Latvia prohibited a traditional Russian military symbol. Used to commemorate WWII, it also became a political message supporting Russia, reviving the Soviet Union for the Latvian parliament.
On November 11, the Saeima, the Latvian parliament, decided to ban the use of the ribbon of Saint George at public events. The law on Security and Public Entertainment and Festive Events, to ensure the smooth and safe course of public events, will be amended.
Latvia has “reasons to see a sufficient threat to its democratic order and security” explains Artuss Kaimiņš, member of parliament and chairman of the Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee in charge of drafting the bill.
The ban is justified by “Russia’s expansion into Ukraine and its totalitarian ideology towards the former USSR republics“.
As such, the objective of prohibiting the ribbon of Saint George is to limit the soviet ideology and pro-Russia movements from spreading.
The law has been voted on November 11, on the Lāčplēsis Day commemorating soldiers who fought for Latvia’s independence during the Latvian war of independence against Russia between 1918 and 1920.
Latvia is the first European Union member to ban the use of the ribbon in public.
Ribbon of St George, a symbol of Russian patriotism
The ribbon of Saint George is a black and orange Russian military symbol. It was part of the highest military honor established in 1769 by the Russian empire.
Often seen in decorations and distinctions in Russia, it has recently been used to pay tribute to the soldiers and veterans of Word War II, similar to Britain’s poppies commemorating the victory over fascism.
But it has also become a symbol of Russian patriotism and a mark of support to Russia’s government.
It has been more and more controversial in countries of the former Soviet union who feel threatened by Russia’s willingness to expand. In Ukraine, pro-Russia paramilitary or supporters of Russia during the annexation of Crimea could wear the ribbon of St George.
Earlier in November, Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman of the Russian minister of Foreign Affairs declared that the legislation would “confirm the idea of Latvia as a country in which not only Nazism is glorified but the results of WWII are disputed“.
She added that the ribbon dated back before WWII and assumed this “provocative step” would not help “inter-ethnic harmony“.
The ribbon joins other symbols prohibited in the Latvian legislation like SS symbols or the Nazi swastika, the flag, anthem or coat of arms of the USSR, as well as the hammer and sickle with a five-pointed star.
Exceptions to the law rest in education, scientific or artistic purposes or when displaying the ribbon is not meant for glorifying the soviet regime.
The ban of the ribbon was first proposed in 2014. The current law has been approved by the parliament after its third reading. The president still needs to promulgate it.