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Latvian Cultural Evening: Sustaining a Memory of the Future



Latvian flag

Latvia, one of the three Baltic states, is a small energetic country with a rich culture and history. Through wars, occupations, and repressions, Latvians have been able to sustain their language, culture and national memory, which have enabled the country to recover from the half-century long Soviet annexation with an enormous speed after regaining their independence in 1991.

Today, Latvians in Latvia and abroad look into the future with enthusiasm and confidence, while emphasizing the importance of remembering and commemorating their past.

On May 12th, Stanford University Libraries' Baltic Studies Program will host a Latvian Cultural Evening to celebrate Latvia's history and its people's yearning for freedom by looking into the past, present and future of Latvia and its sustained culture. The evening event is free of charge and aims to bring together Stanford faculty, staff, and students, local Baltic communities as well as people interested in Latvian and Baltic heritage.


6:30-6:45 pm: Opening words by Liga Hoy, Honorary Consul of Latvia, and Michael Keller, Stanford University Librarian

6:45-7:30 pm: Dr. Janis Kreslins, Senior Academic Librarian for Research Affairs at Kungliga biblioteket/National Library of Sweden, "The pregnable fastness of an impregnable will: the culture of collecting in the Baltic," followed by Q&A

7:30-8:00 pm:  Snack/coffee break

8:00-9:30 pm:  Screening of film, Controversial History, followed by Q&A with Dr. Edward Anders, author, scientist and member of the US Academy of Sciences

Dr. Janis Kreslins is a Senior Academic Librarian for Research Affairs at Kungliga biblioteket/National Library of Sweden. His talk will focus on the culture of collecting in Latvia and the Baltic states:

"History is often told as an idealized myth. This myth has special meaning for those who feel that their history has not been accurately told.

History, however, can also be viewed as interplay between individual and collective memory. Memory both underpins and reinforces the practice of collecting. By collecting we not only look back at and create a new past, but also look ahead to the future.

Collecting has been closely intertwined with the formation of identities in the Baltic. Forays into the history of the region often introduce us to interesting collectors and collections. Seldom, however, are we offered the chance to explore the culture that lies behind this collecting.

How has Baltic memory been given form and shape through the practice of collecting? How have the various cultures of communication in the region influenced the practice of collecting? Have technical advances radically altered the practice of collecting and preserving the past? Finally, does the practice of collecting provide valuable insight into the complexity and composition of Baltic identity, both past and present?

Join us for an unusual journey through Baltic history. It could just change the way you perceive the region and its history!"

Controversial History (2010), a film by Inara Kolmane and Uldis Neiburgs, attempts to find out how the collective memory is formed and why the memories of WWII events diverge in a small country Latvia, which lost most of its Jewish population after WWII.

A surviving Jew, Edward Anders, a member of the US National Academy of Sciences currently residing in Burlingame, CA, returns to his home town to commemorate the tragic events for the Jewish community caused by the Soviet and Nazi occupations. His recollections reveal lesser known facts concerning the different fates of Jewish people before and during the Holocaust living among Latvians. His insightful interpretation of the historical events is scientifically unbiased and empathic to 'others.' Anders advocates understanding and peace between nations of various ethnicities despite the different past experiences believing that the crimes are not committed by nations but by individuals.

Different but emotionally deep are the stories of the Latvian who witnessed and experienced the atrocities of the Soviet regime and the Belorussian who was deported to Latvia as a German prisoner of war. The subject of the documentary Controversial History is very essential for today's society not only in Latvia, but worldwide as ethnic conflicts, racism and distorted information on few controversial historical points still exist.

The event is in English and is free and open to the public.

Participants are asked to register by May 5 via Eventbrite or 650-847-9115.

For additional information, please contact Liisi Eglit,

by Liisi Esse

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