Six American Students in Latvia Evacuated in Wake of Crackdown

By Peter Schmidt — January 30, 1991 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Soviet Union’s crackdown on the secessionist Baltic republics has prompted the evacuation of six American high-school students from the outskirts of the Latvian capital of Riga and the cancellation of several exchanges to that region.

But most exchange-program officials interviewed last week said they had been aware of tensions in the Baltic republics weeks or months before the violence this month and had planned accordingly. Few exchanges with other regions of the Soviet Union, they said, have been affected.

Soviet paratroopers stormed a television facility in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius on Jan. 13, resulting in the deaths of at least 13 civilians. At least four civilians were killed in Riga a week later when security troops seized the Interior Ministry.

The U.S. State Department on Jan. 13 issued an advisory against nonessential travel to Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, saying there appears to be no threat to Americans in those republics but that they should avoid crowds and areas of unrest.

The Bush Administration also threatened to curb certain programs with the Soviet Union in protest over the events in the Baltics, but last week had not specifically mentioned student exchanges as among the programs likely to be affected.

Scott D. Ramey, a spokesman for afs Intercultural Programs in New York, last week said his organization was moving six American high-school students living on the outskirts of Riga for a year to other regions of the Soviet Union to ensure they would be safe and that they would benefit from their program.

Citing the traditional protectiveness of Soviet families toward children and guests, Mr. Ramey said the students have been safe and probably would have remained so at their Latvian guest homes. But, he added, “if schools would be closed for any length of time during the unrest, or the students can’t go out of the apartments for security reasons, then they are not going to have the kind of experience that afs wishes to impart [to] its participants.”

Among other developments:

The School Partnerships International program of the National Association of Secondary School Principals had intended to send 13 students from Sam Houston High School in Arlington, Tex., to Riga in February but changed its plans after the State Department travel advisory was issued. Soviet officials have offered the students a new host school, Moscow 17, but no decision on the offer had been made as of last week.

People to People Student Programs in Spokane, Wash., last week was in the process of changing plans to send 300 high-school students to the Baltics this summer, according to Emanuele F. Portolese, the organization’s executive director.

Lynn E. Stern, program coordinator for the Citizen Exchange Council in New York, said her organization cancelled plans to send high-school students to Vilnius after tensions there made it difficult for a group of Lithuanian students to travel to the United States last May.

Monica McDermott, admissions representative for the Soviet program of the American Council for International Studies in Boston, said the Soviet travel bureau a year ago warned of tensions in the Baltics and successfully urged her organization to reroute a two-week tour by 25 American students and their chaperones from the Baltics to other republics.

A version of this article appeared in the January 30, 1991 edition of Education Week as Six American Students in Latvia Evacuated in Wake of Crackdown


English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Nearly a Million Kids Vaccinated in Week 1, White House Says
Experts say there are signs that it will be difficult to sustain the initial momentum.
4 min read
Leo Hahn, 11, gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Last week, U.S. health officials gave the final signoff to Pfizer's kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opened a major expansion of the nation's vaccination campaign to children as young as 5. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Education How Schools Are Getting Kids the COVID Shot, and Why Some Aren’t
Some district leaders say offering vaccine clinics, with the involvement of trusted school staff, is key to helping overcome hesitancy.
5 min read
A girl walks outside of a mobile vaccine unit after getting the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccine, outside P.S. 277, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Education Biden Administration Urges Schools to Provide COVID-19 Shots, Information for Kids
The Biden administration is encouraging local school districts to host vaccine clinics for kids and information on benefits of the shots.
2 min read
President Joe Biden, and first lady Jill Biden walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Biden is spending the weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Education Civil Rights Groups Sue Tennessee Over Law Against Transgender Student Athletes
The state law bars transgender athletes from playing public high school or middle school sports aligned with their gender identity.
3 min read
Amy Allen, the mother of an 8th grade transgender son, speaks after a Human Rights Campaign round table discussion on anti-transgender laws in Nashville, Tenn. on May 21, 2021.
Amy Allen, the mother of an 8th grade transgender son, speaks after a Human Rights Campaign round table discussion on anti-transgender laws in Nashville, Tenn. on May 21, 2021.
Mark Humphrey/AP