RIGA, March 16 (RIA Novosti) – The World War II standoff was resurrected in music on Saturday, when Latvian veterans of the Waffen-SS had to hold a rally to old Soviet tunes played by an ideology-conscious street musician.
The surviving members of the Latvian Legion, an 110,000-strong formation created by the Waffen-SS in 1943 using primarily Latvian conscripts, hold annual marches in country’s capital Riga since the early 1990s.
This year, their route took them by an accordion player making a living by performing in the streets of Riga – who, upon the legionnaires’ approach, treated them to a medley of classic Soviet war songs.
The playlist included snippets from the self-explanatory “Victory Day” and “Farewell of Slavianka,” a song associated with World War II in the Soviet Union ever since it featured in the classic war drama “The Cranes Are Flying,” which won the Cannes Film Festival in 1958.
This is the second year in a row that the accordion player, whose name remained unknown, stages his ideological diversion.
But this time, the Waffen-SS veterans were able to counteract the musical assault thanks to a bagpiper in their ranks, who managed to drown out some of the tunes played by the accordionist.
The rally gathered several hundred participants, including a handful of nationalist lawmakers. In addition to the accordionist, they were opposed by Latvian antifascist activists, though the parties were kept from clashing by a 1,200-strong police force at the scene.
Riga authorities banned the rally last week, citing safety concerns, but the ban was overturned on court appeal.
Supporters of Latvian Waffen-SS veterans say that the legionnaires were not fascists but patriots fighting for the independence of Latvia, which was forcefully annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940 along with Estonia and Lithuania.