The Swastika in Latvia
A great variety of ethnographic symbols have been in use in Latvia over many centuries. Swastika-type symbolism can also be traced back to very early times. It has been labelled ‘Thunder Cross’ ,’Fire Cross’ and ‘Branched Cross’, and it has been associated with ‘happiness’, ‘energy’, ‘fire’ and ‘wind’.
It is still used in personal clothing, such as shorts, gloves and socks, as it is popularly regarded as a protection against the evil eye.
Latvia adopted the Swastika for its air force in at the end of World War I and continued its use until 1940. The cross itself was maroon on a white background, mirroring the colours of the Latvian flag, and eliminated the white background.
Earlier versions (Uguriskrusts or “Fire Cross”) pointed counter-clockwise, or verso, while later versions (Perkonkrusts, or “Thunder Cross”) pointed clock-wise or recto, as used in the later version of the Air Force Flag.
Since the debate in the European Parliament in the spring of 2005 opinions on the use of Swastika-type symbolism have been divided. On the one hand there are those who hold that it forms a genuine element of traditional Latvian usage, and should never be banned. On the other hand there are those who are naturally anxious not to be seen to encourage neo-Nazi movements who seek to use this self-same symbol or promote the cause of the Latvian Nationalist Community.