defensive or offensive?

Labdien from Latvia,

The mass media might be a necessary element of democratic society and, at times, a saviour. But let no-one fool themselves that the privately- owned media is as pure as the driven snow, free from bias, solely a force for good. During the Cold War, the western media were as guilty of collusion and propaganda as any communist regime.

the Cold War

     During the height of the Cold War, the mass media gave us all the impression that people behind the so-called Iron Curtain were struggling through dour, colourless existences. They were supposedly living under stultifying regimes, fearful of repressive rulers who stole from them, lied to them and kept everything for a corrupt few. Ignorant opinions were lapped up by the media hellbent on selling us this jaundiced view of the Soviet bloc.

defensive fortifications

    Turns out, the preparations for nuclear war were all defensive, not offensive in nature. We’ve learnt in Russia, Estonia and now Latvia that the populace were seen to be at risk of attack. School children routinely were drilled on how to protect themselves and where to go. Contingency plans were very extensive and never taken lightly.

with Vladimir Ilyich Lenins (as they call him in Latvia)

    But, wait a minute! Wasn’t it the dangerous Russkis who were the menace to society? Wasn’t it always going to be us protecting ourselves against their reckless abandon? Weren’t those from the ‘evil empire’ the ones who would take the deadly initiative?

In reality, the Soviets were more worried about American aggression.  They were more worried about loose cannon sitting in the Oval Office. They were more desirous of protecting their own people as opposed to quivering over their own nuclear button.

secret Soviet bunkers

     The Soviet secret bunkers in Ligatne are a must-see. They are galling and ingenious in equal degrees. The bunkers catered for the Soviet Latvian government in the ghastly event of nuclear war.

It’s an extraordinary underground complex big enough to accommodate 250 people to shelter for three months (the balance of the population had bunkers all over the country, too). It is brilliantly camouflaged from the American satellites – even to the point of building the communications towers 25 kms away (in both directions!!) and burying the wires all that way.

near Jurmala on the Baltic coast
the Arms Race

        For those of us who can remember, this represents another gargantuan waste of resources which characterised the Cold War.  Notwithstanding the nebulous argument about the multiplier effect, the end result 30 years on is nothing more than a tourist curiosity. It was never used as a nuclear fallout shelter, of course, (they never even moved any beds from the surface to the bunker) but today it’s a reminder of how seriously they took the threat.

Fancy feeling the need to build such an expensive piece of infrastructure in the earnest hope that it would never be needed. I suppose everything acquired during that senseless arms race fits that category. 

    I would have thought the ideologically-heavy private media could at least have attempted some even-handedness. Too much to ask?

Ar cienu from Latvia


P.S. That’s Linda inside the gas mask, surrounded by maps with “clouds” showing the possible incidence of a nuclear attack on Riga and other Latvian cities.

Other photos from hereabouts

The stork finds telegraph poles for their nests.

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