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Russians in Latvia

I hope someone in the White House read the editorial "The West and Bosnia," Aug. 21. An experience I had in Latvia on July 29 shows how right it is to say that the conflict in Bosnia is "defining the character of the post-cold-war world." And how "Russian generals are watching, with an eye on their minorities in Moldova and the Baltics."

My son and I were wandering through the back streets of Riga when we were approached by an English-speaking Russian who said he wanted foreigners to know that Russians in Latvia are very unhappy about moves to raise the status of the Latvian language.

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Being Irish, I have sympathy for the Baltic attempts to reconstruct their cultures, so I argued that Russians in Latvia should, as immigrants, assimilate into the host society. My response provoked an interesting outburst. He retorted that "Riga is a Russian city," and when I suggested that the West would not allow a replay of Stalin's invasion, he said the appearance of an invasion could be avoided.

The Russians in Latvia would wait for the overthrow of Boris Yeltsin and then create civic disorder as a pretext for inviting the Russian troops still stationed in Latvia to restore order. Terrible as this scenario is, I think he was right. James Bowen, Raleigh, N.C.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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