Take my country. No, really – take it.

Culture, European culture(s), European Politics, Funny, Politics

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.



  1. Royalist  •  Jan 11, 2009 @9:45 pm

    It is not quite correct to write that Esonia never had a Royal Family.

    Here’s a link to an article that reminds of the 90th anniversary of Estonia electing the German Grand Duke Adolf Friedrich of Mecklenburg-Schwerin as the Monarch of Estonia, which only had gained independence from Russia.

  2. nimh  •  Jan 11, 2009 @10:30 pm

    The Grand Duke Adolf Friedrich of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, eh? Curiouser and curiouser! :-)

    This is what a Wikipedia search on the man yields:

    Duke Adolf Friedrich Albrecht Heinrich of Mecklenburg (10 October 1873 – 5 August 1969) was a German explorer in Africa, a colonial politician, Duke of the United Baltic Duchy, and the first president of the National Olympic Committee of Germany (1949–1951). [..]

    In 1918, he was nominated to be the head of state of the United Baltic Duchy. He never ascended its throne, however, and the German defeat in the war led to the end of the puppet state.

    What was this United Baltic Duchy? Wikipedia again:

    The proposed United Baltic Duchy also known as the Grand Duchy of Livonia was a state imagined by the Baltic German nobility after the Russian revolution and German occupation of the Courland, Livonian and Estonian governorates of the Russian Empire.

    Basically, if I’m understanding it correctly, there was a transitionary period in 1918 after the Russian Revolution (or coup d’etat). The Russians (newly turned Soviet) had retreated from the Baltic region, and the Germans moved in.

    In between the Russian revolution and the arrival of the German troops, Estonians and Latvians both declared their own independent states – but the German occupation temporarily put a stop to that.

    Instead, the German nobility in the Baltics tried to found their own states, the Duchy of Courland and Baltic State Duchy respectively, which “proclaimed themselves to be in personal union with the Kingdom of Prussia”. Eventually, “the Baltic lands were nominally recognized as a sovereign state by Kaiser William II” in September 1918.

    But of course, soon after, the Germans lost WW1, and by December the Germans had formally handed over power to the independent states of Estonia and Latvia instead. Some bloodshed still followed but in June 1919 the army of the United Baltic Duchy-to-be was defeated as well, and the Duchy ceased to exist even as a political project.

    So I don’t think that Estonia, as such, ever had a Royal Family, but this was sure interesting! Thanks, Royalist.

  3. Kazakh boy  •  Feb 24, 2009 @7:01 am

    wish to Latvian people prosperity!

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