Staunton, July 25 – Last week, Georgs Andrejevs, who pioneered the development of anesthesiology in Latvia, served as foreign minister of that country between 1992 and 1994 when he oversaw talks leading to the withdrawal of Soviet Russian troops, but will be remembered as an honest man, died last week at the age of 89.
In his memoirs, The Time Given to Me (in Latvian; Riga, 2018, 1216 pp.), Andrejevs recalled that he was “born in a mixed family: My mother is Latvian; my father a Russian, with a admixture of French blood from the time of the war of 1812. But I was born in Latvia” (lsm.lv/raksts/zinas/latvija/muziba-devies-izcilais-arsts-un-politikis-georgs-andrejevs.a465695/).
“At the time of my birth, my family poke only Latvian, although both of my parents also knew Russian, obvious proof that in certain cases the integration of non-nationals into Latvian society is perfectly possible. I inherited my citizenship from my mother, and I have never considered myself or declared myself to be a Russian,” he continued.
He made his career as an anesthesiologist, frequently travelling around the world to present his innovative findings. In 1989, he was approached about running for parliament on the ticket of the Latvian People’s Front. He was reluctant but a colleague convinced him to do so by saying that he had saved many terminally ill people and must now fight for the revival of Latvia.
“You must not give up because how will you be able to look into the eyes of your children and grandchildren if you do? You must agree,” his younger colleague said. Andrejevs gave way, ran, won and on May 4, 1990, he was one of the 138 deputies who voted for the restoration of Latvia’s independence.
In 1992, he succeeded Janis Jurkans as foreign minister and served until the summer of 1994 when he was caught up in a scandal. The parliament had passed a law that anyone who had served as a KGB informant in Soviet times could not be elected. Andrejevs admitted openly that he had become one as the price of attending professional conferences abroad.
But because of his honesty, he was not destroyed politically; and then served first as ambassador to Canada and ambassador to the Council of Europe. Later, he said that it had been a mistake to publish the list of KGB informants because the list didn’t show just what kind of information individuals had passed (hs.fi/ulkomaat/art-2000005939986.html).
The author of these lines had the privilege of working with Andrejevs when he was foreign minister, of meeting him and his charming wife frequently in their home in Riga, and of visiting him during numerous conferences abroad, including most prominently those organized by Paulis Lazda at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
I and all who knew him will miss him, his charm, his insights and above all his commitment to be an honest man in difficult circumstances, the ones as his memoir shows he was so often caught up in but overcame. Such individuals are a treasure, and his death is a serious loss.