VILNIUS (AFP) - Lithuania this week called on US e-commerce giant Amazon to stop selling Soviet-themed goods online, saying the hammer and sickle symbol offended victims of totalitarian communism.
The Baltic state’s independence icon Vytautas Landsbergis published an open letter to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on the eve of the 80th anniversary of a partition deal between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union that led to the occupation of the Baltic states.
The 86-year-old told Bezos that his company distributes consumer goods with symbols of “communist tyranny,” calling the USSR a collaborator with Hitlerites in “war crimes and genocide”.
Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said his diplomats had also asked Amazon to remove merchandise with Soviet symbols.
“It is offensive. Stalinist crimes are not sufficiently well understood. It is a matter of historical justice,” he told AFP.
The hammer and sickle symbol appears on shirts, patches and other items found in the Amazon catalogue.
The symbol is illegal in Lithuania, a nation of 2.8 million people which joined the EU and NATO in 2004.
“August 23, known as the beginning of the murderous WWII because of the criminal Stalin-Hitler pact of 1939, 80 years ago, would be a most appropriate moment to stop” propagating the symbol, Landsbergis said.
The Soviets invaded Lithuania and its fellow Baltic states Estonia and Latvia in 1940 under the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact with Nazi Germany.
The Stalinist-era deportations of hundreds of thousands of Baltic citizens to Siberia and Central Asia have left deep wounds.
Under Landsbergis’s leadership, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare independence in March 1990.
Last year, American retail giant Walmart promised Lithuania’s ambassador to stop selling clothing with the hammer and sickle symbol, according to the Baltic state’s foreign ministry.