Archive for September, 2007
I would like to present you my letter to Mr Stephen Kotkin, an author of a great book ‘Armageddon Averted.’ I commented on some passages in the book with which I disagree.
Dear Mr. Kotkin,
I have reading your book Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970-2000. No need to repeat the numerous positive reviews of the book. I enjoyed your analysis on the Soviet Union very much.
However, I dear to say that I entirely disagree with few of your statements presented in the book. Let me mention them.
In Your conclusion (same as in introduction) you written that ‘Only five countries, which were already better of [in comparing to Russia] … – Slovenia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Estonia – managed a first rush of liberal reform, and were poised for a second push…’ (193 p.)
First of all You missed Slovakia there. Second of all I would like to remind you that You missed Lithuania and Latvia. During most of history Latvia and Lithuania were better of than Russia. Since You talk about the last decade of the 20C I am entitled to claim that because of my own personal experiences. If You need any further assurances regarding this please, ask any Ex-Soviet ziticen to confirm that. If You have had traveled to the occupied Latvia and Lithuania you would have seen a huge difference between Belarusian or Russian border areas just after crossing the ‘border’ line to Latvia or Lithuania. Rest of Russia was in the similar situation.
During the occupation some Soviet citizens were calling the Baltic republics a ‘little America’. Pribaltika for them was a single entity since they were developed almost identically. There some curiously humorous miss-understandings when introducing yourself as being from Lithuania, sometimes one was getting a response ‘Oh yes, Riga, a beautiful city!’
understand that the book was published after the 1998 crisis, in 2001. I agree that Lithuania had some negative economical implications due to the Russian crisis. It is true that the Russian crisis knocked the country down a little bit, and we had some catching up to do with the Estonians in order to make it to the first EU candidates group. And, as You perfectly aware, we made it!
Furthermore, Russia suffered a much greater deal from the 1998 crisis than the Baltic States and I don’t think that it is fair to claim that Lithuania and Latvia were worse off than Russia even before the 1998 crisis. ALL Baltic States in most of the time had a much better socio-economical and political composition than Russia. This was the case also in 2001 when you published the book.
On the same page You state that ‘Even the touted cases of Latvia and Lithuania resembled the disasters of Ukraine and Belarus…’ Well, with all due respect, I do not think that there was anything to compare between Latvia and Lithuania with Lukoshenko’s Belarus and Kuchma’s Ukraine.
ALL Baltic States are regarded as a success story and I am sorry that You were not aware of that.
It seems to me that You had never had a chance to visit Lithuania and Latvia and compare life there to that in Russia (Moscow is not Russia, it never was). Please, do that and You will see a difference even though at the moment Russia is swimming in the petrol dollars.Thank you for taking time to read this letter and I am looking forwards to read more of Your books.
As the Presidential Press office reported the Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus’ speech at the session of the United Nations General Assembly did not name Russia, however, accused the country of wasting its rich natural resources on weapons rather than using them on democracy.According to the President’, Lithuania and the Baltic region is a success story in terms of establishing themselves in the international system, while some other countries in the region were not able to do that.
The President stated that; “We may only guess why these countries perceive the integration of democracies at their border as a national threat. We feel sorry for a society at large when its government chooses to spend the country’s natural riches for guns and not for democratic reforms. And clearly we should not tolerate the attempts to falsify historical facts about the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States or the denial of the deliberately caused Holodomor in Ukraine that killed millions”.
The President noted that some conflicts in the world were less visible but that did not make them less dangerous, adding that the UN should be more “visible and outspoken” in such regions. In Adamkus’ words, “frozen conflicts” in Eastern Europe and South Caucasus may become “very hot” one day unless we act immediately.“Let us not forget that it is not only the conflicts that are frozen, but frozen are the lives and dreams of the people living in those areas of artificial conflict. This is where the United Nations should be more visible and more outspoken. (…) However, our readiness to stand up and speak openly to the states if they cross the line is also an indispensable element of that effort”.
There is an article on the Economist Cities Guide on Vilnius called ‘Letter from Vilnius’. Nice beginning with ‘Vilnius is the place to see three lost civilisations, the ruins of one collapsed empire and an old country newly reborn however I would not agree with all of it.’ However, once again the Economist published a misleading information about Lithuania. The author states that Napoleon called Vilnius as ‘Jerusalem of the EAST’.I have never hear of such a fares describing Vilnius before. What I heard is the ‘Jerusalem of the NORTH’. I cannot deny if the phrase was coined by the great man himself, but I would doubt if those who heard it would have dared to distorted. Maybe the Economist knows more about it.
The Lithuanian, Swedish and Azeri Foreign Minister in New York discussed perspectives of regional cooperation
As the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry portal informed the Foreign Ministers of Lithuania Petras Vaitiekūnas, Sweden Carl Bildt and Azerbaijan Marat Tazhin had a meeting in New York, during the 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly.
The Ministers of Foreign Affairs discussed the importance of Kazakhstan’s role in Central Asia and perspectives of regional cooperation. The Ministers also discussed the idea of Lithuania to promote regional cooperation between the Baltic, Nordic and Central Asian countries.
The Ministers also discussed Kazakhstan’s participation in the upcoming Vilnius Energy Security Conference 2007 on 10-11 October. Considering Kazakhstan’s growing role as a global energy actor, the European Union is especially interested in mutually beneficial cooperation in the area of energy.
Lithuania calls for intl environmental governance during the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly
The President of Lithuania made a speech at a 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday. President Adamkus himself with a very strong environmental background called establishment of a UN Organization for the Environment with a revised and strengthened mandate since the world needs a more coherent and inclusive system of international environmental governance.
“The last several years constituted a breakthrough in understanding the dangerous consequences of environmental neglect when even the most ardent opponents of global warming have started acknowledging the disastrous effects of unrestrained human activity. This reality requires urgent, ambitious, concerted, and focused efforts by the whole global community. But the starting point must be a strong political will by all countries, international organizations, and political leaders for real and concrete actions,” noted the Lithuanian president.
The President also met with the Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus met United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Sunday. Two leaders discussed Lithuania’s contribution to stability and safety in Afghanistan, relations with Russia and the importance of the solutions to “frozen conflicts” in Georgia and Moldova.
As the presidential Press office informed later in the day, the Presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia visited the New York Stock Exchange. In honour of the occasion, the presidents of the three Baltic States rang the closing bell.
President Adamkus said that the Baltic States represented a most dynamically growing part of Europe, emphasizing that the region had the highest GDP growth in the European Union over this decade.
Adamkus underlined that Lithuania had ambitious plans to create an effective and environment friendly energy sector and infrastructure by building a modern reactor unit at the Ignalina nuclear power plant. “To this end, we expect to attract foreign businesses,” said Mr. Adamkus.
As the Lithuanian national broadcaster has announced it launched its third channel, LTV World, which for now will be seen by viewers in northern and western Europe, and later by audiences in North America.
Under the current plan, broadcasts of LTV World in North America should be started via the Sirius 3 satellite by November 1.Mr. Petrauskis the director general of the Lithuanian Radio and Television said the BNS that “As long as people care about what is going on Lithuania, they will be part of our nation and we will foster the hope that they might come back”.
LTV World will broadcast about 11 hours a day – from 2:25 p.m. to 1 a.m. Lithuanian time. It will include best programs of channels 1 and 2 of the Lithuanian national television.
Considering the time difference between Lithuania and Western Europe, some programs on LTV World will be broadcast an hour later – for instance, the key news program Panorama will be on at 9:30 p.m.
I would also like to remind you that the National Lithuanian Radio is daily broadcasting Vilnius Radio programme in English. You could listen many programmes strode on the archives. Enjoy!
As the Lithuanian business daily Verslo Žinios announced on the 21 September a feasibility study on an undersea power grid connection between Lithuania and Sweden would be a commercially viable project and would not require financial support from the European Union.The Swedish consulting company Sweco International has virtually completed the feasibility study, ordered by the two countries’ power transmission grid operators, Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy) and Svenska Kraft, it wrote.
As the undersecretary of the Economy Ministry Anicetas Ignotas noted “The feasibility study has concluded that the construction of a 300-kilometer, 700 megawatt to 1,000 megawatt cable linking Lithuania’s energy grid with the Scandinavian system would be a commercially viable project”.
The official added that the project could cost around 600 million euros and more. In total, five price options are presented, he added. If the project is implemented, the Baltic countries will have a second connection with the EU electricity grid. An undersea power link between Estonia and Finland, called Estlink, was launched earlier this year. Lietuvos Energija has a stake in the project. Plans call for building a cable under the Baltic Sea by 2012.
The head of the Lithuania’s Energy Institute Mr Jurgis Vilemas also noted that the link to Sweden is much more important than the grid to Poland, the project which, is already lasting for more than 10 years. ‘With this cable we will connect not only to Swedish but to the whole Scandinavian system. This system is much more powerful that of Polish, furthermore, over there electricity is much cheaper. One grid with Poland would not resolve the problem of the Lithuania’s energy security, because this link would stop at Nerav town. From there the electricity network to the central Poland is rather week and old.’
It needs to be stressed that the electricity grid to Poland has been an ongoing project for more than ten years. The project never took off due to various political and economical reasons on the Polish side.
Today, Lithuania and Latvia are celebrating the Balts Unity Day. Currently, there are only two Balts nations in the world — Lithuanians and Latvians. Lithuanians, Latvians, Germans and various Slavs had assimilated the rest of the Balt nations and tribes from the East and West by the 19th century.The main Balts tribes, as we know them, formed in the 5th-6th century, when invaders assimilated the first dwellers in the region from the South. The generic name of “Balts” as a scientific term was introduced in mid-19th century by George Neselman and has been in general use ever since. The name originates from the geographical location of the tribes’ habitat by the Baltic Sea.
On the occasion of the Balts Unity Day, the presidents of Lithuania and Latvia urged their fellow citizens to remember their roots, to preserve identity and to rally up for a closer neighborhood. In their address on 20 September, presidents Valdas Adamkus and Valdis Zatlers stressed that this day is more than just a symbolic date. The Lithuanians and the Latvians are the only two surviving Balt tribes in the world that are today united both by their unique language and responsibility for the future of the Baltic Sea region and Europe.
The Pesidents declared ‘This day is more than symbolic. The two remaining Baltic nations in the world – Lithuanians and Latvians – today are united not only by their unique language and culture, but also by their feeling of responsibility for the future of the Baltic Sea region and Europe. The Freedom March that we started twenty years ago has led us to the ultimate goal of Lithuanian and Latvian independence. Our resolve and self-sacrifice have enabled our two countries to emerge as an integral part of a secure and unified Europe. Baltic cooperation is just as important for other nations aspiring to come closer to Europe.’
September 22 was pronounced the Balts Unity Day by the Lithuanian and Latvian parliaments several years ago.
As the BNS reported the Lithuanians have no clear favorites who could win the presidential race in 2009. The and public opinion survey company Baltijos Tyrimai announced that most of the sympathies go to Prime Minister Social Democrat Gediminas Kirkilas and member of the European Commission, former Finance Minister Dalia Grybauskaitė. Both of the politicians would receive 10% each of all voters.
As the BNS reported the respondents mentioned a total of 33 public figures. One-third (31 percent) of the people polled did not have an opinion on this subject.
The third place in the poll goes to leader of the New Union Artūras Paulauskas, who has previously run for the president without much success and was acting president in 2004 with support from 8.2 percent of the respondents.
7.1 % would vote for the Social Security and Labor Minister Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, who has already taken part in presidential elections and 5.9% — the ousted president Rolandas Paksas. Then 5.3% — another former candidate and leader of the Liberal Movement Petras Auštrevičius, 4.7% would go to the leader of the Homeland Union Andrius Kubilius.
Runner-up in the last presidential elections leader of the National Farmers’ Party Kazimira Prunskienė would receive 3.7%, leader of the Liberal Centrists and ex-mayor of Vilnius Arturas Zuokas — 2.5%.
First Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Česlovas Juršėnas – would receive 2%, founder of the Labour Party Viktor Uspaskich — 1.3 percent, former President and Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, just like member of the European Parliament Vytautas Landsbergis — by 1.2 percent, police Commissioner General Vytautas Grigaravicius — by 1.1 percent of the people polled.
Other politicians and public figures mentioned fell short of the 1 percent barrier.
I would like to present the readers with a letter from the New Left 95 (Naujoji kaire 95) which recently started its existence in Vilnius. Even though I do not belong to the group I salute to their mission of galvanizing a political debate in Lithuania. Read the latest communication from the NK95
NK95 (Naujoji Kairė 95) is a group of Lithuanian intellectuals and activists who launched their activities on 1 May, 2007 with the declaration ‘New Left 95 Manifesto’, which brought together individual arguments on socio-political and cultural issues from the newer leftist perspective into the joint political stance of NK95.The preparation of the manifesto was coordinated by Dr Andrius Bielskis, a political philosopher with a PhD from Warwick University, who had returned to Lithuania after a lengthy spell of studies and academic work in the UK in the summer of 2006.
His presentation at the annual conference organized by “Santara-Šviesa” (the mainstream liberal organization which had been set up originally in the US by the current President of Lithuania), where he urged for debate and political action to undo unjust political and social practices in Lithuania, received a perplexed reception from the audience, but spurred an interest among younger participants, graduates from the Institute of Political Science and International Relations (TSPMI), Vilnius.
Already in December 2005 a group of university students together with few other activists involved in the protest actions against the encroachment of privatization of public spaces in Vilnius (e.g. the movie theatre “Lietuva”) gathered at TSPMI for a conference where the Vilnius Leftist Club Manifesto was signed, which paved a way for the initial consolidation of leftist activists.
During the autumn and winter 2006‐2007 people from the two groups, joined by people from other left—leaning groups and NGOs, intertwined forming the core of the present day NK95. The final consolidation of the group came in June 2007, when the first NK95 conference was organized which set the tone for the further development.
During the period of formation a virtual, email list-based, organizational form was adopted as the most suitable for the formed community of practice. The group now lists around 35-40 activists who each extends the reach of NK95 to many other groups and formally established organizations in Vilnius and other cities, thus sustaining a nation-wide network for the New Left public actions organized and coordinated by self-appointed and group approved initiators of individual actions on ad hoc basis which may involve also organizational gatherings, if required.
Main forms of actions undertaken by NK95 activists are: formal statements (letters of opposition or support, declarations, signed public statements, group petitions or other group statements), communications with a wider audience (press releases, posters, interviews, website, etc.).
The main objective of NK95 (outside the most obvious – popularization of its 45 theses from the manifesto) is to galvanize the political life in Lithuania by bringing to the fore of public debate leftist political values and ideas, with the hope that sooner or later the whole political thinking and with it political practice would shift leftwards, given the unforgiving social and political reality which demands the new left approach and ideas.
Thus the group actively promotes the values of social justice, equality, individual and collective emancipation as well as supports other socially progressive agenda (e.g. gay rights). In order to achieve this aim two strategies are employed:
1) stirring up the debate by individual or group texts (mainly channeled through Internet news portals which allow more freedom of expression for non‐staff writers as comparing to traditional media which are too corrupt),
2) organizing PR campaigns by indirect actions getting media and commentators involved in the cycle of self‐denial, which helps to raise publicity for a particular issue. Another strategy for action, which is being considered, is organizing educational events, such as seminars, conferences or evening classes for the general public, where academic potential of NK is and can be tapped.
The first two pilot events organized under the banner of “New Left audience” featured Dr Kelvin Knight (London Metropolitan University, Britain) and Mr Svenn Arne Lie (Bergen University, Norway) as the main speakers, showing the potential of such form of public action because of the enormous interest received not only from the Lithuanian leftist organizations but also from the general public.
Being aware of the limitations that any voluntary social formation faces as well as being dependant solely on individual goodwill and contribution of its members, NK95 has taken a course towards establishing international contacts at the international scene in order to be able to sustain its activism on the basis of co-sharing of resources via contact network. For that reason the Manifesto has been translated into German, English and French and contacts have been established with intellectuals from the UK and Norway as the first step towards the rebirth of the international New Left.
Prepared by Linas Eriksonas on behalf of NK95
Vilnius, 21 September, 2007