1991 – on the way to join the EU
As a former member of the Soviet Union, Latvia was living into the regime of the “ethnic federalism”, single-state party and centralized social, cultural and economical system. The regime was characterized by censorship, persecutions and propaganda which ruined bothdemography and cultural life: art was conditioned to fit with the regime, abolishing creativity and rebellion; education, the greatest source of country’s long-term cultural development, was incomplete and single-way oriented to serve the interest of the country; religion and spirituality and even the self-realization and self-representation of people was controlled in order to fulfill the needs of anartificial society. Even if the reforms of Perestroika and Glasnost launched by Gorbachev hastened the society’s liberalization, Latvia was still under the fifty-five-year trauma of the centralization. However, only twelve years later, the burgundy-white-burgundy country fascinatingly entered the European Union. This leads us to enter in the details of the cultural processes from the reestablishingof independence to the way of joining the EU. First of all, the author of the essay will detail Latvia’s national affirmation and its conflicts with minorities, so as to better understand in the second part the cultural effects of its policy of integration to EU and globalization.
On May 4 1990, the first clear political step of national affirmation has been taken from the Latvian SSR. OnAugust 21 1991, after a period of transition, Latvia is officially a new independent country. Politically, true. But can we really affirm so considering the cultural point of view?
To understand the basis of the formation, we have to go through the political proceedings. From one side, Latvian politicians have acted on reinforcing the national commitment to one unique and united nation.This can be easily shown with the adoption of the fundamental human rights standards in chapter VIII of its constitution: by including them into a binding document, it grants the will of establishing a peaceful and equilibrated cultural development. The defense of a country is also a strong symbol which helps granting the same values and affirming national commitment to democratic interests andsovereignty; On August 23, immediately after the restoration of independence, Latvian government enforced the “Law on the Home Guard”, completed by the formation of the Latvian Defense Army on 13th December 1991. If you want to set the basis of nation unity, you need to set values, to give people a sentiment of protection and to fix the legal institution of the government. Henceforth, the 3rd step wastaken in 1993 with the election of the Saeima, Latvia’s parliament.
Now that we went through the frames necessary for the development of a culture, it is time to focus on the development of cultural life. First, we have to remember that the Soviet Times constrained artistic life to Soviet realism. At the beginning of the 1990s, when the preoccupation was to create and reinforce a newcultural identity, the symbol of reconstruction was Riga’s landmark national opera house. The new government invested millions in its renovation and contributed to its “Riga’s white house” reputation. Very soon, talented singers and artists such as Inese Galante, Sonora Vaice or Elīna Garanča appeared and became famous. Opera was not the only flourishing side and theatre, scenography and classical musicwere good examples of the explosion of artistic life. This fast dynamism is in a sense fascinating, since it influenced the creation of cosmopolitan modern art melted with traditional roots and fathered post-modern folklore groups like Iļģi, or the revelation of artists such as the great contemporary composer Pēteris Vasks, or other names like the award-winner violinists Gidon Kremer (Kremerata...