KGB files will be published in Latvian newspaper

The Latvian Parliament in Riga passed a bill which will allow the publication of KGB archives in Latvia's national newspaper, Latvijas Vestnesis, on March 1, 2007. Passed yesterday, the bill is quite a controversial one, split mainly into factions on the political left and right. On the right sit the proponents of the bill: The Peoples Party, some lawmakers from New Era, For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK, Latvias First Party and some lawmakers from the Greens and Farmers Union and several independent lawmakers were for the bill. Latvias president, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who has been pictured with possible KGB agents according to The Baltic Times, leads the opposition. Other parties in opposition to the bill are the leftist party Harmony Center, For Human Rights in United Latvia, Latvias Socialist Party, and several lawmakers from the party New Era.

Opponents of the bill argue that releasing this information will distract the citizens from Latvia's many current problems, and instigate a witch hunt, much like happened in Poland when a list of former KGB spies was leaked on the internet earlier this year. Unlike Poland, whose KGB archives remained largely intact, the Latvian files are largely incomplete and contain information only from the 1980s, driving fears of inaccurate portrayal of the era.

Proponents of the bill are following the too-optimistic logic that lustration is a magical pill which will allow the country to come to terms with its past; unfortunately, this placebo may be effective when done early enough like in Poland, but resurrecting such skeletons has not worked well for Lithuania, and is unlikely to perform miracles for Latvia.

The bill allows for the release of the following information about close to 4,500 former KGB agents in Latvia: name, surname, fathers name, date and place of birth, code name, the date of recruiting, the position held at the time of recruitment and the date of discharge from the KGB, if applicable. The main problem is that the specific tasks of the agents are missing or unclear, and many citizens were forced into cooperation by threats to their family and security. The consequences for those ousted by the list could be anything from loss of social standing to loss of career, to an increase in the already present animosity towards Latvia's ethnic Russian population.

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