Russia: Baltic states see their worst nightmare come true

'TERRIFIED' was the word used by one observer to describe the mood in the Latvian capital, Riga, as the full extent of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's victory in the Russian election began to sink in. 'Terrified, anxious, concerned, upset - you bet we are]'

For Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians, the dramatic showing for the ultra-nationalist Mr Zhirinovsky represent a nightmare come true. Barely two years after regaining independence from Moscow, all the old fears came flooding back. 'This heralds the beginning of a sinister new era,' predicted Tarmu Tammerk, editor of the Baltic Independent newspaper. 'There is a deep sense of shock and foreboding.'

The presidents of the three Baltic states meet in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, today to frame a response to the election shock. They will almost certainly urge the West to speed up their integration into European economic and defence structures. 'A security guarantee by Nato is the only sort of language Zhirinovsky understands,' Mart Laar, the Estonian Prime Minister, said earlier this week. Like many in the Baltics, Mr Laar has compared the rise of Mr Zhirinovsky to that of Hitler in the 1930s. And he likens Russia's attitude towards the Baltic states - described as part of the 'near abroad' - to that displayed by the Nazi leader towards the Sudetenland.

Baltic fears of Mr Zhirinovsky's intentions are well founded. Never able to accept their independence, he has blamed them for precipitating the break-up of the Soviet Union and warned repeatedly that should he ever come to power, Estonians should get ready to flee to Sweden in fishing boats. Those foolish enough to remain would either be sent to Siberia or given the most menial jobs. Mr Zhirinovsky has also threatened to pump nuclear waste into the three countries to force them to comply with Moscow's wishes.

Even if the other parties gang up to keep Mr Zhirinovsky on the opposition benches, many Balts fear the political agenda in Russia has shifted irrevocably to the right and that, to steal some of his thunder, the nationalist drum will be beaten with ever greater intensity.

With hundreds of thousands of ethnic Russians forming substantial minorities in the Baltic states and just under 20,000 Russian troops still stationed in Latvia and Estonia, relations with Moscow were, anyway, set to remain brittle. Optimists in Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius were yesterday nevertheless hoping Mr Zhirinovsky's success would open the West's eyes to the dangers they faced and result in a quick pledge of military and economic support. Others were just praying that Mr Zhirinovsky's bark would prove worse than his bite.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable