Seeing the “rebirth of Nazism” in any patriotic torchlight parade dedicated to a national holiday, which has been organised in the Baltic states or Ukraine, is one of the most popular and widespread methods of demonising Russian propaganda. It is practised not only by the websites of the neighbouring country, but even state officials.
"Torchlight parades accompanied by nationalistic slogans are again organised in different countries, while people with SS chevrons march on parades. (..) Absolutely immoral laws are adopted, like what recently happened in Latvia, where Nazi criminals, whose hands are shoulder-deep in the blood of innocent victims, are made equal to those who freed the world from the brown plague,” on 17 January this year, adding that “the poisonous thistle of Nazi ideology” is alive in Latvia, the speaker of the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament - the Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko said. Aleksandrs Gaponenko, who has been accused of incitement of national hatred, in his infamous interview “The Baltics on Fire: From Neo-Nazi Parades to the Break-out of the Great War” published on the Russian website Notum.info, referred to torchlight parades in Estonia and Latvia as the manifestation of Neo-Nazism and militarisation of the state, which points to the preparation of “ethnic cleansing”. “Such type of parade could be observed on 11 November last year, a state holiday in Latvia – Lāčplēsis Day. About twenty thousand people with torches came out in the streets of the capital and shouted “We are Latvians!”, Latvia for Latvians”. You know, this sight reminds me of the film of Leni Riefenstahl Triumph of the Will, which tells the story of how the Nazi government literally turned Germans into zombies before the Second World War, who went and surrendered their lives for the interests of the superior nation,” says Gapoņenko. It must be added that the slogans mentioned by him are not present on the video recording from the 11 November parade.
Sputnik, while describing the torchlight parade from the monument to Kārlis Ulmanis to the Monument of Freedom, which was organised on 18 November 2017 by the National Union, gave a clear hint that “All of Latvia” has been acting according to the example given by “Hitler’s followers of the Third Reich”, since the songs that were sung by legionnaires are sung during the parade. It must be added that a Russian speaking writer of Latvia Aleksandrs Jevdokimovs, on the same day one year ago, stated in his interview to the website RuBaltic.ru: “The form of expression of a torchlight parade seems to be extremely ugly to me; it has been discredited during the times of Nazi Germany. I believe that torchlight parades should have no right to exist in polite societies that value their reputation.”
Undoubtedly, torchlight parades were one of the forms of expression of Nazi ideology and propaganda of the Nazi Germany of Adolf Hitler; however, nowhere in the world is the torch considered to be a symbol of Nazism. Jevdokimovs and his associates must have forgotten, but many of them still remember that this habit, which has been used since antiquity, was even actively used in the post-war USSR. No one saw Nazism in the torchlight parades of komsomols, “Work Reserves” or higher education establishment students, which were organised immediately after the war in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as later. Let us mention Valmiera under Soviet occupation, where on 22 December komsomols traditionally marched with torches through the entire city to the “monument of 11 komsomols of Valmiera, who were shot at the order of the Bourgeoisie court-martial in 1919”. Torchlight marches were an absolutely acceptable form of mass unification for the Soviet regime and no one considered it “ugly” or “discrediting”.
It was one of the attributes of celebration for the students of higher educational establishments. For instance, old records state that on 1 October 1912 at 6:30 p.m., the students of Riga Polytechnic Institute went on a festive torchlight procession to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the existence of their educational establishment. The representatives of corporations walked with torches from the new building of the Polytechnic Institute of their time (currently the building of the University of Latvia) to the old building, which, according to current street numeration, conforms to the location of 14 Krišjāņa Barona Street.
And it is unlikely that Sputnik or similar websites would attempt to criticise Israel for instance, where torches are a mandatory component of Independence Day celebrations. On 9 April, 12 torches are festively lit during a special ceremony in Israel - to celebrate each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Lighting a torch “for the glory of the state of Israel” is a great honour for each citizen of Israel, therefore 12 people of special merit are selected for the ceremony every year. Furthermore, on 24 April, which is celebrated in Israel as the memorial day of the victims of the Holocaust, a torchlight parade to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial is organised at around sunset in Jerusalem. High ranking civil and military officials of Israel participate in this procession. Torchlight parades are held during various celebrations in other countries as well.
Supported by the Ministry of Culture of Latvia