Latvians beg Swedes to invade
An online petition with almost 10,000 signatures reads: ‘We, the people of Latvia would like to ask Sweden to occupy Latvia.’
Riga -- An online petition in favor of a Swedish invasion of Latvia is proving a seasonal hit -- among Latvians.
Fed up with a government that failed to prevent the Baltic state lurching into a serious recession and unimpressed by belated efforts to get out of it, Latvian Roberts Safonovs took the matter into his own hands and set up an online petition calling on Sweden to take over.
"We, the people of Latvia would like to ask Sweden to occupy Latvia. We consider the Latvian state has no reason to exist. We would like to become Swedish citizens and promise that we will comply with Swedish laws; in exchange we would like to get Swedish citizenship and share the same rights that Swedish people have," the petition says.
Word of mouth and local media reports have spread awareness of the petition to the extent that it had attracted more than 10,000 signatures by the end of December.
"The situation in Latvia is totally hopeless," said Safonovs. "I believe that if we would give all legislative and executive power to the Swedish government, the situation in Latvia would improve."
"Of course, this petition is just a sarcastic joke, but such opinion is very widespread in Latvia and if Sweden would decide to take control, I would be 100 percent in favor of that," he added. "Swedish occupation forces would have huge support among the local Latvian population."
Safonovs said he has already presented the petition to the Swedish embassy.
"Their answer was full of humor: They said the Swedish army is too small to carry out an occupation," he said.
At various stages of its history, Latvia has been occupied by Russians, Germans and Poles but unlike those unfortunate historical episodes, the Swedish occupation, which began in 1621 and lasted 172 years, is still viewed as a golden age.
The Swedes are admired as benevolent occupiers, improving living standards, opening schools and generally being much more civilized than the Russians who preceded and succeeded them.
Riga even enjoyed a brief stint as the largest city in the Swedish kingdom, overshadowing Stockholm itself.
The idea of Sweden taking over its fellow EU member state may be comical but is not complete fantasy. Swedish companies and banks are among the biggest investors in Latvia and stand to lose large amounts if the Latvian economy collapses completely.
The Swedish central bank on Tuesday said it had signed an agreement with the central bank of Latvia guaranteeing short-term loans of up to 375 million euros. Denmark also pledged help.
While most of the signatures on the petition appear to be genuine, others display the Latvian sense of humor -- unless the petition has really been signed by the Latvian prime minister, a director of the International Monetary Fund and US president-elect Barack Obama.