Saturday, November 10, 2007

Change is in the air

Some more thoughts on Tautas Sapulce, with one week delay.

When I look at the list of people who signed in support of Tautas Sapulce, last week's anti-government gathering, it feels a bit like in year 1988.

In the summer of 1988, the Latvian independence movement started. It was mainly started by intellectuals: writers, artists, journalists. Then more people joined. The new independence activists came from all walks of life. In 1991, Latvia won independence. By 1993, some of Latvian Americans, Latvian Australians, Latvian Germans came back to their home country and joined the politics. At one point, our government had 5 ministers who had recently returned to their home country after being refugees for 45 years.

Gradually, both independence activists and returnees from abroad left politics. Some of them went into business, some into foreign service, representing the country abroad. Some became judges. They were replaced by a new type of politicians, exemplified by Andris Skele. While other people were active in the independence movement, he accumulated a substantial wealth privatizing the companies in the food industry and then became the prime minister in 1995. Some of the newcomers were wealthy, like Skele. Others were career bureaucrats, who had risen through ranks. Unlike the intellectuals of late 1980s, they did not inspire passion. Rather, they would manage the country pragmatically. To everyone's benefit, so they said. To their own benefit, according to their critics.

Over the last years, some of our activists from late 1980s and early 1990s have been returning to a more active role. And, typically, they are taking a stand against the generations of politicians which replaced them. Sandra Kalniete, Girts Kristovskis, Marina Kostenecka, Aivars Endzins... they all signed the petition calling people to protest against the current government. There's also a lot of Latvian American (Canadian, Australian, etc.) returnees among the signatures.

I don't know where this is going to lead. But it certainly does not look like a " business as usual" of the type we have seen over the last 8 years. The change is in the air.

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