia to respect Ukrainian national identity. The Ukrainians chose to fuck around and find out, so now Russia's goals changed from cooperative to punitive, which is basically the entire point of a war - to punish the other side for refusing to accept your diplomatic terms. Do I think Ukraine deserves to be taken over? No, of course not. But I can't condemn Russia for trying to dissolve Ukrainian ethnonationalist identity when that ethnonationalist identity is part of what made Ukraine oppose Russian goals in the first place. They're at war and in war you have no obligation to play nice with your opponent.

You're talking about Russians not upholding peaceful goals when they're not at peace.

No, I am claiming they never had peaceful goals and that's why they're not at peace now - because their un-peaceful goals has driven them to aggression.

So I have zero obligations towards them

That is true, but this is in no way supports the idea that your promises were genuine to begin with. It's more likely, you wanted to cheat them and take them other the easy way, but they saw through your deceit and you chose to do it the hard way.

from the perspective of Rome it's good

From the perspective of Rome it's also good to kill all the barbarians or enslave all of them. Screw the perspective of Rome, then. Why should I care what is their perspective if they want to enslave me? Ultimately, it gains me nothing - if they have enough power, they will enslave me, if they don't, I'll kill them and bury them and be free. How any "perspective" helps me here? There's no possibility of peace with them where I end up not enslaved - so why would I care about any "perspective" on their side?

This is how I feel we're holding Russia to unfair standards.

No, the standards are entirely fair. Russians want to control and conquer their neighbors - either peacefully or militarily. They failed to do it peacefully, then they failed to do it by covert (very badly disguised, but at least they pretended it is covert) limited force operation, and now they are failing to do it by open military operation. Their perspective - that of trying to enslave and control their neighbors - remain unchanged. And recognizing and openly talking about it, ripping off the veil of deceit they try to present - is not "unfair" to them. It may be unpleasant to them - as they would much prefer for us to be deceived - but it's not unfair.

so now Russia's goals changed from cooperative to punitive

They never ever been cooperative. They just tried to take over Ukraine by lesser means - first by installing a puppet ruler, then by instigating insurrections and grabbing territories when opportunity presented itself, and now by open warfare. It's no more "cooperation" than a robbery is a cooperation - what you are arguing is if you didn't promptly give the robber your wallet, it's "unfair" to fault him for trying to murder you, since you behaved "incooperatively", so he was "forced" to move to "punitive" means. That's bullshit, I do not owe a robber my "cooperation", and neither Ukraine owes Russia "cooperation" in its own destruction. It is entirely within Ukraine's rights to tell Russia to fuck off to any proposal or any attempt to intervene into their internal business, and any conquest action by Russia would be an aggression, and it's not "unfair" to say so. Russian is not entitled to anything at all with regard to Ukraine besides fucking off.

But I can't condemn Russia for trying to dissolve Ukrainian ethnonationalist identity when that ethnonationalist identity is part of what made Ukraine oppose Russian goals in the first place

Fuck Russian goals. Nobody in Ukraine owes Russians anything with regard to their goals, and they are entirely right and proper to reject any of their goals and pay to them no attention at all, and the only legitimate thing Russia can do is to shove their goals and shut up. Anything else is aggressive behavior, and it is entirely fair to point it out and call Russia what it is - an aggressor.

Additionally, Ukraine is not "ethnonationalist" - at least not any more than any other national state, from France to Japan to Israel to Malaysia to Germany to Thailand to Iceland - are. Ukrainians have their own national state and want to carry out their business without any other state interfering. It is totally right and proper for them to do so.

They're at war and in war you have no obligation to play nice with your opponent.

The fact that they are at war is their crime. The fact that they are also perpetrating this war in a genocidal and war criminal manner just multiplies their criminality.

I think it's a very fair standard that you can't blame your opponent for becoming your enemy when you fucking started the war.

Taking the political standards that Atlanticists normally apply to Western political movements, and applying them to the Ukrainian system, yes, we can objectively conclude that it's an ethnostate. If and when those standards are dropped, we'll have something real to discuss. When they start speaking of Third World refugees in Western Europe as "refugees", we'll have something to discuss.

And of course Russia is not multicultural "in the Western sense of it". That's the reason I used the word "objectively".

Which standards are you talking about? Ukraine has huge (comparatively) ethnically Russian population and also significant number of other ethnicities. Which criteria do you employ to conclude it's an "ethnostate"?

Which standards are you talking about?

  • incorporating right-wing extremist armed groups into the nation's armed forces and permitting their members to display Nazi iconography

  • officially recognizing Nazi collaborators, perpetrators of ethnic cleansing, as national heroes

  • mainstreaming the narrative of national purity as a virtue (i.e we're the only true descendants of the glorious Kievan Rus, the Muskal are mere Finno-Ugric Mongoloid mongrels)

Yes, I maintain the position that Atlanticist normies would condemn any other regime as an ethnostate or a rouge Nazi-adjacent system if it showed the same behavior, unless it is one of their client states.

Putin and Russian government denies existence of Ukrainians as nation or ethnicity and spend this year a massive effort to destroy Ukraine as an independent state.

They are making an effort to prevent the D scenario. That's a big difference.

To extend a tiny amount of charity to the Russians, they may be willing to walk back that part at least a little.

assuming that Soviets could have avoided their excesses (presumably like other European states or US), but had chosen not to

Nope, not relevant for me at all.

Even if they would be unable to avoid that, then it still a good thing to destroy monuments glorifying their imperialism and colonialism and overall evilness.

If instead you could have attributed Soviet policies to other factors, partially beyond their control – like geopolitical prisoner-dilemma-like situations, or mere incompetence of the leaders – you wouldn’t denounce them.

I would.

1) "mere incompetence" is not an excuse - one of problems of USSR is that they destroyed better functioning societies in areas they occupied and replaced it by monstrous fuckup. Making incompetent idiots more likely at charge. See Mao for extreme case, where incompetence was responsible for deaths on scale that Nazi Germany reached by making it their main priority.

If someone destroyed existing system and proceeded to be incompetent then it makes first action worse. And is not an acceptable excuse. Especially if incompetence was predictable and predicted and forced on people.

2) if my family suffered then "geopolitical prisoner-dilemma-like situations" may be an explanation that maybe can be accepted by someone. But not by me, unless someone had really good reasons (USSR failed to have them). And anyway, even if that explanation made some sense then monuments celebrating them should still be demolished or turned into museum pieces. Long gone empires like Roman Empire or Ancient Egypt may get a special pass, but not states that are still a threat.

Overall, I agree with your assessment, except the fact that Stalin was a notable outlier wrt body counts. The following Soviet leaders impeded economic development and degraded quality of life within Soviet bloc (including USSR itself) vis-à-vis the West, but number of people they killed - throwing tanks on strikes, uprisings and demonstrations in Berlin, Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, during Prague Spring – was negligible relative to Stalin’s count. I do believe in their good will and incompetence (except for Putin).

Speaking of glorified imperialism. Here’s the case of Britain:

the culpability of the British in each famine varies wildly, and most scholarship analyzing British rule as a catalyst of famine tends to focus on famines within the Raj period, specifically the Great Famine of 1876-78, 1896-1902 famine, and the Bengal famine of 1943. Notably, Purkait et al, when enumerating famines under British rule, identify "British policies" as catalysts only in these three instances. If we take this analysis at face value and rely on mortality estimates from Purkait et al, this produces a figure of 13.6-23.3 million famine deaths for which British rule bore partial responsibility.

These are broad estimates, feel free to provide better ones. Odd Arne gives a rough estimate of at least 10 million killed plus 3 million from Ukraine famines – for the whole period of Stalin’s reign (with 23 million imprisoned and deported, I don't if this overlaps).

Now, when I fixed my evaluation of Soviet policy, what do you think of this one? Are there any relevant factors at all for you, and how do account for them w/t causal reasoning?

Speaking of glorified imperialism. Here’s the case of Britain:

If I would be living in India and there would be a monument celebrating how Britain colonised India, I would also support its removal.

If I would be British I would not complain about such removal.

I do believe in their good will and incompetence

I do not believe in their good will in most cases. Many cared about own wealth and benefits and had no problem with harming others, up to murders on large scale. And Stalin was not unique: Beria, Nikolai Yezhov and many others.

And if you were yourself, what would be your verdict? Mine would be conditioned on baseline atrocity levels across European colonizers, and some cost/benefit calculations: how much oppression and deaths the gifts of "enlightened civilization" costed to Indians. Columbian exchange is a notorious example.

I do not believe in their good will in most cases.

My impression about Khruschev and Gorbachev (from their biographies) is that they were true believers, and tried to optimize for their ideological metrics, often inaptly, but with minimal outright violence. Brezhnev wasn't a believer, more like a passive corrupt bureaucrat. Beria was a monster, Khruschev had orchestrated an incredible operation to remove him. A lot of aggressiveness was embedded in the Soviet system as a whole, irrespective of its operators.

Debating moral labels per se is not rewarding, as they are moving targets. What data do you have on "murders on large scale" and excessive wealth for post-Stalin leaders? I can provide some data, supporting my claims, if you have interest.

OK, with Khruschev and Gorbachev I have no problem to have them described this way.

When Confederate monuments get torn down, do you think that is being done due to contrafactuals?

I don't, but I also don't think the two situations are comparable. The American Civil War was fought between two states only, and there were no other small nations caught between them and turned into battlegrounds, like Latvia was.

The one contra/counterfactual in that case is the idea that "Reconstruction should have been implemented ruthlessly", I guess, which is not to say that it ever was even a bit more realistic than, say a German final victory, or a separate peace, in WW2.

Not due to. You use them to arrive at conclusion that confederates were bad. Or not bad. It's a good example, as there seems to be much less agreement across US on their legacy and how to cope with it.

Imagine a monument to "famine relief policy of the metropole", erected in one of its colonies. Arguably, metropolitan policies often rather aggravated the consequences of famines, which conveniently served to suppress resistance. If you agree with this, you would be willing to get rid of the monument as commemorating a deliberate lie. Or you might think govt policy was a genuine, but ineffective attempt to help. That's causal inference.

I think this sort of thing comes in degrees. Nobody outside the lizardman constant seriously thinks the overall effect of the red Army in Latvia was liberation. A significant number of people in your scenario probably think the policy was sincere but ineffective, or that a particular Confederate monument was commemorating what is written on the monument and not commemorating slavery.

Agreed, our degree of uncertainty varies across cases. I admit the consensus about Soviet impact on Latvia. What I am arguing for -- is that counterfactuals matter, while people pretend they don't.

Another example (with placebo group) is when Soviet army stopped short of Warsaw at the moment of Polish uprising against Germans. Allegedly Soviets waited for Poles and Germans to destroy as much of each other before entering. When you know about Soviet-Polish mutual hate and Soviet extermination policies against Polish army, you might readily impute that motive to them. But, if there was no evidence on that particular case, would it be right to impute it? Would you erect a memorial to victims of Red army, that intentionally stopped?

Would you erect a memorial to victims of Red army, that intentionally stopped?

No. Who'd do that? On the other hand, the allegation assumes that the Red Army was capable of entering Warsaw in time to (theoretically) support the uprising. Due to a successful German counterattack, it actually wasn't:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Radzymin_(1944)

Red Army was waiting on other side of river Wisła.

Also, USSR sabotaged efforts to supply uprising (some resupply missions were flown from Italy). See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_airlift

denied flyover rights from their Soviet allies, who shot at them when the planes entered Soviet airspace (...) The airlift was further hampered by the Soviet Union not allowing Western Allies the use of its airfields for several weeks

Maybe they had some excuse to avoid helping, maybe they were truly unable. But in cases where they were able to help they deliberately sabotaged things.

Red Army was waiting on other side of river Wisła.

From the Wikipedia article linked above:

Already on 1 August, the leading elements of the 19th and 5th SS Panzer Divisions, closing from the west and east respectively, met at Okuniew, cutting the 3rd Tank Corps off from the other units of the Second Tank Army. Pressed into the area of Wołomin, the 3rd Tank Corps was pocketed and destroyed on 3 August 1944. Attempts to reach the doomed tank corps by the 8th Guards Tank Corps and the 16th Tank Corps failed, with the 8th Guards Tank Corps taking serious losses in the attempt.

Wołomin is roughly 20 kms to the east of Warsaw.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_Uprising#Soviet_stance

The role of the Red Army during the Warsaw Uprising remains controversial and is still disputed by historians.

Despite the fact, both of these objectives had been mostly secured by September. Yet the Soviet 47th Army did not move into Praga (Warsaw's suburbs) on the right bank of the Vistula, until 11 September (when the Uprising was basically over). In three days the Soviets quickly gained control of the suburb, a few hundred meters from the main battle on the other side of the river, as the resistance by the German 73rd Division collapsed quickly. Had the Soviets done this in early August, the crossing of the river would have been easier, as the Poles then held considerable stretches of the riverfront

On 1 August, the day of Uprising, the Soviet advance was halted by a direct order from the Kremlin.

All contemporary German sources assumed that the Soviets were trying to link up with the resistance, and they believed it was their defence that prevented the Soviet advance rather than a reluctance to advance on the part of the Soviets.[152] Nevertheless, as part of their strategy the Germans published propaganda accusing both the British and Soviets of abandoning the Poles.

Other explanations for Soviet conduct are possible. The Red Army geared for a major thrust into the Balkans through Romania in mid-August and a large proportion of Soviet resources was sent in that direction, while the offensive in Poland was put on hold.

Declassified documents from Soviet archives reveal that Stalin gave instructions to cut off the Warsaw resistance from any outside help. The urgent orders issued to the Red Army troops in Poland on 23 August 1944 stipulated that the Home Army units in Soviet-controlled areas should be prevented from reaching Warsaw and helping the Uprising, their members apprehended and disarmed.

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But, if there was no evidence on that particular case, would it be right to impute it?

"No evidence for X" isn't a free parameter about the world that you can change while changing nothing else. Changing the world to "no evidence for X" also changes the likelihood that X is true.

"No evidence for X" isn't a free parameter about the world that you can change while changing nothing else. Changing the world to "no evidence for X" also changes the likelihood that X is true.

This is incorrect. The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I might sit at my desk all day without seeing a lobster or any evidence there of, but that doesn't change the likelihood of lobsters existing or one of my coworkers having had Surf-and-turf for lunch.

Likelihood as a function is fixed in a classic bayesian mode. The only thing that we update is probability distribution over parameters. Likelihood corresponds to a static model of the world and should evaluate all possible states of the world, including hidden ones.

Jiro is right. In your example you are isolated from any indicators of lobsters whatsoever, and rely solely on priors. If I was regularly checking counts of web searches for lobsters, and they were decreasing or absent, I would at some point start to reduce probability of their existence.

The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

From a Bayseian point of view it absolutely is.

(It's especially so in a world where you'd expect to find evidence for X. The lack of clear Bigfoot pictures in the cell phone era is evidence against Bigfoot.)

From a Bayseian point of view it absolutely is.

Then the Bayseian point of view is wrong.

I don’t know of archival evidence, showing that Soviets planned to destroy Polish home army through deliberate timing of operation. I’ve read only a few AH posts, which usually have careful summaries (cc @Botond173). My sense is that Stalin was clearly hostile and antagonistic; Soviets and Poles hated each other and were almost in the state of war of its own; Soviet army at that direction exhausted its offensive momentum, but they seem to be able to act anyway; in the event there was no coordination.

My point was that this data leaves some open space, which everyone would tend to fill in as he likes. Even my whole presentation is biased in ways I don't see. Does it seem wrong to you? If you have a better account, I’d appreciate you sharing it.

USSR sabotaging efforts to supply uprising was more clear cut (some resupply missions were flown from Italy). See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_airlift

denied flyover rights from their Soviet allies, who shot at them when the planes entered Soviet airspace (...) The airlift was further hampered by the Soviet Union not allowing Western Allies the use of its airfields for several weeks

I recommend you to read the posts I linked, they are really good (can't quote them in a lossless way).

I dislike the whole "Soviet plan" take because if you admit, reasonably, that Poles were in a state of war with Soviets (after Katyn, defeat of Bolsheviks by Poles and German-Soviet invasion) - then why would Soviets help them at all?

As it happened, there were numerous instances of AK cooperation with frontline Soviet forces, particularly at the beginning of Burza. Kowel, Lwów, and Wilno in particular were jointly liberated by the AK and Red Army, but in each instance the AK was subsequently disarmed by the Soviets. The stories of these arrests spread and many AK units in the east actively withdrew ahead of Soviet forces to avoid being disarmed.

So yes, you would be more or less correct that the Rising did not expect or envision much in the way of direct Red Army support and cooperation. The entire point of the Rising was to liberate the capital during that window of opportunity presented by the advance of the Red Army towards Warsaw and the withdrawal of German forces from the area.

I see this as more of a malicious form of neglect than a dedicated plan by the Soviets to allow the Germans to wipe out the AK for them

Airfields/supplies: they assisted, albeit in a clearly formal way

The US specifically requested the use of Soviet airfields for refueling of their flights to Warsaw on 20 August, but this request was denied by Stalin on 22 August. Soviet airfields were only made available to the US on 18 September, after which they were again denied until after 30 September and the effective end of the Rising. Red Army Air Force provided its own limited supply drops, but only starting 13 September. Soviet air drops to the Rising were also significantly smaller in volume than US efforts

So where does that leave us?

Obelisk was destroyed now. It is not a coincidence, it is not like Latvians were analysing alternative histories for last decades.

It was destroyed for many reasons. Among them:

  • in protest against Russia trying to recreate USSR by invading other countries

  • to demonstrate that also in Latvia they will find no widespread support among local population

  • in celebration of Russia turning out to be less powerful than many expected

  • because costs of such destruction were already borne by them anyway (that is also why Poland has taken over some buildings illegally hold by Russian state in Warsaw - after delivery of 230+ tanks to Ukraine diplomatic relations were already bad, and it was clear that Russia is a clear enemy anyway)

  • Russia demonstrated anyway that diplomatic relations with them are not worth much (see Armenia right now)

  • government wanted to show to be doing something

  • it was monument of Russian imperialism and colonisation of that area

and so on. Alternative timelines were likely not considered at all by anyone who took the decision.

Instead I’d make the simple assumption in this particular case that those Latvians who support this decision are clearly unhappy with the direction their national history took in the past, and ask the question what sort of past they’d have preferred to have.

This assumption is wrong, their desire to destroy the obelisk does not imply an opinion on alternative-history scenarios. They aren't thinking about alternate-history in the first place, let alone working off the same specific points of divergence and assumptions about plausibility as you. They're expressing the sentiment "Soviets were bad!", and while you might not think it's reasonable to destroy the monument on that basis, it's strawmanning to represent this as choosing between alternative-histories. Like the sort of thing Scott talked about in this post:

In a way, when we round people off to the Philosophy 101 kind of arguments, we are failing to respect their self-description. People aren’t out on the streets saying “By my cost-benefit analysis, Israel was in the right to invade Gaza, although it may be in the wrong on many of its other actions.” They’re waving little Israeli flags and holding up signs saying “ISRAEL: OUR STAUNCHEST ALLY”. Maybe we should take them at face value.

Others have pointed out that other points of historical divergence are possible, but here's a different kind of divergence relevant to their sentiments: what if the Soviet leadership was made up of moral and competent people? What if rather than brutally suppressing dissent and killing lots of people with various deeply misguided policies, they were a bunch of George Washingtons with more viable political/economic views and more interest in setting up a stable well-functioning system rather than personally hanging onto power? We could debate how plausible it would be for people like that to have taken power in the Russian revolution, but I don't think it's a less valid thing to consider than different war results. And it's closer to the actual way people judge the morality of others.

From their point of view, the issue isn't that the Soviet were bad per se, but that they also invaded their land. I think it's fair to say that the real sentiment is "Soviets should have never invaded us!". In other words, "If only we had a different past".

They're expressing the sentiment "Soviets were bad!"

They're expressing the sentiment "MODERN RUSSIA is bad"

The comparison to social justice destruction of monuments is obvious, but not, I think, very good. The monument as described has a blatantly slanted spin to the point of being insulting. If any Southern monument says "This monument is dedicated to Robert E. Lee, who fought bravely to keep Negroes free, for being occupied by the North is true slavery" or something like that there would be a much better case for destroying it than most Southern monuments.

Furthermore, the successor state to the one who put up the monuments is engaging in war based on similar rhetoric to that written on the monuments.

That's a bit too extreme. In this case, the only word in the official name that is legitimately objectionable from a Latvian point of view is "liberators". (I don't think anyone seriously raised the issue of Fascist vs. National Socialist distinction regarding all this.) But again, let's keep in mind that the name was not Monument to the Liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga. It was Monument to the Liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga from the German Fascist Invaders. That's an important qualification, I think.

It's irrelevant what exactly was written there. The important part was what it represented - in the eyes of Latvians. For some, it represented the victory over Fascism, but for others it represented decades of brutal occupation. While there was some chance that Russia has turned away from it's Soviet past and bygones can be bygones, and maybe new Russia can be a good neighbor - the Latvians were willing to let go of the grudges of the Soviet past and ignore the occupation connotations of the monument. However, now it has become clear Russia did not abandon the past, on the contrary - they are eager to repeat it. There's no longer any illusion Russia can be a good neighbor to anybody, and there's no longer a place for consideration for anybody with pro-Russian sympathies. So, the monuments go down, together with whatever letters are written on them.

It's literally accurate, but its connotation is "the overall effect of the Soviet army was liberation", and that connotation isn't accurate.

F is, I think, also something most of them would only begrudgingly accept. However, the issue with this is that it’s basically merely the local version of NATO, but overseen by Russians. If our position today is that this would be unacceptable and violates our political norms, we’d also have to say that it was not acceptable for the Americans to maintain hegemony over Western European states and station their military units and nuclear weapons on their soil. (I’ll make an expectation for West Germany, as it was a defeated enemy and no peace treaty was signed.) Alternatively, one can make an argument that “but it’s different when the Americans do it, the Russians have always been Mongoloid Ugric-Turkic savages”, but I don’t know how many normies would be willing to say this unironically.

Normie would just say: Look at the difference in living standards and quality of life between American and Soviet sphere. Yay NATO, boo USSR.

That'd just be a copout, for multiple reasons. One: the difference has existed before the founding of the Soviet state as well, and doesn't originate from Soviet politics. Two: the same argument suddenly becomes Nazi rubbish when applied to Africa and the consequences of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade (even on the the old subreddit, very few people dared to raise it), or to the Black population of South Africa during Apartheid.

Yup, in 1850, average African American slave ate meat much more often than average citizen of Russian Empire.

the same argument suddenly becomes Nazi rubbish

Blacks didnt have a political organization comparable to USSR.

How about an alternative where the Soviets and Germans grind each other to dust on the Eastern Front, making way for the US and UK to roll up the Germans from the rear. The entire Reich is occupied by the US and UK before the Soviet lines have even made it to their own frontier. Stalin is in such a precarious position that he can't realistically ask for any real concessions at Yalta, and prewar borders are largely reestablished. Latvia remains unoccupied after the Germans withdraw and is given substantial Marshall aid. Russia goes back to being a political and economic backwater that retains cordial relations with the US and Western Europe. If you're going to consider ideal alternate histories, you might as well go nuts.

Flaw in your logic from a Latvian Nationalist perspective: Why do we start history at Operation Barbarossa? Why don't we start history with the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact, or earlier? Nazi aggression up to that point is enabled by Soviet deliveries of raw materials right up until the Nazis invade Soviet territory. Take seriously the arguments made in the book Stalin's War for a second, Guardian summary/review here "His account highlights the brutality of Stalin, who began the war on Hitler’s side and ended by obtaining western recognition of his territorial acquisitions first made in 1939-40 on the basis of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact." Stalin's manipulations towards a war between the Capitalist/Imperialist powers in Western Europe were clear for the entirety of the 1930s.

So maybe don't give the guy who set up the fight credit for winning it and stopping the other guy from beating you up. I see no justification for treating the situation circa 1941 as your fixed polestar and navigating from there, when you could just as easily set 1917 or 1920 as your fixed point and say the Soviets were always the bad guys threatening Latvian sovereignty.

That's an entirely fair point. I considered to also add the scenario of "WW2 is avoided entirely through some miracle", but decided against it as it'd make the post too long and I'd probably just end up rambling.

Anyway, I'm sure Latvian nationalists share the view that Soviet foreign policy was, due to ideological considerations, inherently aggressive, especially towards certain neighboring states. From that it logically follows that the Soviet annexation of the Baltics was only ever going to be prevented through deterrence, at minimum. But wasn't Germany the only nation that ever had the potential to do that? And not necessarily under Nazi rule, to be clear, but necessarily under a government that implements remilitarization on an enormous scale. Which, in turn, is not something the Western democratic powers were ever going to tolerate. So, from there, where?

I don't think that Latvians, apart from far-righters, would disagree that much about the reality of German occupation. After all, fighting against German landlords has been general trend of Estonian/Latvian nationalism for centuries, and the plans of the Nazis for the Baltic region are known. However, this is probably not one of those cases where looking it through alternative history scenarios helps very much; this is all still related to the reality of the illegitimate Soviet occupation, the forced transfers etc. This reality is not really something that is affected by alternative scenarios of how it could have been even worse.

One might use a following analogy: imagine that a woman is being raped by some guy, then another guy barges in, violently throws off the rapist, and then proceeds to rape the woman himself. What do we call the second guy? We call them a rapist. What if the first guy was planning to rape and murder the woman? We still call the second guy a rapist.

G is very obviously unacceptable for most Latvians, as the difference from what actually happened is negligible.

G would almost certainly mean Latvia is not settled by hundreds of thousands of other Soviet peoples, chiefly Russians, which would make a huge, vast difference regarding the latter Latvian history. The Warsaw Pact countries, after all, were not settled by Russians, either.

Good catch regarding G, I forgot about the Russian immigrants completely when drawing up that scenario (I guess it’s obvious at this point that I’m not from Latvia). But again, I think whoever starts the game of gotcha in this case is justified – in other words, I think it’s fair to argue that there should never have been a huge influx of Russian immigrants to Soviet Latvia, or that the settlement of Russians was deliberately implemented to change the ethnic composition of Soviet Latvia and erode the foundation of Latvian nationhood (although there’s supposedly no documented evidence of that), but that very obviously comes across as a double standard if it comes from the promoters of Wilkommenskultur, open borders and ethnic diversification through immigration.

Again, I don’t think the main theoretical question here is how it all could have been worse for Latvians, or minorities in Latvia. Of course it could’ve been worse, that’s not the point. The reality is also this: people compare their past to alternative scenarios all the time; after all, it’s the only way to evaluate the past. It’s normal, and certainly not something that should be seen as a waste of time. And demolishing a monument of this size in order to denounce actions in the past is a big deal for certain, so I think it’s fair to ask questions in case they aren’t asked yet. (I can understand if local Russo-Latvians, if that’s even a word, aren’t currently inclined to do that. But either way, I don’t follow Latvian media.)

For example, to expand on my original post, the monument-topplers certainly don’t object to the Red Army re-entering Riga and pushing the Germans out. Right? Or some of them do, but don’t want to express it?

Judging by the media commentary on this event, it seems what most locals objected to were the regular Victory Day celebrations organized at the monument, and attended by members of the Russian minority. If that’s the real issue, can’t the government simply ban celebrations of May 9th instead of tearing down the whole obelisk and the accompanying statues? Or was that done already? Or is it something they never decided to do?

For example, to expand on my original post, the monument-topplers certainly don’t object to the Red Army re-entering Riga and pushing the Germans out.

I think they do. They see Red Army not much different from German army in this conflict.

You do know how that sounds to the Westerners they obviously seem to be pandering to, right?

Pandering? It is offensive to talk like that. Latvia had been occupied by the Soviet Union shortly before the war with many Latvians deported to Siberia and then the war happened with all its tragedies and after the war again many Latvians were deported to Siberia.

We didn't know the history for long time until it was discovered that the USSR had a pact with Germany about spheres of influence. Germany broke the pact and people in Latvia were merely victims of two greater powers.

Latvia is not building a monument to German liberators in place of the destroyed Soviet monument either.

but that very obviously comes across as a double standard if it comes from the promoters of Wilkommenskultur, open borders and ethnic diversification through immigration.

Yes, I've seen this gotcha a number of times, but the rather crucial difference is that in one case migration is a result of a forcible occupation of one country by another and in another case it's the result of a policy implemented by an unoccupied country's democratically elected government. Heck, we can use the Baltic countries as a specific example - the same Estonia that didn't consider the Russians and Ukrainians settled by Soviet Union in 1944-1991 citizens has now opened its doors to tens of thousands of Russian and Ukrainian refugees, presumably seeing that there is, indeed, a difference between these actions, the difference being current Estonian sovereignty and the end of the illegitimate annexation.

The occupation was obviously forcible, but the arrival of Russian immigrants was, as far as I know, not, and can only be viewed as the indirect consequence of the former. Other than that, yes, there are differences, but that's not the point. On one hand, treating ethnic diversity as a moral good unto itself, and mass immigration as the laudatory facilitator of it, and ethnic homogeneity as inherently dangerous when practiced by White Western Goyim, while at the same time upholding Baltic and Ukrainian Nationalist narratives about the Soviet crime of mass immigration in order to dissolve the inherently precious heritage that was local ethnic homogeneity, is completely dishonest and laughable.

Since this just seems liek a fundamental disagreement that won't be resolved, I'll just ask: what, exactly, is the function of adding a word like "goyim" here?

Because Israeli ethnonationalism isn't delegitimized in Western mainstream media.

There's currently a thread in the roundup arguing otherwise, but beyond that, what does this even have to do with this particular issue?

Nothing to do with the obelisk or even Latvia directly, obviously. But it has a lot to do with common attitudes towards Nationalist tendencies. Any narrative that delegitimizes, condemns and cancels ethnonationalism in some cases but justifies, explains away, trivializes, downplays and even celebrates it in others (Israel, Ukraine, the Baltic states) is inherently suspicious, for obvious reasons.

Not obvious at all, elaborate.

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I wouldn't rely too strongly on the notion of legitimacy in the age when big actors were constantly vivisecting small actors for their own convenience, w/t asking. When, in the aftermath of the war communism was incredibly and genuinely popular, does it make Stalin's claims - as a major figure of communism - more legitimate by proxy? When a "government-in-exile" gets back (from London) to its devastated homeland and dismisses local resistance's claims to participation - does it have more legitimacy than the people, who endured the war here?

I do not suggest legitimacy is meaningless, just it depends a lot on what reference point you choose at any given moment.


Edit: after skimming through history of Latvia around WWII I admit, the questions I raised here are irrelevant for Latvia. Apart from several periods of challenged legitimacy (during the War of Liberation and 1934 coup) the Soviet intervention, puppet govt installation and deportation policies -- were a clear violation of any internal legitimacy at the time.

The questions I raised, are still relevant for other states of Eastern Europe.

I don't see the point in gotchaing people who topple monuments on "renegotiating the past" or something like that. It's nit about changing the past, but about denouncing select parts of it.

I think it's entirely fair to ask what exactly they are denouncing and why. If one's unhappy with something that happened in the past, surely that means one'd have preferred for something else to happen instead.

In a purely technical sense - yes. The Baltics would prefer that Soviets didn't occupy and oppress them. But that doesn't mean they owe you - or anybody else - a historically accurate and consistent concept of how exactly would they achieve it, with 100% guarantee. They are entitled to just hate being oppressed, and that's it - no alternative history necessary.

This is very easy to manipulate depending on how you ask the question. As someone else already said, why are we assuming that Operation Barbarossa is beyond the scope of "preferring for someone else to happen instead"?

We aren't.