Did Roman Abramovich, the world’s 15th richest man (and Russia’s second wealthiest), get an offer he can’t refuse?
An unknown Latvian called Andris posted a letter on petitonline.com which reads:
Dear Roman Abramovich. As you may already know our homeland Latvia went bankrupt and is currently holding talks with the International Monetary Fund on the sale of our country for 7.5 billion euros ($10.7 billion). [..]
I would like you to consider the possibility of purchasing Latvia: the population are hard working and pleasant, environmentally clean area and plenty of space to dock your yacht.
A prank, right? But one that got signed by 1,025 people (and counting).
It’s mostly Russian names – and since anyone can sign (I know; I tried), this is of course the perfect foil for a latest dig in the ongoing flamewar between Latvia and Russia. Then again, since the 40% or so Russian-speaking residents of Latvia have been largely and vocally dissatisfied ever since independence, there shouldn’t be a lack of signatories from Latvia either.
Not, moreover, that this is a first. As the bloggers at Eternal Remont point out:
Apparently this is not the first time Latvians have joined together to petition a foreign individual or state takeover. Also this year, over 2000 Latvians petitioned for Swedish occupation.
And this particular Baltic tradition goes back further than that, in one of my favourite bits of party political history. When the Estonians held their first national elections after independence in 1992, those were understandably won by conservative nationalists. But coming in sixth in a fragmented landscape was the Estonian Royalist Party.
The Royalists proposed establishing Estonia as an absolute monarchy. Of course there was the slight dilemma of Estonia never having had a royal family, so instead the party suggested the Swedish Crown Prince Carl Philip could become King of Estonia.*
The Royalists won no less than 7.1% of the vote, and 8 of the 101 seats in parliament.
It’s probably the all-time record score for a party taking the piss – Screaming Lord Sutch must have been jealous. The party spent all of 1 crown on its election campaign – but it did have three comedians, and made a name for itself with raucous street actions, such as an “eating strike”.
It far outdid similar parties that cropped up for a bit in Eastern Europe at the time, such as the Polish Beer-Lovers’ Party (which made it into parliament as well) and the Latvian Fools’ Party. The latter deserves props for proposing to increase the number of parliamentarians from 100 to 10,000, so that every Latvian would get his turn within a decade.
(On a serious note, an Umelec article from a couple of years ago well describes the tradition this kind of movements arose from, with Poland as example.)
In 1994, the Royalists still wrote to one of the British royals, Prince Edward, to tell him that if they’d win the next elections, they would ask him to become King of Estonia. “It is believed the Prince did not reply,” Wikipedia notes; but according to Janna Holmstedt and Po Hagström at Trial and Error, “a spokesman for Buckingham Palace termed this “a charming but unlikely idea”.”
The Royalists scored a disappointing 0,8% in the 1995 elections and subsequently disappeared from the scene. Obviously, Queen Elizabeth’s fault. Yet another reason for republicanism – if they felt they were too good for the Estonians, they don’t deserve Britain either.
* Edit: This info is from the Trial and Error site I linked, of the Swedish artists Janna Holmstedt and Po Hagström (as an election geek and student of Eastern Europe Studies at the time, I remember this strange Estonian Royalist Party vividly, but you’d be surprised how hard it is to find English-language info online on it now, even the Wikipedia entry is incomplete). But A2K poster Saab points out a mistake in this sentence – Carl Philip is not actually the Swedish Crown Prince; ever since a change in the law in 1980 to introduce equal primogeniture, he’s second in the line of succession, after his elder sister, Crown Princess Victoria.