Riga Forever 13

For those of you who do not follow Latvian politics: a new government is expected to be formed this month. One of the candidates for Prime Minister's office, Mr Zalāns, has given an interview to the weekly Privātā dzīve, in which, among other things, he declared his dislike of Riga. Riga, according to Mr Zalāns, is unjustly presented as an ideal by many Latvians, while in reality it is not human-friendly and is full of traffic jams.

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On traffic jams, one cannot help agreeing with Mr. Zalāns. And still, I suspect I am not the only person for whom open contempt of Riga seems incompatible with the duties of a political leader for this country. Just like the open contempt for public media which Mr Zalāns demonstrated in the same interview.

Riga is not merely the engine of Latvia's social and economic development. It is the core around which the culture, politics and society of Latvia as a civilised nation have developed. While the concept of Latvia emerged in the 19th century, Riga is 800 years old. Riga merchants sent their goods on Hansa ships to Lubeck and Bruges at the time when England and France were still engaged in the Hundred Years' War and not all of the Bysatine Empire was conquered by the Ottomans. Riga has seen the Reformation, Enlightenment and a number of regime changes and every time provided political and intellectual responses to the challenges of history. Here, Herder picked some of his quaint ideas on national cultures, Wagner composed music and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa married Licy Wolff.

Recently, an international expert has recommended the Latvian Institute to promote Latvia in the world by branding and promoting Riga, because it is the better known of the two. And in some circles, both at home and abroad, it is not associated primarily with stag parties, cheap beer and traffic jams. But that, perhaps, is something that Mr. Zalāns still has to learn.

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Komentāri (13) secība: augoša / dilstoša

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Christopher 07.01.2008 17:37
I would like to say that a politician, especially a candidate to the position of the prime minister, should be judged by a different standard. Politicians do not only have to rule or lead but also have to convince people that they are doing the right thing. It is not an easy job, and definitely not for everyone.

Domburšovs is a popular one and something similar to that can be found all over the world , like Hardtalk, Larry King live, and so on. Politicians should be ready to face agressive press questions.

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Kalvis 15.12.2007 00:43
This all is matter of taste. I lived in Riga for most of my life and still do not find this place to be human-friendly. Most of Riga suburbs (mikrorajoni) lack one almost intangible, but essential thing - "social capital", namely, the willingness of people to participate in communal activities - be it festivals, helping their neighbors, setting up children's playgrounds or even planting flowers in front of their apartment blocks. Kuldīga (and even larger cities like Valmiera, Ventspils, Kaunas) are incomparably better in this respect, even though the people are not richer than in Riga.

IMO, Riga has fallen a victim of mass imigration. Until people start trusting their neighbors (and find a "common language" in a literal and any other sense), nothing will change to the better.

I like Mr. Zalans - he has amazingly fresh approach. He might not be the most suitable person to fill the post of Prime Minister yet, but he has told explicitly what many other people have been feeling for a long time - that the so called "Domburšovs" ("Kas notiek Latvijā") is a vaste of time - it vastes the time of viewers, and probably the participants as well. It is all agression (who is the most macho alpha-male - Domburs or his guest) and no constructivism or even a hint for positive solutions. Admitted, it is still popular with some people; but it is for the same reason that the magazine "FHM" is popular with some people.

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Pankūkas - Pētersonei! 13.12.2007 15:34
It's too "liberated" for my liking, but nothing to cry "incompatibility" about, considering the outlet - gossip, celeb magazine.

How do you like that internet outlet, which looks like and calls itself "boulevard press", has, apparently, what appears to be most complete citation of what was said, and, unlike news agency purporting to be national and host of other ostensibly respectable sources, did not attempt to strip away any information regarding reading habits of Mr. Zalans? Namely, what he claims to read - the magazines?

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Karlis 13.12.2007 14:33
PP, how do you like mr. zalans slang? "ierecam", "forshi", "tochna".

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Pankūkas - Pētersonei! 13.12.2007 11:58
@DaceA

I may have missed something, but, unless Zalans has somewhere said something more than has been widely reported (most extensive quoting of his interview I have seen here: http://www.bulvaris.lv/1/4/?id_news=17638 ), he has not claimed he doesn't watch the TV, but rather one particular show, hosted by Mr. Domburs.

So, source for "Mr. Zalans did say he does not watch TV" is..? :)

If I'm not mistaken, Mr. Zalans, along with other contenders for position of PM, has participaed in a live discussion hosted by Latvijas Radio; last time I cheked - a public broadcater. That, too, qualifies as contempt for public media:

- yes
- no
- maybe

please?

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DaceA 12.12.2007 18:53
For Pankūkas-Pētersonei, Mr. Zalans did say he does not watch TV and does not read press because doing so gives him negative emotions. I would certainly qualify that as open contempt for public media. But as we know now, Mr. Zalans will indeed go back to Kuldīga and not be the next prime minister because Latvia's president refused to choose him, or the other two candidates - Mr. Godmanis and Mr. Dombrovskis. Hopefully, some person close to Mr. Zalans reads press and watches TV. Otherwise, Mr. Zalans may not know he not a candidate for prime minister's post anymore, at least not for Latvia's president (because People's Party still continues to push for his candidacy - despite his outrageous statements about media etc that demostrate absolute ignorance, and I think Latvia has had enough of ignorant leaders for now...)

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Franciskus 12.12.2007 18:15
Really, P-P!, your comments get annoying. Could you be a little bit more original in your criticisms? I feel like I am watching a stranded whale who cannot get off from the same old (and unsurprisingly - boring) argument. Come on, you must have more original ideas to share! Or, am I wrong?

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Pankūkas - Pētersonei! 12.12.2007 18:10
> Just like the open contempt for public media which Mr Zalāns demonstrated in the same
> interview.

Unfortunately, being a politician, Mr. Zalans has done no such thing, Ma'am. He has merely demonstrated contempt for one show (as well as its host) aired on publicly funded broadcaster, constantly plagued by pressure groups' political agendas. Had he shown principled contempt for continued existence of said broadcaster in itself, there would be one reason to yearn for him to assume this position - a hope that he may - just may - one day suggest disposing of this asset.

But, I notice that making critical statements about some real or perceived problems at this broadcaster (while maintaining one’s compatibility with this or that) is, again, prerogative of certain self-appointed and/or foreign funded experts and pressure groups trying to pass themselves off as "civil society".

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Franciskus 12.12.2007 18:08
In this context I remember an incident I had some 2 months ago when I worked together with a Latvian who lives outside Riga. Not going into details, I can tell you that he seemed to share the same contempt against Riga and people who live there. I was shocked to find such a provincial fear from those who come from the capital. Astounding.

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Krish 12.12.2007 17:45
A person can have his opinion, cant he? Riga is definitely harsh; it’s full of self-praising and shallow people, and I know, I v been living in it all my life. Opinions are made in the present and not retrospectively.

Citi autora darbi