In the morning news program of Channel One , a story appeared, on the channel’s website entitled “In Riga, the performance of the legendary “Katyusha” was banned under the threat of a large fine”:
“The legendary “Katyusha”, a song loved by several generations in our country and abroad, should not be heard in Latvia even at family feasts. This was stated by the Riga police with the words, they say, "Katyusha" glorifies the totalitarian regime. This was said in response to an appeal from a group of Russian-speaking pensioners. Those asked to explain what exactly is banned in Latvia. The question, given the Russophobic course of the authorities, is more than relevant. And soon in October, a memorable date, the anniversary of the liberation of Riga from the Nazi invaders. Based on the fact that Latvia has unleashed a war with monuments, the feat of the fallen Soviet soldiers will apparently be honored not just at home, but also silently. Otherwise, a hefty fine."
In fact, there is no list of prohibited songs in Latvia, it is only forbidden to perform the anthems of the USSR and the former Latvian SSR as official symbols of the totalitarian state. The first channel apparently tried to tell about the response of the head of the public relations department of the Riga Municipal Police, Tom Sadovskis, to a question posed by a group of pensioners, published in the online publication Baltijas Balss (“Voice of the Baltics”). But the Russian channel broadcast the answer of the Riga policeman, as they say, exactly the opposite. Here is what Baltijas Balss writes:
“Some of our group have Russian citizenship, so they are afraid of deportation, and others do not want to be blacklisted either. Inform through the portal, please, is it possible to privately celebrate holidays such as October 13, May 9 in your circle, or are there any penalties for this?
Tom Sadovskis, Head of the Public Relations Department of the Riga Municipality Police:
- The law provides for a ban on the use of symbols of totalitarian regimes in public places. In particular, the ban includes, for example, the anthem of the USSR or other songs glorifying the totalitarian regime, such as, for example, “Katyusha”, etc.”
That is, Sadovskis's answer refers only to performance in public places. Propagandists from Channel One have already added about family feasts. No one in Latvia is trying to regulate private life and prescribe to the inhabitants of the country what to sing at home and what not to sing.
The mention of "Katyusha" in Sadovskis's answer caused bewilderment among the editors of Baltijas Balss , who commented on his words as follows:
“The fact that the song “Katyusha” was cited as an example of a song glorifying totalitarianism leads to very disturbing thoughts. It is clear that no one expects representatives of law enforcement agencies to have a good knowledge of the content of songs in a foreign language (in this case, in Russian). But, on the other hand, if you apply a punishment that involves a substantial fine for performing a song glorifying totalitarianism in a public place, then, logically, you need to know for sure that this song REALLY glorifies totalitarianism and is its (totalitarianism) symbol. Okay, with songs about Lenin, Stalin and the anthem of the former USSR, everything is clear. But where is the guarantee that the person punished for the Katyusha will not sue and prove that this is not about totalitarianism, but about love? <...> What will our courts turn into, which do not complain about the lack of work anyway, if they have to figure out whether pensioners sang “Cranes”, “Dark Night”, “Moscow Evenings” in a public place, etc. in order to glorify totalitarianism or just in this way they remembered their youth?
However, Sadovskis, as the head of the public relations department, is not authorized to determine which songs are allowed to be performed in public. Mentioning the song of Matvey Blanter and Mikhail Isakovsky and not referring to any documents, he obviously expresses only his personal opinion, which cannot have official force. So the statement of Channel One, which was also joined by Moskovsky Komsomolets, Gazeta.ru, EurAsia Daily and other propaganda publications, to put it mildly, is greatly exaggerated.
The Baltijas Balss portal is bilingual, but Sadovskis' answer to the pensioners' question is published only in the Russian version, there is no such material in the Latvian version. Nowhere on the Internet, except for the Russian version of Baltijas Balss and Kremlin propaganda publications, is the Katyusha ban mentioned. There are also no reports on the initiation of administrative cases for such an offense.