Letter: Who is mistreating whom?

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The Independent Online
I DISAGREE with Neal Ascherson on his claim that Latvians mistreat the Russian minority ('Hope in a small nation which dares to ask the dangerous questions', 17 July). The Russian minority in question consists of some 40 per cent of Latvia's population. For 50 years the Russians were the complete masters of the country and, with the help of mass terror, imposed their language and culture. During that time many thousands of Latvians were forcibly deported to Siberia in cattle trucks. Most of them perished. When, today, someone proposes a civilised repatriation of these unwanted thousands of Russians back to their homeland, we are suddenly reminded of human rights.

The Russians are no saints. Neal Ascherson should also try visiting Latvia and Estonia to see what their presence really means. They have the best housing with total disregard for the environment and their neighbourhood, while many Latvians in Riga and elsewhere are still living in the most derelict of dwellings.

I Pikelis