The mass carrying torches is impressive. About fifteen thousand people march, mainly silently through the streets of Riga, Latvia. It’s November 18, Independence Day. ‘The 99th’, people say when I ask about the year. Some do not know exactly, but most say: ‘1918’. This I find interesting, because Latvian independence lasted from 1918-1941, and then again independence was declared in 1991. So they ‘forget’ about the for many Latvians painful era, 50 years long, of what many experience as a Russian occupation.
The Latvian woman walking next to me whispers: ‘I’m so happy there are also Russians joining here!’. I notice that often, when Latvians speak about Russians they lower their voice, probably unconsciously, but it happens. Half of the population of Riga is Russian.
In four days time I meet many people and may work with leaders in several types of organizations: multinationals, ngo’s, governmental organizations and associations. And slowly it dawns to me: Latvians and many of these organizations are struggling with their identity. And somehow it seems ‘easier’ for them to derive or borrow an identity from a mother company or an international organization then to create their own identity and leading principles, fit for Latvian society. (Leading principles is the answer to the question: ‘What are we for society?’)
And also it becomes clear: if they don’t build an identity of their own, the chances are high that others will impose an identity on them. And in a certain way that would mean that the pattern of systemic occupation will continue……
I hear the Latvian president during his speech at the monument of independence talk about: ‘We are belonging to Europe now…’
You really would grant them they do this from a strong own identity.
Freedom is not enough…
In deep gratitude for what I was taught by the Latvians
Jan Jacob Stam