Focusing on the role of arts in the construction of national identity, Suzanne Pourchier-Plasseraud has chosen to study the case of a country lacking an ancient state history of its own, Latvia. This book analyses the part played by the visual arts in transmuting the cultural concept of a nation, advocated by a small intelligentsia, into a widespread claim for independence. By the end of the 19th century, fretting under Russian political domination and German economic and cultural supremacy, the Latvians turned back to their own language, culture and folklore, with a special interest for their
dainas, their timeless common heritage rooted into a mythical golden age. Latvian artists thus found themselves entrusted with the mission of creating a national iconographic representation and a specifically Latvian art, freed from Russian and German influences. The author shows how the links between the cultural and political spheres evolved between 1905 and 1940, including during the period of authoritarian government preceding WWII. An enlightening contribution to understanding how art and history can be turned into social and political instruments, this book reaches far beyond the Latvian case to a European and even global scope.
Irena Veisaitė is held in deep esteem throughout her country. This volume is an attempt to relate the difficult journey of her remarkable life against the backdrop of the complex history of Lithuania and its Litvaks (Lithuanian Jews).
After being rescued by Christian Lithuanian families and having survived the Holocaust Irena Veisaitė devoted herself to study and creative work. She was a memorable lecturer, respected theatre critic, associate film director, and also founder and chairman of the Open Society Fund (Soros Foundation) which made an invaluable contribution to the process of democratisation in Lithuania.
Irena Veisaitė made it her life’s work to speak up for dialogue and mutual understanding and believes that even in the most difficult circumstances it is possible to preserve one’s humanity. Having lived through some of the major atrocities of the twentieth century, her insistence on the need for tolerance has inspired many.