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City news, 05.09.2001 18:14

Many St. Petersburg residents see Baltics as "enemies".

According to a poll by the locally based Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Center for Sociological and Scientific Research, about 20 percent of St. Petersburg residents perceive Estonia and Lithuania as Russia's "enemies". Twenty-five percent of local residents feel this way about Latvia.

Legislative Assembly Deputy Yagya, who is also the head of the World Politics Department of the International Relations Faculty of St. Petersburg State University, considers the results regarding the Baltic states alarming. "This percentage is high enough to be of concern for local and national politicians," he said. "They should be weighing their words more carefully when making statements concerning the Baltic states. Too many careless statements have been made, and it shows."

Vladimir Churov, deputy head of the city administration's External Affairs Committee, shared this point of view.

"We have a 2,000-year common history on the Baltic coast and, of course, we have a lot to tell each other," he said. "But a good future cannot be built on mutual recriminations."

However, both Yagya and Churov stated that negative attitudes toward the Baltic states are inflamed by real issues, one of the most sensitive of which is the history of World War II.

"Russia cannot be satisfied with a situation where the soldiers who fought on the Nazi side are given the same rights as veterans who fought on the side of the Allies," Churov said.

"There are multiple problems with Russian-speaking communities in these countries, and these problems need solutions," Yagya added.

Forty percent of respondents, both in the city and in the oblast, labeled the European Union as "a business partner," while less than 10 percent saw that organization as an enemy.

The United States was labeled an enemy by 25 percent of St. Petersburg residents and 30 percent of oblast residents, while 28 percent in the city and 22 percent in the oblast said that country was a business partner.

Overall, the survey revealed that St. Petersburg residents are somewhat more tolerant than oblast residents, with Churnov explaining the difference largely in economic terms.

"Living standards in most areas of the oblast are markedly lower than those in, for example, neighboring Estonia," he said. Poverty, he argued, leads people to look for external enemies.

"It has been only 10 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union," he added. "That is too short a historical period completely to get over all that turbulence."

News source: The St.Petersburg Times

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