FACT CHECK: Does This Photo Show A Christmas Tree In Latvia Decorated With Swastikas?

Anna Mock | Fact Check Reporter

A photo shared on Facebook purportedly shows a Christmas tree in Latvia decorated with Nazi symbols. 

Verdict: Misleading

This image does not depict Nazi swastikas. Instead, it depicts a Latvian symbol that represents prosperity.

Fact Check:

Latvia’s foreign minister recently said that Ukraine should be free to strike military sites inside Russia, according to Bloomberg. He also said that allies “should not fear escalation” as North Atlantic Treaty Organization member sought to potentially striking targets in Russia, Newsweek reported.

The Facebook post purports a Christmas tree in Latvia has been decorated with Nazi iconography. The image features a large Christmas tree made out of ribbon-like material. “X-Mass tree in Latvia,” the caption reads. “#StopFascism #StopNazi #StopNATO #StopTerrorism.”

The symbol doesn’t have anything to do with Nazism, however. Known as a “fiery cross,” or “ugunskrusts,” the symbol represents prosperity and cultural heritage for Latvians according to The Ministry of Culture’s online National Encyclopedia.

The same symbol caused another controversy in 2013 at an ice hockey match between Russia and Latvia. Performers used ribbons to form the symbol at the opening ceremony, many did not know the Latvian symbol, BBC reported.

“The show used the Latvian traditional symbol,” a spokesperson for the Latvian team told a Russian news outlet. “Which is used in our national clothes, in all ornaments. It has many names, but it is not a swastika.” 

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia explained the significance and history of the symbol to Check Your Fact in an email.

“Archeological digs have unearthed Latvian signs in use at least as far back as 1,000 BCE. While the signs have been preserved in physical artifacts, their significance was handed down only by mouth, generation after generation,” the spokesperson said. “Their names … remained unchanged into the early 20th century. It was actually only in the 1920’s and 30’s that the associations were made by which Latvians know signs today.”

The spokesperson added that these symbols have been present in Latvian clothing, notably detailed woven belts, considered “among the most venerated of woven Latvian folk artifacts.” (RELATED: Did Time Magazine Publish This Image Of The British Home Secretary Wearing A Swastika?)

This is not the first time misinformation involving a swastika has spread online. Check Your Fact previously debunked an image that claimed to show Ukrainian school children in a swastika-shaped formation.

Anna Mock

Fact Check Reporter