Speech by the President of the Constitutional Court Sanita Osipova on the adoption of the constitutional law “On the Statehood of the Republic of Latvia”
President of the Constitutional Court
Prof., Dr. iur.
Speech on the adoption of the constitutional law “On the Statehood of the Republic of Latvia”
Riga 21 August 2021
On 21 August 1991, important events in the history of Latvian statehood occurred. Thirty years ago the fate of the existence of the State of Latvia was resolved once again, and the Supreme Council of the Republic of Latvia adopted the constitutional law “On the Statehood of the Republic of Latvia”, confirming is strong stance regarding the positions set out in the Declaration of 4 May 1990 – that Latvia is an independent, democratic, and national state governed by the rule of law, and determined that its basic law was the Satversme – the Constitution. This was a step that was correct both politically and legally, following which one can say that the process of restoring Latvia’s independence was completed.
The adoption of the constitutional law “On the Statehood of the Republic of Latvia” was neither a declarative step nor an outcome of long political deliberations – it was a live law which was immediately applied. The adoption of the constitutional law was a response to All-Union events – the coup d’état of August.
The coup of August, intended to restore the unity and might of the Soviet state, was organised by eight leading officials of the Communist Party, security services and the army. It was a threat to the processes of the rule of law and democratisation in the Soviet Union, not to mention the fact that all the achievements of the Latvian national awakening were put in danger. The army, banding together with the KGB, already had committed terrible acts. Although in 1991 we did not know yet of all the atrocities perpetrated by the Soviet occupants, fear was in the air. If the coup were successful, the terrible summer of 1940 could repeat itself. It had already happened in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, where the Soviet army took cruel revenge on the people – unarmed people who demanded freedom, a state governed by the rule of law and respect for human rights. We also would have died standing up, defending our longing for a free state. However, the people stood up against the coup in its birthplace – in Moscow. Thanks to the liberal Muscovites, the attempts to restore the unity and mightiness of the Soviet state failed. Therefore, when recalling the events of August 1991, we have to express deep gratitude to those people who, led by Boris Yeltsin, took to the streets of Moscow, turning against the coup, and defending their own and also our freedom.
The Supreme Council of the Republic of Latvia also made a courageous choice in adopting the constitutional law “On the Statehood of the Republic of Latvia” because, if the conservative forces had succeeded in taking over the power in the Soviet Union, our deputies would have been the first to be subjected to repression. Today we forget about it, just like we forget that, in August of 1991, the repressive apparatus of the Soviet power had not been dismantled yet. However, at the time it was headed by people who chose to not give the order to attack and to destroy. For example, the commander of the 326th strategic bombers’ division Dzhokhar Dudayev, speaking on the Estonian radio, announced that he would not allow the Soviet Army to use the Baltic airspace.
I am grateful to all those courageous people in Latvia and to our neighbours who in August of 1991 defended our freedom together. 21 August 1991 is the day of the civic courage of the peoples repressed by the Soviets.