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Support for March 16 falling

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Public support for March 16 has fallen to 33% from 38% within the last five years, according to research by the University of Latvia and SKDS pollster, researcher Mārtiņš Kaprāns told Latvian Television on March 14.

March 16 - sometimes dubbed "Legionnaires' Day" - is a date that always causes controversy and sparks a wave of negative press in international media.

"I would say that it's [the result of] a natural tiredness from the controversy. No date can constantly attract people's attention without artificially sparked controversy," said Kaprāns, commenting on the results of the survey.

According to Kaprāns, the public opinion over March 16 and the second world war is changing. "We're seeing a more pronounced tolerance," he said.

The increased tolerance is evident from the public attitude towards the events at Lestene memorial. "A favorable attitude towards the Lestene memorial has grown both among Latvians and Russians. I would say it has grown faster among Russian speakers," said Kaprāns.

Though March 16 is not included on the nation's official calendar of events several hundred people always turn out to parade through the center of Riga and pay tribute to Latvian soldiers who served in the Latvian Waffen SS Legion and fought on the side of Nazi Germany in World War II.

Controversy inevitably follows with participants saying they are honoring freedom fighters and opponents accusing the event of rehabilitating and glorifying fascism.

For more on the complex history and controversy surrounding the Latvian Legion, the Latvian Foreign Ministry has prepared materials HERE including a downloadable fact sheet HERE.

A less controversial commemoration of those who fought in the Latvian Legion also takes place on March 16 at the regimental cemetery in Lestene.

Several events have been scheduled for tomorrow in Rīga, including events organized by the Daugavas Vanagi veterans' association and groups calling themselves the Anti-Nazi Committee of Latvia and the Society for Support of National Soldiers.

Here's a report by LSM from last year's March 16.

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