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Radical Demands From Baltic Republics to Party Conference With AM-Soviet-Conference, Bjt

June 22, 1988

MOSCOW (AP) _ The Baltic republics of Estonia and Latvia have made radical demands to next week’s national Communist Party conference that they be given control over virtually all their own affairs.

A published platform for the 32 delegates from Estonia and a letter signed by hundreds of Latvian intellectuals to the conference demand the republics take charge of their own finances, ecological policy, culture, education, media and foreign affairs.

Both documents also voice strong criticism over ethnic policies, demanding the right to control migration to their republics - where ethnic Estonians and Latvians are in the minority - and to strengthen the place of their indigenous languages in their schooling and arts.

The demands from the two republics - long the most westward-looking Soviet regions - are the most radical from the Soviet Union’s 15 republics since Mikhail S. Gorbachev launched a liberalization that has given rise to increased outbursts of national feeling.

Public protests and media articles in recent months in Estonia, Latvia and the third Baltic republic, Lithuania, suggest the proposals to the 5,000 delegates of the party conference opening June 28 have strong popular backing.

Radio Moscow reported Wednesday that a crowd of 100,000 people turned out in Estonia to see the republic’s 32 delegates off to the conference.

Both their platform and the even more radical demands of the Latvian intellectuals were published in state-run republican media in the past two weeks, ensuring a broad audience is familiar with the proposals.

According to the June 11 edition of the newspaper Soviet Latvia, the Latvians demanded ″effective sovereignty″ over their own resources and treatment of Latvia as a ″sovereign national state″ with the right to its own membership in the United Nations and other international organization and its own team at the Olympics.

In unequivocal terms, the letter says ″the dictatorship of All Union ministries and enterprises under Soviet power has become a serious brake on the economic, social and cultural development of the national republics.″

In the proposals to next week’s conference, known as the theses, there is only scant mention of ethnic questions that have erupted into fierce violence that has killed at least 34 people in the southern Soviet Union.

The republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan are at loggerheads over the fate of the mainly Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which was incorporated into Azerbaijan in 1923.

The Latvian letter made no mention of the violence in the Caucasus or other ethnic strife. But it said the hundreds of writers and other intellectuals who signed the missive ″consider that the subject of national questions and ways to solve them is undervalued in the theses (for the conference), in the mass media and in the speeches of state leaders.″

Latvian writer Yanis Peters told the weekly Literaturnaya Gazeta on Wednesday that ″we must develop and strengthen Soviet federalism on the basis of the Leninist principle that union republics are like sovereign states, and not like territories on which it is profitable to dump this or that industrial capacity.″

The Latvian and the Estonian documents demanded rehabilitation for republican victims of mass deportations in 1941 and 1949. Neither mentioned, however, is the 1940 annexation of the Baltic republics by Soviet troops under a secret clause of the treaty Josef V. Stalin concluded with Nazi Germany in 1939.

The Latvian intellectuals’ resolution demanded publication of the agreement.

Both radical Baltic demands stopped short of calling for secession from the Soviet Union - which is sometimes demanded by dissident groups and emigres - but made clear they want much more genuine autonomy from Moscow.

Similar demands have been voiced in recent months in meetings and in the media in Lithuania, where a historian recently launched an unprecedented attack on the Stalinist repression of the 1944-52 partisan war in the republic.

In March, the Lithuanian Writers’ Union held a startlingly frank open meeting on ecology in the republic, and followed up on April 4 by calling openly for the adoption of Lithuanian as the republic’s official language, the abolition of dual-language Russian and Lithuanian schools and schools for Lithuanian minorities outside the republic’s borders.

Ecology is a particularly strong worry to the citizens of the Baltic republics, who say that industrialization forced on them under Soviet rule has ruined their environment.

The Estonian conference platform, published in the republic’s newspapers on June 18, devotes a section to ecology, demanding that the Soviet republics be granted full rights to decide on how to use their natural resources.

Like the Latvian document, it demanded the republic receive full rights starting in 1991 to determine prices, wages and investment policy. It also urged referendums on policy questions and called for constitutional reform.

Estonia’s new Communist party leader, Vaino Vyalyas, told the government newspaper Tuesday the conference platform is a ″unique document″ worked out with the participation of non-official groups such as the environmental Greens and the National Front set up with apparent official backing in April.

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