CEEPS has launched an analytical overview of Russia’s influence through Latgale municipalities

18.06.2019

Despite the complicated relationship between Russia, on the one hand, and Latvia and other Western countries, on the other hand, Daugavpils and Rezekne municipalities (two of the largest cities in Latvia, located in the eastern part of the country) continue to expand their cooperation with Russia and engage in initiatives of Russian interest, concludes a new analytical review of the Centre for East European Policy Studies (CEEPS). Russian Cooperation with Latvian Municipalities: Examples of Daugavpils and Rezekne”.

Researchers point to the uncritical attitude towards Russian initiatives in Daugavpils and Rezekne, ignoring the fact that Russia sees its cultural, humanitarian, educational and “compatriot policy” activities as part of the country’s overall foreign policy and national interests. Even though the representatives of Daugavpils and Rezekne municipalities view cooperation with Russia in cultural, humanitarian and other spheres as unpolitical relations, Russia’s view, as shown by Russian foreign policy documents, is the opposite, the authors emphasize.

“There has been frequent talk in the public sphere about the need for a cohesive society and the humanitarian impact of Russia, especially in the border region of Latvia. It has also often been concluded that scarcity of financial resources and other short-term factors that are difficult to change are difficult to improve. However, our analytical review illustrates that even local governments that, within their capabilities, could be more active in strengthening the Latvian state, tend to do the opposite, promoting the interests of their neighbors rather than their own. There are plenty of illustrative examples of this in the review. I will mention one – during the main festival concert of Daugavpils City Festival, during period of 16 years the lead singer has always been from Russia”, says Ainars Lerhis, one of the authors of the review, chairman of the board of CEEPS.

Recognizing the nature and interests of Russian foreign policy in Latvia, Daugavpils and Rezekne municipalities should be responsible for providing alternatives, especially in the cultural sphere, thus also engaging in the process of Latvian society integration rather than supporting divisive initiatives, the authors indicate.

In a new analytical review, “Russia’s Cooperation with Latvian Municipalities: Examples of Daugavpils and Rezekne,” the authors continue and deepen the work of the CEEPS Study from year 2017 on Latvian Regions, analyzing in more detail how Russia and its federal entities interact with Latvia’s two cities of national importance – Rezekne and Daugavpils.

The analytical review is based on a wide range of information sources, including documents from Russian institutions, documents from Rezekne and Daugavpils municipalities, information from regional media and interviews with municipal officials and public activists in these cities.

The three chapters provide insights into Russian policy issues that affect external cooperation with other regions, analyze how Russia’s actions are reflected in the Daugavpils and Rezekne cases and how these municipalities respond to Russian initiatives. The authors also focus on the activities carried out by the above-mentioned municipalities, which are directly or partially related to Russia’s foreign policy activities.

The analytical overview (in Latvian) is available here.