Latvians - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Between 1940 and 1991, the Soviet state severely curtailed the activities and membership of any organization or social unit not directly controlled by it. When Latvia regained independence, many organizations such as the Communist party, Communist youth organizations, and the secret police (KGB) were abolished or collapsed because of a lack of support by their members. New groups are encountering organizational difficulties—small memberships, lack of public awareness regarding their goals and activities, and a lack of leaders with organizational and administrative experience. For the individual, personal relationships are important elements in manipulating the political and economic systems. These connections are marshaled to gain access and to influence people in a position to grant favors.


Political Organization. The political system is in transition from a repressive totalitarian government to a democracy. There is a battle between the old Soviet nomenklatura who used to run the country and nationalistically and democratically inclined people who were barred from positions of authority by the Communist regime. There is no agreement regarding the rights and duties of the various administrative and political bodies and offices or on how their personnel are to be selected. Making the task of building institutions more difficult are the public's distrust of politicians and centralized authorities and skepticism regarding their ability to solve society's problems. There is also the ethnic factor. Latvians perceive a real danger of becoming a minority in their own country and feel they have been abused and have suffered greatly for the past fifty years. The Russians resent the recent changes because these reduce the privileges they had enjoyed as an occupying and dominating nationality in a colonial situation. Most likely what will eventually emerge will be a system consisting of a parliament (probably unicameral), a president, and a government headed by a prime minister.

Social Control. Social control has its formal and informal aspects. Among the family, peer group, and circle of friends, emotional withdrawal and social isolation are common sanctions. Physical violence may occur when psychological pressures do not result in desired behavior. Police and other legal armed forces exist in the country, but their duties are not clear and their competencies overlap. No reliable statistics are available regarding criminal activities.


Conflict. Many wars have touched Latvian territory and caused much destruction and death. Except for the 1918—1920 war for independence, Latvians have not conducted wars since 1300. They have, however, participated in the wars and armies of others. During World War II, both the Soviet and German governments drafted Latvians for their respective militaries. Civilian ethnic relations in Latvia were not characterized by mass physical violence, lynchings, pogroms, or riots. Latvians who did participate in such activities (e.g., crimes against humanity during and after World War II) did so individually or as members of armed units formed by and at the direction of foreign governments.


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