Latvian Culture

  • 2031

The culture of Latvia is as colorful as its' past, having been influenced by various civilizations since ancient times. Local Latvian Pagan heritage has survived over millennia, with German missionary knights introduced Christianity to the territory of Latvia in the 13th century. These enduring Pagan customs combined with common Christian traditions and rituals are two distinct characteristics of Latvian culture today.

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Jani - the annual observance of the summer solstice

An excellent example of the Pagan-Christian merge is Jani, the annual observance of the summer solstice.

Jani was originally a Pagan custom observed during the actual summer solstice on June 21st or 22nd.

However, since the introduction of Christianity to Latvia, Jani has been celebrated on June 23rd and 24th, in association with the feast day of St. John the Baptist.

Classical era of Latvian culture

The period beginning in 1800 and spanning into the early 1900's is considered a classical era of Latvian culture, with influences from widespread European cultures appearing in Latvian art and literature.

Despite such influence, Latvia has held on to its historic roots and maintained an unyielding connection to native folklore throughout the years.

Latvia's strong oral tradition in folk tales has contributed greatly to the birth, rebirth and growth of Latvian arts, including literature and other arts.

Based on local legends, Lacplesis or The Bear Slayer, was written by native Latvian poet Andrejs Pumpurs in 1888, and is regarded as the national epic poem.

The Andrejs Pumpurs Lielvardes Museum, located in Lielvarde Latvia, highlights the life and work of the poet. The writing of this poem was instrumental in forging a new path for Latvian literary arts

Poets, folklorists and painters of Latvia

Poet, playwright, translator and politician Janis (Plieksans) Rainis is considered to be the greatest Latvian writer in history; his complete body of works having had a remarkable effect on Latvian literary language, and the symbolism he used in his writings essential to Latvian nationalism.

A statue of Rainis at the Riga Esplanade is renown as the site of Latvia's national poetry festival, held annually on Rainis' birthday, September 11th.

Folklorist, writer and editor Krisjanis (Christian) Barons is known as the "Father of the Dainas" for his elaboration of the classification system for, and preparation for publishing of, the collection of over 200,000 ancient Latvian folk songs called Latvju dainas between 1894 and 1915.

Barons' work is so highly esteemed, his portrait is the only human likeness depicted on modern official Latvian currency, the 100 Lat banknote.

Latvian-born landscape painter and educator, Vilhelms Purvitis, gained great notoriety during his life as both a painter and educator.

As a painter, he exhibited his works in Paris, Munich, Berlin and Lyon from 1898-1901, and in 1902, traveled from Latvia to Norway to study the painting of snow, later mastering the art of painting snowy landscapes.

As an educator, Purvitis founded the Latvian Academy of Art in 1921, served as the academy rector until 1934, served as the leader of the landscape-painting workshop at the academy from 1921-1944, as well as the leader of the visual arts sector of the architecture department at the University of Latvia from 1919-1940.

Museums of Latvia and Riga

The beautiful city of Riga is home to many museums, cultural and natural history centers, and other interesting places to visit. A short list of alluring destinations in and around Riga includes, in alphabetical order:

- The Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia, one of Europe's oldest open-air museums

%u2022The Latvian Culture Museum "Dauderi", located in one of Riga's most beautiful 19th century mansions and surrounded by a park with sculptures

- The Latvian Museum of Architecture, which includes a Latvian architect database from the present back to 1869, and is located in one of the "Three Brothers" buildings dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries

- The Latvian Museum of Natural History, the only complex museum of natural sciences in the Baltics

- The Latvian Museum of Photography celebrates the development of photography in Latvia from 1839-1941

- The Latvian National Museum of Art, which displays collections of the nation's history of applied arts from the mid-1700's-1945

- The Latvian Railway History Museum, with over 9,000 items from the history of Latvian railways

- The Latvian Sports Museum, located in a 17th century building in Riga

- The Literature, Theater and Music Museum, located in a 14th century powder tower

- The Minimotor Museum, featuring the development of Latvian motor sport from 1960 until the present

- The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, located in the oldest surviving stone building in Riga, the former St. George's Church built in 1204

- The Museum of Foreign Art featuring the largest collection of foreign works of art in Latvia and located in Riga Castle

- The Museum of Pharmacy, located in an 18th century dwelling with a medicinal herb garden on site

- The Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation, located in the Dom ensemble, a 13th-20th century architectural monument

- The Museum of the History of the University of Latvia, located in the oldest university building in Latvia

- The Museum of the River Daugava, located in the former Dole Estate and Park on Dole Island not far from Riga, which illustrates the history of the Daugava waterway

- The National History Museum of Latvia, located in Riga Castle, with displays of over 500,000 historical artifacts

- The Occupation Museum of Latvia pays tribute to the Latvian people's strength throughout years of foreign occupation

- The Riga Film Museum has over 70,000 items on display tracing the history of film in Latvia and around the world