Why are the 4th and 9th of May More Significant Than Other Holidays?
By Charles Kelley
LOS ANGELES, California – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
This is the famous opening paragraph of Charles Dickens’ 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities. The cities were London and Paris during the turmoil of the French Revolution. If Dickens were alive today and interested in current events, he could describe Riga and Moscow the same way. Today is a day of contrast and uncertainty, with joy and opportunity on one hand; and confusion and fear on the other.
On May 4th, the Latvian President and Prime Minister placed flowers at the base of the Freedom Monument to commemorate twenty-five years since Latvia declared independence from the Soviet Union. I remember that day in 1990 like yesterday. So many momentous things followed. Let’s think back:
In January 1991, Soviet efforts to stop the freedom movement were thwarted as makeshift barricades guarded the Parliament from Russian Special Forces and armored vehicles. Several months later jubilant crowds tore down Lenin’s statue.
The West’s recognition of Latvia’s freedom was galvanized when Bill Clinton became the first American president to visit Latvia. Many other Western heads of state and government, and royalty have also officially visited Latvia.
Two more major milestones were reached when, in 2005, Latvia joined the European Community, opening new markets, and NATO, securing protection against future aggression from the East. We hope.
On May 9th, the Russian world celebrated Victory Day marking 70 years since the capitulation of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union in World War II, known in Russia as the “The Great Patriotic War.” Russia paid a HUGE price (more than 20 million lives lost) to defeat Germany and has reason to commemorate.
Yet for Latvians, May 9th, 1945 is nothing to celebrate; for it marked the beginning of 46 years of brutal dictatorship. As one dominating force (the Soviets) replaced another (the Nazis), victory for the Soviet Union meant occupation for Latvia. It is obvious why many Latvians are not very happy when tens of thousands of Russians celebrate at Victory Park in Riga every May 9th.
In light of today’s bloody situation in the Ukraine, Putin’s aggressive rhetoric, and the intense build up of Russian troops on the Latvian border, Latvians were even more disturbed just three weeks ago when 220,000 Russians celebrated through the night.
Yet the huge party in Riga pales to the massive parades in 28 Russian cities that same day. I shuddered as I watched much of a five-hour live program from Moscow flaunting Russia’s immense military might in such a way that appealed to what Churchill called, “every kind of fighting spirit.” Putin is shouting to the world that he is more than ready and certainly willing to take on anyone and everyone.
This scenario is reminiscent of what Sir Winston likened to “A Gathering Storm” prior to WWII. As Germany aggressively prepared for war, his predecessor’s policy was that of appeasement. I hope we have learned from history. Not to be overly dramatic, but this level of saber rattling has not confronted Latvia for decades. It’s not the “worst of times”…yet.
But we must be vigilant.
As a mission/charity focusing on Latvia, these concerns cause us to pray and strategize even more about BBI’s present and future ministries. Our resolve: Because Russia’s threat is clear and present, we will intensify all of our efforts in Latvia NOW. We don’t know what will happen next but we do know that everything can change with the speed of lightening.
Back to the “best of times.” For more than twenty years, BBI has offered innovative and fruitful partnerships, programs and initiatives that have touched many thousands…students, orphans, pastors, teachers, farmers, artists, business professionals, addicts, politicians, children, teens and elderly.
God has surprised us with impressive results and I give Him glory for the impact He has made through us. Now is not a time to retreat but rather further advance our efforts to help as many as possible in Latvia to know, love and follow the Lord Jesus with all of their hearts; and to help position our Latvian friends and colleagues to respond to any future scenario…be they best, worst or stormy.
Are you in a position to give a special gift to BBI at this time? We have received an $18,000 challenge grant from a BBI friend who sees the importance of strengthening our financial support as we enter the summer when generous giving is especially needed. This means your special gift will effectively be matched up to $18,000. Thank you for your prayers and financial support. Make a secure online donation now.
Photo Credits The lead photo of the stormy clouds over Riga was taken by Roberts Vitins. The photo of the President and Prime Minister laying wreaths at the Freedom Monument is from BalticTimes.com. The photo of the fireworks celebration in Riga is from Delfi.lv. The photo of Lenin’s statue coming down is from the Latvian National Archives. The photos of Putin and the Victory Parade in Moscow are from RussiaToday.com.