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The new pro-migrant propaganda is just like the old one

The start of a new year is a traditional time to evaluate the last year and to guess the blessings of the coming year. Looking at the question of migration, the last few months of 2017 came with a new aspect in pro-migrant propaganda in Latvia that, safe to guess, will continue in 2018.

Earlier, in 2015 and 2016, the main narrative was a compassion for “refugees”. It didn’t succeed: Latvians still suffer from heavy Russian immigration from the time of the Soviet occupation and were not inclined to welcome another wave. The last spasm was a floppy UNHCR campaign which insisted that “We’d do the same” and “We’d flee, too”. A coup de grâce against it was delivered by the Ministry of Defence (by the way, headed not by the nationalist National Alliance, but by the centrist Union of Greens and Farmers), it decisively argued that such a defeatism is unacceptable.

After some timeout the pro-migrant propaganda has restarted now but with a different narrative: our nation is dying out so we need to import new workforce for our own benefit. A typical example can be found here. While it might be tempting to debunk these assertions (no, people are not replaceable workforce units; no, more population is not better per se; no, nations don’t die out because of low birthrate; population aging is temporary and will eventually stop; it’s false dilemma to claim that we must either surrender to mass immigration or become some poor North Korea; no, it’s impossible to reliably foresee labour shortages years ahead; no, the third world immigration will not replace existing workforce; crying ‘but pensions!’ is a deception etc.) I’ll stop it here. But there is another feature impossible not to see: striking similarities in the present and Soviet time pro-migrant propaganda.

At first, some background. As said before, Soviet Union flooded Latvia with migrants. In 1946—1988, net immigration was 805 thousand. For a better understanding, remember migrants coming to Germany in 2015. That’s what Latvians got. Each year. For almost half a century. No wonder percentage of ethnic Latvians in Latvia dropped from 80% in 1943 to 52% in 1989 and Latvians became a minority in the eight largest cities including the capital Riga – only 36%.

Second, a bit more background. Being a human-geographer, I have a privilege of some home bookshelves of geographic and demographic volumes. The beginnings of this microlibrary were laid in 80s during my school years. Therefore, I still possess some Soviet books that cover migration and ethnic issues.

And guess what — they advocate Russification through immigration just like the present welcomers: a sign of progress, much needed labour force, enrichment, strength through diversity, and the like. So enjoy some quotes and compare to your local welcomer propaganda!

When the storm of the Second World War ended and the occupation ended, there were 1.3 mio inhabitants left in Latvia. Geographic and strategic position and economic potential of Latvia urgently demanded much bigger population in the republic.
/Bruno Mežgailis, Pēteris Zvidriņš. Padomju Latvijas iedzīvotāji [Population of Soviet Latvia]. Riga: Liesma, 1973. p. 155/

Sons and daughters of the great Russian nation, Belarusians, Ukrainians and representatives of other brotherly nations came to help Latvians to build a new life on their land. Due to received selfless support of friendship of nations and common work Soviet Latvia swiftly flourished.
/Bruno Mežgailis, Pēteris Zvidriņš. Padomju Latvijas iedzīvotāji [Population of Soviet Latvia]. Riga: Liesma, 1973. p. 155/

Rapid economic development after the war created a need for workers and engineering-technical cadres of different categories, therefore representatives of other ethnic groups came from brotherly republics to help in the construction of socialism. In the construction of Pļaviņas hydroelectric power station alone, workers of 23 different ethnic groups were employed. All Soviet republics exchange cadres so their populations become more diverse in the course of time.
/Velta Graudiņa, Klāra Kastrone. Latvijas PSR ģeogrāfija [Geography of Latvian SSR]. Teaching tool for grades 7 and 8. 2nd edition. Riga: Zvaigzne, 1974. p. 83/

According to estimates labour shortage in Latvia reaches 35 000 persons. It must be compensated with more efficient use of existing labour resources and also with an influx of workers from other republics. Mostly those able to work come to Soviet Latvia. Therefore due to mechanic increase (i.e. immigration) population structure of the republic improves and labour resources grow each year.
/Velta Graudiņa, Klāra Kastrone. Latvijas PSR ģeogrāfija [Geography of Latvian SSR]. Teaching tool for grades 7 and 8. 2nd edition. Riga: Zvaigzne, 1974. p. 86/

Due to natural migration of population each republic becomes even more multi-ethnic, in one way or another — each region and each city.
/Yuri Andropov. Runu un rakstu izlase [Selected speeches and articles]. Riga: Avots, 1984. p. 10/

Economy as the primary factor of societal development required that demography as the secondary factor doesn’t hinder overall tempo of societal development. This contradiction had to be solved and it was solved in a way that conditions were created for overall demographic change (both natural and mechanic) to supply economy and culture with needed labour force. As one part of demographic factor i.e. natural change was not able to provide it in the specified situation (for different reasons), the second part of demographic factor had to be used — mechanic increase. Hence migration as a part of demographic process allowed economy at least partly to be supplied with labour in the specified situation.
/Bruno Mežgailis. Padomju Latvijas demogrāfija: struktūra, procesi, problēmas [Demography of Soviet Latvia: structure, processes, problems]. Riga: Avots, 1985. p. 276/

Speaking about migration as such and positive net migration in particular, one must admit it is a phenomenon that is characteristic to territory in development. A territory that has a stable, settled population, without inhabitants coming and leaving, is torpid and without development. Taking into account that migration accompanies economic life of society it testifies about societal development in general.
/Bruno Mežgailis. Padomju Latvijas demogrāfija: struktūra, procesi, problēmas [Demography of Soviet Latvia: structure, processes, problems]. Riga: Avots, 1985. p. 286-287/

For many years more people arrive in our Republic than leave. The arrivals are mostly people in their active age (from 16-34). This improves the population structure according to sex and age, boosts the birth rate, supplements the labour force.

/Zinātne un Technika, Riga, 1970-1972./

The great success is based on the collective effort of all inhabitants of our Republic — Latvians, Russians, White Russians and others, all nationalities are entitled to be represented in our governing bodies. Herein lies our strength.

/Cīņa, Riga, 1969-1972/

Ritvars Eglājs

Geographer, free marketer, Latvian nationalist

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