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Latvia: Christmas decorations spark controversy over swastika-like symbols

A Christmas tree decorated with Ugunskrusts, an ancient Latvian mythological symbol resembling a swastika, was spotted in Lielvarde on Tuesday.

Swastikas have been featured in Latvian folklore for centuries, however, the tradition has sparked controversy on many occasions.

During the NATO summit of 2006, organisers asked local craftsmen to avoid using the symbol, sometimes referred to as the ‘Thunder Cross’ or ‘Fire Cross’, when knitting the 4500 mittens made as gifts for attending delegates.

The use of the swastika-like figure during an international hockey match in Riga in 2013 prompted an investigation by the Kontinental Hockey League.

Facing criticism for this year’s decorations, the city administration’s press office said on its official Facebook page that the tree was simply adorned in the national style.

“This year, the Christmas tree in Lielvarde is lit up in Lielvarde belt motifs,” the message reads.

During the German invasion of the USSR in World War 2, Latvia was occupied by Nazi Germany, with many Latvians being recruited into its military units from 1941 to 1944. It was then reincorporated into the Soviet Union until its independence in 1991.

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